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I've been living a quite bizarre and pretty depressing situation the last few months. I'm currently interning as a financial engineer, and to make it short and blunt and without being too arrogant, the one who's supposed to supervise me, and has a few years more experience, is clearly less skilled than I am.

It is not what is causing a problem for me as I'm working independently of him and I am able to finish most of my tasks very quickly and interact with the other teams. The problem is that others too have noticed that I'm far more skilled than he is and won't hesitate to joke about that in front of him and that I'm accomplishing more milestones than him (note: I am of course not taking part in the jokes and I don't find them funny).

This makes him clearly feel bad, and guess what, he redirects his frustration towards me and will start acting stupidly around me. Last time, for example, he shouted that I'm too slow and that I should have already finished a particular task, and it was weird having to tell him that I had actually already done it. He would also try to keep me away from the interesting projects by flooding me with uninteresting low-quality IT tasks that have nothing to do with my internship. He would also dissuade others from including me in challenging projects and sometimes even kick me out of the loop if we're both in.

Also, sometimes he will try to enforce his authority and boss me around like "here's how you should do this and this" in front of everyone although the task is trivial and everyone already knows that I know how to do them (because I already did them multiple times), maybe in a bid to convince himself and others around him that he's teaching me something.

How can I handle the situation? I could just pretend to be weak and avoid all the problems, but it's against my nature. I just can't play stupid and erase myself to allow him to shine for a brief moment. Is it risky to try to talk to his boss or the HR about the issue?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 26 '18 at 8:09
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    Question: In what sector is intern + 3 years = senior. Thats not even medior in my sector o.0 – EpicKip Jun 27 '18 at 6:57
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    @EricKip: That was my first thought too but I think what is meant is that this colleague is senior to the OP, not that they necessarily hold a senior role. – Chris Jun 27 '18 at 9:12
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    @Chris Ah the title confused me :) (btw I did not get pinged because I'm not Eric :P) – EpicKip Jun 27 '18 at 11:46
  • @EpicKip: Aha! That will be why it didn't autocomplete when I tried to ping you! ;-) – Chris Jun 27 '18 at 12:09
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It's obvious your co-workers know your capabilities whether you "allow" your supervisor to shine or not. Just keep doing your work as impressively as you have been and treat your supervisor how you would want to be treated.

The colleagues will notice the accommodating attitude

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    I would add that if OP just continues to do everything in an efficient and skillful manner, there will be no problems. If you get "punished" with crap tasks, well in your work life you will meet crap tasks again - your ability to grind through uninteresting work because it needs to get done is a highly attractive ability for any potential employer. The world needs more doers, not divas (oh, I only work on important tasks) or whiners. – Stian Yttervik Jun 26 '18 at 16:13
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    If OP is as they describe, this is a classic lesson on how not to treat a talented subaltern. If nothing else, OP will learn how to treat someone who is more talented than themselves once they come to a leadership position. – Captain Emacs Jun 27 '18 at 3:20
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Is it risky to try to talk to his boss?

Nope, do not talk to their manager. Talk to him directly about this first. Let them know you're here to learn and be part of the team. You are not interested in a defamation game. If it persists after this, talk to your boss. If your boss and his are the same then so be it, but do not jump outside of your chain of command to handle this.

or the HR about the issue?

To quote one of our more famous members, HR is not your friend. They are there to protect the company and this is not a case where the HR spotlight needs to shine. Handle it between you and them first, if not get your boss involved.

How can I handle the situation?

In general, I would suggest that you kill them with kindness. They are obviously threatened by your skills. Offer to show them how you found a given solution, share your knowledge.

Also, be the one to speak up when the joking starts and say something like "Hey guys, no one knows everything this really isn't funny. We are all a team here." Who knows, you may even make a friend or ally out of them.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Jun 26 '18 at 8:10
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    Is it risky to try to talk to his boss? **Nope**, do not do this. I think you mean "Yes (it is risky), do not do this" – xDaizu Jun 26 '18 at 8:21
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    It would be very easy for the response you suggest in the last paragraph to be seen as extremely condescending particularly coming from an intern. What I would recommend is, first, obviously, don't take part in the joking. Next, steer the conversation away from such joking. Optionally, the OP could minimize what they did, e.g. with a mildly self-deprecating comment. Something like, "Oh, we covered that in class recently, so it was fresh in my mind." I don't really recommend minimizing one's own work though. – Derek Elkins Jun 26 '18 at 23:28
  • This is all assuming you are part of the conversation. Butting in to another conversation to "defend" the supervisor is not going to go over well with anyone. – Derek Elkins Jun 26 '18 at 23:28
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    If you're going to address it directly with him, I think it would also be prudent to speak with those who are making jokes at his expense. Something tactful, along the lines of "hey, I know you were just kidding around, but I think the frequency of such jokes are making X uncomfortable... would you mind easing up a bit on him? I think it'd be to everyone's benefit". – Doktor J Jun 27 '18 at 11:25
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Gosh, I disagree with the other answerers.

Look, the thing about ambition is you have to pretend you don't have it, but at the same time have it. Generally, nobody likes ambitious people. It makes them feel mediocre. On the other hand, people without ambition end up not getting anywhere.

Your problem is that you're ambitious and competent, your co-worker is ambitious and not-so-competent, and in the relatively ruthless world of finance he recognises this could mean he's on his way out.

Financial engineering pays well. It does so because you have to be good to get in, and stay good to stay in.

You obviously want to shine, and you're getting shade thrown on you by this guy.

Your problem is:

I could just pretend to be weak and avoid all the problems, but it's against my nature... Is it risky to try to talk to his boss or the HR about the issue?

And the answer is: What do you want?

This shouldn't about how you're seen - it should be how it impacts what you want. If you - presumably - want a job at this place, then having a drink with the portfolio manager and/or your boss, and raising your issue is a good idea. Don't raise it as "I'm sooo much better than Guy, what's he up to". Raise it as "I feel I can contribute sooo much more. I'm really excited about x,y,z, and I have an idea for a,b,c. Guy keeps assigning me 1,2,3 - can i get assigned more interesting work?".

Now you're not "I want guy's job" - you're "I just want to make this company better".

The portfolio manager can wield tremendous power - they're responsible for revenue - so go grab a beer with him/her, and keep them in the loop about what you want and how it is going.

Don't fall into the trap of being a socially awkward engineer - your bosses on the finance side are generally not socially awkward, they have to interact with clients all the time. They will also, however, not be aware of what is going on - so raise it with them in the format of a problem that you want to help more and you are being held back from doing so.

But don't call your co-workers credentials or qualifications into question - not directly. Just state you think you can do a brilliant job, and you're only being given the opportunity to do a pale imitation of one.

Also, it isn't actually a bad idea to talk to your boss/portfolio manager initially if you do feel you're being bullied. Mention to them what bothers you (Guy's actions berating you, ordering you about etc), ask if there is any guidance or support for this. Generally there is. Often it involves HR.

If Guy has said anything derogatory or rude, then HR is absolutely a first port-of-call. That's what they are there for, and they will help you out.

As a final thought because you're an intern it's ok to be more defensive. Everyone expects an intern to make a mistake or two or 100, so being put out or going to HR or whatever isn't going to put a black mark on you.

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    Agreed, focusing and communicating on improving the work being done is a much more powerful tool than trying to accommodate the destructive behavior of a supervisor or simply complaining about him. – CPHPython Jun 27 '18 at 11:26
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    Financial engineering pays well. It does so because you have to be good to get in. Hummm, I'm sorry but no. It's like every other sectors, some companies/team are great, some are not. Apart from that, good answer IMO. – dyesdyes Jun 27 '18 at 21:20
  • @dyesdyes if you're doing financial engineering you're doing well for yourself. You're making the algos that help select trades (with input from traders). I assure you, it's lucrative. – bharal Jun 27 '18 at 21:21
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    I'm not doubting it's lucrative, I'm doubting the second part of the statement saying all the people working in this are good. – dyesdyes Jun 27 '18 at 21:22
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How can I handle the situation?

Some things I note here:

  1. You are, nonetheless, doing an Internship. It is not rare for people to "boss you around", or doing not the most fun tasks... as in the end an internship is supposed to be an opportunity for you to learn.

    I don't know why you took such internship, if you already say you know more than your supervisor. Perhaps you would better fit elsewhere, some place that maybe is a better fit for your skills and where you can actually learn.

  2. Seems that the ones causing noise here are those coworkers who joke on your supervisor. I suggest you ask them to stop the jokes. If this escalates or continues, then perhaps it's time to take it to HR (again, the issue here is the coworkers joking on your supervisor, putting him on edge with you). However, be cautious if doing this.

  3. Whenever these jokes present themselves again, try to dismiss them or halt them. Perhaps saying something like: "you know, I actually have learned a great deal from Supervisor. Yes, perhaps I am a bit enthusiast about my job, but we are all a team here, and we should cooperate together instead of joking on each other."

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    These are great points. I would just add that if you have any intention of working at this company again then it would be helpful to befriend some of the other employees. Be careful how you tell them not to make such comments – sudo rm -rf slash Jun 26 '18 at 4:08
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    I feel that point 2 isn't really needed - there are many reasons that people take internships. Perhaps the internship is with a prestigious company and the internship is a good path in? OP could be self-taught, internship provides necessary experience etc. – Korthalion Jun 26 '18 at 8:22
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    @Korthalion. You mean point 1. And I agree with you. – Mars Jun 26 '18 at 12:34
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    Point #3 is very important. Acknowledging the solutions given by the supervisor (or any other positive aspect about him), in the presence of his own team members, goes a long way. – WonderWoman Jun 26 '18 at 12:34
  • @Ares and Korthalion, that is a valid point to consider. If the company were prestigious OP still would be gaining good exp to include on resume, but that doesn't mean he can't still learn a few new tricks (plus, we don't even know if the company is prestigious or not). – DarkCygnus Jun 26 '18 at 16:06
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Rule #1 in 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers:

Never Outshine the Master

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

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    Is this a quote from somewhere? If so, can you link the original source? – Erik Jun 25 '18 at 21:02
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    if you could mention that in your answer @Jason it would be great, as comments are rather volatile – DarkCygnus Jun 25 '18 at 21:09
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    I added a link - if it's to the wrong thing, please edit it. We prefer quotes to be attributed to prevent plagiarism. – Erik Jun 25 '18 at 21:10
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    There are people who just want to work normally, and there are people who want to play power games (psychopathy in the work place). "48 Laws of Power" is pretty much a manual for the latter. To each their own, but Wikipedia says "psychopaths typically represent a relatively small percentage of the staff". It's kind of a big leap to just assume OP belongs to that minority. – R. Schmitz Jun 26 '18 at 15:34
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    @R.Schmitz well, OP does have a psychopathic character as his avatar – Snow Jun 27 '18 at 9:58
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Please do yourself a favor now; don't think like a victim. You are in business that is based on mutual interest. You want something and the company wants something from you.

  • Remember the reason why you originally joined this company. Make that goal your first priority and work towards it.

  • The company hired you because they have plans that involve you. Find the person to run a business discussion with. Talk about the future plans and mutual interest why you're working together.

  • Your internship probably has a fixed term and will end sometime. You'll have to prepare for the discussions about the future anyway.

  • You could go to HR or a senior manager and talk about the personal problem you have, but the real deal is to talk about future business opportunities, if you are really a shining star. Personal matters will align automatically if potential benefits are clear and tempting.

  • Learn the art of corporate politics. Find allies, connect with people and connect people with each other. You'll be visible. Read the book in @jason's answer (48 laws of power).

  • Your bosses and managers know about the limitations of your direct supervisor. I know this from experience. Your supervisor produces some value to these managers, that's why he is still with the company.

  • Talking about the weaknesses of your supervisor will remind managers of their own weakness to handle this. Again, talk business first and then you can agree on personal details in a side note.

  • Make sure to explore the entire power map of the company, talk to as many people as you can on all levels and interview them. Understand their core values, see if you can reach your goals with them.

  • There is some chance that your supervisor's behavior is standard in the company and you don't find anyone you would be glad to work with. In this case you should leave and pursue your dreams somewhere else.

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I'm living a quite bizarre and pretty depressing situation the last few months. I'm currently interning as a financial engineer in an asset management firm, and to make it short and blunt and without being too "cocky", the one who's supposed to supervise me and has 3 years more experience is less skilled than I am.

I wouldn't characterize it as bizarre, pretty depression wouldn't be a good fit either. The purpose of an internship is twofold in my book - to figure what you want to do and most importantly, don't want to do.

It is no problem for me as I'm working independently of him and I am able to finish most of my tasks very quickly and interact with the other teams. The problem is that others too noticed that I'm far more skilled than he is and won't hesitate to joke about that in front of him and that I'm accomplishing more milestones than him.

Alright, I will take your word that you are talented. But at the same time take into consideration the following: humans are by nature social creatures, this means that perception is often as important or even more so that actual skill.

If I see you as a talented individual and I respect you and want your skills to grow, I will give you challenges in the work pipeline that will push you to overcome and adapt.

If I see you as a talented individual and I see you and see you as a threat... it would appear that you know what happens already.

This makes him clearly feel bad, and guess what, he redirects his frustration towards me and will start acting stupidly around me. Last time for example he shouted that I'm too slow and that I should have already finished a particular task, and it was weird answering him that I actually already did it. He would also try to keep me away from the interesting projects and keep them only for himself.

So you clearly know cause and effect (although that does not equate with correlation!) Why continue to act in a manner that would cause harm? You know you are talented, there is no need to brag about it. But at the same time, you can also control to a limited degree how people perceive your skills. If your coworkers are using this as an opportunity to cause discomfort in your superior, take the time aside to ask them directly to stop, although you appreciate their respect of your skill, that doesn't extend to the public humiliation and embarrassment of others.

There was one that a senior portfolio manager wanted me to look at (he already acknowledged my skills), which I did and I quickly delivered a solution. My supervisor got again frustrated and answered on the email conversation and removed me subtly from the loop and tried to blur out any mention of me being the one who proposed the solution. He will then keep giving me low quality IT tasks which have actually nothing to do with my internship, just to make me feel bad. Also, sometimes he will try to enforce his authority and boss me around like "here's how you should do this and this" in front of everyone (knowing that he and everyone else know perfectly that I know how to do the task).

This paradigm of action will only continue not only here, but I suspect into the future as well, future managers will recognize your skill and give you challenging assignments, but what will need to be addressed in concurrency is how you work with individuals who may not have the same technical skill as you.

Humility is a virtue often extolled in the day to day interactions, but rarely practiced.

How can I handle the situation? I could just pretend to be weak and avoid all the problems, but it's against my nature. I just can't play stupid and erase myself to allow him to shine for a brief moment. Is it risky to try to talk to his boss or the HR about the issue?

This is an internship, so a potential one-shot game in the grand scheme of things, the effort put into resolving this issue now may not have a viable pay-off. But if you want to address it, my approach has always been honesty and directness, request a meeting with your supervisor and his/her supervisor, be clear in what you want to address, don't be demeaning or a braggart, be firm in that although you enjoy being challenged, know that being disrespected or a source of embarrassment for your supervisor is not your goal or intention, that at the end you seek to address the company 'culture' that is impeding from work getting done.

But before you go into the meeting, you are aware of CYA right?

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    dv - if only because the OP notes the situation is "depressing" and the first thing you tell them is that it isn't. You're not there, nor do you know the OP, so how are you able to tell them how they are feeling? – bharal Jun 26 '18 at 9:03
  • @bharal - Frank is pointing out that these sort of situations happen all the time in the workplace, and that thinking of them as overly negative is not good for one's well-being. Don't be so touchy. – AndreiROM Jun 26 '18 at 13:30
  • Downvoting for same reason as bharal: Telling OP how they feel or how they're not-supposed-to feel. – Beanluc Jun 26 '18 at 19:22
  • Speaking of feelings, OP seems to think (s)he knows how his(her) boss feels. Maybe boss doesn't like how OP is so cocky and thinks so poorly of his(her) seniors? – stannius Jun 26 '18 at 19:35

protected by Masked Man Jun 26 '18 at 10:05

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