Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a bossy coworker:
I would like to know how to handle this lady at my work place who is older than me. She was a friend of mind but she is very bossy with me and an impatient person. I try to talk with her but it doesn’t work either way. She doesn’t listen to me at all now and we don’t talk anymore. What should I do?
Signed, Just Want To Communicate
Dear Just Want To Communicate:
There may be more going on than the issue of your coworker being bossy. However, some people want to control others and if they can’t they don’t communicate at all. Even though a friendship isn’t required, no workplace functions as well when one person won’t talk to the other. It causes perpetual tension and it distracts every employee who is aware of it. In addition, it nearly always lessens work effectiveness because work just doesn’t flow as well. Consider trying to reestablish communication by using a two step approach. If you have been trying to talk to her, stop for a day. Then, start again with the basics about work. Then after a couple of days, say hello and goodbye. Or, ask simple but more personal questions, “Isn’t the weather beautiful?”Try that for a few days. If she refuses to talk, don’t act angry or hurt, just move on and try again later.
If after a few days of that she is still not talking, you’ll know that you have done your best. At that point, ask your boss for assistance about it, keeping the focus on not being able to communicate about work with the coworker rather than on wanting to regain your friendship. Most supervisors will feel that two employees don’t need to be friends, but they will expect them to talk enough to share information and to be sociable enough to keep things from seeming tense and unpleasant. I know it would be preferable for the coworker to want to talk to you rather than being ordered to talk to you, but it might take that.Of course, if she talks to you she will probably be bossy again.
Be careful that you don’t get so sensitive to it that you even refuse to listen to suggestions. But, if she says something bossy or impatient, just keep working and in a pleasant tone of voice say something like, “I know how I need to do it.” Or, “I know how I want to do it.” Keep working while you say it. If she continues, try a bit more forcefulness. “Cathy, I want us to be able to talk in a friendly way, but I don’t work as well when you boss me or act impatient. Please don’t do that.”If the coworker acts as though you are not doing your work well, maybe it would help to ask your supervisor if he or she thinks your work is is OK or if it needs to be improved. Then you could tell the coworker, “I asked Ben if I was doing my work OK and he said I was and that I didn’t need to change. So, even though I might not do it your way, I get it done. Let’s just agree that we both have different methods, OK?”
You could also encourage your boss to have brief work meetings as a way to bring everyone together. These could just be huddles before everyone starts work, to save time. Maybe talking about work, how to save time and money, how to provide better service or whatever is right for your work, will help her to see that she is just one part of the group and that everyone has something to add.Having said all that, I should also say that it may be your coworker is the kind of person that only has one way of talking with anyone and that is a bossy and unpleasant way. If your boss won’t monitor the situation and you can’t seem to get the coworker to change her style, you may find you’re better off without her talking to you.That would be a sad situation, so I hope you’ll talk to your supervisor and ask for assistance. It’s his or her responsibility to ensure that the workplace is working correctly.Best wishes to you. If you have the time and want to do so, let us know what happens.
Tina Lewis Rowe