You work hard at your job and you make an effort to get along with all of your colleagues. But one colleague’s behavior leaves you wondering, “Is my coworker trying to take over my work?”
At first, you thought they were trying to be helpful, taking things off your plate. But then you realize they took your assignments, called your clients and spoke in meetings about your jobs.
Then it hits you. “Oh, no! This is a case of a coworker trying to take over my work.” As Ernest Hemingway said, “If something is wrong, fix it now.”
This is a delicate situation. You want to understand why the colleague is doing this. You also want to know how to address this properly.
Don’t worry, this happens in workplaces. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that employees spend an average of 2.8 hours a week resolving conflicts.
The best thing you can do is not act hastily because you want to maintain good relationships. You do not want to create tension and greater conflict. Here are 10 tips that I have used to manage a coworker trying to take over my work.
1. Ask yourself: Why is my coworker trying to take over my work?
There must be a perfectly good explanation of why this is happening. It is important for you to find that explanation before you jump to conclusions or discuss it with your colleague. Maybe your coworker is trying to help or is new and doesn’t know they are stealing your work.
If they took a newly created position, it is possible the job duties are not clearly defined. If you are part of a team, maybe they believe you need help and they want to be a good team player. Perhaps they were told to help you, but no one told you about it.
You need to understand the origin of this problem before you can solve it. Assess everything you know and find out what you don’t. This is an important step that will determine what strategy you use to resolve the issue with your colleague.
2. Stay objective
It is hard not to take something like this personally, but it is important to stay objective. It is never a good idea to let your emotions get in the way at work. You want to stay calm, open to information and just as professional as you always are on the job.
It is understandable to be frustrated, even hurt by the situation. But try to take anger and pride out of this. The best thing you can do is to remain objective, factual and logical.
It is also important not to openly complain about this. Until you know more about what is going on, you could sound like a bad sport. Always act respectfully, no matter how many emotions you may be feeling.
3. Know your worth
No matter why this is happening, remember that you are a valuable employee. Stay focused on the work you must do without being distracted by this issue. It is important that you continue to show discipline and confidence in your job.
No matter why this is happening, you should not allow it to undermine your work reputation. This is why it is important to maintain professional behavior as you work through the issue. Your ability to navigate this without creating more drama is evidence of your emotional maturity.
4. Learn about your coworker’s personality and how to adapt
As you do your fact-finding, you should learn what you can about your coworker’s personality. It is good to know the personality type of a colleague and strategies to get along with them. This information will also be helpful in developing a strategy to discuss the issue with your coworker.
It can be difficult and uncomfortable adapting to a new personality type. But doing so successfully is another sign of emotional maturity that will serve you well on the job.
5. Keep your opinions to yourself
It is not a good idea to openly complain about this to other people at work. There are a number of problems with that approach, particularly when you may not have all the facts. You could come across as a whiner who is being unfair to a colleague.
If you spoke poorly about your coworker to others, it is possible some colleagues will view you as petty. They will probably want to know if you discussed your concerns with the colleague. When you tell them no, your coworkers may perceive you as someone trying to start trouble without seeking a resolution.
Understand that your complaints may make their way to supervisors or the colleague in question. It is also possible that your comments may be misconstrued or misrepresented, adding to the problem. You want to make sure that you are the one addressing this with your colleague before things escalate.
6. Discuss with the colleague
After you gather the facts, learn more about your colleague and remove personal feelings, talk to your coworker. This may be awkward for you, so plan a productive, non-confrontational approach. If you have unanswered questions, identify what you want to ask them.
Make sure you approach your colleague with respect and genuine curiosity. Be open to the possibility of a misunderstanding or miscommunication with you or supervisors. Make an effort not to become defensive, either in your body language or tone.
If you hear something upsetting, try not to react immediately. Allow your colleague to speak without interruption. Consider taking in all of the information and getting together at another time to discuss.
It is possible your colleague will be apologetic because they did not realize the problem. They may believe your jobs are similar, raising questions about how they are defined. You may learn they thought you were taking their work.
Be open to a number of outcomes in this conversation. You may both agree to work together to resolve it. Of course, if they are unwilling to discuss the matter, you may need to go directly to your manager.
7. Ask your manager: Why is my coworker trying to take over my work?
It is possible your meeting with your coworker ended without a solution. You realize that your coworker continues to take your work. If that happens, you need to discuss the issue with your manager.
State your concerns in writing to your manager. Note the steps you took to resolve this issue with your colleague. Ask your manager for a meeting to discuss the problem.
Make sure you keep documentation of this communication, such as emails, instant messages, etc. When you meet with your manager, explain the situation and ask for their insights. Remain professional and unemotional in this meeting, and do not cast blame.
Ask your manager for help resolving the issue if they do not have an explanation for why this happened. Let them know you are willing to do what you can to resolve it.
8. Help find a solution
As you work through this problem, be open to solutions and help find one. For example, ask your boss to clarify your job duties. You can also ask your supervisor to compare your duties to your colleagues to see if there is a conflict.
If your manager supervises you and your colleague, be open to a meeting that includes all of you. This could be a good opportunity for your manager to clearly define each of your roles. If your colleague works for another supervisor, your manager and their boss may meet privately.
Be open to solutions in these scenarios and offer ideas you may have. But do not come across as self-serving. Remember, you are part of a team and you want to be a good partner.
9. Find ways to collaborate
As solutions emerge, you may want to develop a better relationship with your colleague. This experience may offer a chance to collaborate on future projects. This is particularly true if you both work on the same team.
Identify your strengths and your colleague’s strengths. Split up tasks on a project that appeal to each person’s strengths. The result could be a project that makes you both look good.
By working together, you can develop a stronger work relationship. You will learn more about each other. And you can begin to establish clearer boundaries that you both respect.
10. Find a new job
If talking to your colleague didn’t work and meeting with you boss didn’t help, you may have few options. You can complain to higher ups. Continue to remain professional and detached as you seek a resolution.
The experience may make it clear to you that it is time to find a new job. Perhaps your supervisor believes your tasks should be done by your colleague. Begin discreetly updating your resume and looking for possible openings.
You deserve a workplace where others respect your contributions.