I want to advance my knowledge of algorithms and data structures, and sometimes I study them at work when there's nothing to do, because I usually do things fast and no one needs my help.

A lot of times when 2 of my colleagues go and have their smoke break, they approach me, see some math symbols on my computer and start laughing. This annoys the heck out of me, because I don't understand what they're laughing at. Like they laugh, and go away talking about this, probably saying: "Oh, he's studying algorithms again".

How do I deal with this situation? I want to stop them from laughing at me.

  • 3
    What is the your goal in dealing with this situation? Have you tried anything yet? Sep 13, 2018 at 14:24
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    @DevNull yes, yes, yes, I am a software engineer. What boss? We have scrum, no one's a boss. Sometimes I study an algorithm, because I bump into a work task, and I look up how to do it better with an algorithm.
    – Coder-Man
    Sep 13, 2018 at 14:26
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings to stop this annoying laughing.
    – Coder-Man
    Sep 13, 2018 at 14:26
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    "This annoys the heck out of me, because I don't understand what they're laughing at." If this is what annoys you, you could try asking "what are you laughing at?" You seem to assume it's because you are reading about an algorithm, but this would seem strange; a software developer reading about an algorithm seems as natural as reading any other software-related information. Maybe it's something else completely. Or maybe the algorithm itself is funny, not because of you but because of the algorithm itself (e.g. "bogosort").
    – Brandin
    Sep 13, 2018 at 14:45
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    @Coder-Man, scrum doesn't mean there is no boss. Scrum controls work on the project, but there are plenty of other things that you need a manager for, possibly including this exact situation if you need assistance.
    – cdkMoose
    Sep 14, 2018 at 16:20

5 Answers 5


How do I deal with this situation?

Why do you care?

These folks either don't care about what your doing or more likely they don't understand how difficult what your studying is. Ignore this trivial teasing as its a waste of your time and energy.

As you progress in life, people are going to tease you over something. People who are weak or just plain jerks will find something. The trick is to not care.

Short answer: Ignore it, these people are not close friends or family.

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    It's human nature to care about what others think of you. If you know of some way to overcome that, I'm sure it would greatly improve your answer.
    – BauerPower
    Sep 13, 2018 at 14:44
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    @BauerPower You are correct we are all human and care about what some people think. For example, I do care about what my wife, close friends, and family thinks. I don't care about what two morons laughing at what I am studying think.
    – Neo
    Sep 13, 2018 at 14:47
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    Fair enough, but I think you maybe underestimate how difficult it can be to just stop caring about other people's opinions.
    – BauerPower
    Sep 13, 2018 at 15:13
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    @Coder-Man Then these people fall into the jerk category. Meaning you should not care.
    – Neo
    Sep 13, 2018 at 16:12
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    I think it takes some maturity to ignore what others think. As you're younger you sort of want to fit in with your peers but as you age, you either stop caring or you simply ignore it. I'm not sure which is more true but maybe it's both.
    – Dan
    Sep 13, 2018 at 18:13

There's an old saying, "The smarter you are, the dumber you sound to stupid people."

These people are going on a "smoke break?"

I think you have your answer.


If someone finds cigarettes more entertaining than maths, you should feel sorry for them, not be annoyed or upset.

Of course they are laughing because they feel inadequate. One day they will grow up.


Yes. Tell them it's rude, tell them to not do it.

Most people don't realise when they're being rude, so simply telling someone "that's a really rude thing to do, please stop it" is very effective.

If its within earshot of others so much the better, as there are negative social connotations to being rude, so it is added pressure to stop it.


I see three issues here:

  • Your coworkers crossing the line in evaluating what you personally are doing with your time and being condescending about it. Ignore this

  • Your coworkers looking at your monitor and commenting on it. if you have confidential information on the screen from time to time, talk to your boss about a more private location of you monitor

  • You not getting credit for your good use of the free time which you have at work. This one is straightforward. The next time you see a chance to use the additional knowledge, the use it. There are many occasions where basic knowledge of algorithms will tell you that a certain order of computational time is not ok, then tell your boss which book you recommend

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