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I have an odd situation: I have a coworker who acts like he's my boss. I've already confirmed with higher-ups that it's just not true.

He'll say all kinds of things like:

This is my department.
I run this department.
This is MY analyst. (referring to me)
I need to decide how to manage your schedule.
I'll need to decide if I'm going to let you do xyz.
If you need him (me) to do something, talk to me first, so I can manage his time.

As far as I can tell, he's mainly doing this when other people can hear. He's not even saying anything constructive.

When people walk into the room, a switch goes off, and he'll just start posturing to make himself appear to be my manager.

I told you to do this... I told you to do that.

Finger pointing everywhere... He's just screaming nonsense that has nothing to do with anything just to put on a show. Then, when people leave the room, he flips the switch off and goes back to normal.

I'm pretty sure he's doing it when I'm not around as well.

It's getting very irritating. I pretty much don't even like to talk to him anymore. Every time he comes to talk to me, it's just a useless waste of my time, just so he can posture.

Any suggestions on how to handle this? I've had people come to me because they're confused, and I'm having to correct them. But it would be awkward if I kept going around correcting everyone. Every time he does it, I need to shower off the layer of slime just being near that. I'm not too into screaming matches; they're not my style.

Edit: Someone mentioned that this is the same problem as another post, where someone is just being bossy. This situation is different. Being bossy isn't the same as trying to convince others that you are management. Being bossy is a personality trait. Trying to convince others that you are management is dishonest.

marked as duplicate by Jim G., Masked Man, Mister Positive, Michael Grubey, Chris E Apr 24 '17 at 21:02

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Apr 19 '17 at 5:10
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    I've already confirmed with higher-ups that it's just not true What do you mean by this? Is the manager now aware of the behaviour? How did you confirm this with them? – Möoz Apr 19 '17 at 5:51
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    It's unclear from your post whether this coworker has any sort of managerial or coordination role. Perhaps he's a team lead without being an actual manager by title, or he's coordinating some project that includes your input? That might explain it. Also knowing what your own role is might be of help, to understand how your role and his might interact. – flith Apr 19 '17 at 6:46
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    I agree that this is an issue, but it seems more like a problem on his end. I feel like if were to do anything, it would seem retaliatory. This is to say, I assume just ignoring him and acting just as confused as everyone else is when they come and ask you about it hasn't worked in the past? – Teacher KSHuang Apr 19 '17 at 10:26
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    What is your relationship to this employee? Is there a "dotted line" in the org chart. For example, perhaps you report to a team leader and he is a project manager. How does his role differ from yours? – thelem Apr 19 '17 at 16:48
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This sounds like bullying or teasing behavior, and you shouldn't have to put up with it.

First, talk to him directly (if you haven't already). Tell him that although you think he's just joking around, you find it highly inappropriate. Point out that he is not your manager in any respect and offer to have an HR representative come down and explain the org chart to him if he's confused about that. Tell him that you expect the behavior to stop immediately. Using a phrase that gives the benefit of the doubt (e.g. "I think you're just joking around, but..." or "I don't think you realize how annoying it is, but...") will give your coworker a chance to save face; it provides an opportunity for him to apologize and put an end to the problem. But be serious when you talk to him, so that there's no question that you don't find it at all funny.

Second, if the behavior continues, sit down with your actual manager and explain the situation. This guy is basically usurping your manager's role, and I can't imagine any manager would be pleased by that. Explain that you've tried to handle the situation yourself, but the coworker persists. Say that it's becoming a distraction. If there are any cases where his blustering created real confusion or otherwise interfered with you or others getting things done, mention those. Your manager should take it from there.

It may help to discreetly keep a log of the behavior, including dates, times, a description of what he said or did, and who was there at the time. Being able to cite specific examples will make your description of the problem more credible, and it's often hard to remember exactly what happened and when if you don't write it down at the time. Being specific will also make it easier for your manager to confirm your version of the facts with other employees.


From your comment:

I've already got into screaming matches with him... I don't feel like I should have to keep doing such things.

Then you're already way past the first step. If you haven't spoken with your manager about it yet, do that. If you have, do it again, unless you're confident that the manager is already dealing with it. Let the manager know that it's a real problem, and that you can't avoid having it impact your work. Ask to have the problem coworker moved to a different desk as far away from you as possible; if that's impossible, see if you can move yourself. Ask if filing a complaint with the human resources department would be helpful, and if yes, do it. Try to get your manager's advice as to how to proceed, and do everything you can to keep your manager as an ally in working through this situation. You certainly shouldn't have to endure this boorish behavior, but you might have to be patient for a bit while your manager is working on it.

You're absolutely right -- you shouldn't have to put up with this kind of thing. A manager's role is to manage, and that means solving problems like this.

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    +1 for keeping a log. Remember to report it all to your manager, don't sit down with the back seat manager and talk things through. It's exactly what they want. – Daniel James Apr 18 '17 at 6:09
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    @DanielJames If someone had a problem with my behavior I'd certainly appreciate them letting me know about it directly rather than running off to the boss first. And I think the first question most managers would ask of someone making a complaint about this kind of thing is "have you let so-and-so know how you feel?" Finally, talking first to the coworker eliminates the "oh, I didn't know" defense when the manager steps in. – Caleb Apr 18 '17 at 6:22
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    @Caleb this kind of behavior doesn't deserve a considerate response. It deserves a smack from the manager-hammer. – DLS3141 Apr 18 '17 at 17:08
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    @industry7 In general, it's a good idea to attempt to resolve a problem yourself before going to your manager about it. That's not a hard and fast rule -- there are certainly situations that you should bring to your manager's attention immediately, but I don't think this is one of them. It doesn't really matter whether you think addressing the situation yourself will help; the fact that you've done so and the behavior continued establishes the need for the manager to intervene, and it also puts the manager in a better position to discipline the problem employee. – Caleb Apr 18 '17 at 17:15
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    Managers are there to manage their employees, hence the +1 for actually escalating to the person in charge. Dude knows what he's doing wrong, but continues for whatever his reasons are. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to the boss I go... – SliderBlackrose Apr 18 '17 at 19:31
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Any suggestions on how to handle this?

You need to be a bit more assertive here and put him in his place without going over the top.

Take him aside and have a private, calm talk. Something like "X, we both know that you are not my boss. Let's stop pretending that you are, okay?" should help.

And the next time he says something to others in front of you implying that he is your boss, roll your eyes and say loudly "Now, now X. We've talked about this before. You have to stop pretending that you are my boss."

And don't ever respond to him as you would to a boss. Don't accept assignments from him but only from your actual boss.

Do those a few times and hopefully he will stop.

If not, it's time to have a talk with your boss. Tell your boss what you have tried so far, that it hasn't worked, and that you would now appreciate some intervention.

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    It might feel good to put the guy in his place, and it might even be effective, but embarrassing or even humiliating him in front of peers could escalate the situation rather than resolve it, and it risks involving other employees who'd prefer to just stay out of it. I'd say this is probably a good approach if used judiciously, but considering the "screaming matches" this may not be the right approach for this situation. – Caleb Apr 18 '17 at 17:27
  • @Caleb I have to go with Joe here. This kind of thing doesn't happen to assertive people. This is happening because the OP is allowing it. There's no reason that he/she should not calmly point out factually correct things such as "you are not my boss." A more subtle approach might be to say something like. "Hmm, if you really think that's what I should be doing, you should talk to my boss about whether that task has a higher priority than what he/she has asked me to do." The key here is staying calm even if the other person doesn't. – JimmyJames Apr 20 '17 at 17:25
  • @JimmyJames If you got the impression that I don't think the OP should be assertive or direct in dealing with the coworker, then I should probably edit something. On the contrary, I think the OP should be very direct and not at all subtle, but there's a difference between that and needlessly embarrassing someone. – Caleb Apr 20 '17 at 17:48
  • @Caleb This isn't like pointing out an error someone made. The offender here is going out of his/her way to push a false narrative. If he/she is embarrassed at being exposed, they have no one to blame but themselves. In addition, this embarrassment is the cost of their ploy. Having it blow back will potentially dissuade them from doing it in the future. Otherwise, there is no downside. If they get away with it and subordinate someone: success. If the target asserts his/herself in private: move to different target. – JimmyJames Apr 20 '17 at 18:12
  • @JimmyJames Please don't put words into my mouth -- I never compared it to an error. And there doesn't have to be a "right" answer here; plenty of people have upvoted this answer. I'm just saying that humiliating someone may not achieve the desired results, and I think that taking the high road puts one in a better position to get help from management. – Caleb Apr 20 '17 at 18:38
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I was once like a milder version of your coworker! Not that creepy, bossy or old but just 2 years in my job I enjoyed delegating work to my junior colleagues. It took just couple of subtle hints from them that they did not appreciate me asking them to do something.

Point is that this has to be communicated to your coworker somehow. Either directly by you or through your manager.

You can first try to give hints yourself like referring to your boss every time he tries to be your boss like is this coming from X? or I will need to check with X first. (X being your boss). If these type of hints do not work, then you can be more direct and say Did X ask you to supervise or mentor me? If so, I will like to understand your role directly from them.

If you still face the issue then best is to directly speak to your manager and express your concerns. You have to handle this carefully though because this escalation may result in some unnecessary confrontation and miscommunication. So make sure you do not accuse him of anything but just express concern about you are not clear what is his role.

However way you decide, your coworker needs to know in a gentle way that you do not like his behavior around you.

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    Has not things gone well behind not being solved with a mind confrotation? The OP has to get used to stand by himself – Rui F Ribeiro Apr 18 '17 at 9:30
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    @RuiFRibeiro I did not understand your comment very well but if it is on my answer, it has nothing to do with playing mind games or not standing up for himself. It is about giving subtle hints to begin with, then direct confrontation and finally escalate to manager. All while "standing up for himself" – PagMax Apr 18 '17 at 10:04
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    This has to be the most useful answer so far. – Möoz Apr 18 '17 at 23:43
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I had this for a whole year.

What did I do? I started using the hierarchy, not directly, but indirectly. I was communicating with him through e-mails, while our manager was a "cc" recipient.

I was mostly talking about tasks which needed to be done, and what I would do regardless of what the coworker said. I was also referring to the events which involved the colleagues, to whom he presented himself to be my manager or any other event that he tried to "manage".

In this e-mail, I would also say that my time is being managed by me and our higher ups.

Expose him, professionally. Do not be afraid. He can't do anything to you. You have nothing to lose by doing it. He has.

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But there should be someone around you take orders from already, correct? Your real boss? You have your schedule, tasks organized, correct?

From your story, I found this person very amusing, just ignore him and when he shouts something for you to do, give him a simple "No." and get back to your tasks.

You can ignore anyone who is not involved signing your paychecks at the end.

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I've only seen this situation personally once in my career, and the company eventually promoted the bossy guy to management. Since you probably don't want to work for this guy, it might actually be important to correct the misinformation he is spreading.

Maybe you could get your actual boss to send an email out to everyone who might be confused about your status explaining that you report to him or her, and have no one else to report to either directly or indirectly? Possibly even calling out your bossy colleague by name as someone you don't report to, or mentioning his actions that might have led to the confusion.

I don't really know how to solve it, but based on my sample size of one it seems like ignoring the situation may be a little more serious than you might think.

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    Reading the OP I actually thought "good thing that nut ISN'T his real boss". Haha. Of course, somewhere there is a company eager to move that guy up into management. – Spike0xff Apr 20 '17 at 0:50

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