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How to deal with dominant colleagues

Updated July 20, 2017

When dealing with a multitude of varying personality types, it can be a challenge to create a harmonious working environment. However, taking the time to identify a colleague's personality type --- particularly if you are finding yourself constantly at odds with him or her --- will help you find more effective means for solving conflict. A common personality type is the dominant individual who likes to take charge of situations, sometimes ignoring or neglecting the needs and concerns of co-workers. A dominant colleague can be difficult to deal with, but there are ways to assert your own voice in meetings, while also respecting the strengths of this personality type.

Be as direct as possible when communicating with your colleague. Dominant personality types often have little patience for small talk, or talking around an issue, and will dismiss your opinions if you don't state them clearly and articulately. When you speak to your colleague, know exactly what you are going to say before you open your mouth, to avoid meandering and taking too long to get to the point. Prepare answers ahead of time to possible follow up questions your colleague may throw at you, so you appear well-versed and knowledgeable in the subject at hand.

Develop a thick skin. Understand that dominant personality types can be dismissive, harsh, or even rude without even realising their behaviour is hurtful. Rather than take every unkind word personally, learn to accept your colleague's abrasive communication style, and don't waste energy complaining to other co-workers. Realise that you do not have to be friends with your colleague; you simply have to respect one another enough to coexist peacefully. However, if you feel your colleague crosses a line, and his or her behaviour starts to border on offensive, don't be afraid to seek help from someone in upper management. Dominant personality types can be quite intimidating, but you should never allow them to bully you into putting up with harassment in the workplace.

Demand respect and speak up. If you are a naturally submissive person, it will be very easy to let a dominant colleague bulldoze you into agreeing to proposals that you take objection with, or worse yet, not voicing your objections at all. Remind yourself that your opinions are just as valid as your colleague's and deserve to be heard. If a dominant colleague tries to take the floor or interrupt you when you are speaking, kindly ask them to hold their opinions until you are finished.

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About the Author

Meridith Friedman has been writing professionally since 2007. She is a Denver-based playwright, where she is in residence with Curious Theatre Company. Her plays have been developed and workshopped across the country at The Kennedy Center, New Repertory Theatre, The Lark, The Greenhouse Theatre Center and Chicago Dramatists. Friedman received her Master of Fine Arts from Northwestern University.