If you want power, try a little powerlessness

Q. I have some peers in my workplace that drive me crazy. They expect my employees to help them with their projects, tell me what to do, and make promises to customers my team needs to deliver. No matter what I say, they don't stop. I go to work every day expecting a new battle. How do I get the power to make them back off?

A. You can get your peers to back off by using your powerlessness. The central problem is what you are not acknowledging: that you are not the boss of your coworkers.

The behaviors you don't like about your peers are actually their attempts to boss you around. But you are responding by bossing your peers around right back. The truth is that neither of you is the boss.

Instead of getting in deeply entrenched authority struggles with your peers, turn their supervision over to the person who actually has that power -- the manager you both report to. Let your boss know the request your peer has made and let the boss tell you what he or she wants you to do.

Make certain you keep a neutral stance in what you tell your boss about your peer. No manager is impressed by a grown-up that is whining like a baby about a coworker. Instead, impartially state your peer's request and what the tradeoff would be if you comply. Then let your boss make the judgment call.

If your boss feels like you keep running to him or her saying the equivalent of, "My brother keeps hitting me," your boss will decide you and not your peer are the problem. The way a manager will do relationship math is to decide the complaining employee equals the problem employee.

Once you have a clear directive from your boss, communicate that decision to your peer. If your peer doesn't like that idea, graciously remind them that they can talk to the boss about it. Do not gloat or do a victory dance that your boss agrees with you.

Remember, all bosses enjoy having their authority respected. Managers appreciate an employee who knows they will ultimately be blamed or praised for the results of their team. When you encourage your boss to decide how you use your time, your coworker can no longer tussle with you about power.

If your coworker ends up fighting with your boss, the good news is you are out of the conflict. The other good news is that people who fight with their bosses generally have short-lived careers in that position. In either case, your quality of work life just improved.

In my work as an organizational consultant, at least 50 percent of my time with corporations is solving these kinds of power struggles between peers. Ironically, nobody in these disputes realizes that neither party has the power to decree the behavior of a peer -- that is why God invented mangers!

The last word(s)

Q. I'm just starting my career and noticing many people in my industry take advantage of others and zoom ahead. I know people say that what goes around comes around, but are there really practical downsides to short-term wins at others' expense?

A. Yes, it is hard to keep your eyes on the road ahead when you have to keep looking over your shoulder at who might be planning to get even with you.

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)

(c) 2014 INTERPERSONAL EDGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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