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Here is just an intro to provide context. I am a senior software developer working for a big company. Working remotely. Over a year ago I have been moved to another position at my current job and I am way overqualified for this position.

I have asked management multiple times to be moved to a more appropriate position for my skills level. They have promised to do so and yet I am still waiting. It looks like bad luck because recently there have not been any relevant openings in the company.

I don't like conflict and I am a patient sort of person so I have waited quite a few months. Then around the Easter holidays I had the bad luck to be put in a team of juniors where the team lead was also a junior and was interfering in my work because of their lack of knowledge and skills. That team lead was also the most condescending one.

I have got demotivated and stressed out and I wanted to quit but personal issues have prevented me so far. I even had some conflicts with management and HR and that brought even more stress because I don't like conflict. Quitting currently seems the best option. Still I am a high performer because generally I am a hard working person and I value getting the job done. For quite a while I have presented my wish for a promotion citing my skills level and performance. Recently I fear that my reputation in the company is of a someone more junior than the juniors.

My question is specifically about the condescending tone many of my coworkers use with me. It had played a huge part in me being demotivated and stressed out. These coworkers did not know me before joining the project and they seem to assume I am a junior that needs thorough explaining.

For example, instead of telling me "Please import the files into the system in the pdf directory", they would call and tell me to share my screen and would say "Please click here, then click here, now expand this plus sign, unarchive that zip file I prepared...". This has happened multiple times.

Or sometimes I would comment on something I know and they would give me an answer and explanation as if I had asked a question.

Another example, the QA team checked with me whether I did a task or not because it is not working, and I explain there is a 30 min cache. Then they tell me to ask a junior for help because they didn't trust me. A couple of weeks later they got the same answer about the cache from the release engineer and they didn't ask him to check with anyone. And I have as much experience in IT as the release engineer.

One time in a meeting a coworker in a senior position with otherwise a lot less experience than me, just repeated everything I said word for word. Just wasting the company time, because it seems my expertise counts for nothing but coming from him it is a useful contribution.

When I talk with a junior colleague I usually ask "Are you ok with the task or do you need more info?". I have also noticed some coworkers are afraid to make themselves look bad if they ask a question. In comparison I like to ask questions if I don't know something and I can't find an answer easily by myself. I also rarely ask questions because I already know the answers or can find them easily by myself. From the outside the amount of work I do may not seem visible.

I am not an assertive person and I when someone talks condescendingly I usually tell them "I know that" but they don't seem to get the clue. At times I would give a curt reply and it would make me more anxious. And sometimes I am left speechless because of oversimplified instructions.

TL:DR; How to deal with condescending behaviour from coworkers when I am overqualified for the job?

I have searched for similar questions but my issue seems to be a bit different in that I am overqualified for the position. I have some social anxiety and I am youngish looking. In the past I assumed that is why I was talked down to. However, I now am working remotely.

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  • 2
    Have you discussed this with your manager? And have you, in a team meeting, tried to explain to your team your experience within the company and your experience in IT? What was the announcement when you were introduced to the new team?
    – Jeroen
    Oct 15, 2021 at 6:32
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    "Quitting currently seems the best option." I agree. Working at a job below your qualification is terrible for your career if it's a long term situation. It seems you know what you need to do. Focus on finding a job that is better suited to your skill level. However, you probably should also work on your communications and teamwork skills. People don't treat you like you are an idiot out of nowhere. I have a feeling your story is missing important events that triggered the behavior you describe.
    – Roland
    Oct 15, 2021 at 6:34
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    Forgive my criticism, for you may be a lovely person that is indeed overqualified, but it sounds like you have a pretty big chip on your shoulder. If others at your workplace detect that, it may be part of the source of the negativity. That said, if you feel you deserve something different, go and get it.
    – theherk
    Oct 15, 2021 at 11:24
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    How come no one else notices how overqualified you are?
    – Hilmar
    Oct 15, 2021 at 14:04
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    I find it interesting that you complain about how condescending others are to you, but your entire question is riddled with contempt for them, and constant remarks about how much more qualified, experienced and smarter you are than them. Are they really being condescending, or are you irritated because you perceive them to be lower on the food chain and they are treating you as a peer? Oct 15, 2021 at 16:56

9 Answers 9

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This situation does not require conflict. It requires humanity. You don't need to argue or oppress anyone. You need to talk to them as humans. They're people, and you're automatically assuming negative intent when they simply may not be aware because by your own admission in this question you're too craven to speak up.

You're indicating you're a senior developer and that you're looking for a promotion based on your skills. As a leader, I would say you lack the skills to be a senior in an organization I run. A senior developer is more than just someone with high technical knowledge. They have the esteem of their peers and behave in a mentorship role. What this equates to is someone who is capable of addressing a situation like this by having a conversation with the "lead" of the team and coming to an understanding.

There is a "human skills" component to being a senior developer that you really need to work on. It sounds as if you've been either avoiding it or allowed to ignore it for your entire career up until this point. If you want to be seen as a senior developer, you need to behave as a senior developer.

Have a discussion with your manager. Identify these communication and mentorship gaps and tell them you want to improve these areas. Don't just complain about this situation. Use this situation as a guide to identify the areas where you need to improve. Come with a few ideas you're prepared to discuss and be prepared to listen. You say in your post "I am a hard working person". This is going to be hard work, and it's outside of the skills you're comfortable with. It's time to live up to that statement.

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  • I agree with much of this comment. But "craven" - extreme cowardice beyond the point of moral failure - is such a strong accusation I can't imagine it being taken well by anyone. I don't think it's a good description of the social anxiety in the OP, either.
    – Adam Burke
    Oct 26, 2021 at 4:44
  • @AdamBurke: I'm not qualified to diagnose any social anxiety in anyone. I don't disagree with your comment in the least. The characterization is exactly what I see in this question. Oct 26, 2021 at 5:02
  • Well, he's being talked over by teammates and getting frustrated, not walking past a drowning child refusing to rescue them ... unless it's a very different software development shop than I'm imagining ...
    – Adam Burke
    Oct 26, 2021 at 5:33
  • @AdamBurke - I see something deeper than just being talked over by teammates and getting frustrated, and while this doesn't rise to the level of walking past a drowning child, it certainly lacks any kind of empathy or self-reflection that might make me otherwise question my choice of word. Oct 26, 2021 at 19:37
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Stand Up for Yourself

For example, instead of telling me "Please import the files into the system in the pdf directory", they would call and tell me to share my screen and would say "Please click here, then click here, now expand this plus sign, unarchive that zip file I prepared...". This has happened multiple times.

This will continue to happen as long as you say nothing.

I don't like conflict and I am a patient sort of person so I have waited quite a few months.

Your avoidance of conflict is what has led to this. People treat you a certain way, and why would that change if you don't take a stand? For the above example, try something along the lines of "I know how to do this & I don't need to be walked through it." If someone answers your statement like it was a question, say, "Of course, I wasn't asking how it works." Don't be curt, just make plain statements in a calm manner.

I answered this in a similar question by saying that if you don't advocate for yourself, no one else will.

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  • How fortunate the man with none.
    – Frank
    Oct 20, 2021 at 21:29
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How to deal with condescending behaviour from coworkers when I am overqualified for the job?

Like any other issue you control it by focusing on the work not the people. It's just a mental shift that needs to be made. Eventually some people realise you already know a lot and stop trying to spoon feed you, but realistically it's harmless stuff that just doesn't matter in the wider scheme of things.

It only affects you if you let it.

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  • Pretty reasonable advice. But still passive.
    – Frank
    Oct 20, 2021 at 21:24
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For example, instead of telling me "Please import the files into the system in the pdf directory", they would call and tell me to share my screen and would say "Please click here, then click here, now expand this plus sign, unarchive that zip file I prepared...". This has happened multiple times.

My first reaction to this was to think "This is outrageous this would never happen at my workplace." but I realised that they do, but it impacts me much less.

Not long ago, I got an email from IT saying that they needed my home address to organise a laptop swap; all old computers were being replaced. I mentioned to them that I got a new laptop three month ago, and whether it was necessary. They said it was, since all laptops need to have the latest version of the OS. Reinstalling a new laptop would cost a day of my time, and I was upset how some junior it service guy would waste my time for this.

Now here is why I already had forgotten about this:
I asserted that my OS version was the latest, and said that they need to justify their request, if they expect me to spend a day reinstalling stuff. Then I decided to ignored the rest of their messages until they gave a better justification, but after that there were no more follow-ups from their side.

As a senior you are responsible for making the best use of your time, that includes saying "no" to ridiculous requests or meetings that do forward the tasks you are assigned to (or otherwise fall under your responsibility).

Assertiveness can be learned.. This is part of your journey as a professional, there is books out there (e.g. this book helped me) and hopefully your company offers trainings about communication.

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  • I agree but unfortunately in a corporate environment all requests can be ignored and they always go away. Learning the truth of that does not equate to assertiveness.
    – Frank
    Oct 20, 2021 at 21:27
  • So you deliberately ignored company policy? You were given the perfect fire drill for testing if you can easily migrate to a new computer, at a time when you have plenty of time! That is not a waste but an investment of your time not all gets to have. Oct 22, 2021 at 9:07
  • @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen No I ignored an email by some person in IT, I didn't even know the name of, because they were hiding behind a group email address. I have no reason to believe that this actually was company policy.
    – Helena
    Oct 22, 2021 at 16:45
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    @Helena "then I ignored the rest of their messages".. .Sounds like more than one email then. Oct 23, 2021 at 12:44
  • @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen you are right, this is confusing. It actually never heard from then again. I will edit my answer to make it more clear
    – Helena
    Oct 23, 2021 at 13:16
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It might sound hard to hear, reading through your question it does sound like you are your own worst enemy in your current position. Off the bat I would be careful using the term overqualified when discussing your perceived skills. While you might have technical skills that exceed what is required, but do you possess the other personal competencies needed for the role? There's a lot of stuff about ourselves that we don't, or are unwilling, to see. We have an internal perception of ourselves which may not be congruent with what others see. We can address this by asking others for a frank appraisal, but this can be confronting and hard to hear.

Anyway, back to your issue at hand....

Unfortunately you've ended up in a position that you're not pleased about, but you've got options, you can either leave or do something about it.

Leaving does not guarantee that you will end up in a position any different to where you are now.

If I was in your situation I would look to improve within the organization I was in.

It sounds you need to develop your confidence, assertiveness, communication, empathy and self-awareness. Developing in these areas would help shift the perception your colleagues have of you and you would have a role in shaping that perception. Personal image management is very important in the workplace.

Taking an example from your question:

Another example, the QA team checked with me whether I did a task or not because it is not working, and I explain there is a 30 min cache.

While to you this seems like a no-brainer, put yourself in the QA's shoes and think of what they saw. Until the cache was refreshed they would have no visibility that the task had been completed, so it's natural they would follow up. If you sent a quick message after completing it, "the task is done, it'll take 30 minutes to refresh", then the call and your subsequent anger at the situation would have been avoided.

So to answer your question, "How to deal with condescending behavior from coworkers when I am overqualified for the job?", is to rise above it. You don't need to take offence because a colleague speaks to you in a manner you don't like, you can simply just let them finish explaining and say thanks.

A few other things I would consider in your position are:

  • look at what development resources and/or courses your organization offers on communication, assertiveness, confidence and self awareness.
  • engage a coach who will help you step out of yourself
  • find external groups and courses that will improve your resilience to social anxiety and build skills to help you manage.

Good luck!

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I'm going to support the OP's instinct:

Quitting currently seems the best option.

I agree. The whole situation sounds toxic and corrosive. You've been in the current position for an entire year and apparently found no traction or way to improve things. Once habits & expectations are set for this long, it's very unlikely that you'll be able to break out of them in other people's minds.

As others have said, working in a junior role that's below your ability is pretty much poison for your career. Assuming that you have indeed worked successfully at a more senior position in the past, definitely polish your resume and look for another job -- emphasizing the senior-level work you've done, of course.

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I see the problem here.

Your title is simply Developer or Software Engineer which I assume is the junior rank. Because of your many years of service, you consider yourself a senior but don't have the title to show for it and your attempts at a promotion to a better title have been rejected.

The other juniors simply see you as a other junior because of the same rank.

There must be a reason your manager is refusing to promote you despite your decades of work experience. Perhaps your skill level is that of a junior and not ready to be a senior.

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"Do you still remember when you were 'that junior member of the team?'"

"Your mentors," at that time, probably never let 'their true feelings' show, sometimes. They simply and silently helped you reach the position where you are now.

Therefore, now that you(!) are the mentor to many of these people ... remember that.

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The top rated answers here are asking to change who you are.

In summary they say "You are socially submissive, you are craven/cowardly, you should assert yourself to gain the appropriate level and quality of interaction in the company."

This is wrong

This is extraordinarily bad advice and life guidance. It is always healthy to try and understand what aspects of yourself could be improved and to understand objectively how your own personality could be at least moderated to help a situation. However the others here are making unhealthy assumptions. How do they know you don't agree with a meritocracy based on assertiveness? How do they know you aren't by nature quiet? How do they know you aren't someone with some mild spectrum situation.

There are two sides to the coin here: one is that you are not very assertive, two is that the company you work for is basing its meritocracy on social assertiveness.

You need to gain an understanding, an objective understanding somehow, of which of the two plays the major role and which you want to change.

Being told in no uncertain terms "you need to change is both arrogant and ignorant of the other side of that coin.

Given what you have described it is equally probable that the company culture you are in is far too poorly set up for technical meritocracy, and may be giving brashness (condescending junior developers who themselves haven't learnt tact) the edge. In this kind of company you will notice that technical meritocracy is limited, while the leadership tend to be loudmouthed bulldozers more adept at internal politics than doing anything useful. If this is the case, it's evidence to support the hypothesis that the company is the issue rather than yourself.

Before you go trying to learn to be something you are not, and ending up with self confidence or other psychological problems, understand that there are other companies and environments where you would be treated with respect and your skills would be recognised and the level of conversation would be more intelligent. I suspect that you should experiment with life, take the risk, and try other places. In the long run, you regret what you don't do, not what you did.

By doing that, and by remaining objective of that coin I mentioned, you will gain the wisdom to address your own assertiveness anyway.

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  • Here's a third option: The OP is not really the senior developer that he perceives himself to be. Having decades of work experience does not make one a senior. You need to develop the appropriate skills such as leadership/mentorship abilities to lead juniors. Many people are stuck in the same position for years for this exact same reason. The OP needs to do self introspection on his abilities.
    – Jack
    Oct 25, 2021 at 6:18
  • @Jack It depends really on what's meant by senior. I do not equate a senior dev as being a dev lead. Some senior devs cannot work with other people, but that does not mean they are not senior devs.
    – Frank
    Oct 25, 2021 at 14:24

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