The co-worker who works for longer in the company is aggressively trying to supervise me. He constantly attempts to make decisions for me, requires to redo the completed tasks, insists on using different tools and technologies. Basically he is behaving as my obvious supervisor who should make all design choices for me and approve everything I have done.

The question here is, nobody ever told me he is my supervisor, I have been hired for a kind of senior role, have plenty of my own experience to get things done and if really somebody needs to supervise me, there are other people here around I would prefer much better to work with. I also have plenty of my own experience that I would like to use at work, rather than playing junior.

Still I clearly feel talks going behind my back and opinions shifting in all possible directions. I am afraid he may be able to set important people against me.

The options would probably be to ignore (trying to defend my status with just a hard work and good results) or talk to the people that are clearly above both of us. There is also option to counter-attack, he is also not so perfect at work, but I would prefer not to escalate the conflict.

Assuming I really do not not want to simply to become his suboordinate, do I have any other options?

  • 14
    Have you talked about this with your actual manager?
    – Niko1978
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 10:51
  • Also This
    – PagMax
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 11:40
  • Does it happens during mandatory peer code/commit/project reviews/approval? If "no" then you should bring this up with your actual manager. If "yes" then you might be in violation of company/team standards, completing a tasks in a way it doesn't make sense from business/support side of the things and your colleague knows that he is the person who is going to have to fix all this. You might need to have a chat with the colleague and other members of your team and your manager to figure out if there are such standards in place.
    – AlexanderM
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 12:53
  • This would simply mean he is a supervisor for me.
    – eee
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 14:31

2 Answers 2


The best strategy here would be to discuss this with your manager - approach this as "clarifying" the relative reporting lines/seniority. Your manager's response will then inform your next actions:

1) Your manager says that co-worker isn't your supervisor and you don't have to follow their direction.

This is what I would expect as the most likely outcome - they may choose to intervene with your co-worker but I doubt it at this stage. This then gives you all the backing you need to ignore/rebuff them and, as you put it in your question "defend your status with hard work and good results".

2) You manager says that co-worker is your supervisor and they expect you to follow their direction.

Given you've been hired as a senior I think this is unlikely - but if this is the expectation it's better to know this now. You can then make a decision as to whether you are willing to accept this, push for your manager to change this or walk away entirely.

3) You manager says that co-worker isn't your supervisor but they expect you to follow their direction to "go along to get along" or similar.

This is a classic weak management cop-out IMO but like the scenario above if this is the case you are much better off finding this out early rather than late. You can then plan accordingly - either to escalate to the nuclear option of going over your manager's head or pull the pin.

There is also option to counter-attack, he is also not so perfect at work, but I would prefer not to escalate the conflict.

You're instincts are right here IMO - escalating this sort of thing not only loses you any moral high ground but will likely weaken your position and ultimately will probably just make your experience there miserable.


Get clarity from your actual supervisor every time something like this happens:

Hi Alice, Bob dropped by today to let me know that I had to use x tool rather than y, and also that I'd have to redo all of my work on feature z to use library a rather than library b. This came as a bit of a shock to me, and I'd obviously prefer not to waste company time by using the wrong things in the future!

Is there any documentation around that states what languages, technologies, libraries etc. we should be using, and if not, would it be worth creating such a document to make future transitions easier? Thanks!

"Yes, there are standards in place but no we're not creating any documentation that tells you what they are" is a completely ridiculous reply, so you shouldn't get that. Instead, it should be one of a few possible responses:

  • Yes, those standards are in place, and are there for a reason, we should have made you aware of that, sorry, here's the documentation;
  • Yes, those standards are in place, but they're very ad-hoc, good point, we need to formalise those, let's work with Bob and sort out the documentation;
  • No, what the hell is Bob on about, none of that makes sense, I've never heard that before, let me talk to him and get back to you.

As per the comment, there is unfortunately a fourth option as well:

  • Meh, no idea, but Bob's been around a while so listen to him.

...in which case you have a cop-out manager who doesn't take a charge of what's going on, and a coworker on a power trip. At that point, you're pretty much resigned to working with Bob as your effective manager. You can try to kick up a fuss, go above your manager's head etc. but in reality it's as likely to backfire as it is to work. I certainly wouldn't be aiming to stay in that position very long.

  • 2
    "no, those dont exist, but Bob probally knows what he's doing, so just listen to him :)"
    – Martijn
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 11:26
  • The problem I have with your sample conversation is that it doesn't explicitly tackle the issue that the OP raised of Bob treating him as if he was an appointed supervisor. Instead you are relying on the real supervisor to notice the implications of the OPs conversation rather than the explicit talk about technology. IMHO if the real supervisor misses that, then it's not his fault.
    – Peter M
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 12:31

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