July 21, 2006 -- Dear READERS: I recently wrote about the vexing problem of a co-worker who acts like your boss. I got a ton of e-mail that reminded me how wise the people are who read this column. Here are some of my favorites:
"When I first started, my 'little' boss would advise me on what I was not doing correctly. At first, I took exception, but one day I said, 'Thanks for taking the time today to tell me the ins and outs of the job. I learned a lot.' Her tone completely changed. You see, all she was looking for was recognition. And it pumps up her ego to be recognized that way. She has been fine with me ever since. Other workers are still having problems with her, but my strategy worked great."
"At first I fought back, but this backfired. I walk in and say hello, and when I leave I say goodbye. This is the extent of my work conversation."
"Pick your battles. Let it go and move on. Ultimately, we have no control over other people's behavior. By internalizing something, the overbearing/inappropriate person has won the battle."
"I usually ask them if they got a promotion I wasn't aware of. I find sarcasm and humor to be the best way to deal with an aggressive alpha. If you can do this either in front of your real boss or lots of other people, it usually helps. They feel kind of stupid and embarrassed, and you have taken the 'power' back."
"I had a one-on-one discussion with my co-worker. She said that I came onboard at their worst and busiest time of the year. She did agree that she was often abrupt and expected too much from me at the beginning of the assignment. We are not best of friends, but the situation has definitely improved."
"When the co-worker tells you to do something, tell the co-worker you're busy doing something for the boss. Heck, everything you do during the workday you are doing for the boss."
"Women are especially inept at declining a request and then following with endless verbiage and excuses. A simple 'no' and a blank stare are very empowering. This puts the ball back in their court. Also if you are a woman, keep some 'tall' shoes handy under your desk to add a few inches to your height. It sounds shallow but it does work."
"I find taking a direct approach to this issue works the best. But then again, I was a Marine. 'Shut the hell up. You are not my boss or anyone else's for that matter and have no authority to order anyone around. So, I suggest you get your butt back to doing your own work and leave me alone. And you can count on me filing a complaint with ____.'"
"There is strength in numbers, and once I got together with the other employees and we closed ranks together; she couldn't weave her black venom as before."
We'd like to hear your strategy for dealing with someone who acts like your boss. I'll give an autographed copy of "Working Wounded: Advice that adds insight to injury" (Warner, 2000) to the best submission. Send your entry, name and address via: http://workingwounded.com or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Entries must be received by Wednesday (July 26).
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There was no winning strategy this week. You can pick your favorite from the examples above.
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Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, speaker and internationally syndicated columnist. His newest best-seller, "Gray Matters: The Workplace Survival Guide" (Wiley, 2004), is a business comic book that trades cynicism for solutions. Ask Bob a question: email@example.com or http://graymattersbook.com.
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This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.