Help: My colleague acts as though she’s the boss

Nine To Five: Special to The Globe and Mail, Published Sunday, July 12, 2015

THE QUESTION

I work at a technology company and have a difficult time working with my colleague. We’re team leads who need to interact to do our jobs. We got off on the wrong foot when I started three years ago, as I was brought in to make improvements. My co-worker acts as a “de facto” manager and as though she has more power than she does. Her work is well regarded and she has won awards.

However, she acts like I work for her — not with her. She has anger management issues and will yell and become visibly angry when something does not go her way. She makes decisions without consulting me, and then expects me to implement them.

I have spoken to my boss, but little has changed. While I do not think her actions meet the definition of harassment, the impact is the same on my morale. I know some are terrified of her.

What can I do? I need the job and the benefits, but don’t need to put up with this.

THE ANSWER

We can’t change other people unless they want to change. Your situation is a case of someone not realizing the negative impact they have on a whole company. This team lead needs to be educated; someone has to hold the mirror, and it looks like it might be you.

Yelling and visible signs of anger are a form of bullying or harassment, depending on whether she does it just to you or everyone. Intentional bullying is a serious matter and most companies have zero tolerance for it. Look into the harassment policy at your company.

The key to change is communication. Ask her to meet you for lunch. Acknowledge her strong points and the fact that she has won awards.

In a non-threatening tone, recite a well-prepared speech that follows this W.I.N. formula:

“When you …”— state the action — “I feel …” Tell her how you feel about this particular behaviour. Then, “Next time I need you to …” — state an action for her to take.

Remind her you do not work for her and you want more collaboration. Tell her you recognize she is an ideas person; however, if she oversteps your authority again, you will not recognize her decisions. If nothing works, get your résumé out there.

Colleen Clarke

Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and How To Get a Job and Keep It