I work as a Senior Software Engineer on my team, and I have a coworker who was recently promoted to the same level, but she has nowhere near the qualifications for the position, she lies regularly, and she creates obstacles to getting the work done. Would it be appropriate for me to file a complaint with Human Resources?

To give more context, this woman was previously the Team Lead for our group. Problems began one month after she was hired. She was demoted to a standard developer in less than a year by our director. Our director has since left the company. It seems like there was some disorganization in our corporate systems related to employee titles, and to resolve it they made her title Senior Software Engineer, the same as my own, which is 2 levels higher than her previous role. I complained to current management, and I get a sense that they are not doing much to follow up on it.

To summarize, problems experienced include the following:

  • Lack of technical knowledge; the only development work she has performed prior to this job is writing queries. She is dependent on others to help her get her own work done.
  • Bad decisions due to a lack of technical knowledge, that would result in major damage or setbacks to our systems. I have had to run interference with management to have these decisions undone.
  • No knowledge of change control prior to coming to this position. I had to explain to her what a work ticketing system was multiple times, as she had never heard of one before, despite supposedly having 20 years of development experience.
  • Belligerence when it comes to implementing change control for her own projects. I have to file complaints with management to get her to comply with existing standards.
  • Lack of initiative to learn new technologies or implement process improvement, when this is demanded of a Senior Software Engineer position.
  • She copies off of others’ work and calls it her own.
  • She does not take responsibility for her own errors and blames others.
  • She has deleted audit trails in Production to cover up her mistakes. Documentation was filed with management regarding this event.
  • She tries to steal my projects by hijacking communications with clients. As a result, management has told her not to communicate with customers without first getting their approval.
  • She tells new staff that she is in charge of certain areas, such as design, which management has never authorized.
  • She lies about my work in meetings, causing other team members to believe her, then I have to take time in follow-up meetings to dismantle her lies.
  • I cannot effectively give her a standard code review, because any feedback to tell her to improve will result in her raising her voice and going off on people. She has done this to other staff as well.
  • She creates barriers for implementing team-wide design, where her arguments have no technical merit. Please note that I am not talking about the standard debates that happen with design review, that have technical justification.
  • The dysfunction is so great that it becomes a fight just to get the team to operate on existing standards and prevents us from moving forward with innovation.

All of this has been communicated to management, but she was still given the higher title. The quality of work that she performs is about 3 levels below her current title, 1 level below the standard developer title she was demoted to previously, so there is a major difference.

The new title raises concerns in several areas:

  • Is she getting paid the same amount as I am, for performing much less or bad work?
  • Based on the title, it communicates to team members and external staff that she would be authorized to engage in various work that she should not be trusted with.
  • She is supposed to be mentoring other junior and senior staff on appropriate processes, and she has difficulty getting her own work done.

This is a problem that I am really tired of dealing with, and it has been going on for over a year now. Would it be appropriate for me to file a complaint with Human Resources, to address the behaviors and inappropriate title change, or would it be a waste of time?

Please let me know your thoughts.


  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's just a rant.
    – Kent A.
    Dec 29, 2018 at 23:40
  • 1
    You really don't want to "go to HR" for anything unless it involves reporting something illegal, workplace harassment, or a violation of company policy. "My co-worker is a jerk" isn't one of them.
    – selbie
    Dec 30, 2018 at 20:53
  • "She copies off of others’ work and calls it her own." - This is not a legitimate complaint. What would you expect her to do? Re-implement the same code herself? I'd be disappointed if someone on my team re-invented a solution instead of leveraging what's already been checked in.
    – selbie
    Dec 30, 2018 at 20:57
  • Selbie, this is not a matter of re-using code. I have worked overtime on holidays to put together project proposals, and she presented them to management as her own. Dec 30, 2018 at 23:11
  • 2
    I've read your list several times. With the exception of the items related to stealing work and hijacking clients, most of the issues are typical complaints of having a bad engineer on the team. And I'm still not certain I understand how it's even possible someone can steal your project work without it going unnoticed - that just sounds weird. My advice is to focus on what you can control and ignore all the other distractions she's causing that don't impact your work.
    – selbie
    Dec 31, 2018 at 4:09

3 Answers 3


I don't know that you will gain much by going to HR with this.
Likely something is going on that you aren't aware of, maybe she is really good at schmoozing, maybe it is something really stupid like the company thinking it would look good to have another (a first?) female in that role(1), maybe something else.

Based on what you've said, she's already targeting you.
Don't step in front of a bus by taking it to HR they will likely discuss your concerns with her. Diffuse what you can, but only stuff related to you. Document everything in emails to your boss - only the facts... like that she deleted audit records. (Print and keep copies at home)

Since you aren't her boss you should step back a bit on items that don't involve you so she can have enough rope to hang herself again (which she obviously did in the mind of your former director).

Whoever promoted her to this position will likely be reluctant to demote her because it would look bad on them. What you'll likely see if this is the case is that the title is never taken from her, but her duties become more and more restricted.

(1) One piece of evidence for this is that "management has told her not to communicate with customers without first getting their approval". You really shouldn't have to tell a senior person that.

  • +1 Every time I talk to HR about anything - I always regret it.
    – maksimov
    Dec 30, 2018 at 2:06
  • @maksimov I don't always regret it, but after a few bad experiences I have learned that it often isn't "an entity which is my advocate", which is what I thought it was earlier in my career. I learned at one place that unless an employee who voices a complaint specifically tells the HR person that they want a complaint acted on, it was their job to just listen with empathy. Dec 30, 2018 at 20:24
  1. Don't file a complain with HR. HR's job is to ensure compliance with local labor laws and with company policies. None of these seem to apply here, so that's not an HR issue. If she makes googly eyes at you or tells Nazi jokes, you should involve HR, but not for a performance issue,
  2. Title, salary and performance of your co-worker are also none of your business. That's between her and her management, and you very well may not have the full picture of what's going on here
  3. Instead focus on your own title, salary and performance. If you are unhappy with any of those talk to your boss and create an actionable plan on how to address it
  4. Bring up your co-worker ONLY if something she does directly impacts your work. If you do, try to be as factual and un-emotional as possible. Describe what happens, what the impact was or will be and what you specifically suggest to do differently. Example "Alice started on the communication module 3 weeks ago and it's still not working. I don't know how long this will take since I have no visibility to Alice's schedule. If we can assign this to Beth instead, I'm confident we have it done in two weeks". Make sure you have proper documentation to back up your statements.

The only potential reason to involve HR would be if she consistently lies to you or about you for malicious reasons and you have a strong paper trail to prove this. Even then, it would probably be better to confront her first privately with the paper trail and ask her to stop it. Going to HR basically shows that you are unable to resolve the problem yourself and this should only be a last resort.


My goals for addressing this with HR would be

  • 1) To have her title corrected and returned to the previous position.
  • 2) To have HR intervene to get some of these behaviors to stop permanently.

From a business perspective, her behaviors are holding back the team from compliance with governance policy and advancing on technical projects. As a senior staff member, she should be assisting with the creation of technical frameworks and policies, which she cannot be trusted with, due to her lack of skills. Secondly, once these frameworks are established, she should be leading other staff in engaging them to comply with these frameworks. I do not see her performing this leadership goal, and it is difficult to get her to comply with standards for her own work. Also, the deception appears to be efforts to sabotage a coworker’s (my) job. Additionally, part of my work is to persuade others in the company to adopt standards or new technology proposals, and her behavior makes my job more difficult.

I am posting from the United States.

I appreciate the feedback in trying to determine whether filing a complaint with HR would be an option. From initial responses, it seems as though the option might not be fruitful.

My position is in a grey area. Even though I am not a supervisor, there are leadership skills that are part of my job, where I am required to set expectations about product quality and delivery. I am also expected to provide some feedback related to staff performance. The managers ultimately make the decisions about evaluations, promotions, terminations, and disciplinary actions. However, compliance with company standards and functioning of company systems is my business, as part of my role.

I do think there is schmoozing/charming going on. Whenever anyone on the staff tells her “no”, to have her conform with business process and policy, she will begin to trash talk them behind their backs and smooth-talk the person who is her current audience. There is not respect for the person saying “no” as trying to do their job. She makes it a personal issue. There are other types of social manipulation happening. I have to monitor her behavior and run interference on this issue, because it can put project plans at risk, create confusion among multiple departments, and make us look bad in front of the customer. This is a distraction from my own work and makes my job more stressful.

I do not think it would be a quota issue of having a female in that role, since I am female myself and already occupy a similar position. I do see the concern, though, since there are not many female senior software engineers. I have worked at several companies where I have been the only advanced female technical staff member on a team.

I have been undecided about whether to go to HR, partly because it might make management look bad, and management has taken some actions so far to address her behavior. There is frustration, because this is not how a normal IT shop is supposed to function. Others have given me advice to let coworkers fail, when necessary, so your advice kind of solidifies that approach.

I do see management restricting her responsibilities, despite the title change. I hope things continue in that direction.

Thank you for your feedback.

  • 1
    +1 for your accuracy in how you see things and how things are supposed to be. Yes "quota" is the right word, but I'm often reluctant to use it because it can be loaded in the wrong direction if I used it. Best wishes, I'm sure it is tough to deal with. Don't forget to keep copies of emails at home in case she "charms" the person in charge of your mail server. Dec 30, 2018 at 20:16
  • 1
    This should be added to your question, not as an answer. Overflow sites aren't discussion forums
    – Peter M
    Dec 31, 2018 at 16:13

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