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Recently a new colleague joined our team. He came with great recommendations and seemed generally great at the job.

There were a few instances where I heard him being aggressive rather than assertive (in my opinion) with clients. Also he had a couple of minor run-ins with other colleagues. There were a couple of times he took me aside to point out (non-existent) mistakes that he perceived I’d made. I do obviously make mistakes sometimes but it was as if he was trying to put me down and was so eager to do so that he didn’t do his homework.

I hoped a lot of it was teething problems and I upped my game when it came to being friendly and supportive, hoping that would hide any wariness I had.

A few days ago he interrupted me while on the phone to a client and began dictating to me what I should say. I’d put the client on hold believing it was something crucial to the call he was about to tell me. Instead, without knowledge of the discussion I’d just had, he ordered me to say X, Y and Z.

I calmly told him no and tried to briefly say why. He became enraged. He smacked the desk, swore and raised his voice. When I (still trying to be professional) told him we could discuss this as soon as I’d ended the call but I had to get back to the client on hold he became even more angry and said that I don’t like him and he doesn’t like me and I think I’m better than him.

Ultimately he stormed off to our line manager, who later called me in and told me I’d made the right decision with how I’d handled the call. The colleague later apologised to me and said he’s just passionate about his work. I thanked him for his apology though I confess I didn’t find it very sincere.

Since then he has been affable, and I have been extra cautious. I would say that I am sensitive deep down so though I wouldn’t show myself upset, his words hurt me. I try very hard to get on with everyone in work and he knows a lot more than me in certain areas and may on balance be better than me (the anger fit aside). So I really believe his words were false at the time he used them. Albeit a self-fulfilling prophecy because now I don’t like him, and am having to hide that.

My issue is that in the last week or so he’s began telling me what to do in certain tasks. I’ve been taking the approach that if I agree or it isn’t important, I’ll say ‘good idea’ and follow through. But with his ‘advice’ being all the more frequent I'm concerned I shouldn’t be ‘giving way’ at all. It’s not his job to tell me what to do, but it’s completely normal for someone to ask someone else on the team for advice or help, so you could argue he isn’t overstepping with his ‘directions.’

I’m worried if I keep agreeing and keeping the peace when a future incident happens when he is completely wrong and I have to say ‘no’ again he’ll kick off worse than before. A big factor in all of this is that I find him physically intimidating as well as emotionally, so I’m not sure I’m looking at this logically. How should I respond to all future unsolicited direction?

  • When he ordered you to say X, Y and Z, what was it about? Many people on this site are software devlopers. Were you selling the client something he developed and knew better than you did? – Bernhard Döbler Jun 20 at 13:12
  • @BernhardDöbler It doesn't matter. If this is so critical, then the colleague should have provided a list of things that can be said ahead of time, or they should have agreed on him being available for additional input at the desk during the talk. Butting in into a phone conversation like that, and especially constricting what OP has to say while in conversation is an absolute no-no in the present constellation. He (colleague) also could have written hints on a paper. It looks like someone who likes things to be done their own way, no matter the costs. – Captain Emacs Jun 21 at 16:12
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My issue is that in the last week or so he’s began telling me what to do in certain tasks. [...] It’s not his job to tell me what to do, but it’s completely normal for someone to ask someone else on the team for advice or help.

Talk to your manager. You can do it very non-confrontationally, asking if this employee is there to help you. Otherwise, ask manager to manage this situation, and remind employee what their responsibilities are.

Giving unwanted advice is not being helpful, it is actually being disruptive. Meanwhile, you can try to tame it by using good ol' "That's a great idea, could you write me an email so I don't forget?" You also have to remember that you have job to do, and it might not involve talking to employee right now. It is 100% professionally to deflect with "hey I am busy right now, can we talk about it a bit later?"

3

You've done everything right. You've given him a break or two. You've attributed his behavior to inexperience ("teething problems.") Well done!

Your manager obviously knows about the problem. The manager has probably warned him to stop his bad behavior or face dismissal.

If he tries to intervene in another telephone conversation between you and a customer, put the customer on hold. Then calmly remind him of the previous incident and ask him to step away for a few minutes while you continue the call.

If tries to intimidate you, calmly say "Back off. Please don't raise your voice with me." Describe the unwanted behavior.

I know the advice to be calm is easy to give and hard to put into practice. Still, try.

If these measures don't work, go to your manager and say "This behavior upsets me and makes it difficult for me to do my job. Can you help?"

  • If this employee is as narcissistic as he sounds, I'm fairly certain retorting by saying "Don't intimidate me" may result in "I'm not intimidating you!!!"; so be ready for anything besides getting along if it ever gets to that point. – lucasgcb Jun 19 at 12:03
  • Personally, if you were to use a line like "Im on a call, please let me get back to it we can discuss this further once Im done" and he still continues to harass you. I would resort to "Back off, ill deal with you later" in a stern tone and then excuse myself back to the call. – jesse Jun 19 at 13:08
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    I like this answer, but suggest not using specific words to label the coworker's behaviors (like intimidate), even if those words are accurate. It gives an easy defense to the coworker ("I wasn't trying to intimidate you, you're just too sensitive!"). Sticking to a description of the unacceptable actions is much more difficult to deflect ("It's inappropriate to harangue me while I'm on the phone with a customer, or to smack my desk and yell at me at any time. Stop it."). – Upper_Case Jun 19 at 19:49
  • @Upper_Case good point. I've edited my post. – O. Jones Jun 19 at 21:51

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