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I recently went out with some colleagues and former colleagues for dinner.

During this dinner some current colleagues expressed a lack of confidence in technical leaders and general business vision. Basically it was a couple of developers, current colleagues, who work on the old product making what I think are fairly unfair criticisms, and being egged on by a colleague who recently left in somewhat acrimonious circumstances, who was also encouraging other people to leave. Basically it appears to me that the conversation was toxicity for the sake of toxicity than genuine good faith discussion of what's happening in the company.

To give a general picture, there are three factions involved:

  • Product team (designers, people 'deciding what should be built')
  • Development team of the old product. (Where the people who are complaining work).
  • Development team for the new product (where I work).

Generally the criticisms were:

  • The head of the product team has built a fiefdom around themself.
  • The recent new senior technical leadership don't know what they are doing.

Now to the first point, I kind of agree.

However, the second point kind of took me by surprise.

The question I have what I do moving forward.

Now I'm sure the first instinct is to say - 'You don't say anything, keep it to yourself' - which yes, sure, that's my first thought too, but hear me out.

Where I'm at in my career, as a senior developer, I'm in a position where it matters to me whether I trust the senior technical leadership. That is - I need to have a clear path forward with what I'm doing, and I need to agree, generally, with that path. Also - a good leader is someone who enables their subordinates - so I need a leader who is going to listen to my advice and concerns and address them.

If I don't trust the senior leadership, then I should move on and find another job.

At this point, I genuinely do trust the senior leadership.

So by the same token that I would expect leadership to enable me to do my job, it probably stands that they should be aware of any possible pitfalls that are going to disrupt their vision.

With all that said - perhaps with the current colleagues who were expressing unhappiness - perhaps they were just having a bad day/week and I should give them the benefit of the doubt. Certainly I'm not planning on going out for dinner with those former colleagues again.

Additional notes: one of the subjects of criticism is actually a friend who works in the product team. I don't know how valid the criticism is or not, I don't work with them directly.

Any advice for navigating this situation?

I guess my main concern with 'say nothing' is that if I'm doing a good faith attempt at making this job work, and a toxic culture brews unnecessarily that makes me want to leave.

Some options:

  • Say nothing.
  • Discuss it just with people who were at the dinner, who weren't complaining.
  • Say something like 'sounds like you aren't happy here' to one of the people who were complaining.
  • Say something to my friend.
  • Say something to the senior leaders.
  • Discuss it organically as it comes up.
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  • This question is similar, but the difference is that I don't think that this is clearly the fault of management: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/15477/…
    – dwjohnston
    Jun 30 at 4:49
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    If both former and current developers are all complaining about the same thing, that suggests a genuine issue. And you seem to be brushing off their complaints as illegitimate just because you don't share them/you'd act differently in their position. There is a problem here, but it's not with the developers in question.
    – Xono
    Jun 30 at 6:08
  • @Xono sure it's possible that I'm missing something - but if I've learned anything in my career it's to trust my own instincts.
    – dwjohnston
    Jun 30 at 6:21
  • "don't know what they are doing" is a pretty broad and non-specific criticism. If that's all they actually said, I wouldn't put much stock in it.
    – B. Ithica
    Jun 30 at 9:59
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    @PeteW I think your comment is worthy as an answer.
    – dwjohnston
    Jun 30 at 12:10
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Basically it appears to me that the conversation was toxicity for the sake of toxicity than genuine good faith discussion of what's happening in the company.

It's an out-of-work dinner. People are going to get things off their chest. And yeah, people generally bitch about things more than they praise things. That's kind of human nature.

If I don't trust the senior leadership, then I should move on and find another job.

At this point, I genuinely do trust the senior leadership.

I don't feel like this should be a boolean thing. There are degrees of "trusting", whatever that means. You can be wary of certain people, but that doesn't mean you outright can't work for them.

Now I'm sure the first instinct is to say - 'You don't say anything, keep it to yourself' - which yes, sure, that's my first thought too, but hear me out.

Your first instinct is correct. Use the knowledge you learnt, keep an eye out for things, but it's not your place to go off an do anything about it.

Additional notes: one of the subjects of criticism is actually a friend who works in the product team. I don't know how valid the criticism is or not, I don't work with them directly.

If they are an actual friend, you could be doing them a favour by trying to tactfully let them know, but you'd do this from a personal perspective, not as a colleague. A purely workplace answer would be to not get involved.

I guess my main concern with 'say nothing' is that if I'm doing a good faith attempt at making this job work, and a toxic culture brews unnecessarily that makes me want to leave.

People's opinions of other people don't need to impact your professionalism. There is no reason you can't continue to do your job despite ANYTHING people say about others.

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