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A member of the team I work with is a guy who considers himself "super-smart". He makes snide remarks to me for no specific reason. I have not previously had any such problems with others, so I can't figure out what to do.

I have seen this guy laughing with some malice at me, behind my back, when I ask questions that seem silly to him. Also, he always tries to "help" me when I ask for somebody else's help (without asking him), just to show off that he is the company's technology guru.

An ex-colleague has told me that in such cases the best way is to completely ignore him when those situations occur and it will drive him crazy, because he wants to frustrate me and make me begin a fight and expose myself.

How should I deal with this?


EDIT:

After some thought on your comments and some more discussions I had, I came up with a strategy and I would like your opinion.

I will show him that what he says doesn't bother me. I will pretend I don't listen to him, unless he say something really insulting. If this escalates, I will put HR in the game too.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    Do you mean he is sarcastic toward you or mocks you? – jcmeloni Apr 26 '13 at 20:53
  • Mostly mocking...but not as a face to face insult. He is doing it behind my back and it just happened to see it or time or two – py_script Apr 26 '13 at 20:57
  • @Deer Hunter: I am ok if he just wants to help me. What I wont like is his evil attitude – py_script Apr 27 '13 at 14:59
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It could be he sees you as a threat and is trying to ruin your reputation.

The first thing you have to do is never accept help from him. Accepting help from him will prove his point that he is better than you.

The next thing is to make him the laughingstock the next time he says something snide in your hearing and he will probably back off. Bullies tend to pester those who won't fight back.

The final thing is to preserve your own reputation by making sure you talk about your accomplishments to your boss and make sure you contribute in meetings or technical discussions in front of your peers. And make sure to do your tasks well and on-time and that others know this. It is much harder to ruin the reputation of someone who is known to be doing a good job. This is office politics and playing well is critical to your career.

I'd bet you probably think that is it bad to play office politics, but really once someone starts in on you like this, you have no other choice except to leave as he may well be trying to get you fired for incompetence. He is playing the game and you are like a hockey goalie who isn't even trying to stop the other team from scoring. Whether you like it or not you are on the playing field and he may have chosen you to harass in part because you don't play the game and thus are easy prey. Taking you out may be part of a greater plan to intimidate the others. You have to at least play defensive office politics to survive in the workplace.

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    That's a nice view but I am not sure I agree with that:"Bullies tend to pester those who won't fight back". I thought that the opposite was valid. Some other questions: How can I deny receiving help from him? OK, I can imagine may scenarios but it is not applicable at all times. Can you give me one example of how to make him the laughingstock? If I talk about my accomplishments, I afraid that it maybe be considered as bragging and that's a good reason for the others to dislike you. Is it valid? – py_script Apr 27 '13 at 19:28
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    Bullies are generally cowards, they pick on the most defenseless. – HLGEM Apr 27 '13 at 20:11
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    I don't know him so I can't think of specific examples that apply directly to him. If he says you are being foolish about XYZ and you say "well I would not expect anyone who would do DEF to be able to judge well. (This assumes he did something that was real disaster that you can point to as a lapse in judgement) or you can say something to make it seem as if everything he is saying is such a joke. And making sure others know your accomplishments is NOT bragging, it is ensuring that others can't claim your work as theirs and that others know how valuable you are. Read up on office politics. – HLGEM Apr 27 '13 at 20:17
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    @HLGEM, so you'd advise OP to turn down perfectly valid and probably needed help, solely on principle? All the time, everytime? – kolossus Apr 27 '13 at 22:50
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    Also, I am the teamwork guy that never causes problems. Isnt it dangerous for my company reputation, to start a fight with this coward? To be honest, you are the first one that tells me to fight back with words. From school to other guys in workplace they tend to ignore bullies. – py_script Apr 28 '13 at 18:55
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I have been in a very similar situation. I'd mention certain things to improve processes at a company, make suggestions when someone had a problem or just say something in passing about current affairs. Each utterance would be met with a snort of derision or a cackle of cynical laughter.

To be brutally honest, I must confess that I though he had some sort of personality disorder or social phobia that made him behave in such a crass way, but looking back, I suspect it may have been some sort of defensive mechanism.

Having got to know the person, it turned out he was just a glass half-empty sort of guy who didn't believe anything could be made better and thought the job he had (and company) were somehow below him.

We all have our insecurities but as long as you're sure of what you're saying and can back it up with hard facts, you needn't let the situation get you down. You surely can't be the only one to have noticed his erratic behaviour. Such people are often tolerated for their technical nous but rarely progress and in the final analysis are harmless sorts really.

  • Thanks for the long answer. Unfortunately, there are no hard facts(he can say that he was just kidding for example) and I am not sure that the other teamates, who of course should have noticed it, will care about giving a solution as long as it doesnt affect them. – py_script Apr 27 '13 at 15:04
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    This is nice, but it doesn't really answer the question. – enderland Apr 27 '13 at 21:00
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    Not sure there really is an answer per se - just coping mechanisms. After all, can one person realistically expect to completely change someone else's behaviour? The final point I made (on the question in a comment) was that it might be easier to change your own point of view of things rather than the situation itself. – Robbie Dee Apr 28 '13 at 19:18
  • "but as long as you're sure of what you're saying and can back it up with hard facts". I wish that were possible but unfortunately not everything can be backed-up with hard facts. I doubt it's possible to remember all facts for when and where you need them. IMO what is needed is some communication skill of giving back replies to the person who's insulting. IMO if someone were to constantly insult everyday conversation of mine then it would make it difficult for me to discuss anything in front of him. – Mugen Jan 12 '15 at 8:48
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If it is getting to you really bad, talk to him sternly and tell him his humour/mocking is off-putting and is affecting your work. Your highest priority is your work and you dont have to put up with bullying in the workplace. If he still doesnt listen, speak to HR or your boss.

Also remember you always have the option to get a job elsewhere if the company isnt willing to take action and you are feeling extremely miserable.

Now I am gonna add some controversial advice too. Try to learn to banter. There are some good videos on youtube. Look at the things he is weak at or maybe insecure and run some very light humour to start off with since you are not used to doing it. Remember to not show angry when you do this. It has to be light-hearted and keep smiling while you engage in this back and forth.

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    @chad. I edited it and put the positive part at the beginning and the slightly controversial part at the end. Please ignore my earlier angry comments and read my answer. If you like it, I would love an up vote – Jay Jay Jay May 28 '13 at 2:26
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    I think the answer is much better suited to the site now thank you. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 28 '13 at 12:30
  • Banter can backfire and is more a UK specific thing...I would tell him to get lost. – Rui F Ribeiro Mar 2 at 19:14
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Story:

I was working for a company that had about 24 people at the site that I was at. There were two people out of those that had bad attitudes toward me - my immediate boss and someone I will describe as a metalworker. There were also two people I didn't think much of, but they had nothing to do with the two mentioned above.

I was the 'network administrator', but my real portfolio was training, software support, report writing, programming, and general IT fixit. My 'office' was the server room, where we had running hardware, modems, software, media, etc.

I tended to be a bit remote emotionally from the other people there - my mind was really elsewhere and in my own mind I should have been programming. The early 1990s economy was kind of miserable, so you took whatever you could get. I was also concerned that the top management had dropped in six weeks after I started to tell us they had a wage and hiring freeze, and there might be some layoffs.

The former person in my role had done almost nothing - at least nothing but get in spats with my boss. She (the predecessor) quit coming in during working hours, and did all her 'work' after dark. In the early 1990s Windows was at the 3.0/3.1 release, and the only instance of it I could find in the whole place had huge Solitare game statistics.

Three things became apparent as I continued to work there - first, I was 'cleaning up the unfinished business' - getting all the computers with the same version of operating systems and software. Second, I received all incoming hardware, and upgraded and expanded the PCs and other resources as circumstances dictated. Third, I had 'no fear' - I was writing programs to log data from National Instruments DAC boards, an area I had never touched before. As such, I became somewhat of a 'power center' in the organization - and this was a problem for the boss in part because he wasn't all that computer literate, and the 'metalworker' because I appeared to be rude. 'Rude' wasn't from saying things, I tended to be somewhat of a recluse, and really didn't have anything to talk about with him. He was also the only person in the organization that didn't have a computer, and could care less what I did for anyone else.

At any rate, the personal chemistry between me and these two individuals deteriorated over time. I got the feeling toward the end of this, in particular, that they were trying to get me to quit. While I really wanted out, I wasn't leaving until I had another job, unless they fired me.

For most of the other people in the group, I was more and more approachable over time, and in particular got along with most of the women. Whether this was part of the irritation I don't know - I certainly wasn't dating anyone or even particularly cozy while at work. The boss was someone that didn't have much patience with whining, and some of the people there were being overworked. While I might have been a bit distant, my conversations with people tended to start and remain civil. Therefore I might have been 'less bad' than other co-workers.

However, I was also not 'striving' in any sense - none of my conversations with anyone were focused on career advancement, pay raises, perks, or anything else. However, I did have a habit of coming in late, and generally working late, due to traffic. This eventually produced a written reprimand - which didn't much mean anything to me one way or another. While they were writing me up I was performing regression analysis on their monthly production, figuring where and by how many people they were short. Perhaps I was perceived as 'not taking anything seriously' - probably true, but on the other hand I wasn't careless.

I respected my boss and the 'metalworker' for what they did - I had no doubt they were competent. We had goofballs in the company, but they were on other planets as far as I was concerned. Overall the group was tight, good at what they did, and making their best effort.

The 'metalworker' got more and more assertive toward the end of my employment - in one case he blocked the door so I couldn't leave - right in front of the overall plant manager. The only thing I could imagine was this guy wanted to trigger some sort of physical reaction or outburst. I had no interest in fighting with him or anyone else.

This guy had a desk in one of the offices, and I got moved from the server room to this same office. Shortly after that someone, or something, broke his radio and he was convinced I was responsible. I didn't even know he had a radio until someone said I'd broken it. About all that could be said from this is that someone was on a campaign. I hadn't planned to make a career out of that company, in fact I had been seeking work for a year. I was one of many in a quarterly downsizing - I had just managed to find another job and didn't miss a workday.

Point: you may have something this other person wants, and it may be nothing more than street credibility. He may either want the role you're in, your background or experience (which for some reason he could never get), your particular work assignment, or the respect you're getting from your peers. You might be doing something irritating (like striking up conversations with women, or coming in late, or doing things that management didn't approve of first) and 'getting away with it' compared to others that can't.

My (now ex-) wife had gone to a fairly highly prestige university. Her boss had completed her degree in a somewhat less prestigious school. The two of them had a cat fight, and the boss told her something about how she (the boss) had never had a debutante party or whatever - she didn't rank. In the case of my wife, this would have been a scream - I don't think their family held parties at all during the time she was a teenager or young adult. In short, the school was confused with the social circle - she was in the former, and miles away from the latter.

The best thing to do might be to figure out what is yanking this guy's chain. If he can't talk to you, other people might be able to drop hints. Some of it may be pure incompatibility, there might also be possible to 'meet in the middle'. He may have a misconception, and you may be able make some clarification that will help him settle down. The best route to take is through others, see how third parties are reacting to this relationship.

  • Wow, thanks for the long post...I am not sure I trust a colleague that much to make such conversation. 6 months later, I am thinking of he being more of amateur duffy who just wants to show off sometimes. Insecurities, overestimated on his job maybe... – py_script Nov 11 '13 at 21:05
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I don't think ignoring or confronting him is a good solution, in both case you will be the "one with a problem". Disccus with your colleagues, ask them if he bother them too, ask them if they find him funny/interesting/helpfull...

You can also "discuss" with him or at least tell him some things. You can make your point without efforts.

" No thanks I didn't ask for your help "

" Why do you always snort when i come with an idea ? "

  • thanks for the answer. I have the impression that this will make me show more even softer. Is it logical? – py_script May 1 '13 at 12:48
  • What does gossiping about your colleague behind their back do to help the situation? – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 27 '13 at 1:15
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Try talking with your other colleagues when you are alone with them. (Possibly at lunch.) There is a chance he does or did a similar thing to them, too. Or possibly to someone else in the past, who has already left the company. You may learn that you are not the only person who hates his behavior; and this knowledge may make it easier for you to resist him in the presence of the other colleagues.

Perhaps try to frame it not like you have a problem with this, just that you are amused by this immature behavior; that you consider it annoying and unprofessional. (Just like an adult would talk with other adult about a neighbor's ill-mannered child.)

If there was a situation where the person gave you a wrong advice, be sure to mention that, too.

0

You are both hired to complete a role, you are not hired to like each other but you are required to act professional to each other.

First never assume malice. The majority of the time the person in question can be oblivious to the damage they are causing.

In such an instance, talk to the person in private first. Explain that you didn't like the comments. That it is undermining you in front of your peers and you want it to stop.

If they have an issue with your work, they should take it up with you in private or discuss with your manager and CC you. Explain that if they continue to do this, then the next discussion will be with a manager/HR present.

This will stop 99.9% of such instances. If a comment is made after that point, rather then attacking the point you can say "Didn't we discuss this in private?".

If he continues still, then at this point you are dealing with harassment.

Document all instances with date/time and 1-2 lines explaining what happened, what was the outcome. After a week or so, send the list to your manager and explain you want this to stop.

If your manager does nothing to resolve the situation, then send it to HR (with updated history).

Depending on your country, it is the company that gets sued not the employee doing the harassment. So HR will take such instances seriously (and firing you is generally not an option). At this point though I would check your local laws as well.

protected by Jim G. Nov 13 '13 at 3:47

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