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How to Not Let Coworkers Boss You Around

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Coping with a bossy coworker not only interferes with your job duties, it can also erode your self-esteem and embarrass you in front of other employees. The longer it goes on, the less control you have. To prevent coworkers from bossing you around, stand up for yourself and establish clear boundaries.

Don’t Engage

If you get into an argument with a bossy coworker, it only plays into her hands and gives her more ammunition. For example, if she orders you to take on an assignment that is not part of your regular workload, don't get angry and make a scene. Instead, calmly tell her you’re already in the middle of a project and go back to your work. If she insists, repeat your statement and continue with what you’re doing. If she nitpicks about the way you do something, don’t explain yourself. Instead, smile and tell her “This method has worked well for me 10 years.”

Set Boundaries

The first time you let a coworker boss you around, you set yourself up for further bullying. Even if it feels rude, assert yourself as soon as possible to prevent establishing an unhealthy dynamic with your colleague. If she tells you how to handle a project, tell her “I’ve got everything under control. But thanks.” If she inserts herself into a discussion you’re having with clients or other coworkers, tell her “Please don’t interrupt my private conversations. If I ever need your input I’ll ask you for it.”

Remind Her Who’s Boss

Some people boss their coworkers because no one calls them on their behavior. Other employees are either too polite or too intimidated to speak up, allowing bossy coworkers to take over the office. If a coworker tries to stick you with a project, tell her the boss assigned you the task you’re currently working on, but that she can consult your supervisor if she wants you to assist her. Reminding her that you report to the boss and not to her puts her in her place. It also puts the burden on her. Instead of ordering you around, she has to take her case to the boss, who might not appreciate a subordinate overstepping her role.

Enlist Others

If you’re dealing with a single bossy coworker, or coworkers who attempt to boss everyone in the office, remember that there’s strength in numbers. Talk to your colleagues about the situation and encourage them to stand up for themselves as well. If no one allows your coworker to act like a bully, she’ll lose her power. In extreme cases you might want to go to your boss for help. If so, don’t whine, complain or get angry. Instead, tell him you’re confused about your role and who you’re supposed to take supervision from. Or, explain the negative impact your colleague’s behavior has on your work and overall employee morale.

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