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I have been tasked to work very closely with a slightly more senior colleague at work, he is pretty much overseeing everything I do at the moment.

I find it very difficult to work with him because he questions everything, makes me explain everything I do and every decision I make, explains everything to me (even the most basic stuff in the world he will spend ages explaining to me) and whenever I arrive at a conclusion he pretty much redoes all the work to validate it.

I have anxiety* and get stressed out when talking to people, and pretty much know that I can't continue working with him in the manner that we are, so I am looking for ways to deal with the situation.

I can see 2 reasonable things:

  1. Talk to this person directly
  2. Talk to our manager

I am terrified of both because he is more senior, I am in a tenuous position due to being on a secondment that has already expired so I am effectively without a job title (I have contractual stability, but that contract if for a job I really don't want to go back to) and because I get scared talking to anyone, nevermind the potential to upset the entire apple cart at work since he is a popular person.

Does anyone have any advise on how I should approach this kind of problem? Please don't say 'get help for your anxieties' because I have been doing that for years, and don't suggest finding another job either, because while that is an option I like what I am doing and the company I work for at the moment.

*for a bit of explanation; I can usually function ok at work, but in normal conversation where people can say unexpected things I freeze and panic and can barely think of an adequate reply. I have no capacity (or will for) small talk as a result and I avoid pretty much any such social situation (work is usually ok because the subjects are more controlled and purposeful). I am also terrified of upsetting people, and can remember now (at 37) people I upset as a child and whenever I do I get emotional, sometimes to the point of tears. I know that if someone had a problem with the way I do things it would upset me, and I don't want to risk upsetting anyone here, but that is difficult when the problem is related to a person's personality.

  • What exactly do you find it difficult? Most of the people complains about the lack of the the cases you mentioned above. – Sourav Ghosh Feb 7 at 10:23
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    @SeriousBri have you been to therapy? – user1666620 Feb 7 at 10:29
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    What solution are you going for? You describe a situation that is difficult for you, but it's not clear to me what the better situation would like you, where you can work well with this fellow. – Erik Feb 7 at 10:32
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    @user1666620 He isn't here to understand it, he is here to gather the stakeholders and ensure they can help me deliver. Questioning everyone again makes it look like he doesn't trust all the work I have done, especially since I have already had sign-off, peer review and approval from the board. He is just causing delay, I could have finished by now but he is re-reviewing the scope when nothing has changed to necessitate that. I guess you might think that is sensible, but part of my personality means that I need to be trusted, and this lack of trust has killed my motivation 100%. – SeriousBri Feb 7 at 11:33
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    When you say senior are they a hierarchical senior (ie a pay grade higher) or are they senior just in the sense that they have been in post longer or are more experienced? – Smock Feb 7 at 13:14
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I suggest you talk to your senior person. They probably have the good intention of training you and helping you develop in your profession.

Or, maybe they have a common superpower: explaining the obvious. In that case you can call them Captain Obvious. (joke)

If you can stay calm for this conversation, that is best. You should consider asking, "what can I do to convince you I can work more independently? I will, of course, come to you when I have questions."

You can also say, "sometimes you give me explanations of things I already know. Before starting an explanation, can you please ask me how much I know about the topic?"

I personally have worked with lots of people new to my profession. I have learned to ask "do you know how xyz works?" before starting to give a mini-lecture. It took me a while to learn to ask that question, though.

So respectfully ask this senior person to back off and give you more autonomy. You can even say, respectfully, that you get irritated when they micromanage you.

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“... he questions everything, makes me explain everything I do and every decision I make, explains everything to me (even the most basic stuff in the world he will spend ages explaining to me) and whenever I arrive at a conclusion he pretty much redoes all the work to validate it.”

Sounds like he’s making attempts to coach/mentor you and trying to make sure that you’re working with the correct assumptions and having a sound thought process that led you to your conclusion.

He doesn’t know what things you know and what you don’t so he’s making sure that both of you are looking at the same thing from the same perspective (albeit time consuming). Same thing with the thought process behind the conclusion.

One way to get in front of this is structure your statements like this....

“ I’m thinking of X as the approach to solve Y as it would fit (the list of assumptions and relevant data that you had to arrive at the answer)”

That would allow him to get a better feel for what things went into your answer.

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You need to talk to him first.

Start explaining to him how much you appreciate the conversations and explanations about these programming topics. Quote some parts of the conversation that you already had with him to show that you are paying attention on what he says to you.

After that, just say to him that are some topics that you have knowledge enough to be independent and it's not necessary to explain to you again (nominate some of these topics). Say that already asking for his forgiveness, because you was not able to say that before, but would like to make the things clear now.

About your anxiety problem, write these things on paper before talk to him and read it for you sometimes. On a natural conversation will be difficult to say the exact things that you wrote, but will help you to remember your arguments when talking to him.

This is the first step. Probably you will not able to resolve all these problems on a single conversation, but I think that these tips can help you to make this relationship better.

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