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I have the following scenario where a person I'm working with is new in the team and they're in a leadership role within the team.

They asked why something was done a particular way.

I gave them the reasons. They scoffed at it.

This behaviour is becoming a pattern, and comes across as a little bit elitist instead of engaging and showing vision. I need to develop a constructive way to respond.

My question is: How do you respond when someone scoffs at your reasoned answer to their question?

  • Are you annoyed because they're dismissive of you, or the process? – rath Nov 12 '18 at 9:30
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    Asking them, Do you have any ideas to do it better? would be an option. – Ms.Tamil Nov 12 '18 at 9:31
  • @JoeStrazzere Nope. Just DaveG. I see why you are asking, I'm just citing my own personal experience, as to why people care whether other people accept answers at work. – DaveG Nov 12 '18 at 16:37
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Professionalism is key, especially if it worsens and the managers above end up getting involved. I've had to work with folk like that before both above and below me in the corporate hierarchy.

Offer them a chance to suggest an alternative approach, with reasoning. If they scoff at your 'Method A', simply politely ask them if they know of another solution. Nothing superior or disparaging on your part, something like "Not keen on this? If something's unclear, I can over it further. Or has an alternative come to mind?"

In this case, the scoffer may describe their 'Method B' without actually explaining why it is better. Again, sounding as if you are keeping an open mind can help. "Sounds good, we could give it a try. Does it do things faster than Method A? Is it easier to maintain or..."

I've worked with some people who (claim they) don't realise they are making these noises or reactions during discussions. Having an open-minded discussion about alternatives normally reduces the chances of the scoffing happening again or, which could be better, they are more forthcoming with their own suggestions. If worst comes to worst and the situation escalates, keeping the attitude described above means that you and your colleagues are in the clear; the only person displaying somewhat-aggressive behaviour was your superior.

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    "People who don't realize they are making these noises or reactions?" Lord knows I've done it, plenty of times. – Mike Robinson Nov 12 '18 at 15:47
  • +1. Stay objective. Put it back on them to explain why they disagree with your method and/or suggest an alternative. Ask them to explain why their alternative is better. – Time4Tea Nov 12 '18 at 15:47
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Always politely listen, making very sure that the person knows that you are listening attentively. Ask for clarification of the reaction if it seems appropriate. Remember(!) that the person with whom you are dealing might not realize(!!) how his/her reactions are being interpreted – by you or by others.

If you sincerely feel that this is becoming an impediment, or that the project is going in the wrong directions because your input is being (inadvertently? unintentionally?) excluded, discuss the matter with your manager – and, in their office, listen more than you speak.

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I'd respond with a question.

I'm confused. You ask me for my input, and then you often scoff at my response. If you genuinely are not interested in what I have to offer, why do you bother asking me for it?

If this leads to an explanation about how this person doesn't mean to scoff, then you can address why it seems like that is the case, and the air has been cleared between you, with improved communications going forward. If the person does mean to, and feels somehow justified, you have already signaled that you are not interested in responding to queries offered in this spirit, and you can explicitly tell him that you are not interested in having these kind of exchanges that offer no one any kind of value.

This really only applies if it seems like what is being scoffed at is your own input. A new set of eyes thinking the existing way is not the best is not uncommon, otherwise, and certainly is not directed at you, unless you personally had a major role in the existing processes being scoffed at.

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I suggest just be direct.

You asked and I answered. Do you need anything else from me?

You are not confronting them (in my opinion). If they find your explanation unacceptable it is up to them to follow up. Don't complain or argue with them. If you say do you not agree they may take that as confrontational.

  • I think they rather disagree with the reasoning, they don't find OP's explanation wanting in any way. Or at least that's my intuition – rath Nov 12 '18 at 15:38
  • @rath I am looking at it as more policies and practices of an established team. If the boss does not want to engage then avoid confrontation. – paparazzo Nov 12 '18 at 19:13
  • I'm not sure that a disrespectful tone would benefit the OP. Could you rephrase that to make it a bit more palatable to the OP's lead? – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Nov 12 '18 at 19:35
  • "Yeah, uh huh ... instead ... be diplomatic." Graciously give the poor soul the benefit of the doubt, even when s/he clearly(!) does not deserve it ..." – Mike Robinson Nov 12 '18 at 20:13

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