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In the last year I started working with a new PM because the previous one quit, and I'm having some issues with him. Given that I don't have any experience of this kind of things, I'm not sure on how to behave.

The central point of our "situation" is that I always leave at 6pm (unless I have something urgent to do and it can't be delayed), and he doesn't really like it because he'd like me to do more (unpaid) extra hours, even if it's not necessary at all.

Why I wrote "mobbing" in the title? Because he takes any chance to make "jokes" in front of other people, trying to make me feel guilty if I leave at 6pm (it's a 9am to 6pm job, I'm not leaving early). This happened 3 times in the last 2 weeks, and it looks like a little bit too much for me as it doesn't seem something random that is done just for the sake of the joke.

Here's a quick example of one of our interactions:

While talking with a co-worker, he joined the conversation saying that my co-worker shouldn't follow my example because I'm one of the guys that leaves early. He then added that I behave like public workers (in my country they're usually lazy and they leave as early as they can because they don't care about their jobs). All of this while smiling and laughing.

I laughed too and, while still laughing, I replied that if public workers were as productive as me our country would've been way better.

He kept on laughing, but his expression changed and he looked as someone that couldn't reply back, as if he was angry because I won the "argument" but he didn't want to show it (sorry for this weird description, I wouldn't be able to describe his face even in my native language!). Me and my co-worked then moved away, while still smiling.

Why I didn't like this interaction (and all the other ones too)?

For starters, I didn't like him saying that kind of things in front of a co-worker because it was an unprompted personal attack that was out of the context of our conversation (which didn't include him by the way).

Also, given that he's known to be the one that instead of saying "you did a good job" he'd rather make up an excuse to criticize people, I feel that this is exactly what he's doing with me, and the way that he didn't reply back in the previous example is one strong evidence of that.

While I can handle it, saying this kind of stuff in front of other people will make me look like the bad guy, and this will surely have some kind of influence in my yearly evaluation as his words matter more than mine.

Why did I reply in a way that could seem aggressive?

Well, it didn't was aggressive at all actually, I just kept his same tone and attitude while replying.

When he first started with his "jokes" I usually just laughed and moved on because I didn't want to engage in discussions or in anything potentially harmful for my career, and I also thought that he would stop once he saw my results. Unfortunately he didn't stop and things started to get even worse.

I decided to start replying because I'm 100% fine with myself and I want him to know that. In the last year I've received a lot of positive feedback from my team leader, co-workers and all of our clients. Everyone is really happy with my job, even our boss wrote me an email to let me know how happy he is and this never happened to anybody this year.

So, while my reply could seem a little bit cocky, the purpose was to let him understand that I know how important and productive I am in my team and that there's no point in his jokes because he knows that he owes me a lot (as a junior, this year I saved 3 messed up projects that my fellow seniors couldn't handle).

Finally, the question:

As this is a new situation for me, am I handling it correctly?

I fear that giving this kind of reply may upset him, but not giving any reply may be seen as a sign of guilt that could legitimize his behavior.

closed as off-topic by Chris E, IDrinkandIKnowThings, scaaahu, gnat, rath Nov 3 '17 at 10:22

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  • @DavidK thanks for your link, the second one was quite helpful even if the situations are different. – StepTNT Nov 2 '17 at 20:49
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    +1 and VTC. This is a good question but a bit open-ended. Am I handling it correctly requires context; what is your desired outcome? For him to stop mobbing you? For other higher-ups to not take him seriously (looks like you already did that)? – rath Nov 3 '17 at 10:22
  • @rath: yeah, I get your points. My goal is to understand if my behavior will let him stop mobbing me or if it will eventually backfire as he could think that I'm direspectful with my replies. You'll still may need more context to answer, but it's probably something that can't be explained online so I'll understand if this will be closed. – StepTNT Nov 3 '17 at 19:37
  • Can you add which country you're working in? The answer to your question might be culture-specific. – alexgbelov Nov 3 '17 at 20:57
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I would suggest taking him aside to chat seriously but respectfully about the situation. Keeping it in joke territory is a rather passive-aggressive way of responding to the situation and neither party can really address the deeper issue. Also, I would make it clear to him during this chat that you are uncomfortable when he makes these remarks in front of others.

  • While I agree that going on with jokes may be dangerous, nobody ever talked to him about his behavior (I'm not the only one that gets similar jokes) because he's not an easy person and he's been working for my company since it's foundation, so he's quite "powerful" there. Confronting him as a junior is a little bit scary because a lot of things may go sideways. Do you think that I can talk about it with my team leader and/or our boss? – StepTNT Nov 2 '17 at 20:48
  • @StepTNT You don't have to confront him alone if you don't want to, but I would be careful about "going over his head" to bring his superior into the conversation. At least for the first talk. Bring in a team lead if you like; someone who is at best his equal. Save involving upper management/HR for a secondary conversation, if he doesn't relent after the first one. – Steve-O Nov 2 '17 at 20:56
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    @StepTNT Confront might be too strong of a term. But you could say something like "Several times, you've mentioned me leaving early, even though I do put in full days. Is there something going on that makes you question the quality or quantity of my work?" In other words, maybe he's trying to say something, but doing a poor job of communicating. – thursdaysgeek Nov 2 '17 at 22:06
  • I agree with both of you so thanks for your comments. Probably politely asking if is there something wrong with my job can't be that harmful as I thought before. – StepTNT Nov 3 '17 at 19:41
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I spent several years working with mobbers and my experience is that there is no single way to deal with them, as they are all different.

The thing they do have in common, is that the core of their intention is to bully others as a means of drawing attention away from their own (real or perceived) weaknesses. Often, their goal is simply to make you feel worse/more insecure than they do.

So my first advice is, keep that in mind. It's easier to not feel so reactionary towards bully tactics when you fully realize the bully is actually pretty pathetic at heart.

Second advice would be to keep doing what you're doing, to the extent that it seems you have already found a tactic that pretty much shuts this particular bully down. At least temporarily. It may be that in time he will give up bullying you as he risks embarrasing himself in the process. At the very least, I do think it's important to stand up for yourself, ideally without losing your cool. So far so good.

Third advice: it does NOT feel good to be cornered into behaving this way, and it's dangerous, too. What I have seen in companies that have serious mobbing issues is that those who are consistently mobbed over time eventually end up in one of two camps: they fall apart and become nervous wrecks, OR they become mobbers themselves. So even if you can find a way to keep the mobber at bay, if he doesn't make a pretty serious turnaround in his behavior, it will likely wear on you over time.

I do think it might be reasonable to talk to your boss about this to get a better sense of whether you can get assigned to a new PM or what your other options might be to get this guy out of your life. Good managers know that mobbing destroys morale and productivity, so ideally your boss will take this seriously.

  • Third advice is something I didn't think before. I'm quite sure that I don't want to be like him and that I don't want him to take away my sanity, and this means that my idea of "waiting for things to change" doesn't look that good anymore. Thanks. – StepTNT Nov 3 '17 at 19:44
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I think that you're handling this right because you're standing your ground. Your work ethic and success rate is speaking for itself in terms of your working hours and there's not much that the PM can say about that.

He's attempting to show his superiority in terms of rank and having a longer seat time per day.

That isn't working out so well for him. There's no need for a separate discussion on this; at some point he'll find something else to joke about that doesn't involve this kind of passive role/status discrimination.

Good for you.

  • So, do you think that he'll eventually move on even if I won't give him any reason to complain about something else? I thought that waiting could be the best option because it allows me to avoid discussions, but the othere replies got me thinking that this could potentially go on for a very long time, worsening our relationship day by day. – StepTNT Nov 3 '17 at 19:49
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You handled the first few interactions fine, but you should act immediately to prevent this to transform into a badmouthing contest that worsen morale in the office.

The first thing to do would be to have a direct chat (or better, email him to have a record of the conversation), asking if he thinks there are problems with your behavior. Try not to be confrontational, as you should aim to avoid any kind of personal fight in this phase.
If he is somewhat reasonable and is not actually mobbing you (maybe he IS just joking), this should solve the problem. Ideally he would state his concerns of you leaving too early and you would reply that your productivity is top notch (it is top notch, right?) and you don't feel that working extra hours would change anything.

If he IS mobbing you, don't keep trying to change his mind. This would only lead to an unnecessary fight and worsen the situation. Escalate the problem to your boss instead, and let him handle it. Remember that, by badmouthing your productivity, the PM is also indirectly badmouthing the ability of your boss to handle his underlings correctly.

In the end, this is not a matter that you want (or should) try to solve alone, and making recurrent jokes about productivity could easily lead to a big inner fight.

  • Seems like a good course of action, even if I'm already sure that he's not just joking. Thanks. – StepTNT Nov 3 '17 at 19:53

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