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Does Your Employee Boss Others Around?

Rein them in by following these practical steps.

Key points

  • Bossy employees may step on others because they are overachievers who lack tact.
  • A manager's job is to teach them the importance of effective people skills.
  • Set clear and measurable relationship goals and give them specific directions on effectively building rapport with others.
Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Sometimes, employees who boss around peers may be overeager and not care how they run roughshod over everyone. Or they may be looking for something you’re not giving them enough of, like a chance to voice their thinking on matters that concern their work.

Regardless of the motive, employees who boss their peers around without the authority to do so can wreak havoc on morale in the workplace.

It’s bad enough when these pushy or presumptuous subordinates try to take over your job, but they step on everyone’s toes with dictatorial boots in overstepping their limits. Using their desks as command posts from which to direct operations, these employees can’t be part of the troop; they prefer to issue the orders.

Although they perform very well, these bossy employees may be impatient with those who move at a slower pace. You’ve watched their condescending attitude when talking to or about their colleagues. They are aggressive in criticizing their coworkers, putting down their efforts, or telling them how they ought to be handling assignments. No wonder negative body language surfaces whenever this person’s name comes up during discussions.

What You’re Thinking: What am I going to do about Jake? His work is excellent, and he’s quick—maybe too quick for the rest of us. He’s as domineering as can be. His overbearing ways antagonize everyone. I’ve got to slow him down and teach him some tact before we have a major morale problem. Jake has so much talent we can use. If only I could help him handle his aggression.

The Employee’s Thoughts: I did a fantastic job. Must have set a time record. Boy did Julie jump when I told her it didn’t matter how many people had orders in before me, I needed mine now. I’ve got places to go, and I’m not going to let my dull-witted colleagues hold me up.

Strategy

Your objective is to salvage this employee’s high level of talent, energy, and productivity yet teach them to get along better with their peers. They have to understand that learning people skills is essential for them to succeed and that you want to help.

  1. Give them the recognition they’re due. Publicly acknowledge their good work and privately point out specific ways to improve.
  2. Give these rising stars every chance to shine. Assign them challenging jobs that look good on resumes. Encourage them to tell you about their ideas for special projects they want to develop.
  3. Coach them on how to talk to people so that their words are well received. Spell out the difference between being insultingly offensive and expressing enthusiasm positively. That gets others excited, too.
  4. Use staff meetings to nail down the group problem of unclear lines of authority. Without anyone pointing fingers, encourage open and transparent dialogue. Use your authority to reinforce expectations.

Tip: Don’t be surprised by how quickly this type of employee can turn around. These bright, eager people learn fast and are probably overachievers needing a challenge. Once you treat the people problem the same way you would set out a business problem (clearly stated, measurable objectives broken into steps and time frames), they can’t wait to exceed their own goals.

Copyright© 2022 Amy Cooper Hakim

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