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Workplace Dynamics

When Your Co-Worker Is Pushy and Presumptuous

Follow these tips to gain or regain control over your assigned duties.

Key points

  • It can be quite overwhelming when a co-worker oversteps.
  • Remain professional and confident while openly standing your ground.
  • Do not be afraid to ask your boss for help when dividing responsibilities.
Source: Cottonbro Studio/Pexels
Source: Cottonbro Studio/Pexels

Certain co-workers try to force their views on you. They are so convinced that their way is the better way that they are bound and determined to push it though, whatever the cost. You are supposed to be playing on the same team, but if you get in their way, you pay the price. They will trespass on your turf with a driving, forceful crush.

Sometimes a poor system enables these co-workers to get away with their attempts at encroachment. Perhaps assignments were not made clear, and employees believe prerogatives have been usurped. Or, occasionally, you’re caught in a bind when, in formulating a project, your boss divides the decision-making authority equally between you and this co-worker. You must learn to stand your ground.

What You’re Thinking

Ever since John was appointed team lead of the tournament our company is sponsoring, he has become so difficult. I wanted to get together with him to kick around some ideas, but he has already decided that he is going to do his job and mine, too. I cannot allow this because he will botch up my responsibility and I will get the blame. On the other hand, it will make me appear weak if I have to ask the boss to run interference.

What He’s Thinking

I’m the team lead for this project, so I should make the final decision on every aspect of the event. I cannot have that person handling the publicity. She does not understand what I want to achieve. She will not make this a top priority, so I have got to get her out of my way.


Your goal is to carry out your responsibilities, putting out any fires as quickly as possible.

  1. Tactfully, but assertively, put your foot down when anyone tries to walk all over you. Without divulging any emotion, stand up for yourself while showing your co-worker how you can help him get what he really wants.
  2. When the fault is at least partially with the system, point this out to your boss. If appropriate, suggest how restructuring might help. When you and a few co-workers each have your own turf but must work on a joint activity for which the responsibility and authority seem to overlap, ask for guidance from a higher-level individual. Once you are each clear on your respective duties, the tasks will run more smoothly.

Tactical Talk

You: John, the boss asked us both to work on this event, and I know we both want it to be successful. So, let’s be clear about what we are doing.

As I see it, it is your job as team lead to decide what information should be given to the media, right? And it is my job to get the messages you want by contacting my media sources and arranging for interviews and online publicity. I also must keep you updated and coordinate with your calendar, right? Suppose you start filling me in now on how this event….

Tip: When presumptuous co-workers try to force through a procedure that jeopardizes your position, you cannot afford to let your authority be compromised. Stay calm as you observe the situation. Then, coolly and cooperatively, suggest the professional approach.

Copyright© 2024 Amy Cooper Hakim.

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