The development department I belong to works closely with a certain expert from the testing department. This particular colleague possesses a unique set of skills for our company (but not in general), so you could think of him as our in-house specialist for certain topics.

The problem is that this expertise has greatly inflated his ego to the point that he cannot accept that he is wrong about some quite important subjects. For example, he often compares our products with the ones of the competitor and criticizes us, even though it seems that he misinterprets the competitor information. This leads to increased effort and wasted time in the development to satisfy a standard that not even our competitors can reach.

A certain phrase in the competitor's manual has sparked a lot of unnecessary tension between him and our department managers. It has lead deep into a technical discussion, where he feels safe to claim whatever he wants. After getting acquainted with the technical bits and pieces, I have reached the conclusion that the disagreement is due to a misinterpretation of the text, stemming from the fact that none of us is a native speaker of English. The same goes for the competitor, however the text of the manual seems to be otherwise perfect besides this... particularly convenient mistake. Unfortunately, this phrase is not yet seen as "bad English" from the rest of the group, so this argument has not really been discussed. I have gathered several sources that partially or completely support my claims, but he has been known from another situation for rejecting evidence shown to him.

Recently, I briefly expressed my disagreement in front of several other colleagues and my manager decided to move on with other topics of the appointment, since this topic has been discussed many times before (not in my presence). I apologized and moved on, but my manager was clearly ok with me intervening, since this is a pain point for us. In the end, I approached the expert and offered to have a meeting to see his point of view and it seems that it might just happen.

Neither I nor he have any management responsibilities. I know that many people will argue that this is a problem of my manager and I should not get involved or that it would be difficult to change the mind of such a person, but I would love to try my best to get to a solution due to its high impact while demonstrating to my manager that I am working on my communication/management skills.

My questions: how can I approach a colleague with unreasonably strong opinions about a subject open to interpretation, with a goal to plant a seed for a healthy amount of doubt? what are some good strategies for getting him from 100% sure to 90% sure about this topic? how can I get him to pay attention to the evidence? how can I gain his trust and prove that I will help him save face in case he changes his mind?

  • " I apologized and moved on, but my manager was clearly ok with me intervening" How do you know this? Did your manager tell you to go ahead and intervene? – sf02 May 9 '19 at 19:37
  • Yes, he immediately stopped me from apologizing and more or less briefly approved such discussions in general. His body language seemed very relaxed. – FlatronL1917 May 9 '19 at 19:39
  • What is his control? Can he block progress or is he simply able to annoy everyone? For example, is he able to halt movement by refusing to sign off on something. – John Spiegel May 9 '19 at 19:52
  • Yes, let's say we depend on his signature. – FlatronL1917 May 9 '19 at 19:54
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    From experience: Your product is never as good as your competitor's claims. Even when your product is better than your competitor's. I was at one company where the development manager invited one of our marketing people to tell us what he was selling. Nothing what he said was a direct lie, and what he sold was better than the competition's claims. Very helpful. Showed everyone not to compare your own product with all known faults with competitor's marketing claims. – gnasher729 May 11 '19 at 12:35

Let your boss handle it its not your job to make someone think something. If he's doing his job, he's doing his job. Do your job and don't worry about him. Supervisors get paid to worried, not coworkers.

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    A few months ago I had the task of explaining the technical aspects of what he was doing to my manager, because he does not have the time to get that deep into details. All I am saying is that I do not see another way of resolving this if discussions get so technical and the whole disagreement does hurt the product. – FlatronL1917 May 10 '19 at 5:36

It is difficult changing anyone's personality especially those with over inflated egos. You are not going to change this guy's view of himself. You won't persuade him that an ambiguous piece of text means what you think, not what he thinks. He isn't open to reason because he's hanging his self-worth off his power in the company.

This really is a job for management. He won't be amenable to change, it's above your pay grade and also you don't have the power to overrule him. Unfortunately, the management seem to be aware of the problem and are reluctant to act. Their view may be that the status quo works well enough and the risks of damage if they upset the guy are too high. Things may change, they may not.

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