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I work as a (male) data scientist in a small company (around 10 people, all males). My job is to provide tools for my coworkers to quickly get the information they need from our data to do their jobs.

I have this coworker, lets call him Bob. Bob and I are both relatively young, around 30 years old. Bob is the type of guy who does not like changes. He knows what he is good at, and prefers to work the same way as he did yesterday. This obviously means he is reluctant to use my tools. Now, this does not really bother me, since I am not his boss so it is not really my problem that he is not as effective as he could be.

What does bother me is that everytime I talk to him, or another coworker in the same room, about one of my tools, he comes with these snarky jokes on how my tools are useless. He says them as a combination of him finding them funny, and having an excuse not to use them, I assume.

I have tried to stop these jokes by demonstrating several the tools to him, so get him to understand why they can actually help him. When that did not help, I did the exact opposite by never showing them to him, but that does not stop him from making the jokes, when I talk to a coworker in the same room about them.

Given I work more or less fulltime on these tools, I cannot help but taking it personally when constantly having to listen to these jokes. How can I address this situation, without sounding over sensitive?

  • If your manager gets involved, are you able to demonstrate that your tools and methods are more effective than Bob's? – user34587 Nov 13 '18 at 13:27
  • Yes, generally I get very good feedback from coworkers and my boss. – Acarbalacar Nov 13 '18 at 13:29
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    Put him on the spot - especially when others are around - by asking him specifically what is wrong with the tools, and how would he improve them for the average user of your tools. He may have useful input... or he may shut up and go away. – PeteCon Nov 13 '18 at 14:58
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    Depending on your own ability you can rebut with "Bob, maybe you should try to hold the hammer the other way around rather than saying that using rock is better?" – SZCZERZO KŁY Nov 13 '18 at 17:05
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    @SZCZERZOKŁY Or my old definition of software engineering: "Knowing which wrench to use to hammer the screw in". – David Thornley Nov 13 '18 at 18:15
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What does bother me is that everytime I talk to him, or another coworker in the same room, about one of my tools, he comes with these snarky jokes on how my tools are useless.

You've tried the gentle approach of teaching him how to use these tools, you need to be firm and direct. Next time he makes such a snarky remark, say something such as the following:

Bob, sorry to be blunt here, but I really don't appreciate these constant snarky remarks about my work. Why do you insist on making them every time we discuss this tool? If you think there's ideas you have which would improve the tools, that's great, and I'm more than happy to take those on board, but this isn't a constructive way of giving feedback.

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    "Obviously management can see a need for these tools. I wonder why you can't. Perhaps you should ask your boss to explain?" – Mawg Nov 14 '18 at 8:07
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Being direct with Bob is the only way to address this situation. However, I would avoid mentioning the tools as the tools are not the issue, the issue is Bob's unprofessional behavior. Since you mentioned that you already stopped showing Bob your tools, you need to address him when he interrupts conversations that you are having with other co-workers:

Excuse me Bob, but I am currently speaking with Joe. Out of common courtesy to Joe and myself, please do not interrupt us.

This addresses Bob's unprofessional behavior and it removes your tools from the equation.

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A good way to deal with snarky behaviour is to address it head on in a tactical way.

For example:

scenario: talking to a colleague about your tools and bob butts in with a rude comment. Say to him

When you make that comment bob...what reaction are you looking for? (say nothing.

... cue very uncomfortable silence from bob).

or you can say

' *thank you for your input bob...you say my tools are useless...can you give a incident when they haven't performed up to standard?

(He might give you an incident)...then say

'thank you. can you give me another incident? '

or you can call him out on his snarky comment

'bob, I'm finding your comment extremely snarky, my work tools have provided significant value in my work. You may not choose to agree and I respect that's YOUR choice. Still, please don't interrupt when I'm speaking with a college. Thank you.'

Either way. Bob will quickly respect your boundaries and keep his comments to himself.

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IT is notorious for being snarky. One nickname I had in here was "The Snark Knight". It's best to learn to deal with it, and when appropriate, respond in kind.

Sometimes, the best response to snark is SNARK TO SNARK COMBAT

Standard replies to snark about your tools could be

Well, they do require a level of sophistication that not everyone has.

or

Too hard for you eh?

or a nastier example if he's REALLY out of line.

Your worthless opinion as been duly noted.

The point is to push back without coming across as weak or vindictive, or the reply from bob will almost certainly be "What's the matter, can't you take a joke?" or something similar.

Bob is using snark to try to bully you. Stand up to it, or it won't stop.

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    I was going to say much the same thing, so I just upvoted this answer. My personal response would have been along the lines of, "Yes, we all know your stone knives and bear skins work quite well, but we're trying to move the needle a bit, here." – Wesley Long Nov 13 '18 at 15:52
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    This isn't very helpful. Not everybody is either capable or willing to come up with sarcastic comebacks - whether not being able to think of them, being shy/introverted/embarrassed, not liking mocking people even if they deserve it, etc. I'd assume that if the OP was able to deliver suitable zingers, they'd do that rather than posting here. – Stuart F Nov 13 '18 at 15:59
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    @StuartF As per the last line: "Bob is using snark to try to bully you, stand up to it, or it won't stop." Not everyone can always speak either, like myself. I have selective mutism. No answer is universal, If you have a better one, please contribute. – Retired Codger Nov 13 '18 at 16:58
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    @WesleyLong - I like to say "I tried to idiot-proof it, but they always seem to find a bigger idiot...." – PoloHoleSet Nov 13 '18 at 21:35
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    Less actionable might be "Your.,<big pause>..opinion has been duly noted." – mkennedy Nov 14 '18 at 0:14

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