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How to Deal With Controlling Colleagues

by Kay Bosworth

Hostile, rude or underhanded co-workers are easily identified, but it's not always easy spotting a control freak who attempts to micromanage every aspect of the job, including your performance. The urge to control certain situations in work and social relationships is normal. But expanding that need to dominate every aspect of work life can become destructive, leading to conflict in the workplace.

Identify the Problem

The controlling colleague might be valued by managers in the workplace because of his drive and dedication. Higher-ups can see his perfectionism and attention -- even obsession -- over details as advantageous. To colleagues, however, the controlling co-worker will be regarded as someone who tries to assert authority he doesn't have, which can be annoying.

Causes

If individual job descriptions and areas of responsibility are not clearly spelled out, one employee might unconsciously, or even deliberately, usurp the territory of another. When conflict occurs between two employees, it could be attributable to a “my way or the highway” attitude by one of the parties who sees his methods as the only way projects can succeed. The controlling colleague might have an underlying insecurity coupled with an exaggerated sense of his own importance.

Respond

The colleague may be telling you how to do your job even though you have been performing it successfully. Perhaps he has undone a task you have completed and re-worked it in his own style. If your colleague attempts to take over an assignment you are working on, calmly assure him that you have it covered. Continue to do so every time he moves in with a simple, “I’ve got this.” Assure him politely and professionally that you will ask for his help if you need it. Document specific incidents in which your control-freak colleague has interfered with your work.

Discuss

If the behavior continues, arrange a time to speak to your colleague privately. Show him your records of incidents you have documented. Ask why he feels the need to involve himself in the details of your job. Explain that his involvement is interfering with your ability to perform your work. Be prepared with a response if he says you aren't doing the job effectively and that he is only trying to help. Ask him for specific examples. If he makes a valid point, acknowledge it. If he doesn't, then let him know you disagree with him. Stay calm and professional, and do not get involved in arguments. Tell him you are setting boundaries and limits and that you are confident he will work with you in an effort to solve the problem.

About the Author

As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.

Photo Credits

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