How To Deal With A Brown Nosing Bossy Coworker?

Question:

I have a coworker who is such a brown-noser that the boss believes anything she says. One example is, the boss will give an assignment to someone, but if the brown noser doesn’t agree, he will change his mind to what she agrees with.

He also allows her to boss everyone else around, even though she has no authority. She has the same title as I do.

How can I do anything about this when the boss is wrapped around her little finger? Is that a hostile work environment?

Signed,

Frustrated


Answer:

Dear Frustrated:

The reality of life and work is that there is probably very little you can do to change the opinion of your boss about your coworker. You can only try to change his opinion of you.

You write about your coworker using the term “brown noser” and you clearly dislike her and the boss’s relationship with her. That may show in your verbal and non-verbal communications at work. So, rather than present yourself as someone who is jealous of her influence, you should work to build influence of your own. It will feel better to you as well!

Your coworker may be a brown-noser or apple-polisher or whatever. But, your boss may view her as someone who treats him with courtesy and respect, so he appreciates what he sees as a positive attitude. He may think she has more knowledge and skills than other employees and he values her opinions. Or, he may simply like her because she seems to like him and he wants to keep her good opinion.

You think of your coworker as bossy and she may be that as well. But, your boss may see her as someone who understands the big picture of the business and who he trusts to provide guidance and direction to others. He may see that other employees are making errors or not doing what he’d like, but she comes in and gets things going or gets things straightened out, so he’s happy to let her do it.

The point is that just as he probably couldn’t convince you that she is a great person, you can’t convince him that she is not. But even if you could, what would be the point if afterwards he still didn’t have a good opinion of YOU?

What you should work toward is gaining enough positive influence with him that you can talk to him about how frustrated you feel. You might be able to say, “Jim, you complimented me on my work today, but I wonder if you realize how hard it is to keep going with a good attitude when there is tension and conflict going on in the office all the time. Could we talk about that?”

If you had influence with him you could say, “You changed your mind about that assignment you gave out, but I wonder if I talk to you about it.”

It sounds to me that now you feel you don’t have a voice at all, which may make you put up barriers that keep you even more apart from the boss. It may make him feel his only ally is the coworker you dislike.

That doesn’t make your workplace a hostile work environment, it just makes it like many others! But, I can imagine it is frustrating and irritating to work in that type of place, feeling as you do.

You don’t say if there is anyone above your boss. If there is and you feel there is severe improprieties about work, you may feel you have to go to that person. I think though you’ll be better off simply putting your focus on your own work and becoming as valuable to your boss as the coworker is.

I often talk about what it takes to have influence: You must be credible (job knowledge and skills, consistently applied. You must be valuable (The person should feel that they are better off knowing you and having you as a resource than not.) You must communicate effectively. (Face to face or as directly as possible and with a positive approach not a negative one.)

Your coworker may be an unpleasant person to you and your boss may eventually find out that she is insincere or overrated. But for now, the only thing that will help you will be to build a better relationship with your boss. You should be civil and courteous to your coworker as well, even though I don’t expect you’ll ever be a friend of hers!

If you have a job you want to keep and there isn’t something better elsewhere, you’ll probably have to learn to deal with the situation until something happens to change it. In the meantime, you will make work easier for yourself by working to strengthen your own position rather than working to weaken hers.

Best wishes as you move forward positively with this situation.

Tina Lewis Rowe