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I started my new job on the same day with another colleague. We both are senior software developers. The workload is manageable, so we both were looking for some side projects the company can benefit from.
He quickly found a small project that he completed in about 2 months. At first I offered to take part in it. Asked if I could help him, which he always denied because the project was too small.

Meanwhile I found my own bigger project, which I've been working on for over 4 months now. I would say it's about 80% complete. Suddenly my colleague asked me to explain my project to him. I proudly presented all the functions to him, including the problems that the project still has. He started to ask me questions and giving me suggestions. We use Git (tool for coordinating work among programmers collaboratively developing source code), so the source code is available to all developers within our company. He also wanted me to send him further data (access data, parameters for testing, etc.).


I independently recognized the need for that project, collected all information from other colleagues, read into complex topics and already wrote a lot of code. My supervisor is very happy with it and says that it would make our work a lot easier.

I understand that it is normal to work on projects with multiple developers, but the project does not have the dimension for additional developers. I don't want someone to jump in at the end of the project, add some code and then later claim that it is our project. We're both new to the company, so I don't know what kind of person my colleague is.

In our weekly team meetings, everyone shares what they're working on so everyone knows it's my project.

How can I make it clear to him that I don't want his help? I am able to complete the project on my own.

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    There seems to be some organizational issue here. Your boss should always have big pipeline of work available for all team members. There should not be a situation where not enough work is available for all workers because that would mean some workers are not needed and may be let go. Do you know if your boss has more tasks in the pipeline ? Can you ask your colleague to check with your boss for other tasks ? Aug 23 at 21:46
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    @Job_September_2020, "Can you ask your colleague to check with your boss for other tasks?" No, don't say that to your colleague. He'll just misinterpret that instruction as if you asked him to ask your boss if he could also work on your project. And he'll probably phrase it that way too: "Hey boss, so-and-so asked me if you could reassign me to his project. Is it ok if I help?" Then, he'll come back to gaout and just say "Boss says I should help you with your project." If his colleague is really out of work to do, it's his problem. Don't make suggestions. It's not your problem. Aug 24 at 2:40
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    Keep in mind, you may run the risk of coming across as "not a team player" when you try to shut him out. Aug 24 at 14:15
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    Why do you feel you can’t say “Thanks for offering to help, but there really isn’t enough work here for two people. I’d like to finish it up myself.”?
    – ColleenV
    Aug 24 at 15:28
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    "He also wanted me to send him further data" What did you say to this? Did you already send that over? Has he explicitly asked to really "join in" or is he just offering to review / assist? If you went into detail on the remaining challenges, he might have taken that as an invitation to help out and might just be trying to be collegial. Your post gives the impression that he's doing it to "steal" your achievements, but do you have reasons to believe that?
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 24 at 20:40
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In our weekly team meetings, everyone shares what they're working on so everyone knows it's my project.

How can I make it clear to him that I don't want his help? I am able to complete the project on my own.

What's wrong with "actually I'm nearing completion and at this late stage, I'd rather complete it myself because there is more time to waste in taking you in than in finishing it by myself"?

And he answers with some denegation of some kind, or insists that he should be taken onboard this late, simply say exactly what you just said, "I carried this project by myself and require no help to complete it, nor shall it make me late on anything else. Your participation is appreciated but right now you are more weighing on me than helping me, so we'll work together on some other project instead."

If I may be so forward, you seem quite greedy, keeping the work and honours all to yourself, and that is certainly not team playing. But I do not know the culture in your company, maybe it is common to compete with colleagues.

If you don't want to be a team player, but don't want to look bad by rebuffing people who want to work with you, the only credible line to follow is "I do not need someone, and right now adding someone this late is problematic rather than helpful".

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  • Agreed, including on the last part. In a healthy organization, fighting each other for credit is rare. Aug 24 at 17:16
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I would go with something like this.

The remaining workload is smaller than the full scope of {project A}. As we had agreed that would be too small for two devs to work on it seems pretty clear that the exact same case is true here. Perhaps you can get involved in {project B}.

Cite precedent that he set and divert him elsewhere.

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  • Not sure I would phrase it exactly like that, but I would definitely mention the other project. They set a precedent by not letting OP participate and it sounds like OP respected that, so they should now respect OP on his wishes to continue on his own.
    – Dnomyar96
    Aug 24 at 6:04
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This is what you tell him privately (but using your own words):

“The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned.” (Fred Brooks, The Mythical Man Month, p. 17)

In other words, I don't like adding people at the tail end of a project, it doesn't help it, it gives me additional work, and doing so only pushes back the completion of the project even more.

And I'll be happy to send you even more information if you want, but I'll send it to you after the API is finalized and after I feel the project is complete.

If he insists, just say:

Please. I respected your wishes, when you said you didn't want my help for your project. Please do the same and respect mine. I don't need your help for this project. And I would rather finish this project on my own.

Repeat this as many times as necessary. Be a broken record if you have to.

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    I would rephrase " I don't need your help" to " I don't need your help for this project"
    – Benjamin
    Aug 24 at 12:21
  • @Benjamin, Done. Aug 24 at 21:59
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Like another answer already stated, you and your colleague seem quite possessive about "your" projects. I don't think that's beneficial to the company as a whole.

You might probably indeed have no problem completing the project without him, however this doesn't mean his help can't be useful.

  • It's almost certain he will come up with some corner cases you haven't thought of yet.
  • Since he isn't involved with the project from the start and thus has a fresh eye, he is a far more suitable person to write documentation and do some preliminary testing.
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  • Agreed - even if his help isn’t needed in the code itself, it would be good to get some reviews and testing from another person. Personally, I would request reviews from multiple engineers to make sure the project can be maintained if I leave. As far as I’m aware, people aren’t going to take credit for someone’s work if all they did was add a code review and do some manual testing. Engineers can even do a git blame if they really care, I guess.
    – eurieka
    Aug 26 at 3:44
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Exactly like this :)

the project does not have the dimension for additional developers

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A strategy that works for me and preempts future requests is to just say 'No thanks, I got it covered', but there is something else they can help with if they have time on their hands.

Then if they want that, I give them some mundane data entry or something. Usually they don't ask again.

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