Imagine starting your workday, being bombarded with a ton of emails, pings and messages on various platforms that you use, all from the same person, asking you for updates on nineteen different things. And the most annoying part is that they aren’t even your manager/ boss and you aren’t really answerable to them.

In the current remote-working scenario, it has become extremely challenging for many working personnel to find the balance between their work and life. With toxic coworkers who assume they are everyone’s boss, it kind of gets more out of control. There are hundreds of people asking for help on different forums about this issue, which says that this happens a lot more than it is actually discussed.

We all deal with the ‘know-it-all’ colleague from time to time, but the coworker who acts like your boss is another level of toxic and it gets frustrating to simultaneously handle them and stay productive at work. The first step to dealing with this issue is, recognizing the problem.

Is Your Coworker Really Toxic?

Toxicity in workplaces can be really subtle but extremely despairing and it is important to look for the signs particularly when the situations are tricky and tough to handle.

Your coworker is actually toxic if they:

Throw You Under The Bus and Steal Credit

They make you work on projects that they should be working on, under the veil of ‘team effort’. They fail to give you credit, and a lot of undocumented work that you do goes unnoticed by the management because of the credit stealing. When something goes wrong, they do not hesitate to throw you under the bus, just to clear their name from the situation.

Have Little or No Respect For Your Time

They do not respect your time. They always keep bombarding you with their priorities and unnecessarily create panic and anxiety, when their needs aren’t met. This creates a negative culture in the whole team and as a result, the team productivity goes down.

Competitive In An Unhealthy Way

Competition can be a positive and healthy thing in a team, but it becomes quite challenging for the team to survive, when someone is constantly trying to undermine their efforts, by making statements like “This is how my older workplace used to function, the team here just cannot handle how effective my solutions are.”

Not A Team Player – Always Put Their Needs First

They don’t understand what being a team player is. They do not care about what you are working on, and how important your project is. They always demand your 100% attention to their needs. They aren’t very great listeners, they assume that they can only get work done by pushing people around them.

Interfere With Your Productivity

By always putting their needs first, they tend to constantly interfere with your productivity. Everyone has their own priorities set and their own deadlines that they are chasing. But they don’t realize the importance of other functions on the team, they are just looking for someone who can handle their work for them without any complaints.

Act Like Your Supervisor

Even if the chain of command says that you two are parallels, these toxic coworkers tend to treat you like, you are their direct report and they aren’t subtle about it. They could assign tasks to you and keep poking you until you finish them and make you feel that they are above you.

How To Handle The Wannabe ‘Boss’

Once you’ve recognized the unfairness of your toxic colleague, it is time to deal with it. Different people deal with it differently, but here are a few tips that could help you get started.

Set Boundaries

This might seem like the most basic advice you’ve gotten, but it truly works. It is very important for everyone to set necessary boundaries. Letting anyone interrupt those boundaries, makes them feel like they can boss around. Even though you couldn’t do it from the start, you can always implement these boundaries and realize that no one else can tell you to do something unless it is your boss.

Know Your Priorities

You might want to help your teammates when they are stuck, but first, remember to set your priorities right. It is important to put yourself first. Prioritize your tasks, projects, your time etc. over anyone else’s ‘requests’/ demands. No matter how much they push you, if you understand what is more important to you, they really don’t have any power over you.

Make Your Decisions Yourself

Document your concerns with the person and remember that your decisions are yours to take, not anyone else’s. If your co-worker tries to take your decisions for you or makes a decision without consulting you, it is time you step up and have a real talk with them.

Confront Them

It is always favourable to speak up in the moment and let your wannabe ‘boss’ know that they cannot treat you the way they are.

Whenever you have a conflict, practice saying things like, ‘I have an idea for a different approach’. Whenever you feel like they are acting like your boss, politely just ask them, ‘Is there any reason why you’re acting like my boss?’

Give Them Feedback

When you have a culture of regular feedback in your team, utilize it and give them feedback about their behaviour and how it is affecting you as well as the team. There are many tools that even allow anonymous feedback. Sometimes all we need to do to fix these behaviours is, just tell them about it.

Ignore Them and Stay Focused

Sometimes, no matter how kind you are and how many chances you give them, some people never change. So, practice ignoring them and their tantrums, and demands and focus more on your priority, your productivity and your time. In this remote-working culture, it has become more important to care for yourself than ever. It is important to focus on your own mental health instead of burning calories on wannabe bosses.

Speak To Your Human Resource Department

If you aren’t able to get them off your back, no matter how much you try, it is necessary to escalate the issue. You must have the list of events documented, and it should be transparent. Speak to your HR personnel and ask them for advice on what to do, consider their advice, if you feel that it could help the situation.

Move On

Many say that quitting is the last resort, but moving on from a workplace that doesn’t prioritize your peace and mental health, shouldn’t be the last resort. No matter what people say, it is supremely important for you to put your needs before the company’s needs, and the team’s needs.

If someone is trying to undermine you constantly and the management isn’t able to help you even after you brought it to their notice, you are better off without them.

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