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My company hired a consultant to work alongside me and help convert our apps to a new technology. For months, while he did the work, he insinuated that my coding style was terrible and that I'm in the wrong line of work. One day I had enough and yelled at him. I told him that I'm sick of his attitude, that I'm good at my job, and I've been doing this a long time. Word got back to my boss. Worse, it turned out that this consultant is a close personal friend of the head of IT.

Since then, this person has been hired full-time and has been given all the plum projects that I used to get while I've been given bottom-of-the-barrel projects and told to ramp up my skills.

I've been silently obeying for 4 months but underneath I'm seething.

Is there anything I can do to get back my good standing in the company?

Is this a wait-and-see situation, or is this a lost cause and I should see what else is available?

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    Why was the consultant doing all the work? What were you doing in the meantime?
    – sf02
    Jul 23 '20 at 13:42
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    You have been in the penalty box for 4 months. Assuming it takes as much time to get out as you have been in, it is far better to just search for another job. You can spend a ton of time and effort which gives you a half fix or you can just hit the reset button by finding another position. Jul 23 '20 at 14:06
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    To literally answer your final two questions, No, and time for a new job.
    – Fattie
    Jul 23 '20 at 19:22
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    Some people on Meta think this is not a real situation. Is it?
    – guest
    Jul 24 '20 at 7:18
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    Have you thought about whether the consultant was maybe right? You said they critiziced your work, and your main defense seems to be "But I've been doing it this way for a long time!". Doing something for a long time does not automatically mean it's the best way to do it.
    – nvoigt
    Jul 24 '20 at 12:48
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It sounds like the consultant's relationship with others at the company is a factor here. In this situation it can be very difficult to recover because the key decision makers won't treat you fairly.

You could try arguing that your past work demonstrates your ability and that your feel this effective demotion is unfair so would like to have it reviewed, but it depends who will be reviewing.

Unfortunately your best option now may be to move on, either to another department with a better boss or to another company. If asked in the exit interview you can list cronyism as a reason but you may not want to burn that bridge, it's up to you.

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The wise learn from a rebuke, the foolish scoff at one.

No programmer or coder is good at the job. All code sucks and we all learn every day. If you learn nothing else, learn that.

I've been programming since systems were still measured in BYTES, and 16K was considered amazing. I don't quite date back to the days of vacuum tubes, but I am not THAT far off. I've learned from my nephews' hacking around. We had a new consultant who didn't know half of what I did, and I still learned from him.

You were arrogant, and now you are paying the price.

Is there anything I can do to get back my good standing in the company?

Yes, first, let go of your anger. It only proves that your coworker had a point.

Then:

  • Apologize. You did the wrong thing by telling him off.
  • Actively seek this person's advice. There is not a single person on this earth you cannot learn from.
  • Ask advice in the future.
  • Take all criticism as constructive, or at least intended as such
  • check in with your manager and ask for specific goals.
  • Don't comply in silence, comply with enthusiasm. Your attitude will sink you.

Seek the advice of a career counselor, and possibly a therapist. If you are still seething after four months, there is an issue that goes beyond the workplace that needs to be addressed.

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    While those are good points I'm not sure if putting all the blame on the OP without knowing more details is justified. It could just as well be the case that the consultants "feedback" was indeed not constructive at all but simply demeaning (some people are just like that even in professional settings) and that OP has now effectively demoted due to nepotism. That would imply a toxic work environment that should be left ASAP.
    – Peter
    Jul 23 '20 at 13:56
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    @Peter doesn't matter if OP is to blame or not, that would be something to consider before the incident and now it just doesn't matter. But I would add that what you propose Old_lamlighter is one option, and another is to just leave and get a fresh start somewhere else, though definitely the worse choice. Jul 23 '20 at 13:58
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    @Peter if you were in the crosswalk, and a car was zooming towards you, not stopping, would your confidence in being right keep you from being killed? Jul 23 '20 at 14:00
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    @Peter I'm not an advocate for quitting if other options are possible. Jul 23 '20 at 14:51
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    OP says: "He insinuated ... I'm in the wrong line of work." Maybe that's true. Maybe not. It's one thing to be criticised, but for the other guy to say that is presumptuous. Even if OP has to learn, which of course they have to, as all of us. Now it may be that OP's coding style is not good, but it is not the consultant's right to tell the other person to essentially leave their job. Also Churchill's dictum: "I like to learn, but I do not like to be taught." The consultant effectively orders OP around. There is also the smell of nepotism. OP should do all, let go, learn and leave. Jul 24 '20 at 10:35
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Well, he was wrong to be putting your code down all the time, I mean he might not have been wrong, it's possible that his criticisms were valid. But even if that is the case he didn't take the appropriate action.

Unfortunately you were also wrong in yelling at him, and not only do two wrongs not make a right citation needed but arguably yours was worse far, far, worse.

Even before you get to the fact that the consultant turned out to be a friend of the head of IT you yelled at a third party, barring some pretty extreme circumstances this is highly unprofessional at least.

Since then, this person has been hired full-time and has been given all the plum projects that I used to get while I've been given bottom-of-the-barrel projects and told to ramp up my skills.

This might not be only down to the..ahem.. incident. Clearly the head of IT rated this consultant and their skills - otherwise they wouldn't have hired them to do consultancy in the first place. Of course it's possible that the consultant's feedback on you has factored in to an extent - clearly they (for whatever reason) didn't rate your technical skills at the very least given the earlier comments. But aside from that you showed yourself up - and made yourself look volatile, childish and unprofessional, and even a dry, emotionless recitation of just the facts is going to look bad.

I've been silently obeying for 4 months but underneath I'm seething.

The word you're looking for is "sulking", and the chances are very good that it's showing. I get it, it sucks to find yourself on the sh#tlist at work, I'd be pretty hacked off too - the problem is that you've been nursing this anger like a precious baby chick for 4 months and at this point it's doing you far more harm than anything else.

Is this a wait-and-see situation, or is this a lost cause and I should see what else is available?

You need to accept two things:

  1. You bear the lion's share of responsibility for your current situation

  2. You need to let this go

And both of these apply whether you want to stay where you are or whether you want to move elsewhere, because if you just change jobs you're not going to remove the common denominator and you'll be just teeing yourself up to repeat this in another form.

Is there anything I can do to get back my good standing in the company?

Instead of seething put that energy into positive things - focus on the work you have, not the work others are getting to do, do the best job you can, ramp up your skills (there's always ways you can get better) and deliver results. It's not a guarantee of success, if only it were that simple! But at the worst case scenario you'll have the knowledge that you genuinely gave it your best and you'll probably have a better, sharper set of skills to take out into the job market.

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Lost cause, corporate nepotism is quite common. Don't let the bogus 'ethics' training fool you into thinking otherwise. HR will do a song and dance about what is right and wrong and ethical but they're really not kidding anyone. Look for a job elsewhere.

On a different note, it depends on whether this person's code is objectively better or not. And more importantly if your manager is technical or not. If your manager is not technical it's open season for warfare (if you're so inclined - it's petty and malicious but can be effective... but that's for another thread). If nothing it just delays projects, makes everyone question this new person's ability and productivity while you look for another job.

Either way best to look for another job.

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To me it sounds like this Consultant has problems with low self-esteem that they are trying to compensate for by making you look bad!

I was once in a similar situation. In my case the consultant was the bosses best friend. This consultant would constantly ridicule and insinuate things related to my work and my person. I started to take notes on ridiculing behavior and attempts at emotional extortion. So after half a year my boss has a conversation with me about me and the quality of my work because consultant-X was supposedly disappointed.

I went on to tell my boss that I had a hard time to take consultant-x seriously because of their ridiculing and other passive aggressive behaviors. After this the consultant had to work from home and was not allowed to communicate with anyone but my superiors. I shortly after left the company though.

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    I don't see how this answers the question? It's jus your anegdote. Jul 24 '20 at 10:08
  • Rather than giving some direct advice I wrote an anecdote, this leaves it up to the reader to decide. I don't believe that there should or can be a straight answer to a question like the one asked, every person has to find a solution that fits their personality and situation.
    – Helinux
    Jul 27 '20 at 6:37

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