Recently I got promoted to a senior position. My colleague, who is better than me technically, failed to pass the promotion, because of some communication issues. We used to compete. We used to fight. He just does not like me. He stonewalls me often.

How do I handle the new reality?

In the team meeting, he is the one who people look for when they need advice or when they have technical problems. I feel bad because I have the title but I don't act like it when he is there.


My colleague does not like me
  • Are you meant to be acting as this coworker's manager or team lead or are you simply higher up in terms of pay and responsibility? Is this question about how to manage someone who dislikes you? (Side note: Have you considered that the fact that he stonewalls people might be part of the reason he didn't get the promotion? If he's fighting you just because he doesn't like you then that probably didn't go unnoticed.)
    – BSMP
    Apr 18, 2021 at 8:40
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    There's a lot more to holding a senior position than technical ability (I'd venture that it isn't even the most important thing). The fact that he is stonewalling you and fighting with you says a lot about why maybe he didn't get the promotion.
    – Seth R
    Apr 18, 2021 at 16:33
  • The update to the question is significant. It is often possible to have a productive professional relationship in spite of mutual dislike. What you would need is professional respect and a good sense of boundaries. Leave the door open but don't make it your goal to win him over. Definitely no need for guilt getting the promotion, in light of the update. It's possible but by no means certain you will part ways, that's okay. It's something you may not be able to fix, but should be able to work around. I'd try to create extra space between the two of you in the org and workflow.
    – Pete W
    Apr 18, 2021 at 21:55
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    What, specifically, is the problem you want to solve? That someone doesn't like you? That the team isn't looking to you for technical advice despite having a senior title? Something else?
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 26, 2021 at 18:21

4 Answers 4


Your role now is to be a gracious winner. You got the promotion because the position requires not only technical skills, but communication, and you have that. Set aside any desire to compete with this colleague, or to fight. Respect his technical skills. When he is in a meeting, and you believe his opinion is important to your decision process, be the senior you wished you once had. Ask him for technical thoughts. Thank him for whatever pre-work he brings to meetings. Make sure everyone knows you're aware he is skilled technically.

Both in the meeting and at your desk, use those communication skills you clearly have. Explain the decisions to people who might not understand them. Listen to people telling you constraints, edge cases, and issues you didn't know about. Be a translation layer for your technical person: once you understand the things other teams or customers have told you, put them in technical terms and go and talk to your skilled colleague so that you can make the right decisions for your team. Use your strengths (technical and communication) to make your colleague's single strength more useful to the team. Always thank and praise your colleague for his contributions.

In private conversations with this colleague, if he expresses frustration with customers, other team members, other teams etc, or can't see why his technical preferred approach wasn't taken, you can explain to him in his own jargon why things went as they did, what else was taken into account besides technical aspects like speed or flexibility. Technically skilled people sometimes forget about schedules and budgets, forget that "Shipping is a Feature." You can lead him into being better at communication perhaps, but only if he seems to want that. Don't patronize. He has great tech skills. You have good tech skills and good communication skills, and they add up to value.

Don't feel guilt or that you somehow don't deserve the promotion. Your managers may be gullible idiots, but it's more likely that your ability to communicate to non technical people is a vital part of your new role. Relax and enjoy being good at something that is important in your company. In your relaxed happiness, you will find time to be a cheerleader for the technical skills of your colleague (and others on your team who are good at what they do, too.)


You'll probably have more responsibility and more will be expected of you and your coworker, I suspect, may harbor some resentment in the short term that could lead to him looking for another job in the long term.

I'd say: try to learn how to do stuff without asking this guy for help whilst, at the same time, singing his praises to management to try to get him promoted.

Maybe you could also try to help this developer improve his communication issues. Like offer him coaching or some such.

  • He just does not like me. He stonewalls me often. Apr 17, 2021 at 22:18
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    @GabatGerin if you now add that he does not like you, then you should have put that in your original question because it makes a huge difference. Go and edit it now.
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 18, 2021 at 5:35
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    Looking for another job in the long term? I would be looking for it yesterday, or would already served my resignation papers. As for "communication issues", there might be none, often is just an excuse and part of a bag of psychological manipulation tactics to not pay more good technical people. Apr 18, 2021 at 5:53

You have a new role, new responsibilities, new authority. You need to make a mental shift to fit that role. Your colleague not getting the role is their problem. It will give you some insight into their professionalism if nothing else by watching how they handle it.

All you should worry about is that their problem becomes a disciplinary or morale issue. You can expect some jealousy, perhaps even some bad mouthing behind your back, discount these since you expect them and only take action if they persist for an unreasonable period.

Apart from that be confident and discharge your duties as well as you can, people are watching you for weaknesses.

  • In today's corporate culture @kilisi, the colleague's problem is the senior's (op's) problem. OP, be gracious, be understanding, tell the why behind the why.
    – Austin759
    Apr 18, 2021 at 0:11
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    Given the other programmers go to status it sounds like him leaving could be problematic for the company.
    – neubert
    Apr 18, 2021 at 0:11
  • @neubert perhaps, but that's out of the OP's control and responsibility so no point worrying about unduly.
    – Kilisi
    Apr 18, 2021 at 0:15

A leadership position usually requires good communication skills much more so than good technical skills. If that's not your bag than you're the sucker who got bamboozled not your coworker. Sometimes a promotion is more of a curse than a blessing. In many cases people get promoted then quit because they decide the new job isn't the same as the old job they once loved. The responsibilities change or they're not doing as much hands-on work. The higher they rise the more they have to shift away from actually doing the work to simply guiding the work and the people who do the work and they hate it.

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