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I've been at the same gig for almost 8 years. I was hired in as a software developer (the entire SDLC) and am the only developer in a small IT department. We went through lay offs awhile back and lost over half of our techs. Now I am expected to help with the helpdesk support duties but it's not really clear when or how I'm supposed to help out. The boss is okay with me spending most of my time coding but this causes resentment with some of my co-workers. Nobody really says anything to my face so they resort to passive aggressiveness.

Coding requires being in "the zone" which is difficult when there are constant interruptions.... so it's more and more difficult to get uninterrupted coding time. And when I do get it, there's sometimes a feeling of guilt that I'm not out there putting out fires.

My boss hires people less capable than him so he can bully them around. He treats me better which is another thing that causes resentment amongst the other guys. The boss and I get along well but he seems to be threatened by me since I am more educated. Also I'm one of the very few subordinates who are the only ones who might be capable of doing his job. So I have to be careful what I say in front of the other guys because I don't want to appear as a threat. I'm not sure my boss is not purposely trying to drive a wedge between me and other employees. Also the boss has been offending other managers and seems to be stressed out by all the demands.

So it's like all of these differnet people have ideas on what my job should be but there's no clear job description. I work in a warehouse environment with co-workers who are low paid and not happy with their jobs. I'll often get sarcastic comments from the people on the floor because they don't think I"m doing any work (they see the other techs most of the time). They don't understand what I do and think I'm in the office playing video games.

So basically my boss and upper management like my work. Lower level management and employees aren't impressed and doesn't like it so much so I get shit on because of it.

Does anyone have any ideas on dealing with this or is it time to move on?

EDIT:

jmort253,

Good idea re knowledge sharing. I'm not sure how feasible it is but worth looking into. I don't know if there would be enough interest from the people on the floor but the others in my department could very well be interested since I don't really get specific about what I'm working on with them.

As for sarcasm and punch back, I usually get caught off guard and don't respond quick enough. The personality trait that makes me a good developer holds me back when it comes to the spontaneous banter

Amy,

"Could you possibly get him to say unambiguously what he sees your job as in front of these coworkers?"

Not sure but it is worth a try.

"That's going to color how you react to them, true or not. It's tough to not be condescending when you feel this way about your coworkers, and people are often passive-agressive when they feel that they are the victims of condescension."

Good point. However, I did not intend to insinuate that I feel this way about them. I'm assuming that the boss feels this way about them since he treats them like dirt. And perhaps his putting me on a pedestal makes them feel like "victims of condescension" but that's just a wild guess. That said, how do I encourage them to be straight up with me? I would rather that they come to me when they need help rather than wait for me to guess that they need help when I'm focused on other stuff and then complain to me afterwards about how busy and stressed out they are.

"Ask them what they need from you. "

I'm not a supervisor or manager so part of me says that it's not my problem. But it is a problem, otherwise I wouldn't have posted it. There seems to be a leadership void since they feel disrespected by the boss. How do I help them without stepping on his toes? If I do develop a better relationship with them, and the respect me but not the boss, then he might feel threatened.

BTW sorry mods for adding to this post but my browser not allow me to add comments.

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I wonder if the question you should really be asking is "I have a good relationship with my boss and others don't. They see that and resent me for it. How do I become one of the crowd without giving up my own potential for advancement?" –  pdr Oct 19 '12 at 13:12
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I assumed that the person who wrote that your coworkers were passive-aggressive was you. I aoplogize if that was really your boss. It seems to me that you're completely in denial about what your part in this situation is. I can't tell you exactly how to ask people what they need from you, but if you are taking the time out to talk to them on a regular basis (as I suggested), you will eventually see an opening. Take it. It's possible the best opening you get, early on, will be after a sarcastic comment. –  Amy Blankenship Oct 20 '12 at 14:49

4 Answers 4

I remember being in the Army doing manual labor tasks. The people doing manual labor always looked like they were working. It's easy to spot. Even if you're not an expert in whatever work is being done, you don't need to be to see the work happening.

The people who were fortunate enough to get selected to do office work were of course looked down on, not only by other soldiers but also by non-commissioned officers (Sergeants, for instance). The office work wasn't programming. It involved keeping track of personnel records and meeting deadlines in terms of having things ready for inspections, but this wasn't something where an uneducated outsider could look in and see that "work" is being done.

Most likely, the people you're working with in the warehouse can't even begin to fathom what it is that you do. This is of course a gross generalization, but chances are that a significant number of those folks just haven't spent enough time around computers.

However, putting this assumption aside, one thing you could try to do is maybe talk the boss into letting you do a little knowledge sharing. There's likely people out there who can get what you do, at least on a very high level, enough to where you might gain a few allies.

I've worked in places where, for instance, someone with a very specific knowledge-set might give a presentation or hold a workshop to teach others. If you get people who are even just mildly curious, you might be able to possibly show them enough to where -- when they see you sitting behind a computer for hours on end -- they'll know that you are doing real work.

Consider the following items for your presentation:

  • Show off the software or whatever you're doing. Explain from a very high level user-perspective of what the problems are and what you're doing to fix them. If the warehouse guys and gals use the software at all, they might appreciate knowing that you're the guy who fixes the problems.

  • Explain some of the new features that are on the roadmap. If there are any designs, show them off. This could actually be a good time to get some feedback from the people who are actually going to be using the product, so you might be able to justify this to your boss.

  • I wouldn't suggest showing any code. Most non-technical people will be quickly overwhelmed by this, and you'll lose your audience. However, if anyone is curious, you could offer to take these questions at the end, when the main group leaves.

In summary, seeing exactly what it is that you're working on may help justify your position to the nontechnical people that you're working with. However, keep in mind that warehouse environments and jobs that involve physical labor just plain have different rules. So if you can't occasionally take some sarcasm or punch back (figuratively) when you're challenged, then you may want to consider a more "professional" environment for your next job. Hope this helps!

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I think jmort253 gave a solid answer, but I see some things in your question that suggest to me that there might be more than one way to look at the situation.

For example, you say that your boss hires less capable people "so he can bully them around," and that "he seems to be threatened by you." It may not be the best idea to ascribe motives to him--you can't really know what's going on inside his head. I know it's also difficult to post with more precision about his specific behaviors, because the question could be traced back to who you really are.

But take a step back and ask yourself, "Can I work on the behavior, rather than assuming motive?" So, could you help deflect some of the bullying by making sure the boss knows when one of these "less capable" people does something praiseworthy (everybody does good things sometimes). Could you possibly get him to say unambiguously what he sees your job as in front of these coworkers?

You've described your coworkers as passive-aggressive and less-capable. That's going to color how you react to them, true or not. It's tough to not be condescending when you feel this way about your coworkers, and people are often passive-agressive when they feel that they are the targets of condescension.

Consider, instead, viewing them as needing guidance (and they may truly need your help on the help-desk as well). Ask them what they need from you. Better yet, ask them what their pain points are with the system. If the helpdesk is that busy, there are probably specific things that they are constantly having to work through with users. If you manage to fix that kind of issue quickly, the probability is that they will suddenly realize what it is that you do, and value it.

Finally, no matter what job you are in, you should allot at least some of your time to socializing with your coworkers. If at least some of your coworkers are your friends, when someone starts to say something negative about you, your friend can quietly nip it in the bud or at least tell you what's being said.

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Yes! Good points on the op's condescension and approaching this from the other side. –  jmort253 Oct 20 '12 at 0:21

Write kick-ass code.

If you do an awesome job coding, then there will be fewer fires to put out, and it will make everybody's life easier.

When it does, you may need to do a bit of self-promotion in demonstrating how what you did helped. Metrics may be your friend here.

If you still encounter resentment even after you have demonstrated how your work is making their jobs easier, then you're probably in a toxic environment and have another set of issues.

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I've always found that when I start going overboard on trying to figure out other people's motivations and fears, it's time to move on. It's a toxic environment, and you're not able to do your job, and you are not really helping other people do their job.

Believe it or not, not all work environments are like this. Many are staffed by people who are competent, and want to get the work done, and focus on problem-solving and team-building.

Meanwhile, until you find a better job, keep your head down, your mouth shut, be friendly and polite, don't step on other people's toes, and look for projects that expand your skillset, to make your self more marketable.

Meanwhile, make sure you come to work several days a week wearing job interview clothes, so people won't notice the long lunch on the one day you work your job interview clothes.

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