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I recently had an argument with my Team Lead over the correct and plausible solution to one of the technical problems . Ever since he has taken that argument personally and doesn't interact with me, except when he needs to allot me tasks. He is also bad mouthing me in front of other colleagues during my absence.

Though I'm not sure, I believe as I've heard of him from other sources that he is of the opinion that since he is a senior pro than me, he is unquestionable!

Can anyone guide me how to deal with this situation? Is it right to react personally to professional arguments?

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    comments removed - Please use comments to improve the post or seek clarification from the author. Comments shouldn't be used to answer the question. I added some of the responses to the clarification that was here to the question to help make it more complete. Please feel free to seek further clarification if needed. As always, discussions are encouraged and welcomed in The Workplace Chat. – jmort253 Apr 17 '13 at 6:55
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Can anyone guide me how to deal with this situation?

First, you might want to find out what kind of situation you actually have on your hands.

Find a time when you can talk with your Team Lead privately. This time, instead of arguing, talk and listen. Say something like "I think our discussion about the technical problem left us in a bad place. That wasn't my intent. Can we talk about it?"

You expressed this as a "professional argument". Remember, that's your opinion not a fact. What is your Team Lead's opinion? Maybe you were being a jerk and didn't realize it. Find out, and discuss it. Then, you can find ways to try and repair your working relationship.

Is it right to react personally to professional arguments?

This isn't about right or wrong. Stop trying to find ways to say "I was right and you were wrong", otherwise you will likely suffer professionally for it.

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@JoeStrazzere has described what you need to do right this minute to salvage your relationship. But I think you also need to learn to avoid putting yourself in such positions in the future. So I want to discuss how to disagree technically with someone who is your organizational superior and how to get your ideas accepted.

First what not to do (I'm not saying you did these things, but these are things to watch out for in the future):

Never embarrass your boss publicly with an argument. Yes, you can disagree in a meeting as long as it is just your team (never do it if there are people from higher levels there) and as long as the boss has opened up the issue for discussion.

Don't continue to argue after the decision has been made. The time to bring up a discussion of a technical issue is before the decision is made. Once a decision is made, you implement it to the best of your abilities without whining. Being a sore loser is professional suicide. Helping the boss implement his solution will get you respect points that you need the next time you want to bring up a technical change.

Don't argue, discuss. If you start to lose your temper, take a bathroom break to calm down.

Don't disagree on everything. You will get a reputation as unpleasant to deal with and people will just tune you out.

Now as to how to get your technical ideas the consideration they deserve and have a chance to get them implemented:

First gain professional credibility by being the person who delivers the work and does it well. The new employee and/or junior ones have less credibility. To have professional credibility, you have to have accomplishments that your boss has directly seen. (You may think this isn't fair, but life isn't fair, so deal.)

Make your presentation as early as possible in the design process. Be aware that if you come in to a job in the middle, there are decisions that you may disagree with at that point, but it is now too late to change them.

Describe your ideas in terms of meeting his business needs not just in technical terms. It might be nice to do XYZ, but if it is a new technology that we don't know, it might add time we don't have in order to meet the deadline, the new stuff might be harder to integrate with existing legacy code. Tech leads and PMs have to keep all those business considerations in mind when making design choices. There are no purely technical design issues. Business needs and politics are part of every single decision and you need to not only get used to that, but learn to use them to your advantage. Learn how to do cost-benefit analysis.

Be realistic. We all like to play with new toys, but the business needs are more important than your personal desire to try out something new. Suggesting a rewrite of a ten-year old application so that you can use this exciting new technology is never going to go over well. While you may not like the legacy stuff, if it currently works, changing it to use some fancy new technology is a very risky thing for a business to do. It is expensive and there is often no benefit to the users. It risks breaking things that currently work. When working in legacy systems, think more in terms of suggesting incremental improvements. And do try to remember that your boss probably wrote a good portion of that legacy system and he is proud of it.

Be professional in your presentation and do not patronize the person who is ultimately responsible for the decision. Telling the boss you think he or she is stupid either in actual words or in body language and tone of voice is a sure way to be discounted in any decision making. Leave the "I'm better than you" attitude at home.

Solicit ideas from others and ask for some help from others in refining your presentation before making it to the decision maker. This helps you get allies which will help you get ideas taken seriously.

Choose your ground carefully. To get accepted, an idea needs to be worth doing and the timing needs to be good. When the boss has been having a bad day, you can go in with a solution to fix whatever the problem that day was. But don't go in to discuss some unrelated issue that you want done. You will have more luck when he is in a good mood unless you are suggesting a fix to his immediate problem. Also bringing up something that will take time to discuss when he is getting ready to leave for the day or headed to a meeting in five minutes is not great timing either unless the issue is genuinely urgent.

If you are new to the organization or profession, start small with something that is likely to be an easy sell. Building a reputation for having good ideas will help you professionally. So having some small successes to build on will help you. Once you have that reputation though, then concentrate on the important stuff.

If your idea gets accepted, then make sure you do everything you can to make it work. A failed idea won't kill your career, but a string of them will. The more successful your ideas are, the more credibility you have the next time you want to bring up a different way to do something.

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    That was nice :) – NINCOMPOOP Apr 16 '13 at 14:41
  • Do you have references for further reading? – Landon Kuhn Apr 24 '13 at 17:53
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    @landon9720, I would search out books on the topic of Office politics. I would also consider things like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The above is based on over 30 years of work experience in a wide variety of types of organizations and the training I had as a management analyst on organizational politics and selling organizations on changes (my whole job for 9 years was to design and sell organizational changes) and the training I had on Total Quality Management. And some of it came from specifically studying politics in my undergrad degree. – HLGEM Apr 24 '13 at 18:03
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You have a few potential options to move forwards with, I will list them below, take all advice with a grain of salt and use your judgement to decide which is best for your situation:

Do Nothing

Your first choice could be to simply do nothing and wait for it all to blow over. Time is a good healer after all. If you are so insistent that you are right and he is wrong, then probably avoiding his path is what you want to do to avoid more conflict.

However, this is a very poor choice to make, you will come across as petty and stubborn and it will likely affect your credibility in the work place as a professional body. I do not suggest this approach.

Apologize

Your second choice is to simply apologize for the conflict and attempt to resolve all hurt feelings.

You could say something along the lines of

I apologize for our conflict the other day, I did not mean for it to be taken personally nor did I mean to disrespect you, I hope we can continue this professionally.

Apologize and continue trying to fix the issue

If you want to mend fences but still insist there is a problem with the design then i suggest the above approach but with a small change. Try saying something along the lines of

I apologize for our conflict the other day, I did not mean for it to be taken personally >nor did I mean to disrespect you, I hope we can continue this professionally. However I still think there are a few parts of the design that I disagree with. Is there a possibility that we could organize a meeting, perhaps with the whole team, so that we can discuss the design? Perhaps I am misunderstanding some of the reasons for your decisions and I would like to learn from this experience.

This has the advantage of the two of you, perhaps even the team, to be able to get together and discuss the design, if there are flaws, they will be out in the open and the team can discuss them.

If there are no flaws and you just misunderstood the reason then it is likely that the rest of the team also made this mistake, and the opportunity for you all to learn why it is being done could be an advantage to the team as a learning opportunity.

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    Enh, quite a few places use something akin to the adversarial way lawyers argue for their clients to debate the relative merits of solutions - all without harming professional relationships. While you could argue semantics between adversarial debate and an argument, the opening line is too broad I think... – Telastyn Apr 16 '13 at 11:33
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You have a few things you need to fix.

Clear the air - obviously your team leader was offended and is acting out against you. If you are sincere about not doing it again, find out what made him so mad.

Future Disagreements - This may be more obvious after you find out what he's really made about. Maybe you disagreed in front of others? Was it bad timing? No one wants a debate when a deadline is near. Some people just can't tollerate a subordinate who disagrees. You may end up just being a "yes" man.

Team Leader's Unprofessional Behavior - Eventually, he needs to get over it and stop criticizing you in front of the others. Depending on where you live, this could be considered creating a hostile work environment. You may have to go over his head, but do your best to work it out.

Talk to other members of your group. They may have some insight and really are the people you want to make sure you get along with. Chances are if you're willing to be confrontational with the team leader, you do it with everyone as well. Some company cultures just look at these things differently.

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I had a similar situation and the best way to deal with this, as per my opinion is keep calm and code. Because the moment you will justify yourself you will be in the same position. Try not to more argue with him, just follow his guidelines and do your work. Sooner or later I assume that you might get an oppourtinity to work under someone else and these things will become less important. He may complain to senior management which may affect the appraisal or further worsen the working condition. Finally just keep up the good work and move ahead in your career.

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