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I work as part of a 12 person software development team, which is one of several in the organization. We have a relatively new junior developer (6 months) who has managed to catch the eye of senior management (think three levels up) by consistently delivering on ambitious sprint goals. He usually gets more points done of work each sprint than any senior developer and he consistently completes his work and gets it into UAT.

Senior management noticed this and made him a permanent developer faster than anyone else in the company (most people start out as 1 year contracted temps). He also got a 10K raise out of the deal. The CEO even took him to lunch!

The thing is, the junior achieves this in large part by not doing many of the other responsibilities generally bunched in with software developers. He isn't part of the support rotation because he consistently fails the competency test required to do it. Our company makes meetings optional if you don't feel they matter for you, so he just skips them all unless he is presenting. If it isn't his project, he just says that he "have no input on that as I have no knowledge of that."

He was open about doing it deliberately, saying that "nobody recognizes support work and work that someone higher up does not recognize is not worth doing, so why pass a barrier that keeps me from doing work they don't value?"

He requires that questions from our sales team be sent by email so that he can just pull the answer from his database of answers (we have to do RFPs a lot and he just copy and pastes old answers from past RFPs into new ones, which makes him far faster at RFP tasks than the rest of us).

His reasoning for this is to "force sales to thoughtfully craft their questions instead of calling every 5 minutes and disrupting work." He enforces this by never returning calls.

Many people also get frustrated with IT and instead contact us for help. He ignores those people as "morons are best kept in a state of limbo so they don't destroy anything."

Chopping out support work, meetings, RFP writing, and being substitute IT means that he gets treated like a star simply by dumping a ton of work.

How should I handle this as a co-worker? I don't want to be seen as an underperformer because of his ability to load shed.

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    "How should I handle this as a co-worker?" Can you be more specific? What is your objective? – user76284 Feb 7 at 17:58
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    What are you trying to achieve for yourself? – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Feb 7 at 18:25
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    Honestly the impression that I get from your question is that you are very jealous of him, and that you cannot accept the fact than a junior does better than a senior, so you want to punish him for this. – Boh Boh Feb 7 at 19:40
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    What’s a “UAT”? Side note, “ He requires that questions from our sales team be sent by email so that he can just pull the answer from his database of answers”, sounds like this guy is working smartly and trying to avoid rework. – Donald Feb 8 at 3:59
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    @Donald User Acceptance Testing. – Shane Feb 8 at 6:33

10 Answers 10

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This guy should be your role model. Buy him lunch and pick his brain!

Seriously, though. There is no shame in learning from younger co-workers.

(most people start out as 1 year contracted temps)

Your company sounds pretty bad. It usually only takes 3 to 6 months to find out if someone is a good fit. Sometimes, it takes even less.

Don't blame the new guy for something that you should have insisted yourself on long ago.

His reasoning for this is to "force sales to thoughtfully craft their questions instead of calling every 5 minutes and disrupting work." He enforces this by never returning calls.

Many people also get frustrated with IT and instead contact us for help. He ignores those people as "morons are best kept in a state of limbo so they don't destroy anything."

I don't endorse his language at all.

But yes, some people don't google for answers, some don't search issue trackers, and some are even proud to be technophobes. In this day and age, this is absolutely unacceptable. Do not enable those behaviors.

Look at it from the perspective of your company.

You are being paid to develop software, not be first-level tech support. There is a good reason you are being paid 3 or 4 times more than the support staff (or even 10 times as much if some of your support functions are overseas).

And phone calls will interrupt your flow as a programmer. There is no doubt about that. By picking up those calls (not to mention answering some of those emails), you're actually throwing away money from your employer.

He isn't part of the support rotation because he consistently fails the competency test required to do it.

Unfortunately, you can't do that one. It's not like you can go back in time and do the same thing.

But ask yourself. Why isn't this being tracked? Or if it is being tracked, why isn't this work being publicized to the people that matter in your organization? Whoever is in charge of this support rotation needs to work on that issue. Or if you can, try to delegate the support rotation back to IT, and/or try to get them to hire some more DevOps people.

At the same time, look at it from the perspective of the new guy. To him, it's all just legacy code. It's difficult to understand legacy code. It's difficult to troubleshoot it. And most likely, supporting it doesn't mean much coding, it's most likely learning to work around it and learning to keep it going.

Our company makes meetings optional if you don't feel they matter for you, so he just skips them all unless he is presenting. If it isn't his project, he just says that he "have no input on that as I have no knowledge of that."

Do the same. Even Richard Feynman did that. He credited much of his success to avoiding administrative and committee work. He even negotiated a contract with Princeton that allowed him to dedicate 100% of his time to research, which is unheard of in Academia.

And yes, the new guy is an ass. It's very difficult to learn something from an ass. But I implore you to put your emotions aside every time he says something seemingly stupid and arrogant and really think about what he's saying. Each time, look for the kernel of truth into what he's saying.

Now no one is asking you to be an exact carbon copy of this guy, but I think you should place some limits on how accessible you are to others. After all, you're not at work to make friends. And if you don't have a close circle of friends outside of work or outside of your coworkers, you need to make some.

If people have questions, ask that they be written down. Better yet, ask them to look at the issue tracker first to make sure their problem isn't in there yet, and then ask for a link to the ticket on the tracker itself.

After all, there is a reason the tracker is there, it's to avoid the duplication of work. And if you want to have some open office hours, that's fine, but limit that time to one hour a week.

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    +1 Absolutely. The guy figured out what's important and he's doing that. It's not his fault management doesn't appreciate thankless tasks. OP should learn from this colleague, as you said. – rath Feb 7 at 10:43
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    @rath you can certainly be annoyed and repelled by the cutthroat behavior, but the real problem is indeed with management setting faulty KPIs. When you want to succeed, you have to identify and operate by the parameters the management sets. This new developer has done that. In a properly setup system, he'd be a huge asset to the team, behavior or not, that way. – mag Feb 7 at 10:55
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    Just like in college - figure out what the prof is after, provide that, and you'll pass. You may not learn quite as much as you were after, but "nobody cares" about anything other than the grade anyway. – FreeMan Feb 7 at 18:33
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    "Don't hate the player hate the game" – The Gilbert Arenas Dagger Feb 7 at 18:38
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    @Magisch exactly, people will do what they get rewarded for. If failing your support competency test 5 times gets you a permanent position and lunch with the CEO... well, I don't know why anyone would bother to pass. If failing it too many times got your bonus taken away, I'm guessing he'd pass it pretty quick. – mbrig Feb 7 at 19:08
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Most companies have a lot of "work" which actually doesn't achieve anything.

Most meetings come to mind. I spent an hour and a half today in a big round table update meeting, where everyone else talked and the developers played on their phones or doodled on post-its. I logged an hour of Reddit and various chat apps there.

The day before I was in a meeting on transaction APIs. Most devs had nothing to say as they know nothing about payment. I spent that meeting outlining an article I want to publish as I had nothing to contribute there.

Every two weeks we demo to project stakeholders. The business analyst usually does the demo and the devs play on their phones. I have to charge my iPhone battery to 100% as I will use most of it before the end of sprint planning day. Looking at my time usage logs, I spent 4.5 hours out of about 6 on my phone during that period.

Stand-up is again largely pointless for me as we will have a standup of 7 people and only two are developers working on the project. Rest is comms or business analysis or QA or support developers and I don't deal with the first two and QA has work when I give them work. Support devs are doing something else entirely. Mostly just a large disruption to work so that we can all report that we did the same thing as yesterday.

Junior has just discovered all the waste and learned to turn it to his advantage. I suspect 80% of his gains are just dumping wasteful activities. The other 20% is from recognizing that support isn't generally valued.

Chopping out support work

This is the only careerist thing, but his argument isn't wrong. We had this discussion just yesterday on here.

meetings

I don't say a word in a typical meeting nor are the topics discussed relevant to my work. Except for sprint planning, I would happily skip every meeting currently on my calendar. They waste my time.

RFP writing

Who doesn't copy paste? Rewriting RFPs from scratch seems stupid. Writing them again and again is a waste of time.

being substitute IT

What other profession would tolerate this? The accounting department wouldn't take requests from cashiers asking for help with making change. Marketing is not going to help with cleaning stores just because it relates to image. Legal is not going to spell check your documents for you. There is an IT department for this stuff.

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    This pretty much. He's taken the Lean philosophy and applied it to his work. – user1666620 Feb 7 at 10:41
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    @user1666620 thats a good way to put it actually. – Matthew Gaiser Feb 7 at 10:45
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    @Andrew - Well, the chances of it being read by his colleagues is low. And if they read it, they'd probably agree. If his boss sees it, then he finds out about a view which was an "open secret" anyways. Maybe he wants it to be read to some degree. Maybe he has no reason to shy away from his opinion. And there are many companies who have redundancies - pointing them out is preferable to hiding them on the long term. – Battle Feb 7 at 19:10
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    @Andrew I am either staring like a zombie, writing something, or playing on my phone during the meetings which are wasteful for me to attend, so my stating that I find them wasteful wouldn't surprise anyone. – Matthew Gaiser Feb 7 at 21:33
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    @MatthewGaiser Ah you must be in a meeting! ;) – Andrew Feb 7 at 21:42
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It sounds like your new colleague is an ass, and the entire company leadership is loving it. I'll leave it to you to figure out what that says about your company's leadership.

But it appears your colleague figured out how to be successful at your company a lot faster than you did. You could try to learn a few things from him to be more successful yourself. Apparently, nobody in your company cares about support, so probably try to stop doing it, or at least stop caring about it.

Stop going to meetings. Stop giving input on things you get no recognition for. Stop taking up tasks that aren't valued. Either someone will realize it does matter, you can offer to do it and get recognition for it, or it never mattered and the people doing it have been wasting their time.

Alternatively, find a company that rewards people doing the things you value as important. I wouldn't want to work with this guy either, but then I definitely wouldn't want to work for a company that rewards this kind of behavior either.

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    He probably doesn't say stuff like "morons are best kept in a state of limbo so they don't destroy anything" to the company's leadership, their entire visibility of him is the positive results that he's selectively targeting. The OP should be very careful to ensure that if they take your advice they are presenting the same way. If you are going to "stop caring about things" for example, don't tell or give this impression to the higher ups. The thing to be emulated is successful, visible achivevement - dropping other stuff is a mere proxy to free up more time for that. – benxyzzy Feb 7 at 18:25
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How should I handle this as a co-worker?

You should thank him for the great example, and emulate his behavior. Clearly, he is doing the things that are valued by the company, and is reaping the rewards.

Now, if you were management instead of just a co-worker, there are other things you could do (such as valuing and rewarding different behaviors).

But as a co-worker, you need to learn what is valued at this company, and provide more of it.

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Think about, what are you attempting to solve here? Do you find it unfair that he's getting recognition? Bury that feeling, because it's not productive.

Instead, focus on what he does. Does he need to be at meetings? Or are these largely pointless unless you're involved in the project? If so, you should emulate him and only attend meetings actually of value to you.

Is first level support part of your task set? Is that necessary? If it's necessary, you gotta lobby with your managers to include it as part of the KPIs. If not, stop doing it yourself and leave it to the dedicated team for it.

Do you really need to be taking calls from sales? His reasoning for making them use email sounds eminently plausible, because frequent interruptions while coding result in huge productivity loss.

In general, you shouldn't be angry at your coworker for excelling in the system your company has set up. If you feel the system is detrimental to business goals, make a case for that and attempt to get it changed if you care. If you don't, start taking a page out of his book and excel yourself.

His bluntness isn't great, and he's behaving like a bit of an ass, but there is a wisdom to playing within the system set out for you if your objective is success. Ultimately, you can morally fault him for being this cutthroat, but the real fault lies with the company that set up the reward structure. And some of his impulses aren't bad.

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I'm going to take things a step further than a lot of the other answers here: You are definitely the bad guy in this story.

Let me take a few nuggets from your question:

Many people also get frustrated with IT and instead contact us for help. He ignores those people

Let me rephrase that for you. He doesn't work in IT. He presumably wasn't hired to be "substitute IT" as you phrased it. And you're upset that he's not doing someone else's job, and is instead focusing on doing their actual job?

He requires that questions from our sales team be sent by email so that he can just pull the answer from his database of answers (we have to do RFPs a lot and he just copy and pastes old answers from past RFPs into new ones, which makes him far faster at RFP tasks than the rest of us).

What?! So in other words, he developed a system which lets him service customer needs faster and more accurately, by allowing previous successes to streamline subsequent issues. You do realize this is the entire goal of help portals, right? You're upset that he developed a better way of doing something?

If anything, the only bone I'd have to pick with this new guy is: he's not being more proactive about distributing his new methodology through the department. In all honesty, your boss should've been telling you that your whole department is now going to use his RFP database, and that you're not supposed to do IT's work (if IT doesn't do a good job, that's on them, and they need to take it up with IT management - not get some alternative shadow IT department to chip in.) When I come up with an efficiency improvement, I try to share that gain to as many relevant people as I can.

Now, as for you, OP:

Stop getting jealous. Just in the title of your question, you accused your coworker of being "shameless" and "deliberately bad". In your actual final question, you're worried about looking bad, and how do you "deal" with him. You're so off-kilter about this person, you didn't even realize how much your question makes this coworker look like a freaking super-hero.

Stop embracing the status-quo. Seriously. This person sounds like they're working hard to improve efficiency - they even developed a support database for help tickets. Why on earth are you fighting that, instead of immediately saying, "Dude, that is so cool! Can I get a link to it, so I can use it whenever I get the same sort of requests?" Or asking, "Hey, is there any way we could put something together so that the users can submit their tickets in through this thing? That way we wouldn't even need the email?" Instead, your reaction is, 'Hey, that's different, and I don't like it. It makes the way I'm doing this look silly. So stop.'

Understand that this guy could easily become your boss. Or boss' boss. Or boss' boss' boss. There's a reason upper management loves him. There's a reason your boss hasn't come down on him for any sort of dereliction of duties. There's a reason that most of the people here, despite hearing about this guy through an extremely negatively biased source, are telling you that you should learn from him.

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  • This is a good answer since it calls out the only other unacceptable behavior described in the question, jealously on the part of the author for this junior developers success. The only other unacceptable behavior is the name calling on the junior developers part but I suspect that’s a completely unrelated issue and more then likely common in the company – Donald Feb 8 at 6:38
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It seems like you are angry with this situation because deep down you know he is right, and it hurts your ego to be shown that some of the stuff you have been doing has no perceived value.

Take the opportunity and learn from the guy. Truth is, it can only be good for you: either what you were doing was truly a waste of time and you can focus your time on valuable actions and succeed like him, or things will start to crumble, management will figure it out, and you can turn the whole thing into Heroics and go back to your usual tasks, but with actual appreciation from them.

The guy is just gaming the incompetent policies (and possibly management) of your company, nothing wrong with that.

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Sorry, but the young developer you're describing sound extremely resourceful, talented, intelligent, pragmatic, and competent. So much so that it made me consider the possibility he is made up (he just feels like a YA protagonist), that you're describing the kind of person you wished you were.

Leaving that aside and assuming this person is real - they will continue advancing, and for good and valid reasons - he seems to be an exceptional talent in software development, and therefore a resource that the company shouldn't be wasting on various grunt-work.

I can understand how that can make feel the rest of us who aren't exceptional, but the best thing to do is try to pickup some of his habits. Don't mimic him in everything - don't act like a rockstar if you're not a rockstar

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  • What is a "YA protagonist"? – Matthew Gaiser Feb 7 at 10:23
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    @MatthewGaiser - I meant "YA novel protagonist". YA is Young Adult - it's a genre whose target audience are teenagers. A popular example would be "The Hunger Games" – user1878648 Feb 7 at 10:34
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Don't look at him as a problem, because it's not soluble by you. Learn from what he is doing, it's an important set of basics.

The chap has a long range plan to further himself. The details aren't actually as important as thinking a plan through. Whereas you seem to be tagging along with whatever happens. I liken it to chess, the chap who can think the most moves ahead and takes into account the variables is the one that wins.

He's making some obvious errors possibly due to arrogance and may come unstuck in the future, but he's doing pretty well right now.

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Some great advice I got early in my career:

Every day you go to work, ask what you can do today to most move the company forwards.

This is what your coworker is doing. It's smart, and is rightfully being rewarded.

Yes they are behaving arrogantly at times. But give them a break. That's pretty common for young people who do well quickly and get external validation. Look past that. Don't let it mask the lesson.

I don't want to be seen as an underperformer because of his ability to load shed.

Ability to load shed => efficiency. You want that. Your management want that. They reward it!

Your company apparently has a lot of counterproductive process that can be avoided. This is typical. It's a tragedy of the commons effect where people pull time from others for their own goal, regardless of what they'd be most effective doing, and end up actually diminishing overall company goals.

Be deliberate - learn from your coworker - focus more on the things where you can have the biggest impact. You've seen that's what management wants, so do it and you'll also be rightfully rewarded.

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  • The trouble with this approach (load shedding = efficiency, etc) and emulating it - is that it fails the "what would it be like if everyone did this?" test. Presumably if everyone stopped doing support work and other 'wasteful' stuff - that work doesn't just cease to exist! It's efficient on the individual level but not in the interests of the company. – seventyeightist Feb 9 at 9:55

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