Let’s face it: people tend to be the core reason for most of our frustrations. Whether it’s dealing with a bully, fending off manipulation, learning to get along with that co-worker who is impossible, or just trying to deal with bossy people, frustration can build if you don’t know how to respond appropriately in certain situations.
Most of the time, adults deal with bossy people in a work setting, though some relationships and families have trouble with bossy people, too. These individuals are everywhere and can affect us at any age, and if we aren’t careful they can make our day-to-day lives miserable.
“Bossy people assume the mantle of authority,” Joshua Martin, LMSW, a management consultant out of Binghamton, New York, told Saludify. “It’s not always a conscious act on their part; it can be a personality trait learned from years of exposure to similar behavior or it can be the result of necessity.”
Martin explained that people who were never typically bossy can learn the habit if they work in an environment where they feel they have to carry a disproportionate amount of the workload. This can lead to the mentality of “if I don’t do it, no one else will,” and can cause a person to demand help rather than ask for it, making it difficult to deal with bossy people in general.
While these individuals may come off as manipulative, insensitive and unlikeable, they are often just victims of circumstance and lack on insight.
“Trying to understand what makes a person bossy doesn’t necessarily help your situation,” said Martin. “But it can help prevent you from reacting emotionally to that person every time you interact.”
He added, “Becoming defensive is often the worst response you can have to a bossy individual; they don’t see their behavior as inappropriate, so they see you as the one who has an issue.”
Deal with bossy people the smart way
Karen LaVoie, a life coach with close to 20 years of experience mirrored Martin’s sentiments in an article for Tactics. She cautions individuals who have to deal with bossy people that when you fight something, it usually fights back, which is why emotional responses to bossy individuals are what you want to avoid.
Unfortunately, emotions are often our first instinctual reaction when we want to deal with bossy people.
Martin, LaVoie and Ask A Manager suggest the following tips on how to deal with a bossy person the right way:
- Always maintain a polite tone when you have to deal with bossy people. This doesn’t mean you can’t stand your ground, but it does mean you aren’t escalating an issue. Instead of saying, “No, I’ve got this,” say something like, “I think I can handle this, thank you anyway.”
- Don’t let your ego get in the way. When you have to deal with bossy people it’s easy to feel like they are demeaning you and you have to defend your honor. That’s their flaw. Don’t fight them for workplace dominance.
- Improve your own self-esteem and be assertive. Individuals who appear meek and quiet can often be the target for bossy people, not out of cruelty, but because this conveys a lack of confidence, which can be interpreted as incompetence at work, school or at home.
- Ask questions. If you feel someone is being bossy, start asking questions. Why do they want you to do what it is they demanded? (But don’t question disrespectfully.) Sometimes once you hear the bossy person’s rationale, you realize they weren’t targeting you — it’s just how they are and they might even have a good reason for asking you to do something, even if they can’t manage to do it the right way. Other times, when you ask, it becomes evident — for you, the person and others — that the individual is just asking you to do something to exert power and control on you.
- Understand some people just don’t know how to interact with others — they lack people skills. Believe it or not, interacting with people is a skill, not something we are born being able to do. Martin indicates some individuals don’t know how they come off when they speak; perhaps they grew up in a household where the dominant parent was bossy. The same way you would not get frustrated with someone for not having the skill of, say, drawing, then you can’t expect a person without people skills to actually interact with you appropriately. If bullying or misuse of power is an issue, report it directly to their supervisor, but avoid confronting them. If it’s just pure lack of interpersonal skills, then you know it’s not personal so move on.
- Remember that the only person you can change is yourself. If you can’t learn how to deal with bossy people you need to modify your own behavior or move on. Only a bossy person can change his or her behavior; if you’ve tried everything, it’s time to get out of the situation.
- Be blunt. Unfortunately, when you deal with bossy people sometimes you need to be as upfront about your feelings as they are about theirs. Again, this doesn’t have to be done in a rude manner, but if the bossy individual is just a same-level co-worker, you may have to straight out tell them you don’t appreciate their behavior and they need to give you some space.
“The key to confrontation with a bossy person is to prevent the situation from spinning out of control,” Martin told Saludify.
“Take the person aside and respectfully tell them their behavior makes you uncomfortable and they need to stay away for a while. This should be done in the presence of your boss or a superior so there is a witness to the interaction. If the bossy individual is your boss you may have to go at it alone. But the point is to be polite and respectful while still getting your point across.”
In more advanced cases of how to deal with bossy people, managers may have to take an active role, serving as mediators to help both parties come to a mutual agreement on how to work together in harmony. If the manager is the problem, it will affect the entire office performance so make sure you report it to the appropriate person.
Just make sure it is clear you are not slacking off. Many times bossy people might want to make it seem like they need to be on top of you because you’re not doing your job when in reality they are just control freaks. So, make sure your boss or supervisor has the correct information before confronting the bossy person.
Remember that, just as you don’t understand the bossy person, often the bossy person doesn’t understand you. So, unless there is abuse and interference, just deal with it as a complicated person who you need to take space from.
If you are the bossy person, then a little insight on your attitude won’t hurt. Try to be aware of how you treat others, the way you ask others to do something, and how irritating your behavior may be. If you have the relationship’s best interest at heart, it is worth trying to improve yourself and becoming more flexible and relaxed around others.