17

Background

I recently started to work for a company A few months ago that leases and sends employees to work as externs at other companies, say Company B.

While writing End to End Smoke tests recently I stumbled over something supposedly a bug and pointed it to an internal colleague, he starts to work on it.

What really happened

1) He flips out

Next Day Dialogue shortly before daily Standup :

Me(External): Hey internal! Because out smoke tests are still failing I was curious if we found the cause behind the bug.

Internal: Hi! I am not sure what you talking about I can’t reproduce it anymore.

Me(External): (Surprised) Okay..let’s try to be double sure and verify it by trying to reproduce it once more.

Internal: (grimaces)

Meanwhile I(external) show it to the internal colleague on my laptop that the bug is still reproducible on our test environments.

Internal: (aggravted) WHAT?? These aren’t the steps you mentioned in the bug ticket, you certainly changed the bug description

Me(External): (Surprised) Okay..let’s check the bug history on jira.

So we check again and JIRA bug history shows that he actually manipulated the steps in a way that it deviates away from actual bug reproduction.

Me(External): (Shocked) Shaking my head.

Internal: (Threatening rude tone) WHAT?? Do you think you are smart? I don’t like to work with people like that and stay in your limits you are just an external Remember I have been working here longer than you. I am not going to share any knowledge whatsoever with you in the future.

Me(External): (Shocked) Shaking my head even more. Okay that’s your prerogative if you wanna work with me or not but I still wann find the cause of the bug.

Internal: (Stern stare) please leave my seat.

I get up and leave.


2) He flips out again:

Few minutes after the daily standup.

Internal: (Simmered down) Hey external, would you like to go have a coffee with me?

Me(External): (Surprised again) Allright, yeah!

At the coffee machine:

Internal: (slowly) Hey external, I would like to apologize for what I said.

Me(External): it’s alright, but what are we gonna do with the bug? Would you try to get it fixed?

Internal: (slowly) I don’t know…I am still not sure if it’s a bug we really care about.

Me(External): But it’s a) causing our smoke tests to fail b)related to the checkout process which is directly linked with the revenue of the online shop?

Internal: (adamantly) Whatever!!

Though I don't wish to blow it out of proportions but this erratic behavior can be dangerous to me in future if he repeats it in any other form.

Dilemma

I am pretty confused how I should go about it. Though I would like to avoid him in any which way, should I report this behavior to my bosses in company A or at the client directly?

Update

There was a production deployment today and unfortunately right after it this bug related to checkout process has made it to production. ;--(

  • 12
    To work harmoniously but not being treated like this. – Anirudh Aug 8 at 12:17
  • 1
    yes it was but not without me getting stern stares from the internal employee. – Anirudh Aug 8 at 12:35
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    Why did you describe him taking you for coffee and apologizing as, "He flips out again"? Was he yelling? You say he tried to 'cover' for it, was the apology not genuine? – BSMP Aug 8 at 17:55
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    this internal and external terminology is awfully confusing. As best as I can make out, you're working for a company A which is providing consultants to company B, and your problem was an altercation with a regular employee at the client's? So no matter what you're not in a position to do anything about the employee's behavior, or even complain about it to anyone but your manager in your own company A – user90842 Aug 8 at 21:33
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    told me that my observation about the bug not being present on production was simply wrong, and said that I mentioned no such thing Which is it? Did he say you were wrong or did he say that you didn't mention it? – Mars Aug 9 at 4:53
27

Though I would like to avoid him in any which way, should I report this behavior to my bosses in company A or at the client directly?

This situation definitely needs to be worked through your direct manager. You don't want to take the chance of damaging the relationship with the client -- that could potentially get you fired.

At any rate you did your job, you brought it up to the client -- they did not like being called out during the standup and responded poorly to it. Now let your manager know about the situation and follow his instructions to the letter and continue to do good work for your client.

The truth in this case is not worth risking your position within your own company, or your companies relationship with this client.

Though I don't wish to blow it out of proportions but this erratic behavior can be dangerous to me in future if he repeats it in any other form.

This is exactly why you do discuss this with your manager. This way if (or when rather) they blow up again it won't be the first time your manager has heard of it.

  • 1
    From a technical side. He should have created a ticket in their bug tracking system. Everybody could see the open bug and op would have some documentation at hand. – some_coder Aug 9 at 5:51
  • I dont think code was even needed here, I had attached screenshots in jira bug ticket. – Anirudh Aug 9 at 9:34
10

You mentioned in a comment that your primary goal was:

To work harmoniously but not being treated like this.

I think at this point the best approach is to wait and see what happens. Yes the internal employee was out of line but everybody does some crazy rubbish every now and again. He's apologized to you for that so I think at this point you just see how he behaves from here, if he acts similarly again then it's time to take things further.

  • All good answers, especially those giving advice on what to do next, if it escalates. But I like this one the best; It succinctly and directly addresses the stated goal of OP. I also sympathize completely, OP; I had this situation 6 weeks ago. You really just need to let it go and rationalise that the other employee is having a bad week. – Justin Aug 8 at 15:42
3

If you have a good relationship with your boss/manager (from your company) and you trust them, I would talk to them about this. Make it clear that it's not a complaint, but a request for advice. Presumably, your boss has been dealing with outsourcing longer than you have, probably with this same company, and he might know about this employee in particular, or might have encountered a situation similar enough that he can give you useful advice.

Make it explicit that you're NOT complaining, but rather you've found a situation which makes you and the client less happy, you are not really sure how to proceed and you'd like some advice. Your boss' responsibilities and interests are keeping you happy and able to do the best job you can, and keeping the client happy and willing to buy as much X as they can, so he'll be very interested in resolving this in the best way possible for all parties.

Normally, talking to the boss means escalating, but in this case you're not talking to this person's boss, you're just seeking advice from someone who has every reason to be on your side (even if he's not a very nice boss). In a way, it's like asking for advice here, but with someone better suited to help you. He could decide to escalate this to the other person's boss, but for now that is against everyone's interest, so I very much doubt he would do that against your wishes (even if he doesn't take advice from you, the point where he would rather escalate this than ignore you is most likely well beyond the point where you yourself would rather escalate this)

2

It sounds exactly that the employee was covering himself in front of his colleagues - you talked about the bug between yourselves and he was reasonable. then you talked about the bug in front of his colleagues and he was not - in particular he was passing the blame for it to you.

So what this suggests to me is that internal politics is affecting his way of managing issues. If he can resolve a problem you bring up by yourselves, then all is good, but if you make him look bad (or otherwise give others an opportunity to use it against him) then he will do all he can to make himself look good.

that he came and talked with you afterwards suggests this is the case, you need to be a lot more aware of the company culture you're working in, as some of them are quite toxic and you can escape at the end of your contract while he has to work there full time, and get his bonus or promotions based on his productivity which may be affected by bugs appearing that he would rather fix quietly before anyone else noticies.

So, from what you've said, I don't think he has a problem with you at all, his actions after the standup say that clearly. I would mention the standup next time you meet and ask, in a roundabout way, if there are concerns that you are not aware of in these meetings or in this project.

  • I agree with the beginning, but please don't ask anything! You're not an employee there, don't act like solving problems with you is at all necessary. – user90842 Aug 8 at 21:38
  • @GeorgeM I meant that in a "ask without asking" manner, the OP already has good enough relations to go for informal coffee chats. – gbjbaanb Aug 8 at 22:41
1

In a workplace setting, when you have an interpersonal conflict (assuming it is not very serious) it is best to attempt to resolve that conflict with the other party without involving bosses. This is especially true when you are working with people from another company.

It sounds like they apologized (I only count a single "flip out" by the way), and if they seemed sincere, then you should let it go.

If you have to escalate, the boss at the company that pays your wages is the one that you speak to. Just be prepared that your boss may react in a multitude of different ways: They may (in what I think is most likely to least):

  • Do nothing
  • Tell you to avoid conflict (aka suck it up)
  • Send you to a different client in the future
  • Ask the client to move the employee onto a different project
  • Terminate the engagement with the client

Nobody likes it when external employees come into a company, so a certain degree of hostility can be expected (so don't take it personally), though hopefully people can always act in a professional manner.

  • 1
    Good point. Keep in mind that your presence may be perceived as a threat by the internal person. He may fear for his job, feel afraid of someone else having more or more suitable competence, etc. All that has nothing to do with your person. – Volker Siegel Aug 8 at 21:31
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    Nobody likes it when external employees come into a company, so a certain degree of hostility can be expected This is so far from the truth. In a large company with lots of external employees, there isn't any animosity, it's just the New Guy, who might not be around for long. I've been places where some of those "external" employees have been around longer than most of the internal ones... – Mars Aug 9 at 4:42
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    Something else your employer may do is give you advice, especially if there are known issues. Bringing this up with your own direct boss should really be Step 1 if OP feels they can't approach the other party – Mars Aug 9 at 4:44
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This doesn't sound erratic at all. It sounds like he blew up on you over a miscommunication and apologized shortly after. One up and one down doesn't equal erratic. On another note, he sounds stressed. That happens a lot before a production release. How he handled the stress was not professional, but people are human. At least he recognized his mistake and apologized.

Give him another chance.

Be careful about your communication and as much as you can, get communication between you and him in writing (at least make memos!).

If things still go wrong, then speak with YOUR manager. Don't go for ultimatums or blow things out of proportion--just ask for advice regarding the situation, just like you did here.

Going to the other manager makes things a big deal. That becomes job-threatening. And who do you thing the other manager will choose? Their own employee or this outsider? Unless your company has some kind of golden status with the other company, bringing the issue up to the other manager will likely get you in trouble, possibly get you fired, and in the worst case it may end up losing a client for your company (which will likely get you fired on top).

  • What do you think about the bug making it to production despite several requests from me to get it fixed? – Anirudh Aug 9 at 5:37
  • I am lucky to have it documented in JIRA though..otherwise the whole client would have been flipping on me by now. – Anirudh Aug 9 at 5:38
  • @Anirudh Bugs make it to production all the time. It was probably considered low enough priority. That, or the internal person failed to report it, despite the fact that your tests have been blocking commits. – Mars Aug 9 at 5:40
  • A bug related to checkout process directly connected with the revenue isn't low enough priority for me, we wouldn't have smoke tests for it otherwise....whichever way the client would look at it. – Anirudh Aug 9 at 5:42
  • @Anirudh But something to remember is that you ARE external. You don't have any right to object to how the internal deals with it. Your best course of action is to keep everything documented so that if internal tries to blame you for things, you have proof. (PS, there isn't any real evidence that he will try to blame you for anything, so relax. Right now, this mostly just sounds like he got mad at you once for a miscommunication) – Mars Aug 9 at 5:43
0

The pattern is that you ask about the bug and he flips out. Stop asking about the bug. It's not your problem now since he took lead on fixing it. Is how he acting fair? No. Is it normal? No. Does it happen? Sure. It could be worse. At least he's not your manager. Btdt. I disagree with those who said you should report this to your supervisor. It's not going to help you. If the co-worker wants to get you fired he has tons of tricks he can use that will paint him as innocent and make it look like it has nothing to do with what he's really upset about.

If this guy is not senior to you (by title) you'd be better off not even mentioning a bug like this to him before filing an official bug report. People can't forgot/re-write history when it comes to official reports. If he's senior you may need to ask for advice. Hopefully there's a senior guy on the team you can involve in any future discussions about this topic. Loop him in on emails or whatever. That may tone down your co-worker's attitude. Disclaimer: making your co-worker more likely to be accountable for his actions in this way could result in him retaliating against you.

  • Puh! But I want to know if the big got fixed or not...or else my smoke tests were failing and the whole engineering team was upon me asking why they can't commit to master anymore. – Anirudh Aug 8 at 19:58
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    Your duty as a consultant is to report the bug. Whatever happens afterwards is not any of your business. But of course you can cover yourself by reporting the bug in writing, and saving that email so that you can show it if you get accused of not doing your job properly. – user90842 Aug 8 at 21:36
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    @Anirudh it sounds to me like you're competent and did your job well. I'd guess that the guy who is so butt hurt is actually responsible for the bug you found or at the very least he was supposed to have found it long before you did. Stop second guessing yourself. Have confidence and don't give any space for that guy to blame you. So the team is asking you why they can't commit? They should read the bug report you made. And if you didn't make one, make it asap. Then you just point them to that. As George says, not really your problem! – HenryM Aug 9 at 0:52
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    I don't think you're grasping the relationships here. 1) Sounds like OP is a dev. External isn't only consulting, especially in other countries. 2) The guy is senior by the fact that he is Internal. That's how these situations work. 3) Reporting it to your own supervisor is fine--typically your voice holds more weight than some stranger who belongs to a client's company. 4) From the comments, it sounds like the internal guy isn't very happy about OP bringing speaking about the bug during scrum already. Going over their head again is NOT going to help the relationship – Mars Aug 9 at 5:06
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    @Mars added a disclaimer – HenryM Aug 12 at 18:49
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The personal aspect
Apologizing is difficult. For the other person to have apologized is significant. If nothing necessitates escalating this, you can go a long way toward building a trusting relationship with someone by allowing the matter to remain between the two of you and letting it disappear into the past. I can't overestimate how valuable that is. This person may have been out of line, and now they are embarrassed. For you to overlook it is a gift that they will likely appreciate.

Conversely, your reputation may be damaged if others perceive that any slight will result in escalation. They may hesitate to interact with you if they feel that you'll go straight to management rather than trying to work things out personally.

This does not mean that we should tolerate anything and everything. If it makes you feel better, make a note of the events in case they become part of a pattern. That way this one outburst only matters if there is a second or third or other related problems. If not, it doesn't matter.

It's likely worth mentioning to your external manager, in case they want to note any pattern. Let them know that the person has apologized and that as far as you know it's not an issue. Your boss can take needed action if there is a pattern you don't know about, but will also appreciate that you can handle minor issues without escalation.

The defect:
As for the specifics of the defect: Whether it's code review or bug reports, there should be deliberate effort to keep issues as impersonal as possible. That's just because we're human and have a tendency to take things personally.

If there are automated tests, surely someone must look at the results. If no one does, try to make them more visible. You could mention in a meeting that you're not sure if people are aware of these tests, and perhaps arrange to have them sent to the team or posted on some communications channel.

Having done that, forget about it. Let the failing test speak for itself. Let it be someone else's job to determine what defects can go to production. The system should prevent you from having to personally tell others about bugs or what to fix. If you find yourself in that position, that's something to bring up to the team. "Can we find a way for these tests to add value without me personally pointing out bugs to people? They're just bugs, but if I go around pointing them out then I feel like the bad guy."

That's more efficient all around. If one person points out the defect to another person, the recipient could perceive that as an unwanted, undocumented action item. They're working on something else, and if they don't drop it and handle this defect they'll get blamed. Without realizing or intending it, you may have put yourself in the position of assigning work to someone else. Don't do that if you don't have to. How does the team manage other tasks? How do they decide who will work on what? Let the team determine who needs to work on which defects.

  • Well....I get that philosophical thing about letting the apologizer go, I didn't take it personally anyway...but what if let's say in future he starts to pin himself against me other externals from my employer, barely because of the fact that we are external and slowly try to involve others in this....at that moment...we might be on the verge of losing a project...and my employer would want to know why he wasn't warned before? – Anirudh Aug 13 at 7:26
  • It's probably worth mentioning internally. I'll edit my answer. – Scott Hannen Aug 13 at 13:48

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