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I am placed in a new software project along with another colleague who happens to be one level up in hierarchy. We both are on the project for around a month now. As both of us are new to the project we both have to create visibility and make a place for ourselves in the project. So this makes it a competing environment for us. Our bosses are working from different geographical location and has suggested him to be my supervisor.

During this month I have observed that he keeps some knowledge sharing meetings with stakeholders and keep me out of loop. Also he has 1-1 conversation with onsite bosses over mail or phone frequently. I am not able to discuss these things with him as he is my supervisor as well.

Can this be harmful for me in long term? What should be done to avoid problems?

closed as not a real question by IDrinkandIKnowThings, jcmeloni, Rarity, CincinnatiProgrammer, user1370 Mar 14 '13 at 17:40

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  • Well, what are you trying to do to either 1) move the project along yourself or 2) be involved on these meetings too? – enderland Mar 14 '13 at 12:08
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    If they are your supervisor by definition they are no longer your peer. A peer assumes roughly equal balance of power. Your supervisor is in a position of power over you. What is the problem you are trying to solve here? He is your supervisor you should treat him as such. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 14 '13 at 13:00
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I see several things at work here. First you seem jealous that he got the supervisory position and you didn't, so you may be misinterpreting what is going on organizationally as a personal attack when it is just the nature of adding a layer of management. Managers are privy to more information than the people below them. That is normal and expected. It is the supervisor's job to decide what needs to passed down and what does not.

Next you are under the false assumption that your supervisor is still your peer. He is not. He is your boss and it is up to you to adapt to his working style not the other way around. This is not to say you can't discuss things with him, just that he has the final say and you are stuck with that even if you disagree with his decisions. He is more organizationally responsible for the success of the project than you are, so he has a greater stake in the decisions as well.

Now a third factor may or may not be at work here. The guy may simply be a snake who has gotten ahead by making himself look good at the expense of others. If he doesn't care about team work and is only out for himself, it is hard to change this type of person. Time will tell if this is so and you would then have to decide if it is time to move on as these types of supervisors are generally not helpful to your own career aspirations.

But what to do to handle all this. First, yes he is your boss, but you need to talk to him privately and honestly about your frustrations with the information flow. He may think he is protecting you from being bothered and not realize how much it is frustrating to you. Make a list of the problems and your proposed solutions before the discussion as it helps you to make sure that you make all of your points. Try to do this professionally and not emotionally. Yes this upsets you and yes you are probably mad, but getting angry about discussing it will only backfire.

Next when you need information on a particular topic, ask for it in an email which gives you documentation that you asked (in case he does turn out to be a snake).

Then adjust your own attitude. The best way to get promoted is to make this guy look good and getting him promoted. Give him your all. Support his decisions (the time to discuss is before decisions are reached not after) and do your best to make the project a success. Fighting him as part of a "competition" (hint, you are no longer in competition with him as he is at a higher level than you are) will only make you look petty and reduce your chances of winning promotion yourself.

Finally go do some reading on how organizational politics works. If you want to get ahead, you cannot afford to not play the game.

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    Big huge +1 for this. It expresses what I was trying to say in my answer much more clearly (and that has been missing in the other answers) without my past personal experience muddying the waters. I would just add, if he does turn out to be a snake, document it whenever you can, but never let frustration with him impact doing the best you can for the organization or it will look bad for you more than him. – AJ Henderson Mar 14 '13 at 14:08
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    Thanks and +1 for the great reply. Just to clarify I am not at all jealous of his position. His title is above me so he has to get this position. I say him as a peer because in-spite of title we have similar role to play on the project (Sr developer). I am more worried of other things he has been doing as I mentioned which may hamper my growth. – mehta Mar 14 '13 at 16:07
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    +1. On the advised 1-on-1: do not use words "frustration" or words about any emotions. Do not present the list of grievances in writing. Try to find a single most important barrier for you; please remember it is hard to concentrate on several issues at a time (even for managers), plus many issues presented at once through their sheer weight give the impression of a personal attack. – Deer Hunter Mar 14 '13 at 17:02
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You are probably confusing two different notions. A peer cannot be your supervisor. If you are working under his supervision, he's the boss, and you have to treat him in a thoroughly respectful yet confident manner, even if the age difference between him and you is small.

As for him keeping you out of the loop, you have the right to ask him any question related to your part of the project; don't hesitate to do that since success of the project depends on both of you having access to timely and accurate information.

If you still want to score brownie points with the management, concentrate on learning more arcane and in-depth stuff about the software you are developing, the programming languages and frameworks you use, and the problem domain for your software. Out of knowledge come confidence and the power to influence the process...

One more thing: yes, this is a career race, but please do keep the spirit of fair play; your personal development is much more beneficial in the long term than any petty tactical maneuvering and elbowing you could spend precious time on.

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    +1 for Your personal development is much more beneficial in the long term than any petty tactical maneuvering and elbowing you could spend precious time on. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 14 '13 at 13:42
  • I would add, if he resists getting you the information you need, document it. But also certainly agree that the problems with your supervisor shouldn't impact doing the best you can on the project. Take whatever measures you need to do the job the best you can. – AJ Henderson Mar 14 '13 at 14:06
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I think if you go into any situation like this as an immediate competition between you and your co-worker, you are destined to have issues. When personal competition is more important and the focus of your energy and efforts instead of the project itself being the focus, the project will suffer and that's the goal.

Teamwork, even if the named "lead" is almost a peer really is the best way to go. The job is the project and its success and making it great will make you both look good.

I've never had team projects with a near-peer, even when one or the other of us is designated the "lead" be bad for me.

Work with the other guy and both focus on the project. If the other guy wants to not play nice about it, that fact gets noticed, even from afar.

(end soapbox)

Editing to expand per a comment:

Competition to be "the best" is often seen as highly commendable and, to some extent, it is. However, if you are working on a team project with a concept that you somehow have to win or show up the other people on the project, it can affect the project itself in negative ways. This is a small list of things I've seen but nowhere near an exhaustive list.

  • People can tend to push their personal agenda or foci forward without regard to it being the best thing for the project.
  • People can let their need to look better than others cause them to rush through tasks or challenges and declare them done before they are really baked so they look like they are accomplishing more.
  • People can let their desire to stand out get in the way of doing less glamorous or needed work for a project just because it's not innovative or high profile.
  • People can make enemies of their project peers either personally by their attitude or professionally by how they focus on how good they look instead of the success of the project as a whole.
  • People can be seen as not a team player because of this sort of attitude and that WILL directly hurt you in the future.
  • People can use energy and creativity they should use to make the project a great success on worrying about politics or how to best get their name out there.
  • I see you took the advice to heart :) Great answer and welcome to the workplace – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 18 '13 at 19:38
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This shouldn't be a problem unless you make it one. Try to help him out and give him the opportunity to help you out learn about the new project. This will establish a good relationship right from the start. Don't act like you know the project better than him as you're both starting out, but you can give him friendly tips since he's new too.

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    I agree with you Celeritas, However there are some things bothering me. For example, he keeps me out of loop during discussions with other stakeholders which are more like knowledge sharing sessions. At times he keeps me out of mails and have 1-1 mail conversations with bosses (not that I should be in all mail/conversations but the one where I should be are not copied to me) etc. I am little hesitant in discussing these issues with him or our onsite boss because he is my supervisor here. – mehta Mar 14 '13 at 9:12
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    @mehta from your question I didn't get that you had a past relationship with him. You should take what you just said, make an edit to your question, and put it in there. Perhaps those would be better questions to ask in themselves for example "what to do when colleague keeps me out of mails" and "colleague has 1-1 mail conversations with bosses" – user8119 Mar 14 '13 at 9:16
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    Thanks, I have updated the question. I should learn question asking skill as well I think :) – mehta Mar 14 '13 at 9:47
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"As both of us are new to the project we both have to create visibility and make a place for ourselves in the project. So this makes it a competing environment for us."

You seem to be approaching this project as if it were a competition from the outset. That is not the way projects should work. If you can cooperate and make the project a success, both of you will benefit. On the other hand, if you get the reputation of treating all collaboration as if it were a competition, that will certainly harm you. It may be that your supervisor is somehow trying to do you down, but you haven't said anything that indicates it. Don't be the one that starts the war.

"he has 1-1 conversation with onsite bosses over mail or phone frequently."

That's normal behaviour for supervisors on a software project. If he is the project leader he has responsibilities that you don't.

"I am not able to discuss these things with him as he is my supervisor as well."

Why not? Have you tried? You should be able to discuss anything that affects your work, and if there are only two of you on the project that will be most things. He may not be sharing everything with you, but as long as he is sharing everything that affects your work, that is perfectly fine.

  • But at the time he was not the supervisor if my read of the question is correct. He was a team member (peer) and was taking measures to try to take control of the project and not playing as part of the team. A supervisor that is not a team player is not a good situation and may be what lead to feeling like it was a competition. (Full disclosure, I'm speaking from experience with a similar situation that occurred for me where I had no desire to compete, but was effectively forced to by the culture pushed on the team by the person made supervisor.) – AJ Henderson Mar 14 '13 at 13:51
  • He was already "one level up in the heirarchy", and the questioner clearly stated that he considered this a 'competition' from the outset. – DJClayworth Mar 14 '13 at 13:55
  • True, but one level up the hierarchy doesn't mean supervisor. It simply means a higher title. The OP has clarified a few other comments that the individual was not a supervisor during the month being discussed. – AJ Henderson Mar 14 '13 at 14:00

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