51

I started my current role a few months ago as an analyst, joining another person who had started one month before me, with the very same job title. He's two years older than me, but he treats me like he's been working there for 20 years, and like he's my boss.

He always asks me when I'm going to complete a task, and when I answer by saying "I'll hopefully get it done by tomorrow", he'll say something like "don't say hopefully to me, I want a straight up answer".

He also chews me out in front of other people in the office over really minor differences in practice that we have. If I write a piece of code to quickly show him something on screen, he'll almost always say "why are you doing it that way?" in a condescending way.

I honestly believe he has detected very quickly that I'm a meek and mild person, and now he's exploiting that to boss me around.

Our actual boss is based in Paris, whereas we are based in London. I would have talked to my boss about it, but as you can imagine he's not actually around for me to talk to him. He's also very busy all of the time and essentially has my colleague and me on autopilot.

I'm at the point now where I want to leave. I've asked my old boss for my old job back, and he's essentially said yes. But my current role has a notice period of 3 months. I'd quit tomorrow if I could.

Should I try talking to my actual boss about it? If so, what can I say to fix the problem and not make it more awkward with my colleague?

EDIT: After this question was posted and I read the answers, I started being a lot more assertive and stood up for myself, and this approach worked quite well.

He's still difficult to work with, and for that reason I accepted the offer from my former boss.

  • 20
    Seems a bit late right? Do you want an answer that enables you to stay there and maybe fix the problem or are you gone? What are you asking? – Nathan Cooper Aug 30 at 9:47
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    What do you mean they have a notice period of 3 months? – EJoshuaS Aug 30 at 16:14
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    You better learn how to establish boundaries and stand up for yourself, or you're going to have a very bad time of it, not only in this position, but in life in general. – AndreiROM Aug 30 at 17:41
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    @EJoshuaS Some locations have legal requirements about giving employees advance notice before firing them or giving employers advance notice about quitting. I think that is common in Europe, where OP is from. – Aaron Aug 30 at 19:55
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    You know this behavior isn't "acting like a boss" it's more "acting like a jerk" – thisisaname Aug 31 at 9:05
77

You are promised your old job back, so there’s no risk.

Since you are in London, the appropriate answer to the question “when will this be done” if it’s none of his business is “none of your ****ing business”. If you had said your original answer, the proper reply would have been “bugger off”.

If you don’t like being rude, start with payback. When you read this reply, you go to his desk and ask him what he is working on. Why he is working on it. When he will be finished. If he refuses to answer, you can tell him that he shouldn’t ask you either.

Since you have a job to go back to, this is a great opportunity to practice standing up for yourself.

  • 43
    I disagree with most of this answer, but +1 for the first & last sentences. Now is a perfect opportunity to learn how to stick up for yourself. – Lindsey D Aug 30 at 18:21
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    "start with payback" is strictly unprofessional. if you don't like this behavior, confront him. if he doesn't care enough to address your concern, elevate your complaint to his boss. if no one will help you, leave. don't waste your time and energy on petty drama. – matt lohkamp Aug 30 at 18:21
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    sometimes petty drama is fun, especially when its against an asshole and you have nothing to lose – DetectivePikachu Aug 30 at 18:43
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    This is bad advise, it will hardly bring any good and might lead the OP to an unending and meaningless, childish cold war and more stress. This is also not standing up for yourself as the answer suggest hence it can not serve as a practice. – Koray Tugay Aug 30 at 18:46
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    No point burning bridges. The time to stand up for yourself is when it's really needed, not just for practice, with people who might be dealing with their own struggles. If OP is moving on to better pastures, they already won this battle, really. Stand up for yourself where necessary sure, but generally I'd just avoid this person as much as possible for any remaining time. – Brad Thomas Aug 30 at 22:08
60

Your colleague will continue like this so long as you let him.

If he really has no authority over you, there is nothing wrong with pointing that out once he crosses the line. After all, if he isn't your boss, there is nothing wrong with a little quote-unquote 'insubordination':

HIM: "Why are you doing it that way?"

YOU: "Because it works."

HIM: "When are you going to to do X?"

YOU: "That's between me and my boss."

HIM: "Don't say hopefully to me, I want a straight up answer."

YOU: "That's nice. I'll hopefully have it done in X time"

At this point, he will either realise that continuing to confront you will make him look like an idiot or he won't, and he'll make himself look like an idiot, only realising way too late. Either way, he'll probably stop soon enough to make your last few months at that position less painful.

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    In order to make this work, the OP absolutely needs to talk to their boss first. It doesn't matter how busy the boss is, they need to make their case first. They also need to include how long it's been going on, with name dropping people who've seen it happen. This way, when the bully talks to the manager about having it done to them, there will be push back on the bully, not the OP. Without first talking to the boss, the OP becomes the "bad guy" instead of the bully, because this is how bullies work. – computercarguy Aug 30 at 18:21
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    Because it works is a terrible thing to say though. – dan-klasson Aug 31 at 4:34
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    @dan-klasson It's a terrible thing to believe. When trying to evade a question it's a great option (because presumably no-one will think you believe it – tone helps here too). – 11684 Aug 31 at 9:52
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    @dan-klasson it's a perfectly valid answer in this context of dealing with an insufferable co-worker who asks the question not out of any curiosity, or indeed any professional reason, but merely to put OP on the spot. Context is key. – 520 Sep 1 at 19:44
  • @11684 If someone said that to me I wouldn't think it's sarcasm, regardless of the tone. It just doesn't make any sense to me as a programmer. – dan-klasson Sep 2 at 6:39
28

As gnasher729 said at the end of his post: "this is a great opportunity to practice standing up for yourself."

The simplest thing you can do when he comes to you with "bossy" questions is ask him why he needs to know - not in a defensive way, but rather in a concerned way. This way you pass the burden of justification over to him. Since there's no reason he should be asking, he'll probably go away, or even better, come up with some terrible explanation you can just brush off, giving you a metaphorical "win". (This is something I use a lot when I don't want to bother answering a question. It's always worked well for me.)

About the differences in practice, it's a bit more difficult. If there are coding rules, you can just mention that it's not against them, and ignore the other comments. In the absence of coding rules, you can play the boring card. Ignore the condescending tone, and answer in a very educational manner. Since you're on the same level, it's only natural that you would want to share your knowledge. Try to bore him out of asking.

As you said:

I honestly believe he has detected very quickly that I'm a meek and mild person, and now he's exploiting that to boss me around.

So ask yourself what you would answer if anybody else with the same job title asked you these questions, and go for that.

In the meantime, it would be a good idea to tell your boss about this situation. Try and keep your emotions out of it, and only state the facts. You might want to ask something along the lines of:

X has been questioning my work a lot lately. (Give the examples you gave us.) Is there a reason for this that I'm unaware of? If not, I'm going to have to turn him down, as I feel this is adding unnecessary stress to my workload.

This way, you are making your boss aware of the problem with your colleague, and of your response tactic. If things don't get better quickly, you can then send in your resignation, since you've got your back covered anyway. Good luck.

  • 9
    I think the part "Is there a reason for this that I'm unaware of?" is interesting here, because it might just be that the boss has asked the coworker to "keep tabs" on OP. – pipe Aug 30 at 22:02
24

While I think a reasonable answer is "Stand up for yourself and tell the guy he isn't your boss and to stop acting like he is," I suspect any answers suggesting that you suddenly become a bold and assertive person are not practical.

Another good way to deal with him is to always, always, always answer his questions with a question. Never give him a straight up answer. Just like the game of Questions on Whose Line is it Anyway.

Him: "Why are you doing it that way?"
You: "Don't you do it that way?"
him: "No."
You: "Why not?"

etc.

Him: "When will you be done with that?"
You: "What are you working on?"

Eventually:

Him: "Why do you always answer my questions with a question?"
You: "Why do you ask so many questions?"

It is a great trick that always ends up with him going away.

Another option would be to send your boss an email, copy your annoying peer and ask "Mr. X (your boss), could you please clarify something for me: Do I report to you or Y (annoying peer)? Thanks. Sincerely yours, You." If the response comes back to your satisfaction, print it out and post it on the wall near your desk. If not, leave.

You might also call your boss and tell him you are considering leaving. When your boss asks why, just tell him you don't like the people you are working with or you aren't happy with having two bosses, or that the roles and responsibilities are not clear here. Let him ask questions that lead to you explaining the situation. A good boss will get to the bottom of it and deal with it and you can stay. A lame boss will not, and you should leave.

One more thing: you can never win this game and have the other peer not blame you for being the bad guy. You have to decide to let him claim you are the bad guy. That is OK, as long as he stops bugging you.

1

If you made up your mind on going back to you previous job, there is no need to talk to your current boss (or this annoying person) about the situation. I am pretty certain your boss will only try to keep you and promise the situation will be fixed and you will only suffer a bit longer until you decide again.

But if you are willing to consider trying a bit more instead of going back to your previous job (maybe this position looks more flashy in your cv, or it pays more, or the job itself is more fun, or you are learning more, or whatever..), what you can do is: only once and politely tell him to be more careful how he talks and questions you.

If that does not work.. Tell your boss you are not happy with the environment you work at change your environment itself. Maybe work remotely, or in a different office, I do not know.

What I am pretty sure will not gain you any benefit is trying to change this person, believing your boss will change this person or being in an endless childish war by trying to do the same thing to him or acting like an asshole yourself so he gets the hint.

Just do your job and treat him as a chair making squeaking noise. Put some oil on it, gently, to see if gets silent. Move to another room to see if you can keep doing your job without hearing noise and getting annoyed. Just go some place else leaving the chair to next lucky employee if none of these work.

-2

From what I understand you can withdraw your resignation at anytime during the notice period.

You could always start the notice period ASAP, this way you could switch job as soon as you can or force a resolution of the situation.

This is a big move to pull but if you don't like your current situation you would be better off no matter what you end up doing.

If you want to retain this position first contact your superior expressing him the situation, if his reply is not prompt and does not help resolve things, go for the resignation notice.

  • 6
    You can withdraw but only If the company agrees. Say they signed up your replacement and after two months you changed your mind. – gnasher729 Aug 30 at 12:38
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    This has a smell of "ultimatum" to it. Those are only good for destroying relationships and burning bridges. If you're going to quit, quit. Don't quit then not quit, because what's the chance you won't use that tactic again to get your way? – computercarguy Aug 30 at 18:24
  • @gnasher729 yes but he already has a backup, if the company doesn't change then you quit because nothing will change for the better. – Al rl Aug 30 at 20:51
  • @computercarguy yes, you should only pull it once but usually you don't pressure them to change, just say that you quit and reconsider if they do anything in return. – Al rl Aug 30 at 20:52
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    The problem is that the employer won't know that you are only going to do this once. From their standpoint, you now have something to fall back on when you don't get your way. If I ever have employees that resign, I'm not letting them back out of it without a really good reason. Simply changing their mind won't be a good of a reason. – computercarguy Aug 30 at 20:56

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