How to Deal With an Alpha Male in the Workplace

Alpha males are usually ambitious, sociable and driven, but they can also be overly egotistical and difficult to deal with in the workplace.

The alpha male persona is a common one found in just about every workplace. These individuals are fairly easy to recognize; whether white or blue collar, alpha males are often heard before they are seen, full of opinions and ambitions. He is typicall a man's man, whose aggressive drive can be a real asset, if only his big mouth and his ego didn't get in the way. They can either be the best employees on the payroll, or a constant headache to deal with. It all depends on how they work, and how they are approached.

Typical Behaviors

  • An alpha male typically firmly believes that he does his job much better than his colleagues and has an aggressive eye on the next promotion. The alpha male may not want the added responsibility, but he definitely wants the snazzier title and authority over underlings. 
  • If this individual is already in a managerial position, expect him to be controlling and insistent upon high standards. Sometimes this type of person will go from these typical alpha male characteristics and develop into somewhat of a bully boss. However, his fierce dedication and his drive will inspire his colleagues, and his usually-gregarious nature may take the sting out of a patronizing attitude. 
  • If he is NOT in a position of power, he will likely be highly aggravating. He will likely brag about all his conquests, tell everyone how to do their jobs and make passes at the secretary because he cannot comprehend how anyone wouldn't want his attention. This will be the coworker who continually complains about management, suggesting that he would be better at their jobs, all while passive-aggressively undermining the whole operation due to resentment of not being in power.

Dealing With An Alpha Male Coworker

  • As management, there are two general options for dealing with an alpha male subordinate. If he is worthy and capable, give him added responsibilities and plenty of praise when he handles them. Alpha males are excellent at orienting new hires; their enthusiasm and confidence, plus the ego gratification of leading others, will have them happily praising the company to the skies as they train a team. 
  • If he has a far bigger ego than his work ethic warrants, it may be necessary to cut him down to size quickly and unmistakeably. A thwarted alpha male is bound to be resentful regardless, but treading him softly will be viewed with contempt rather than appreciation for the thoughtfulness. He understands straight talk, and a no-nonsense directive about his performance will make him either shape up or ship out.