By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q: My boss is a chicken and allows this one employee to walk all over him. Should I step in and tell my coworker to shape up?
A: Absolutely not! One of the most common mistakes I see my clients make is to try to fix problems that they don't have the formal authority to manage.
Ironically, those who get into this trouble are some of the brightest, most motivated and most responsible people in their workplaces. They have excellent intentions, good ideas and practical solutions. They also are shocked to find that no good deed goes unpunished when they overstep their authority.
Bosses who are passive and unassertive make it especially tempting to take on more authority than you've been given. If you give in to this seductive challenge, however, you will soon find yourself on a long walk off a short corporate plank ... courtesy of whomever you just tried to help.
Passive bosses are famous for hanging their people out to dry after their employees courageously went where their boss refused to go. Do not expect gratitude if you boldly address problems your boss avoids. He'll take credit for the result and let you get eaten by anyone annoyed by your actions.
Remember the workplace is a lot like chess. You are better off thinking strategically about how to win the game then doing the first thing that makes you feel better.
The only person who can set limits with your coworker is your boss. Instead of stepping in yourself, drop into your boss's office more frequently and ask for his advice. You will then list specific problems (drops in profitability, public relations problems, customer complaints) caused by your coworker's actions.
Make sure you pick areas in which you know your boss is keenly concerned. If you select areas that affect your boss's reputation, bonus or future, you will be surprised by how fast your boss changes from Superchicken to Superman.
Bravo to you for seeing and wanting to fix problems in your workplace. The path I'm suggesting will take more patience, strategy and maturity than verbally flattening your badly behaved coworker. The path I'm recommending will also make sure you get your result without sacrificing your well being or future at your current company.
THE LAST WORD(S)
Q: I have a coworker who acts like she's the Queen of Sheba. Is there a way to get her to stop giving me orders?
A: Yes, next time she gives a royal dictate, smile and say, "I'll check with our boss and see if she wants me to do that!"
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.INTERPERSONAL EDGE. DISTRIBUTED BY TMS
This column was originally printed in the May 8, 2010 - May 22, 2010 edition.