I am in a team of 7 including our team leader (which has both the responsibility of technical lead and line management) in a company consisting of 700 people total. We are a relatively young team with the youngest being 26 and the oldest 32. Our team lead, let's call him Bob, has a much closer relationship to two of the team members - let's call them James and John.

Now, this is not a problem in itself, since human nature simply means we connect better with some over others on a personal level. In this particular case it does become a problem, because Bob's relationship with James and John makes him favor them in work related discussions, even if one of the 4 of us remaining in the team clearly has more knowledge within the particular subject than James and John. It can even happen that if James or John joins a work related discussion not started by either of them, that Bob starts to completely ignore the remaining persons in the discussion.

I have thought of the following options to the issue below, together with my thoughts on the solution.

1. Accept it as it is or resign if I cannot do that

Given it's somewhat unlikely to change Bob's behavior, this might be the best solution.

2. Confront Bob about it

I am unsure how to approach if I were to choose this option and, even if he listens, I see a risk of damaging my relationship to Bob beyond repair.

3. Talk to HR about it

To avoid confronting Bob directly I could go to HR with it, with them then confronting Bob about it. Risk here being whether HR would be on my or Bob's "side", and whether it would even be obvious for Bob that it was me who talked to HR, given we are a small team.


Do I have any other options than the above 3, and if not, how should I go about using one of those?

  • 1
    Question: Is Bob purely a technical lead, or does he also have line management responsibilities over the team? I realise the title of the piece references "Manager" however clarity would help me.
    – ThaRobster
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 8:15
  • @ThaRobster I have edited the question based on your comment. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 8:21
  • 2
    It's unclear what your actual problem is. I understand Bob's behaviour, but it's unclear in what way it negatively impacts you. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 9:00
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    Option 4: juts accept it and live with it. What's the actual problem here ?
    – Hilmar
    Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 11:35

4 Answers 4


Option 3 is not an option, leave HR out of it. Your issue is very much subjective, and third parties outside of your team who can't really judge the situation objectively won't be of help.

Option 2 (without the "confront" part) may be a possible approach. Note that if you try to force Bob into a situation where he feels he needs to defend himself, chances are high that he'll defend himself :-) and as your manager he would most likely be successful at it.
You should probably focus on how favoring these two team members negatively affects the team's productivity and cohesion, not on how it makes you feel bad. If you can't find objective reasons, you're unlikely to convince Bob to change his behavior.

If option 2 doesn't work as desired, you still have option 1, so there's no good reason to prefer option 1 over 2, unless you fear that playing option 2 is likely to have more damaging effects to you than directly following option 1.

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    I like the idea about making it about the overall productivity of the team. Commented Sep 12, 2022 at 8:41

I like Han's answer, which is correct in saying that you shouldn't go to HR to make a complaint, because simply, you have nothing to make a complaint over.

The other option you've missed is to angle for an internal transfer. Fundamentally, you don't feel valued under a manger, but the work is good, an option is to get a transfer into a different team. For that, you should ask Bob to support you, if he refuses to, you can consider asking HR for one. Note that this is not a complaint, just you asking to move because you don't feel the company is getting the best out of you in your current role.

HR may, or may not care about your rationale. I suspect once they determine that Bob is not engaging in misconduct that is encouraging you to leave, they won't care about your rationale, and instead care about trying to simply retain talent.


I like Han's answer, which is a good evaluation of the three options you posted.

Another option: work with James and/or John

Hypothesis: You don't mention the relative seniorities of the people involved; if James and John are among the more senior (by overall skill or by tenure in the team), and if the team is growing, it may be that at 7 people it's on the point of splitting into two or three teams. If that's the case, James and John may be being groomed to lead the parts, or at least to act as lieutenants within a larger team.

If that's the case, the team has (is about to have) a different structure than you thought; working to some extent with James and/or John may satisfy all parties (either with both or with whoever is more aligned to your area of work/expertise/interest).


There are two possibilities: Either Bob is aware of what he is doing, or he isn't.

In the latter case, he needs to be informed very firmly. "Bob, it is obvious to everyone that you very much prefer John and Joe to everyone else on your team. Even when they are wrong, even when they have no involvement into the solution of a problem, you take their opinion above everything else. That is utterly unfair, it is frustrating, and it is unprofessional. If you go on like that, your team will consist of you, John and Joe and nobody else rather soon".

In the former case, there is nothing you can do. He is unprofessional, he isn't doing his job properly, so you can say the exact same things to him as in the first case, and if he retaliates you retaliate by spending your paid time looking for a new position. Obviously not telling him or the company.

  • Thank you for your answer. Does this mean you do not agree with Hans' answer, that one should avoid putting him in a potentially defensive position? I suppose being as direct and firm as you suggest would make him just that. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 10:10
  • The OP claims to have "more knowledge", but having more knowledge is highly subjective. I know someone who has 20 years of experience in a particular field, but who just can't perform at the same level as someone who only has one year of experience. Now, I'm not saying this is the case here, but I haven't heard anything that could rule that out. Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 0:02

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