5

I've been working remotely as a software dev at a company I really like for a few years. One of my teammates, let's call him Bob, concerns me. Most of my colleagues work on one part of the product, Bob and I work on a different part. Bob is a top contributor on this project, he always works overtime and on weekends and maintains a large chunk of the code base. This has been going on for a couple years.

He often assigns me small insignificant tasks (minor code refactoring, UI improvements, etc). I always tell him that I'll get to them when I have time, because we all have actual urgent tasks that are requested by our clients or management (and I actually do fix those issues after dealing with more urgent work). However, he keeps nagging me about them, and his messages vary from "well this still needs to be done" to "this is unacceptable, you worsen the quality of our product".

I am fine with just ignoring him, unless he can actually cause me harm in one way or another. A few facts bother me:

  • He constantly attempts to "socialize" with our management: discussing non-work-relevant stuff at conference calls, arguing with them about trivial things and features, proposing to redo features of our product that already work totally fine. We are fully remote, so I have no idea about how much communication is actually going on between them.
  • A year ago Bob and I had a call about implementation of some feature, where he casually mentioned my salary (how did he know it?) and told me that I definitely can get a raise if I work as hard as he does. Neither me nor other colleagues consider frequent overtime normal.
  • There were issues with him that directly affected my work, e.g. he reverted code changes committed by other people for nonsense reasons ("it was ugly", "it was made by a person outside our team"). I never reported this because these were not major issues and were easily fixed. Also, I am afraid to make a bad impression because "snitching" and inability to deal with your interpersonal problems is very frowned upon in my culture.
  • A couple years ago Bob had a quarrel with a former teammate of mine. I don't know the reason, it could very well be Bob's passive-aggressive behavior. That teammate was transferred to another department of our company (I suppose it was his own request), and is now in charge of it.
  • Sometimes I try to seriously discuss with Bob how we should approach our project (in terms of task priority, code architecture, etc), but he usually turns it into a demagogy with non-arguments like "this is not right".

Other relevant facts: We are fully remote and never see each other in person. Our manager is the CTO of the company, a reasonable, but extremely busy person. Task assignment is mostly self-managed. I've never had any kind of performance review or seriously talked with our manager, we only discuss stuff related to specific tasks. Other colleagues probably communicate with them more, including small talk. While Bob works almost exclusively on this project, I am also involved in other projects of the company.

My questions:

  • Should I be concerned about Bob's behavior?
  • Should I discuss this with our manager? Asking "can I be sure that Bob will never become my manager" sounds like a bad idea. "Should I ignore Bob's requests until I'm finished with more urgent tasks" has a very obvious answer. This makes me think that there's no point in discussing this, because there is nothing to be done: I do not want to be transferred to another project completely, and Bob is too important here as well.

Any advice is welcome.

  • 1
    What information would you want from your manager about Bob? There seem to be a few problems here and I'm not clear on what your goal is. – BSMP May 13 at 20:13
3

Your description is very thorough but there are some questions that you could answer to help formulate an answer. Like for example:

How many people in your company?

I'm assuming that if you're all working remote then the team is rather small. I also work in a software company that is mostly remote and some of the team dynamics are quite challenging, especially when you're dealing with people who (myself included) spend lots of time on technical issues and very little time socialising.

For all intents and purposes, Bob may unofficially be your manager. Such is the way in my workplace where roles and responsibilities aren't explicitly defined. There can be almost a process of organisational structural by osmosis. Does that sound familiar in your workplace? Or does each person have well defined roles and work scope?

It sounds like you respect the authority of Bob in the project and acknowledge his contribution and that you might be worried about his influence over management and therefore, yourself. I personally would be slightly concerned in this situation because you're essentially running blind if you're not communicating regularly with your COs, even if you feel like they're too busy to talk to you. Talking to your COs and being more vocal in meetings and communicating more generally is how I would approach this situation. You need to find out more information to read the situation.

It's a low move to mention knowledge of someone else's pay to them so I would mention that to your COs because that's not acceptable behaviour. I would usually avoid talking about other employees to COs unless absolutely necessary and always avoid getting personal. I'd pretty much let everything else slide if I were you but please take all of this with a pinch of salt.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you for your response. To clarify, our team contains about 10 people overall, Bob and I are responsible for a specific part of the product, and its sub-parts are also divided between us. Other colleagues treat us equally (they often go to me with questions or new tasks). – iwyxeblo May 18 at 16:22
1

He often assigns me small insignificant tasks (minor code refactoring, UI improvements, etc). I always tell him that I'll get to them when I have time, because we all have actual urgent tasks that are requested by our clients or management (and I actually do fix those issues after dealing with more urgent work). However, he keeps nagging me about them, and his messages vary from "well this still needs to be done" to "this is unacceptable, you worsen the quality of our product".

I'm guessing he has seniority over you, either officially or unofficially, but is he supposed to be directly assigning tasks to you? My go-to line if someone comes to me with a random request when I know I have more important things to work on is, "Please bring this up with [manager/po/pm]. He's in charge of establishing my priorities." Be polite but make it clear to him that you're not going to give his wish list special priority just because he keeps taunting you.

He constantly attempts to "socialize" with our management: discussing non-work-relevant stuff at conference calls, arguing with them about trivial things and features, proposing to redo features of our product that already work totally fine. We are fully remote, so I have no idea about how much communication is actually going on between them.

I don't see much of a problem here. In my opinion, employees should feel free to have conversations with their manager and voice their suggestions or concerns. It's up to the manager to decide whether or not to act on them. As long as your manager gives roughly the same amount of access to you and your suggestions, I wouldn't worry about it.

A year ago Bob and I had a call about implementation of some feature, where he casually mentioned my salary (how did he know it?) and told me that I definitely can get a raise if I work as hard as he does. Neither me nor other colleagues consider frequent overtime normal.

"How did he know it?" is a great question and one I would definitely try to find out the answer to. I don't know how things work in your location but in my country (US), disclosing salary information without consent is generally considered taboo. In most cases, employees are also discouraged from voluntarily sharing their salaries with each other. I don't see a problem with going to your manager and saying, "I was talking with [coworker] and he mentioned my salary. I'd really prefer to keep this information private." In this way, you're not accusing anyone of anything. You're simply stating your preference.

There were issues with him that directly affected my work, e.g. he reverted code changes committed by other people for nonsense reasons ("it was ugly", "it was made by a person outside our team"). I never reported this because these were not major issues and were easily fixed. Also, I am afraid to make a bad impression because "snitching" and inability to deal with your interpersonal problems is very frowned upon in my culture.

Without getting into a lengthy discussion about the toxicity of a culture of silence, if the expectation is that you deal with disputes directly, that's exactly what you should do. This colleague clearly has no issue being direct with you so there's no reason you shouldn't do the same. "When you reverted the recent change made to the foo function, it caused some new functionality I was working on to break down. If there's a code quality concern, please let me know and I'll look into it when I find the time."

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks for the answer! Bob often assigns me technical work (like code refactoring or cleanup) which I would prefer not bother our manager with, as he knows more about the business requirements than technical internals. Unfortunately being direct with Bob doesn't help. E.g. I say "I have no time to do this at the moment because I'm busy on this other project", and his response is "You can probably drop the other project and work on this, it should be your main priority". This is clearly not his decision to make, and I just want to make sure that ignoring it won't cause me any trouble. – iwyxeblo May 18 at 16:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .