Compliments of cauld lad via Flickr

I think we’ve all been confronted by the personality type who wants to “take over.” Not the person who wants to work with you, but who wants you to work for them. This may be a peer, or in rare circumstances someone hierarchically lower (who perceives an opportunity). Encroachers are bullies in the guise of offering “helpful advice,” officiously given without solicitation.

As Mr./Ms. “Fixit,’ they view their job as partially dependent on declaring you incompetent in yours. Their strategy includes informing your manager of what they find (before or in lieu of) your appraisal. People in their cross hairs are considered “soft targets”- the soft spoken, those considered corporate wall flowers, or coworkers with perceived lesser status. Steamrolling the reserved with their stream of “friendly” advice is a way to buoy their own stature, while diverting targets’ attention through a continual stream of annoyance. Attention seekers freely offer recommendations, and tell other people how they should do things; they are busy trying to meet colleagues and to obtain name recognition. Corporate trespassers seem not to know when they’ve overstepped their bounds.

Encroachment is a crutch. If the squatter in question were truly accomplished, they would see no need to attempt a coup. They would stand on their own two feet, choose not to blow problems out of proportion, and be a peacemaker in the office place. Despite their brashness, encroachers possess an obtuseness which results in unconscious behavior. Interpersonal troublemakers on the prowl, they lay in wait for the next opportunity to ensnare their victim. If they make no personal contact other than to give you instructions, then you have someone who is objectionably forward on your hands. Here are some tips for handling people trying to make a name at your expense:

  • Don’t give them ammunition. Check, recheck, and check again. Stand guard against showing them any sort of Achilles heel.
  • Draw a line in the sand. As a bullish colleague once stated “I’ll push until someone pushes back.” Likewise, encroachers will run roughshod unless they’re given some limits. Let them know where you stand.
  • Cover your bases. Be able to refer to experts who have reviewed your project, peer reviews that depict you flawless, or benchmarking that shows you triumphant. Be one step ahead of their game.
  • [For supervisors] Don’t manage by convenience. The most persistent voices are not always the most accurate. Get both sides of the story prior to forming an opinion, especially if the smeared party is of higher rank (this is simply a courtesy to someone who’s earned their stripes). Avoid being bombarded by a subordinate who’s trying to settle a score.

Fame seekers stake their claim on conquered territory. People who are bullish, boisterous, and insistent on telling others what time it is lower productivity. They look for a crevice, and excavate it into a conduit that leads directly to the boss.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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