How to reclaim your control at work

Karen Meager and John McLachlan give us tips to overcome bullying behaviour at work.

This week it was national Anti-Bullying Week, which aims to raise awareness of bullying in all its forms. Statistics show that around a third of people have experienced some kind of bullying in the workplace, which goes to show that such behaviour is not confined to the classroom, or to childhood.

Whatever your role within the workplace, there are steps you can take to avoid getting sucked into such mind games and maintain your influence and integrity.

Keeping people happy

In the workplace, there are so many ways in which a person can be intimidated or taken advantage of, and many of them lead back to an inability to say no, particularly when being asked to do something. Learning to assert yourself and not allow others to manipulate you into unfair or uncomfortable positions is important.

Declining requests in a firm but civil manner is important. Do this by clearly explaining your position while reminding the person of your value in the working relationship.

Learning to assert yourself and not allow others to manipulate you into unfair or uncomfortable positions is important. 

Appropriate responses might be, ‘If such an opportunity comes around again please do let me know as I’d be interested’, or ‘I hope you find a way around this’.

This same worry manifests more generally in being a compulsive people-pleaser. People in new roles or settling into new working environments may find this particularly challenging, and because of this willingness, new people tend to bear the brunt of extra work that others are palming off.

Management and leadership coach Margo Manning advises, ‘This amount of pressure will place immense amounts of stress on the employee and everyone around them and their own results will suffer as hours in the office increase whilst results decrease, leaving them in a vulnerable position.’

The right jobs

Difficulty in the workplace can arise when there is a discrepancy between a person’s skillset and the demands of their job, and when this is encountered, people resist voicing their concern as they are so determined to be ‘yes’ people.

But understanding a role fully is central to doing a job correctly, and if there is not enough managerial input in a workplace, dominant team members may take the reins and start delegating unsuitable tasks.

Olivier Herold, CEO of The Oxford Group, explains, ‘A lack of close alignment between competencies and business objectives is the main reason why so many organisations struggle to harness their leadership pipeline’.

Dominant colleagues – or even clients – achieve more by undermining those around them than they do by elevating themselves, and putting others down in order to make themselves look or feel better is a common trick that is not left in the playground.


Maintaining a level playing field during conversation is the key to avoid being subverted, suggests presentation coach Simon de Cintra, author of ‘Unlock Your Business Voice: How to sounds as good as you think’ (Rethink Press). ‘Being understood by others is more important than being the expert in your own head.

At the risk of being controversial, the ability to persuade others is overrated in today’s world of work. Remember to concentrate on knowing what is useful for them to get from you and make it your job to be easy to listen to and finally be present with them as they react to what you are telling them’.

Remember your strengths

All sorts of people can find themselves feeling overwhelmed because of excessive workloads, regardless of who is delegating it, and when this pressure begins to mount, it is common to feel a loss of control, as though your fate is in someone else’s hands.

During these times, it is important to maintain a level head and remember what it is you bring to your role, and why you were selected for it over every other candidate.

Author of The Thoughtful Leader Mindy Gibbins-Klein says, ‘It doesn’t matter who comes into your space; there will be copycats and imitators, but being first with innovative ideas and sharing them powerfully in writing gives you an edge that no one can ever take away’.

In high-pressured environments, especially those with dominant characters around, it can be hard to love yourself, especially when high performance is expected from you. In such circumstances, we often leave ourselves open to the influence and interpretation of others, and forget our self-worth.

Remind yourself of your position in the company hierarchy and ground yourself in it to prevent others from exploiting you and robbing you of your sense of belonging. Transformational Coach Julia Keller advises, ‘You need to have a level of self-love and respect before you can even think about respecting those around you’.


About the author

Karen Meager and John McLachlan are NLP Master Trainers at Monkey Puzzle Training.


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