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I do not like my coworker and I'm not sure what to do about it. Let's call him John. We are software developers at Megacorp. I am new, I've only been here four months. This is my first job as a developer, although I am not particularly young, just switching careers. John has been here 2.5 years, which makes him the most senior in our small team.

I find John unpleasant to be around. He's not exactly rude, and he has helped me a lot, but he can be impatient and demeaning and a little arrogant.

Among other things, he said the way I approached a ticket "was dumb."

I asked him for help with Git once and said that I had followed the instructions exactly (which I had) and he immediately answered "No you did something wrong."

He explains things incredibly quickly and constantly says things like "it's super easy", "that's all there is to it", and "should be just an hour or two." When I say that I did not understand him, he is shocked and says "What!? What do you mean you didn't understand me?"

I told him that some code crashed when I ran it, and he said, "What!? What do you mean it crashed?" He just didn't believe me.

He is usually the only one that talks to the customer and decides how long the tickets will take and who will do them. The few times that I have talked to the customer, he did not seem happy about it. There is no policy against it. I think he just likes to be in control.

I am still in my probationary period for another two months, meaning I could be dismissed at any time. John will be asked for feedback on me at the end of this period. I have no real fear of being dismissed, but I don't want to take any chances, so for the most part I make a big effort to smile and get along with him.

But I DO NOT LIKE HIM. I don't like working with him and I don't like going to him for help. I am not dumb, but he makes me feel dumb. We have to work closely together. Should I speak up and say "Please do not call me dumb" and "I said I didn’t understand you"? Should I wait until after my probationary period? Right now we sort of tolerate each other, but I'm afraid that it will turn into hostility.


EDIT

I ask my other coworkers for help when they are there and when it's something they know about. But John just knows much more than they do.

This is also John's first developer job.

My other coworkers talk to the customer often, anytime they need to clarify something. It is very free-flowing. "The customer" is really 3 or 4 people at another Megacorp.

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    You don't have to like this person, do you?
    – Neo
    Dec 8 '20 at 13:52
  • Sorry, but saying the way you approached a ticket was dump is not saying you are dump. I have repeatedly said that the way I tried to solve something was stupid in meetings. People do sometimes stupid things. And him asking or more information when something "just crashed" is not him not believing you - it is him telling you to do a job a trainee would learn (i.e. how to do a basic debugging why something crashed and / or at least to do a proper bug report. "I think he just likes to be in control." - no. As per your own statement he is the person with most experience on the team and yeah,
    – TomTom
    Dec 8 '20 at 18:28
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    ...in many cases customers want ONE POINT OF CONTACT. And that is not the most inexperienced junior developer on the team, but someone who knows the software and has experience. And you not liking them - if I have a choice between a person where half the accusations are VERY disputable and his main reason is "entitles, not liking him" and the person who stabilizes the whole team, you will be dismissed, trial period or not. And do not do something as stupid as accusing him of calling you dump when all he said was that the way you approached one ticket was dump - those are NOT the same things.
    – TomTom
    Dec 8 '20 at 18:30
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    Calling someone's work or approach dump is still immature, aggressive, undermining and disrespectful. - Not something I would put up with
    – flexi
    Dec 8 '20 at 21:06
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    Yeah, so have fun finding a job in a snowflake environment. Do something dump, have it called so. We do not KNOW how justified that was. I have seen and done a lot of utterly dump stuff in my life, including sending technicians to the wrong end of germany due to misreading a server location - that WAS dump, particularly because I ignored workflow to safe 5 minutes and it resulted in hours and hundreds of Euro lost. Dump. Happens. Take it ass professional - Yeah, I did something dump. Won't happen again.
    – TomTom
    Dec 8 '20 at 21:16
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You don't necessarily have to like the people you work with, the important thing is getting your work done.

On an emotional level, just try to read the meaning behind the words more than the way that they're brought across to you.

As you're on probation, treat this as a learning exercise. Ask for advice, ask to work things through so that you can learn where you've gone wrong (or just to clarify your thinking). You won't be wrong all of the time of course, but showing that you're open to learn should (hopefully) raise this guys impression of you.

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John seems to have a very similar personality to myself, based on what you describe here; I could very easily see myself doing these same sorts of things. As such, allow me to explain to you what I think John means and how you should respond to me, if I was John and I was saying these things to you:

he said the way I approached a ticket "was dumb."

Saying your approach was dumb does not mean you are dumb. It does mean you're inexperienced, though, and that's ok. You should ask John for how he would have done it, and make an effort to learn from him, as he is the most senior developer on your team and you're the most junior (and it seems based on the tone of your question that you're a junior developer in general and not just junior to this company). If it was me, I would have followed up this statement with a description of exactly what "was dumb" about the way you did it, and how to do it better, and I would expect John did this and that is being "conveniently omitted" from the question. It's ok to have "dumb" solutions or approaches, as long as you learn from them and don't do sloppy work that someone else (likely John himself) will have to clean up after later.

I asked him for help with Git once and said that I had followed the instructions exactly (which I had) and he immediately answered "No you did something wrong."

He said this, because, if you followed the instructions exactly, then he expects that it should have worked. Therefore, in his mind, you probably did something wrong, because the instructions are perfect (even if they're not, they are in his mind). So you should take John over to your computer and show him what you did precisely and why it didn't work. That said, Git is a beast of an application and one wrong move could blow up your whole local repo. It does that sometimes. Don't be afraid of Git; when in doubt, copy your changes to another folder (desktop works best for me) and simply delete and recreate the local repo from scratch, then copy back your changes. Once you've done that, then you can show John what you did and show him why it doesn't work. In which case it will work perfectly, because broken software always works properly when somebody else is watching ;-)

He explains things incredibly quickly and constantly says things like "it's super easy", "that's all there is to it", and "should be just an hour or two." When I say that I did not understand him, he is shocked and says "What!? What do you mean you didn't understand me?"

John sounds like a very experienced Senior Developer, and even though he's only been at this company for 2.5 years I'd guess his resume goes back 10 or more. Anyone who is extremely experienced at something often has trouble understanding that everyone, including themselves, were at one point novices, and they have a hard time appreciating that and "ELI5"-ing their explanations. If John is explaining things too fast, ask him to slow down. If he's explaining too much, take notes (and ask him to slow down so you can take notes). If he's at too high a level, ask him to drill down a bit ("How would you do that, exactly?"). If you need a reference, ask him to provide a good reference that he would recommend ("If I have additional questions after, can you send me a good resource to look at?"), and so on. John will appreciate that you're taking initiative and actively listening, instead of letting everything go over your head for an hour and then asking him to repeat from scratch; that sort of behaviour is colossally annoying and is likely to get you to fail your probation.

I told him that some code crashed when I ran it, and he said, "What!? What do you mean it crashed?" He just didn't believe me.

It's less that he didn't believe you and more that he wanted more information. "When I ran this code, it crashed" is not particularly helpful. Yes, you have a problem. But I've run the code a million times and never had a problem; now you run it and you have a problem. So I can't fix this problem because I'm not experiencing it. You need to tell me more about the problem in order for me to help you figure out what's wrong. Rather than "when I ran this code, it crashed", it would be more helpful, next time this happens, to say "when I ran this code, I got an error message that said XXX, do you know what that error means?". That's something John can actually help you with. John is probably very busy; he doesn't have time to go back and forth, so saying "the code crashed" and him having to ask "was there an error message?" is something that's time-consuming and annoying for him. Instead, skip that exchange and go straight to "what's the error and how do I fix it?". John will see the former as a waste of his time; he'll see the latter as an actual problem that requires his attention.

He is usually the only one that talks to the customer and decides how long the tickets will take and who will do them. The few times that I have talked to the customer, he did not seem happy about it. There is no policy against it. I think he just likes to be in control.

This is because there is usually a chain of command, and that chain of command could have a number of reasons for it, depending on the relationship and situation. Here are a couple examples of why this might be the case:

  • If the client only has one point of contact, but your team has 5 developers, then the client has 5 times as many requests if your entire team was sending that one guy requests. If there's only 1 point of contact, then the requests can be bundled and handled all at one time, instead of willy-nilly. This wastes less of the client's time and is more professional from your company's side.

  • John might know the answer. If John is taking the role of project manager as well as senior developer (this is a thing that sometimes happens), John might know things that you don't think he knows if you think he's only the senior developer. You should tap John for as many of your questions as you can, because he probably has most of the answers, and then the customer doesn't need to be bothered. The less the customer is bothered, the more professional they think your company is and the more money your company will make.


Now, the bottom line is, right now, John's comments don't indicate that you're failing your probation period, especially if you were hired as a junior developer (if you were hired as an intermediate then I might be a bit worried, and as a senior then I'd be VERY worried). They indicate that John thinks you're green, which is fine if you're junior.

However, they indicate that John is becoming a bit annoyed with you, and you need to show John that you can perform in a more professional way. This doesn't mean you have to suddenly learn everything about everything; it's not about technical knowledge, and studying more is not going to solve the problem. It's about knowing how to tackle situations where you have problems that you don't know how to solve and you need to ask for assistance. This is a people problem, not a technical problem. It seems to me like John doesn't think you are able to participate properly in the assistance-feedback loop: You ask for help, you get assistance, you ask clarifying questions, you are given more assistance, you implement that assistance. It seems to me that you are failing in the first part ("when I ran the code, it crashed"), and the third ("John explains things incredibly quickly [and rather than ask him to slow down, I come to an online forum and complain about him to randoms on the internet]"), which necessarily means you are also failing in the final part.

Work on that. John will respect you more and give you a better review for your probation. Good luck!

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There are many reasons which could explain such a behavior. It's not up to us to tell what you should do, but here's an approach I personally like when I have such a feeling towards a coworker, or the other way around. I like to be direct, but positive. Hence I would approach him saying

I'm under the impression I bother you with all my questions. As it is certainly not my intention, can you please tell me how I could improve? Would you prefer that we have a weekly meeting where I can ask all my questions for example? Or do you prefer to address them in one single mail? Or several smaller mails maybe? Actually, anything that works for you would be fine by me.

Why I like it is because you're not putting the fault on him and try to improve yourself and the collaboration between the both of you. It may also open the discussion on whether you indeed are bothering him or not, or the reasons why he seems so hard. After all, maybe he's just not a good communicator and doesn't even realize you perceive him like that? Or maybe he has a lot on his plate already and can't manage it all? Or maybe you were pushed on him and he tries to make a point you're not helpful? You never know... and at least you open the door for him to apologize or maybe adjust his behavior without even once putting the blame on him. It may sound wishful thinking, but I've been on both sides of this story and such a direct approach was most of the time a good solution to it, even if sometimes you'll have to repeat the process every now and then.

Now there will always be people that are more difficult to deal with and not willing to change. These people probably have their reasons, I came to admit that and don't try to change them anymore. With this kind of people I just keep interactions as professional (and limited) as possible and try to keep a trace of them, so that I can always prove my own good-will if needed.

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Independently who is right, it is very hard to keep your best at work when there is a fundamental clash between you and another coworker. Discussing help often to resolve most of all situation but when it is fundamental:

  • the other party does not understand your position;
  • the other party stands on their position;
  • the other party try their best but everything comes back to initial.

There are some strategies to distance yourself from someone:

  • Using a less familiar language like "Mr. John, can you help me?"
  • stay to the fact and on topic, no small chit-chat because it may end into hostility or the other party can legitimately joke on something but we may have less tolerance in this kind of situation, joke become old very fast;

Should I speak up?

This is a painful situation because each day, the emotion is accumulating, your attitude may change negatively and people will notice. The described person seems to be arrogant, may not have a lot of retrospection ability and may react unfavorably.

I do not feel the probation status change something if there are no law or policies that protect you. He will probably notice you have delayed the conversation the day you open the discussion.

When discussing, it would be a two way streets: ask him if there are some actions that you do that bother him, the typical example is not reading any documentation before asking a question.

If your finances allow you to seek a job, I feel you should try to speak the sooner possible to avoid the accumulation effect because it may end up well after all. Usually, everyone is trying to get better and ... there is not a lot of other alternative.

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Should I wait until after my probationary period?

Absolutely. The probation period is when your co-workers & management try to figure out if you're easy to work with & are you really as good as they thought when they hired you. Rocking the boat isn't in your interest.

It could be he's only acting this way to see how tough you are. Maybe he'll act different when your probation period ends. If I'm in your shoes

Also I wouldn't ask him any questions about git again, for example. Unless he's the git administrator and there's a connectivity/authentication problem. Other than that I would use online re-sources and/or experiment on my own.

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People are not money to be liked by everyone :)

People are different. I think severity of your reaction stems from carrier switch,

Your current "pecking order" is extremely low and it is frustrating. John, doesn't make it easy, IMHO, he have seen several colleagues that started at your position and now have been promoted over and away from him.

His only power are these little bothers.

I think, if you like Megacorp and plan to stay there for a long time, see John as a bump in a road, dont give him a second though past your work interactions and comb employee portal for an opportunity

Another possibility, i am reluctant to mention, John may be interested in you :)

Edit: Lol, looks like i hit a nerve :)

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    Aside from coming out of nowhere, the suggestion that John is interested in the OP is unhelpful. What are they supposed to do with that even if it were true?
    – BSMP
    Dec 8 '20 at 18:38
  • @BSMP if you read what i wrote - its not a suggestion but a possibility mention. Suggestion is few lines higher than that
    – Strader
    Dec 8 '20 at 23:36
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    What’s the difference between suggesting something and saying something is possible?
    – BSMP
    Dec 9 '20 at 1:07
  • @BSMP what is the difference between stating a possibility and suggesting a course of action?
    – Strader
    Dec 11 '20 at 21:29

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