top of page

What can you do when a colleague is using his elbows?

A colleague who lobbies the boss at the coffee machine to her liking. Who puts herself forward in meetings and scores. Who snatches the interesting jobs right in front of you.

If a colleague works with his elbows, that is one of the most difficult things to deal with at work, because it is very unpleasant to be pushed aside, and it is not so easy to do something about it. Sometimes it's one person who makes the job difficult for you, which is bad enough, but in some places it has become part of the corporate culture, because if a few people do this, the others can't be left behind.

The question, of course, is how to respond well to such a colleague. Here are some helpful handles.

1. Chillax

It may very well be that your boss and your colleagues have a razor-sharp idea of what is going on. A lot of research has been done on undesirable behavior at work, and you know what? People who are not liked have fewer opportunities. People do not favor such colleagues as much and so their behavior turns against them. So don't get worked up, do your job well, go for a run, take a yoga class and think about something else. Easy to say, I know.

2. talk to your manager

Yes, I know. This is in almost all of my blogs. But that's not a coincidence. After all, the manager is responsible for the functioning of the team. So if people are bothered by a colleague, it's his job to do something about it. Unfortunately, by no means all managers do that well. They don't know how to handle it well, they have too many other problems on their plate, or they think people should solve it themselves. So make an assessment of whether talking to your manager makes sense in your case.

3. Talk to your colleague

Maybe the elbowed colleague doesn't realize at all how annoying his behavior is. Estimate whether it is someone with whom you can talk well, otherwise it is better to leave it at that. Gather all the courage you can find in yourself, because it is often needed. It is best to have such a conversation in three steps:

  • Show empathy. Empathize very well with the deeper motivations. Perhaps your colleague is reacting so aggressively because he feels very insecure. 'I understand that you feel very responsible for what happens in the department.'

  • Show what is bothering you. Emphasize why things are difficult for you, not what your colleague is doing wrong in your eyes. Be specific. 'It bothers me that sometimes you are very eager to get work done. I often find those jobs interesting, too. For example, when ...'

  • Offer an opening to resolve things. 'How shall we deal with that?'

Your colleague might not quite realize what she is doing and be startled by this. Things just might change.

4. Bite back

And sometimes the friendly-constructive approach is not the best, and there is only one thing to do. Stand up! Bite off! Play the game! Who does this colleague think he is to be able to sideline you? From now on, things will go your way. This can help you:

  • Think about why your colleague sometimes outsmarts you. How does he proceed? How can you respond most skillfully?

  • Think very carefully about what you want in your work. In general, and more specifically. And make sure you get that. Whether that is credit for a success or an interesting job. Prepare meetings and interviews well and don't let the cheese eat away at you.

  • Go lobby for yourself - with your boss and with colleagues. Put yourself on the map!

5. if elbows are in the corporate culture

If everyone is working with their elbows, there is little you can do to change that on your own. If the culture in the office or in your department is elbowing, it's time for a new job. Really, there are more opportunities than you might think.

need more?

An elbowed colleague can leave a mark on your life. Bet you think about it a lot at home, too? Coaching can help you deal with that situation better, to be less bothered by it - so that you enjoy going to work again. Did this blog appeal to you? I coach people with difficult colleagues and with other work problems. Take a look at my homepage or book a free discovery session.


bottom of page