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So, our main tech lead is a very knowledgeable guy who’s apparently been keeping the place afloat for years, but he’s quickly becoming my least favorite person. He just won’t stop speaking badly about LITERALLY all the people we work with. It’s become so routine that he regularly calls me to his office under the guise of work only to end up trash talking a coworker for half an hour for not knowing something he thinks is “basic”.

I’m fairly new and inexperienced so I’m sure he unloads on me just because he knows I don’t have the social capital to do or say anything about it. But he will regularly and openly mock two or three people he REALLY dislikes (one of which is actually my best friend). Obviously, if I try to defend anyone’s action he will get mad and attack them even worse.

Because of his track record the management team apparently trusts him a lot and even choose him as the guy to do everyone’s technical evaluations. With that kind of power and knowing how petty he is, I’m pretty worried about retaliation if I speak to the manager. So how could I proceed?

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Tell him that you greatly appreciate his knowledge, help, and his trust to confide in you, but that you really need to focus on the positives of each person in order to better work with them and know which people are good at what things. You can add that even if what he says is true, as long as they work here you wish to find a positive way to work with them productively.

You can also engage him and bring him down the path to positive vs. negative by asking if he can identify the strong points of your peers so that you can be mindful of those things when interacting with them in order to best learn correct things as you progress.

If he says only come to him, which it sounds like he might be arrogant and do, then tell him you don't mind running things by him, but you need the skills of working in a cohesive team and would like his help in trying to work with every part of your team.

Then go to the other team members and work with them and take stuff to him as well. Any feedback he provides turn into something actually constructive and actionable and share with the team member and ask them why he would indicate to do things that particular way.

People need to feel valued and this approach will help you value each persons opinion by asking them, the open communication back and forth will avoid triangulation as you are sharing the constructive stuff and allowing them to respond in a way that you can learn about them and indicate you value their perspective as well. This will also give you a gauge on who actually knows what they are talking about to ask questions to in the future.

Don't go to the manager unless it becomes a "hostile work environment". You can google that to get guidelines.

  • +1 I support this answer. Given his seniority and position in the company, confronting him just seems like an easy way to get onto his bad side which can make the job much harder than it needs to be. Shifting his opinion from attacking to supporting is a much better way than confronting him, especially if you don't have much support from the company. – Shadowzee Sep 24 at 6:42
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Next time he starts trash talking, you need to nicely cut him off and let him know you have no interest in having negative conversations about your coworkers and friends.

If you join in the conversation in any amount, it will only encourage this behavior.

We spend too much time working to allow workplaces to be and stay toxic.

  • No interest, and also, given that he is a leader, it is inappropriate of him. – Gregory Currie Sep 24 at 6:05
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I went through the same situation.

I mainly ignored him when he started to speak badly about other employees because, imo, confronting him was not in my advantage since we were in the same open space and he was a good friend of the CEO.

Although, you might want to be careful for something else. In my case, this person was behaving like this because he knew he was becoming obsolete (technologies evolved, not him). Everyone thought he was the guy that kept the company afloat. While that was true, it was only because problems were caused by his lack of knowledge in new (and what is now common) security practices and good code practices. So by speaking badly of everyone else, he might try to manipulate you (consciously or not) into thinking he's the only one who can solve everything and that, if there's some problem, it's the other employees fault.

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