You're not the boss of me

What do you do with pushy peers who think they're in charge?
Jun 01, 2009
By staff

Q: What do you do with pushy peers who think they're in charge?

Nancy Potter
A: Some co-workers seem to forget you work with them not for them. Whether naturally dominant or overly hands-on, these alpha personalities often try to take control. When they do, your knee-jerk reaction may be to ask, "I'm sorry, did you get a promotion I'm unaware of?" But resist these defensive urges.

Being confrontational usually tends to make things worse, says Nancy Potter, Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and practice manager at Olathe Animal Hospital in Olathe, Kan. For a more advantageous outcome, you should gently remind co-workers they're your equals, not your superiors. "Make the issue be about you and your feelings," Potter says. "Say something like, 'When you tell me what to do, it makes me feel like you don't think I know my job. Is that how you feel?'"

You could also say, "Did Dr. Smith ask you to convey this information to me?" or "You have some good ideas. I think we should talk to Dr. Smith about them." These statements clearly but politely show peers they may be overstepping their ground. If you'd rather take a more passive approach, Potter recommends simply saying, "Thank you for the advice" or "I'll consider that." But never promise to do something if you're not going to follow through, Potter says. Remember, the best way to communicate is honestly.