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I recently started a new job. I was interviewed by the manager and three people that would be my peers. Everyone knew that I wasn't familiar with a specific piece of technology, but they decided to hire me anyway due to my general skills (and my familiarity with a similar piece of technology). Not to brag, but before I had a chance to accept the job, they actually increased their offer, indicating that they really wanted me to join the company.

It's only been a few days and I have basically been solely tasked with learning the technology. However, another employee (higher than me, but lower than my manager) has came back from a vacation. Ever since he came back, he's been making passive aggressive comments to me. Things that could be brushed off if confronted about, but they are clearly not of good intent.

Examples:

  • First meeting with this employee ended by them asking me "who interviewed you/who hired you?" It felt to me like it was said in a "I wouldn't have hired you if it was up to me" manner.
  • "Must be nice to be paid to learn on the job."

etc.

Would it be better to ignore these comments, wait for them to get worse before saying anything, or bring my concerns to my manager now? I'm worried because I'm a brand new employee and this person has worked there for 12 years.

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    "Must be nice to be paid to learn on the job." "It is, you should try it sometime." (Don't actually say this.) Is this employee affecting your ability to do what you manager has told you to do, or are they just being a jerk?
    – Seth R
    Mar 3, 2022 at 20:09
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    Nothing they said constitutes harassment.
    – Jack
    Mar 3, 2022 at 20:11
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    @SethR It's not affecting my work. At least not yet. They're just being a jerk.
    – Dave
    Mar 3, 2022 at 20:19
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    Kind of an aside, but if he makes the "Must be nice to be paid to learn on the job." comment again it might be worth asking (sincerely) if the company doesn't normally provide on the job training opportunities. He might accidentally be revealing something about the company by complaining about it.
    – BSMP
    Mar 3, 2022 at 20:25
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    Is it an option to try handle this emotionless for the first approach? Try to find out what this person's problem is. Did you ask your peers about him? Do that! You can still take more severe steps later - but you can't make them undone in case your actual impression of this guy should change for whatever reasons. Remember he wasn't there when you were hired, there could be misunderstandings. However he simply could be a jerk of course, but take some more time to figure that out.
    – puck
    Mar 4, 2022 at 11:56

6 Answers 6

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Sounds like an unhappy individual taking their frustrations out on you. Or maybe they're just hazing the new person to assert some inane power dynamic. You're going to run into people like this throughout your career, unfortunately.

Remember that you are paid to do what your manager tells you to do. If your manager wants you learning on the job, that's what you should do. Unless and until this person is impacting your ability to do that, or your well-being, their opinion doesn't really matter, and it isn't really a problem for your manager to solve.

Brush them off. If they have a problem with how you spend your work hours, tell them they can take it up with your manager. Concentrate on your own work.

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Many years ago I ran into exactly the same situation. I had worked as a software developer for about 8 years and moved to a new company. A developer who had been there many years clearly was annoyed that I had been brought in and made comments. I ignored some of them, but when he commented about "paying dues to get to do development" I just said "my dues are paid in full over the last 8 years".

Eventually we became pretty good friends, once I had proven myself. I ended up developing some libraries that he used quite a bit.

So I'd say approach it the same way: ignore what you can, reply if necessary, and be prepared to prove yourself to your new coworkers. Don't worry too much about him, your work will speak for itself.

One other point: every single job I've had over a 4 decade career, I've been learning something new. New environment. New codebase. New libraries. New product market. New release process. New 3rd party libraries. Learning on the job is part of a developer's job.

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    +1 Unless you are being paid some exorbitant rate for Consultancy as an expert then learning on the job is part of your job, developer or not!
    – deep64blue
    Mar 3, 2022 at 21:46
  • You say "be prepared to prove yourself", but it sounds like OP is under no obligation to prove anything to this person. Just because someone thinks that OP is unqualified for a job doesn't mean that OP needs to disprove them. “What other people think of me is none of my business.” -- often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt Mar 4, 2022 at 20:28
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    @AndyLester It's a reality at each new place of employment that you need to be prepared to prove yourself. Not because you need to justify your existence to someone who is obnoxious, but rather that your coworkers aren't initially going to know how much trust they should put in you.
    – DaveG
    Mar 4, 2022 at 21:27
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    @DaveG Agreed. I'm differentiating between proving who you are to the company and your colleagues in general, and proving who you are to a specific person. Mar 4, 2022 at 21:55
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    @AndyLester That's a good point, I've edited a tiny bit to try to make that distinction.
    – DaveG
    Mar 4, 2022 at 21:57
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Just respond with facts.

First meeting with this employee ended by them asking me "who interviewed you/who hired you?" It felt to me like it was said in a "I wouldn't have hired you if it was up to me" manner.

  • "(give all the names of the people in the interview) interviewed me."

"Must be nice to be paid to learn on the job."

  • "Yes it is. I appreciate the opportunity"
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    Re "Just respond with facts.": Or rather answer rhetorical questions literally. They will have to be more overt (or shut up). Mar 4, 2022 at 23:18
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You should go to your boss if you have a problem that needs to be solved and can't be solved on your own. A problem is usually something that is going to cost the company money or time. "This guy is a jerk" doesn't meet that.

It sounds to me like there is not a problem here, at least not one that affects the company and therefore needs to be brought to your boss's attention.

Another way to look at this: What do you hope to achieve by bringing it to your boss's attention? And imagine what will happen afterwards.

Imagine you go to your boss and say "Alice, I have been getting rude comments from Bob". What do you think Alice is going to do?

  1. Will she call Bob into her office and tell Bob to not be a jerk to you, and then everything Bob will stop being a jerk?
  2. Will she think that you are bringing her a problem you should be able to handle yourself?

I don't know your boss, but in my experience, option #2 is the more likely outcome.

Think this through. Imagine what you want, and imagine the outcome. That will help you decide if you should bring it to your boss's attention.

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Step 1: You realise the problem is not that there is anything wrong with you, but something is really wrong with that colleague. So there is no reason to feel bad about any of this, but you can feel sorry for that colleague. Doesn’t mean you can’t be annoyed, like you would be annoyed about a big fat blue fly.

Step 2: If you fell you can handle it, don’t involve your manager or HR. Practice to be rude back without them having a good reason to complain about you. You want to look squeaky clean.

Step 3: Make sure he never feels he had the upper hand above you. “Who hired you”, you give the names and mention they really seem to be very clever. “Must be nice to be paid to learn on the job”? The answer is: “If you think I shouldn’t be paid, go to my manager and tell him”.

PS. First day at one job my manager dropped 1200 pages of product documentation on my table. Which I had to learn. Somehow nobody complained.

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    Being rude back is a really, really bad idea, tempting as it may be: It will destroy any chance that a bad relationship will ever turn good, and gain nothing.
    – toolforger
    Mar 5, 2022 at 5:07
  • Underhanded rude obviously. What you do NOT want is to look like you could be the person's punch bag. Most bullies go quiet when you don't let them get away with their behaviour.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 6, 2022 at 13:43
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    @toolforger And do I actually want that relationship to ever turn good? The guy turned it bad, for no reason whatsoever. It's up to me to show that I'm not in the slightest impressed, and up to him to turn it good. I had a colleague who found it funny to call me out for everyone in the office to hear that I was leaving at 5:30. So I asked him a bit louder where he had been from 9am when I arrived in the office until 10:30am. He stopped that nonsense AND our relation got better after that.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 6, 2022 at 13:47
  • yes you do want to get on his good side - or at least you don't want to start a feud, because then you'll become part of the problem, for all onlookers, and since he's in a stronger position, it won't buy you anything. Opposition can work, but only if the other person didn't bear any ill will, and from your description, this is a much more serious situation.
    – toolforger
    Mar 7, 2022 at 14:19
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If you have the grit to do so, just keep ignoring him when he starts making comments like that. The more you try to befriend him while he keeps being passive aggressive, the less he'll respect you. Keep following him outside the workplace, and don't talk to him. Give him a tough glare (or maybe not). He might finally get the point.

If that doesn't work, just keep saying "Huh?" "What?" "What do you mean?" "I don't understand?" with a confused face and let that be the only things you say during the conversation, or asking him to repeat himself over and over as though you can't hear him until he gets tired of bullying you.

Try thinking of ways to get him to sabotage himself while looking like it's not your intention. Lots of things you can do, just think outside the box.

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    "Bullies don't "get tired" of bullying, they stop only if the target stops being bullyable" – Is just a rephrasing of what I said - "until he gets tired of bullying you". Reread it again, I didn't saying tired of bullying in general. I specified him in particular, so if you downvoted me you can change it.
    – jayjay
    Mar 7, 2022 at 1:26
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    Thank you. Rereading some of the comments on here, doing what I advised might be a bit too premature also. I advise the OP to try asking around and figuring out the true intent of the guy since you just met him.
    – jayjay
    Mar 7, 2022 at 3:09

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