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I work on a team of 23 people, and am still considered a junior in my field. I have been employed with my company for going on two years and over the last couple months have noticed that most coworkers express their concerns of me with others instead of me.

I am the kind of person that I like to understand what I've done wrong, or what I am doing that bothers others so that I can correct my actions prior to the concerns being expressed to others. Most of their concerns are harmless but are none the less negative comments and they are expressed to my superior instead of myself. This looks bad on me as I don't have the chance to take corrective action prior to my superior saying something to me.

A perfect example would be yesterday; I had a debate with a colleague regarding a simple theory and why I've implemented things the way I have. During this debate there was quite a bit of miscommunication and I found this to be true in retrospect. However, due to this miscommunication my colleague believed I was simply arguing with him and thought that I had to prove my way of doing things as correct even if in certain situations it would be wrong. This isn't the case and I hate that it was taken that way.

Another issue with this route is that my superior won't name who is making the comments so that I can apologize and reassure my colleagues that I will address their concerns. I do understand taking comments in confidentiality, but such simple comments should be addressed between the coworkers in question in my opinion.


Clarifications

I work in a software environment in which debates are very useful; they are typically not in the fashion of arguments but more of weighing pros and cons of each option presented. I walk away from debates that turn into arguments as they are no longer useful and just take up time.

My superior isn't the team lead; he is simply the elder employee with my company amongst a team comprised of multiple companies; there are actually only four employees on the team from our company in which only my direct superior has expressed any concern.

I try to remain relatively quiet at work and do what I need to get done for the day; this works well for me but occasionally I need to ask for help with a particular issue and this is where these debates can begin.

A coworker can come over offering a solution, I implement the solution and it may not work so we begin discussing alternate solutions and other coworkers may overhear the conversation and join in with their own ideas causing debates to begin. Often these are useful but if miscommunication occurs and the one offering new ideas doesn't understand what the underlying process is and why it is written that way it can get to the situation I had yesterday.


How can I handle these situations where coworkers make comments to my superiors instead of myself in a professional manner. My superiors are busy just like everyone else and I can see that it may frustrate them if others are coming to them to complain about me.

Since learning of these comments I've began taking corrective action, but it frustrates me that I have to learn of these concerns through my superior.

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It is difficult to address this issue with the original source if your superior does not wish to reveal their name. The best you can do is to take the corrective action, as you said you have, based on the feedback from your superior.

The other thing you can do is to stop debating with your coworkers. Every discussion doesn't have to end in an argument/debate where someone is right and the other person is wrong. If you come to a disagreement with a coworker, just leave it at that and move on. I could see how coworkers could be annoyed if you are constantly trying to prove them wrong.

  • Debates in my career field are very useful so long as they are to weigh pros and cons of all options provided. They are unavoidable, and are typically more of an open discussion than an argument. I wish to avoid most of them at this point as it does seem to be the trend that everyone believes their idea is the best. I try to stay pretty quiet at work, but occasionally I'll ask for help and while discussing an issue with my current process someone will overhear and step into the conversation, offering an alternative that doesn't always fit the situation. – PerpetualJ Dec 4 '18 at 15:53
  • Also, I would like to point out that I can usually figure out who made the comment by thinking on similar situations that have happened recently, but I don't want to initiate a new confrontation on the topic after it is finished. – PerpetualJ Dec 4 '18 at 15:55
  • Ideally, discussions wind up with all concerned being right, although some may have to change heir opinions to be so. I've been convinced that I've been doing something minor wrong on numerous occasions. – David Thornley Dec 4 '18 at 17:50
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You are responsible for responding to feedback and direction from your superior unless they indicate otherwise. Stop looking for arguments with your peers and focus on how your superior thinks you're doing.

Now, you don't want to be ignorant to peer feedback, but you also don't need to go out of your way to solicit (or even respond) to it, unless directed to do so explicitly or via some official process at your organization.

With respect to the case where your boss won't name the source of the feedback - consider that there may be reasons why they're doing that which you aren't privy to.

There's a fine line between receiving and handling peer feedback versus turning into a cutthroat free for all where everyone is out to prove everyone else wrong. That's one of the basic reasons why teams have bosses. So there's a single point of control to help moderate the feedback and focus on improvement, versus having a bunch of people that just pick at each other.

  • I have added some clarifications to my post; I don't look for arguments with my peers so please don't take it that way. – PerpetualJ Dec 4 '18 at 16:02
  • Ok - I'm a little confused now though. You seem to be seeking input/healthy debates from your peers, but you're also saying it happens often and is unavoidable. What exactly is the issue? – dwizum Dec 4 '18 at 16:04
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    @PerpetualJ - you're doing it again ! :) Do not debate things. At the office, do what you're told to do by superiors, then take the money, then go home. EVery six months, get a better job with more pay. – Fattie Dec 4 '18 at 16:06
  • @Fattie Jobs where you can just do what you're told by superiors, without discussion, are generally less interesting and pay considerably less than software development jobs. These jobs require creativity, have answers that are better or worse, and where some level of uniformity is a good idea. Discussing things is pretty much mandatory. – David Thornley Dec 4 '18 at 17:54
  • Hmm, don't forget the OP is in a very junior, first role, position. Note that I'm recommending OP move on to another role! – Fattie Dec 4 '18 at 21:12
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A coworker can come over offering a solution, I implement the solution and it may not work so we begin discussing alternate solutions and other coworkers may overhear the conversation and join in with their own ideas causing debates to begin. Often these are useful but if miscommunication occurs and the one offering new ideas doesn't understand what the underlying process is and why it is written that way it can get to the situation I had yesterday.

Could you simply ignore the comments from people who do not know the underlying issue? Or simply tell them, "Bob, yes I understand your solution and one that I thought of, but it does not apply to this current situation."

I agree with @dwizum that you should simply stop trying to find ways to argue with your co-workers. Simply stop and all the issues will go away. Only listen to people with solutions and if it starts getting into a heated debate, then simply stop. Who ultimately makes the decision in these reviews? I would talk to that person and simply ask which of the two solutions are to be implemented and go with that. Do not argue or debate about it. Just do it the way your manager told you to do it.

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