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I just switched jobs (I work on Qt based display codes; currently assigned to fixing assigned issues/bugs) in December. I was assigned to a project; good manager, okay-ish work, a polite client. All in all, everything was fine.

Now, a guy was transferred to my team. His old project was canceled and my team was lacking one person, so he joined in. The problem was that his expertise wasn't exactly in the field my project is in. Then again, not a lot of people like working in this area. He made it quite clear that he was one of them. My manager made it quite clear that since his old project was scrapped, this is the only available task they have for him right now.

A couple of months passed by and my relationship with this guy worsened. His tone was always confrontational. He kept trying to find something wrong in my code. I asked if he'd like to review it formally; but he refused. I tried to ignore him, but then he got pissed. I tried to listen to him, but realized that he was talking utter nonsense.

I approached my manager who said that he'd talk to him. Not sure if he did, but he calmed down for a week and then came back with a vengeance.

Recently my code broke his fix (I can make mistakes too). It was a mistake which I fixed within 30 mins of detection. The thing that got to me was how he was speaking. He kept trying to find something else to say which might be wrong. Kept leading down different paths by telling this is failing, that is failing which on testing, I found was false. Later on he started ordering me to not touch some bugs. I got a little pissed and we had a small confrontation. In the end I completed my work, and left for the day.

The thing that keeps irritating me is that he keeps clamoring about how the requirements are incorrect. He won't bring them to the manager. Neither during the scrum. I ignore him but he just keeps speaking. The requirements by the way are correct and his analysis of them isn't. I don't want to correct him only to start bickering again.

Overall, how do I deal with this guy? Did I mention that he sits just behind me? I don't want to escalate the issue. I also don't want to hurt his ego.

P.S. Something a lot of people have asked me to do is stop calling everyone sir/ma'am. Stating that it tends to fill some people with hot air. Personally, I loved Coach Carter. In my books everyone who has the ability to stand on their own two feet (get a job) deserves to be respected.

  • Do you have any idea of how this guy was on the prior team(s)/project(s)? – John Spiegel May 6 at 13:19
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    What culture is this? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 6 at 14:55
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    Could you explain what your P.S. clause has to do with the question? – puck May 6 at 15:04
  • Interestingly, this Q doesn't seem to be a duplicate – aaaaaa May 6 at 15:27
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    @Bhoot What country is this? People behave differently in different cultures, and what is acceptable in one, may not be in another, and you are looking for a solution to a social problem, hence that must be taken into consideration. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 7 at 5:21
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I see these kinds of questions a lot, and in my opinion, this is exactly what a manager is for. You have a situation where someone is having a negative effect on your work. Not to mention their behaviour means they aren't focused on doing their own work, but criticising yours instead.

You've spoken to the manager once and said things seemed to improve for a short period, but have now regressed. Arrange a meeting with your manager again. Tell them that, although things seemed to improve briefly, this person is now affecting your work output again. Provide examples, but try to make sure they don't come across as being petty. If possible, give some estimate on how much time this behaviour is costing you each week.

Depending on the type of person your manager is, you may also mention that this is causing you a lot of unnecessary stress. If they are a manager/company who cares about your wellbeing, it's one extra reason for them to take action.

Bottom line is that managers are paid to deal with these issues, you aren't. Some people might say this action suggests a personal weakness, but I disagree. Managers exist to ensure teams work together effectively. Don't do their job for them.

  • I wanted to tick both answers; from you and @Victor S. I'll try to ignore him for now, but if starts getting bad, I'll loop in my manager. – Bhoot May 7 at 8:25
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    Also, the "X broke my code" "Y, I didn't know I did" is the exact scenario that automated tests are intended for. The response is "Y, I didn't know I did because all tests passed. Perhaps we should write the test catching this together now?". If you do not do testing yet, this would be an excellent opportunity to present to your manager. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen May 7 at 11:27
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Imagine your child (or a child in your family or friend's family) approached you and told you they were being bullied. What would be the first words out of your mouth?

I know for my son, the first thing I asked him was

"Did you tell your teacher?"

I think we forget this when we grow older but the reality is you must talk to your manager again, but only use facts.

When your code broke his fix (this happens even when you are a sole developer, it is not a "mistake" in my opinion, just part of the job) you mentioned that he made claims that other things were also not working so, this is an easy point to start with:

  • He mentioned that features X, Y, Z and B were also not working because of my code. I individually tested each feature, taking an average of 30 minutes per feature to fully test and as documented on JIRA-xxx1, 2,3 and 4 none of them were an issue after testing.

  • He has ordered me to stop debugging, not sure if this is something he ran past you as you haven't mentioned it to me.

  • Can I check if the requirements have changed? He has been mentioning that they are incorrect so just want to make sure his concerns had been addressed and whether we need to make any changes.

Those are some simple enough points to bring up with management... Don't fret or stress, it just makes it worse for you...

1

This is hostile behavior and with any hostile behavior, you need to have a deterrent to counter it. Since nothing specific he does is likely against the company rules that will not be the option.

They are a new addition to the team though. So one deterrent you can try is trying to take a proactive role in their training. It will cost you extra time but it's a trade-off for your peace of mind. Make sure your manager is aware of this and backs you, maybe something along the lines of "I think his lack of familiarity with our process is causing issues. Maybe I can help address that if it is fine for me to devote some time showing him the ropes"

Now if he gets frustrated and lashes at you, he will be in trouble so he can either do that and give you ammo to use with official channels, or he can learn to mellow down. Both options would help with your problem.

  • Thanks for the answer. The problem with this approach is that it can land the other guy in trouble if I keep reporting this stuff. As such, I don't want that on my conscience. I know of his circumstances a bit and know where he is coming from. I sympathize with him but, I just don't want him to vent his frustration on me. – Bhoot May 7 at 5:20
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    I don't think it's a question of getting him in trouble. You raise the issue with your manager and it's up to him to have a conversation with your co-worker. If the co-worker can justify his actions then perhaps your manager should arrange a meeting where all three of you can agree the best way of working that suits everyone. – Will Appleby May 7 at 8:39
  • @Bhoot, it's not your problem if he gets in trouble. If this person keeps making problem, he's the one getting himself into trouble. You need to report the verbal abuse as if it's physical abuse, or it'll keep happening. – computercarguy May 7 at 16:08
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Speaking as someone who has dealt with a lot of bullies in my early life, you continue to ignore them until they go away. There are 2 other options, kill them with kindness or beat the living sh-tuff out of them. Killing them with kindness is often extremely difficult and getting into a fist fight is often illegal and likely to get you fired, so I don't recommend either option.

Most importantly of all the things I suggest here, and it can be really hard to do this, don't react emotionally to any of this person's comments. It sounds like this person may be a narcissist and lashing out at your for their under performance due to their lack of knowledge you posses. Ignoring them will eventually get them to back off, since they don't get any feedback they live off of. It's a feedback loop, so if you don't feed anything back, it's going to eventually die, since they aren't likely to put more effort into keeping it going than your efforts. If this means leaving the area for a while, do it. Take lunches offsite, if you need to. Take breaks to walk around the building, if that's an option. Do something to get back to your mental center and not show them their effect on you. You may also have to find a way to release this stress after hours, or you may end up punching this jerk in the face. (Martial arts is a good way to release stress while also punching and kicking things in constructive ways.)

The way that you successfully ignore them is to deal with them in ways that you absolutely have to for work, then pretend they don't exist at all other times. You may want to keep a written record of their verbal abuse for talking with the manager later. Try to be word-for-word, but that's not a requirement. If they send it in email, so much the better.

Using an audio recorder can be cumbersome, as well as full of potential risk. The risk includes what laws in your area are involved with 2 party, 1 party, or other # party consent to the the recording. It also includes intellectual property rights of your company. Because of all the possible problems, I don't recommend using audio recordings.

The point of recording all this is so you can take these incidents to you boss to make them do their job. Given enough push and enough instances of unprofessional behavior, aggressive/confrontational behavior, and issues understanding project instructions, you boss will have to do something with this individual. If they don't, think about bringing in their boss into the conversation about this individual. Don't necessarily "go over their head", but include their boss in emails about this person.

If this also doesn't get things in gear after several reports, keep going up the chain of command. Include more managers/bosses. More visibility will bring more pressure on your boss to deal with the troublemaker.

Do not go to HR until after you have included the CEO and they still haven't done anything. HR is not your friend, it's there to keep the company out of lawsuits. If you deal with them, you will have to phrase your comments in a way to state that the person is creating a hostile work environment and is costing the company money by the co-worker interfering with your work as well as wasting time not understanding the job/project requirements. You will also need to provide them with the emails you sent to the other managers to basically prove your situation and that no one else is doing anything about it. This is your last resort.

This may very well put you in the hot seat as the troublemaker, instead of this other person. If it's not resolved by this point, you should have updated your resume/CV, since it's not likely to be resolved by HR, or you might get "laid off" because of "wasting so many people's time". Even if HR solves the issue, you may still want to leave the company, as you may have burned some bridges. All of this is why it's the last resort.

Regardless of who you end up talking to, be honest, courteous, professional, and understanding if they can't crack down on this individual on the "first offense". Play the long game to keep your job. It's likely other people are having issues with this person, and since your boss already knows there's an issue, it might be solved relatively quickly.

Good luck!

  • Ignoring bullying is common but bad advice. They are channeling their frustration, whatever the source, on you. By ignoring them you are giving them the green light to provoke you further and further – Victor S May 7 at 2:50
  • It's also worth mentioning simply "not being there" won't cut the feedback loop you speak of since this bully in particular wails at the sight of the project's development, which he can't keep up with. He's one glance and step away from sabotaging it. – lucasgcb May 7 at 7:32
  • Ignoring it and not being the one to feed it back means this person will go somewhere else to do it. If the only other place to do it is the manager, it won't last long. If it's other co-workers, they will also go to the manager, again making sure it's cut off. I've dealt with plenty of these types of people and the only way they stop is "not feeding the troll" or ganging up on them. If they truly are narcissistic, they will then play the victim, which they only get away with if you let that feedback on itself, too. – computercarguy May 7 at 16:00

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