I would be grateful for advice on this situation. I'm a senior developer with about 10 years of experience. Until recently my team consisted of myself, my manager, and a staff engineer. We've been working together for about a year. We are all around the same age.

A few months ago we were joined by a new mid level developer. He is bright, clever and confident. He has strong engineering skills and he knows it. He has about 2 years professional experience, and is about 15 years younger than us.

I feel he is trying to assume the dominant position in the team. He behaves like he's the boss. He issues instructions, points out our mistakes, challenges our depth of knowledge.

A couple of specific examples. In a team meeting telling me that it's my turn to run one of our processes, in effect trying to assign me work. Insisting we as a team adopt his preferred continuous integration pipeline, and not taking on board our experience.

My manager and and the staff engineer are gentle people who just seem to go along with it, whereas I feel stressed and threatened. I've been pushing back on this behaviour, refusing to implement changes he wants on my pull requests. I feel like we are heading towards a confrontation.

I'm from the United Kingdom, and this colleague is from the United States. I've not spoken to either my manager or the staff engineer about the problem, as I feel it is at least partly my manager's fault, and that I would be implicitly criticising him.

I would be grateful on how to adjust my or his behaviour so that there is less friction between us.

  • 3
    Is there a valid technical reason why you decided to refuse his changes on your PR? Is he acting as a reviewer asking for changes before he accepts merges PR? Could you give an example of how 'he challenges the depth of your knowledge'? I want to differentiate between his behaviour and optimal approach to coding.
    – Konrad
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 19:00
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    The suggestions he makes on PRs are fine, the problem is the wording, as they are written as if he is giving me an order. This is also the way he speaks in meetings. By challenging the depth of my knowledge, I mean that he for example asks me a question on a piece of technology, followed by a series of questions more like he's interviewing me.
    – GeorgeX
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 19:19
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    thanks, that’s useful. Could be it he genuinely doesn’t know and asks honestly. Situation where people are afraid to “lose face” and ask is bad from a dev perspective. Good products come form collaboration where folk are not afraid to bounce ideas of each other and ask, even at time silly, questions. Could it be that the guy is just curious?
    – Konrad
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 19:21
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    No, I'm certain he's behaving like he's the manager, he's the most junior member of the team and he's telling us what to do, he is trying to dominate
    – GeorgeX
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 19:35
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    It sounds like he's overcompensating, I've ran into this before when someone oversold their technical abilities and then started to demonstrate similar behaviour to keep the ruse alive. It could be as simple as a lack of self-confidence in his abilities, it could be a I'm better than every idiot here attitude, or something else. Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


GeorgeX, I worked about 40 years in a variety of organizations, with a spectrum of personalities, before I retired. I performed several times as the young colleague, and also as the experienced old one. You have my sympathy.

A young colleague's excessively clear understanding of his or her importance can be thoroughly annoying. It's important to bring it up with your boss and with the team at the your first opportunities. Talking it over with others will generate information for you and your coworkers. This will give all of you an opportunity to improve your approach.

The age differential and the cultural legacy of different nations may generate some friction, though coping with these will strengthen you, the young colleague and the team. Some people have personality quirks they may not intend or even have awareness of that introduce frictions, too. Keep in mind that frictions are part of the social experience of working in groups of humans. It's easy to diagnose the problem incorrectly as caused by these conditions. You must cope with these things in collaboration. But, if that's all you have, then you haven't figured out the trouble yet.

I suspect the true difficulty arises from inadequately understood agreements among the parties. Again, it's part of working in groups, but even employees who must do what the boss says will be more productive if they discuss and agree on overall situation, on strategy, on procedure, on methods, and task by task, whenever practical. There are more-or-less coercive conditions that give a person authority to command others. But well-understood, willing agreements can diminish the value of command authority and enable greater enthusiasm and productivity.

I suggest you take an approach something along these lines...

Start talking. You can't do this by email. Talk and listen. Don't wait to get all your facts straight. Be honest and courageous enough to be wrong about some of it.

First, talk with your boss. Describe your concerns. Say you want to discuss it with all the team within the next week. If you have a daily scrum, that's an ideal time. Be concerned to treat the young one well, and tell your boss that is your intention. Listen carefully to what your boss says.

If a meeting in the next few days isn't possible, gather those of your team that you can to discuss the matter.

When you meet with the young colleague, be courteous and kind and completely straightforward. Let him know candidly that you value his expertise and accomplishments. Tell him you are having trouble working with him. Tell him you need a better agreement with him and the team regarding how you work together. Shut up to give him a chance to respond while you listen carefully.

What happens next depends on your circumstances. Be always courteous and honest. Seek agreement.

Some optional reading you may find helpful: All these are too wordy, in my opinion, but they contains nuggets of wisdom. a. Peter F. Drucker, "The Essential Drucker: The Best of Sixty Years ..." b. Roger Fisher, et al, "Getting to Yes" c. William Ury, "Getting Past No" (sequel to "Getting to Yes")

Good luck.

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