The Policeman Coworker


A policeman (policewoman) is one of those coworkers who has a very clear set of ideas as to what the ‘rules’ of your workplace should be and has a near obsessive need to make sure everyone is playing by them. He won’t hesitate to call out or comment on a co-worker who he feels may be straying. The policeman often comes across as smug, condescending, judgemental, and, left unchecked, can single-handedly suck the life out of a workplace. Is there anything you can do about a co-worker like this? You can, although to be honest, your odds of success can vary.

You first need to understand what is behind this behavior. This is someone who likes to have a sense of control and power in his environment. He gains great satisfaction when he can influence others’ actions to make the world the way he thinks it should be. The most common mistake people make when trying to deal with a policeman is to argue with him – to try and convince him that his view of the world is wrong. That’s one argument you just won’t win. For example, if you said, “Hey, Fred, you really need to stop commenting whenever you see somebody using the internet for personal reasons,” Fred is simply going to come back by spouting off an office rule or regulation, or a ‘we’re being paid here to work, not to look at Facebook’ speech.

The more effective approach would be to say something like this: “Hey Fred, I know how much it bugs you when you see people using the internet for non-business reasons. You might want to be careful about your comments though. You’re just going to tick people off – then when something that’s really important comes up, they aren’t going to listen to you.” This approach gives an ‘if-then’ equation to the policeman that doesn’t confront his values, but gets him to rethink his approach. It tells him that he may actually be losing the very influence he is trying to exert.

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