Questions & Answers

How do you resolve conflict or deal with difficult situations on the job? Every week our expert Dr. Geertje Tutschka will answer your questions.

Workplace: My colleague treats me like her assistant. What should I do?

Who may give whom what instructions is regulated by:

– the professional position

– the respective area of responsibility

– the process and communication structures

If the member is authorized to give certain instructions, but the tone is not correct, a protected framework is needed. Here a mediating third party or a superior can certainly add support.

If, on the other hand, the instructions of the colleague clearly do not fall under one of the categories of authorization, then you should speak directly with them. Here the colleague is clearly overstepping her/his position.

In this context, it can also be important to again clearly define the rules in order to clear up any ambiguities or to eliminate inaccuracies and grey areas.

In any case, you should ask yourself what your role is in the fact that the colleague thinks she/he can treat you this way. Are you too quiet or too nice, always quick to step in for others? Then you should prepare yourself specifically for some typical situations with an “alternative scenario”; e.g., a quick-witted response or an evasive maneuver. This can be worked out with a coach or mentor. Autogenous training or mediation can also provide valuable services. In these cases, I like to recommend my clients to use anger as an energy source for change and to set an emotional anchor (a song, a hand flatterer, a postcard) that provides momentum in the decisive moment – but this time in the right direction!


Geertje Tutschka is the founder and CEO of CLP (Consulting for Legal Professionals), which supports lawyers in their careers around the world with here 25 years of expertise as a corporate lawyer and attorney in Germany, Austria, and the US. Her most relevant topic is leadership. The mother of three daughters is the author of numerous specialist books. Since 2016, she has led the German chapter of the International Coach Federation, the world’s largest association of professional coaches.