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I work in a mature company and I am the youngest/newest one. The team was stable until recent lay offs.

I don't know if it was the lay offs, or me not being "a new guy" anymore, but recently I have noticed a pattern/behavior from an expert coworker that is annoying me a little bit. The behavior is that whenever I get tasked or assigned a job and I need/seek help from them, I no longer own the work done.

For example, we have an issue tracker and it shows what each job is and who is working on it or done it. Then, if someone from a different department or team has a question regarding a matter, they would look up the person assigned and consider him the "reference" and the "go to" guy for any questions.

Recently, whenever someone approaches me during or after a meeting, or during the day in general, regarding a job that I am working on or done in the past, the teammate that helped me at some point with the task, races me to answer the questions, and will "steal the show" (or ownership). Some of the times when people came to my cube, the teammate heard them and came and stood with us then started answering the questions, and finally "walked" with the person in question away from my desk while still talking about the work.

I am still playing it cool and showing professionalism as I would like a cross-functional environment where everyone knows about everything. But the pattern now is becoming like taking away ownership of the work from me then I am no longer known as the "go to" guy for the issue. This is happening a job after a job.

I don't want a toxic environment where teammates don't seek help from each other, I also don't want to affect my performance by deciding to do it my self instead of asking Qs. So how do I go around this? I guess the question is how to do the work and share the knowledge but protect my ownership?

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I don't know how comfortable you are with this idea, but it may be that you will need to sit down with your coworker and tell him "I want you to know I really appreciated all the help that you have given me with (XYZ technology) on the tracker. I've got it working now and everything is cool and I just wanted you to know that so you don't have to spend so much of your time covering for me on this project, because 'I've got this.'"

Hopefully, he will clue in to what you are saying. It may be that he genuinely thinks he is covering for you. I know a lot of brilliant IT guys who aren't very good at picking up on social clues. You have to be a little more blunt with them.

It also may be that he is trying to keep control. The layoffs may have shaken him. This is a little more difficult to deal with, because it isn't a self correcting situation. Once you give him the more subtle back-off talk, you may have to get more specific. "It feels like you are trying to take the responsibility for supporting this product away from me, and I wanted to know if this is the case, or if I am misinterpreting what I see."

This gives him the opportunity to say either "Yes, because I don't think you are doing a good enough job" and you can discuss why he gets that impression, or "No, I certainly am not meaning to do that." In the latter case, maybe he was, but this gives him the opportunity to stop doing it going forward with no 'loss of face'.

I know what it feels like to be in the position of being the senior dev, seeing younger devs with more current knowledge and maybe fearing that management will see them as a replacement for me. Sitting down and trying to work things out between you might help. It will also warn him that you won't sit passively back and let him push you aside.

If no positive changes are achieved after you have made it clear that you intend to take back responsibility for the tracker, you may have to be more assertive. If someone comes to you for help and he intercepts, get up and get involved. If you are talking to someone about the tracker and he tries to insert himself, you may have to say "thanks for your help." and maybe even more bluntly "I've got this."

If he continues with his behavior then he has pretty much declared his intentions and you may have to escalate with your manager, although I would keep that as a last resort.

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    I can confirm us IT/Dev types are often clueless on subtle hints and really are only trying to get work done and not "steal" anything from anyone. Those kind of people do exist but more often than not ppl are just trying to help and get stuff done. It is worth letting them know that the project is under control and they can go back to their work in a nice way before escalating to direct "back off" type responses. – Sierra Mountain Tech Oct 12 at 16:00
  • Hanlon's razor is useful here. I think that in the walking away with the person that came for OP's help is a bit concerning and the lack of advice. Like OP could be missing something for many times like not understanding to use different vocabulary with different business lines or something like that. That is often the part that seniors need to take over as juniors just will not be understood. – user3644640 Oct 13 at 8:59
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Ultimately, this is in the boss' hands; sit down and talk with them about your concerns.

I mean, there are several things to unpack here. First up: is what your coworker doing wrong? There's no clean answer to that. For all we know, this is what your boss wants to have happen. Question about the Floobar system or how to use Quineticles? Well, Pete Barnum is the expert for that - he should take care some/most of the work, and if he's doing the work on it, he should handle the ticket. Or maybe the boss wants knowledge to be shared around, and Barnum needs to back off. We don't know - which is why you need to be talking with the boss about it.

The second thing is: how are performance evals handled? If the "Ticket Handled Count" or similar is a decent portion of your performance evaluation, then Barnum taking away your ticket is something to be concerned with. Or maybe tickets aren't used in any sort of performance weighting. We don't know - you'll need to talk with your boss. If they are used, you've got another thing to talk with them about: how is that performance evaluating done for tickets that have multiple people working on them? If you work on the first half of the ticket, and if Barnum does the second half... does only one of you get credit? Maybe your Boss will have a different way to handle that - maybe there's a field in the ticket-tracking for 'auxiliary personnel' that could also be used in performance? Maybe your boss wants you to make a second ticket to cover your portion of the work?

So, short story: talk all of this over with the boss. Mention your concerns, and figure out how they want to handle this going forward.

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Layoffs happened. You admit your outlook has changed, You believe your coworker has changed. Those changes are inevitable. Layoffs impact performance. People were let go, even though some of them were hard workers.

The people that survive a layoff are impacted also. They may have to do more work. They may voluntarily work harder to make themselves invaluable. They may alter the way they work to make themselves appear layoff proof.

Your co-worker has chosen a course of action. They can't be blamed. My goal wouldn't be to tell management. I would work with them to make sure their actions don't hurt you.

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