I have this problem with a coworker. I do work with him for months now and the problem does not seem to go away. He is a close co-worker and also kind of my mentor since I recently started as a full employee and am still learning. (I had some internships beforehand in which I also worked closely with this person.)

The problem:

Since he is my mentor, he often has to explain stuff to me. Whenever I talk with him, he is kind of downgrading me. Yes, I'm not that long in this company, but he evens explains stuff to me that I know and he should know that I know it. If I accidentally mis-click, he immediately corrects me. He always tries to be right.

Example of a situation:

Just today he explained github to me. When ever I had a typo, he said something like: "Thats wrong, do it this way." or "Maybe you should learn the stuff more."


I ask him something like:

Me: Is it ok to take out this lines of code?

Mentor: yes

So I do delete the lines. Some hours or days later he says:

Why is there code missing? It's important, you can't just delete code.

I respond:

If I remember right, you told me it is ok to delete it.

He turns quiet and some minutes later responds with something like:

You probably remember wrong, or you asked weirdly, so I did not know what you meant.

He seems to realize he did wrong, but searches for a way I did wrong. I also see this behavior of him against others. I often try to have their backs, but he just put me down too if I do so.

Why it bothers me so much / what I want:

I'm new in this company. The way he behaves turns a bad light on me and my skills in front of coworkers and my boss. I don't have that much of courage and I'm often scared of what people think about me. So sometimes, the whole work day I'm trying to fix what he said about me when others could hear it. I don't want others to think about me as an idiot for getting nothing done.

  • When you say "kind of your mentor", is this an official role/authority he has over you? Can you not get out of his "mentorship" ? – PagMax Sep 26 '18 at 6:05
  • It is not a real role he has. He just offered to show me everthing i need the first months of work. I think it might come across a little rude, cuz he offered his own time to do so. – Marie S Sep 26 '18 at 7:33
  • You said you don't have much courage but you also said you stood up for other people who were being treated unfairly by this work colleague of yours - which is a courageous thing to do. Most people would just stick their head down. So good for you! – Matthew E Cornish Sep 26 '18 at 8:51
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    Document everything. if he advised you to make that change, document that in the commit message or better yet in the pull request. Let the commit message show what you changed and why, and in the PR, you just add as additional information that this change has been cleared by your coworker. If he wants to renege on that - fine. But if he does that constantly, people will notice. – Polygnome Sep 26 '18 at 12:48

First thing first : is he really mentoring you?

Where there is "If I accidentally mis-click, he immediately corrects me." + "You probably remember wrong, or you asked weirdly, so I did not know what you meant.", I wouldn't say this is mentoring.

Mentoring is really great in a company, ideally at each new step in your career you should find a mentor that will teach you things that you can only get be experience. ( my own definition, you can change it).

There can be technical mentorship : talking for hours with passion about the best way to write a code.

There can be company mentorship : talking about the other coworkers, the work-relationships, how to evolve, who to befriend, who to avoid, how to ask something to somebody etc.

When your boss, corrects you about a mis-click or disagree about remembering a line of code it is not mentoring. It is just a boss that likes to control everything.

Why he is doing this? Because in his eyes you are a junior and still need supervision.

So to your question : How to deal with an overly correcting mentor?

  • You accept everything he says for 6 months or so. He is just trying to help you on his own way. If you stand out to him : either he will stop to help you or will help you but will show you he is annoyed by it ( and that is not good).

  • If after 6 months he is still micromanaging you. It is because you are not doing a good job or because he is a kind of boss that likes to control everything. In this case you can tell him:

    Thank you for all your help, now I feel more confident about my work capabilities because of your support and I will try to be more independent in my daily tasks and only come to you for harder/difficult point. Thanks again for your help during my first month in the company and sharing your experience.

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  • Yes, he does mentor me. He also teaches me important stuff like how to work at the company. He brought me some programs i will need and helped me set them up. But when ever i do something wrong, or sadly, just not how he would do, i get this passive aggressiv reaction. Like "Good programmers dont use notepad++", thats like saying "You are a bad programmer". But when i was working on my exam, my old tutor told me a good programmer can work with ANY editor, and also should. But i wanna say thank you! I think i might just try to get over it and see what the next 6 months will bring. – Marie S Sep 26 '18 at 7:42
  • Good programmers know it doesn't really matter which code editor you use ;) try not to view that as him telling you you're a bad programmer though - obviously he has a very set idea of how things should be / how he wants you to work and is not very good at communicating this to you. He's the problem, not you. – Matthew E Cornish Sep 26 '18 at 8:49

This is a nice question. I once had an overly condescending "mentor" who stressed me out since I joined the company.

The best advice here is: ask the mentor that you would like to speak with them in private (no digital chatting or emails, one on one and in person). Tell him that you are stressed out by their current mentoring approach and it would be great if he could be more positive and less negative.

To be honest I would also review the kinds of questions you are asking. Try to ask why something is the way it is or why the code is done in this specific way. By doing this you will learn the program and code, then you can solve it yourself or equip yourself with the right kinds of questions.

PS: I am completely guessing here about the types of questions, you may have the right types of questions, but I would suggest you review it (it took me around 5 years to learn how to ask meaningful kinds of questions; meaningful for myself which is the most important part).

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    Thanks, i will keep the part about questions in mind. I actually think, talking to him about it, will not work out well. Because he offered to give me his mentorship on his own. I feel like he could think im rude or something, if I complain about how he does it. – Marie S Sep 26 '18 at 7:37

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