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I started a new 3-month-long project recently in a <10 people startup. The company is based in a different country than where I live. I am a contractor working full-time remotely. The company I am working at has a team lead, two senior developers (me and this problematic guy) and three junior developers. Except for me, everyone is a full-time employee. I am also the only one working fully remotely.

About this guy:

  1. He is very aggressive when he talks and seems to have anger issues. He feels very intimidating.

  2. He has this "Do as I say" mentality. He doesn't explain why. He just tells you to do what he wants. He is more experienced than me.

It is affecting my work since I have to collaborate with him often. For example, he reviews my PR. And the reviews turn into long discussions with no results.

Since I reports to the team lead, I tried contacting him about the issue. He was upset at me for bringing this. He basically said that I am senior developer and I should learn to work things with the other senior developer instead of bringing it to manager.

At this point, what should I do to improve my work situation with this colleague?

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    Just as a general comment, helping mediate issues between team members, whatever the levels of experience, definitely is part of the job of a manager or team lead. The job isn't just about providing technical guidance, it's about setting the team up for success, which includes interpersonal relations.
    – DaveG
    Feb 3, 2023 at 19:56
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    @DaveG I also felt that it's part of his job. But he kind of upset that I brought the issues to him and didn't solve them on my own.
    – CodePanda
    Feb 3, 2023 at 19:58
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    Define (or omit) jargon & abbreviations such as "PR". Feb 4, 2023 at 0:04

4 Answers 4

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Interpersonal issues can always be taken to your manager, if you can't resolve them directly and whoever the manager has assigned as team lead can't help.

Note that what you are perceiving as "aggressive" may be a conversational style difference. New York City folks, for example, stereotypically tend toward speaking relatively rapidly and accept being interrupted as a normal part of conversation. It may be necessary to explicitly ask us to slow down and allow more pauses for response, or to explain in more detail. We know this and generally aren't offended by the request, though we may need reminding. You may be dealing with something similar where they are being terse and emphatic rather than hostile.

If there's no common manager that you feel comfortable appealing to, maybe there's a manager outside your direct chain who can help mediate. If it's a tiny company and there are no managers but the CEO, then you can take it to the CEO if necessary.

But you may just have to thrash this out with your peer. Schedule a meeting, sit down with them and explain that you'd like to learn from their gripes so you can avoid running into the same issues repeatedly but to do so you need them to slow down and be a bit clearer about what the issues are rather than assuming they're obvious. Giving you a chance to explain yourself might help improve the product too, by flagging issues they might not have considered. Make it about effective collaboration rather than about personalities.

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  • Well there is one above the team lead except the CEO. Team lead feels it's my responsibility to fix issues with the other senior developers on my own.
    – CodePanda
    Feb 3, 2023 at 16:25
  • "People management" is not necessarily the team lead's responsibility. It is a Manager's responsibility
    – keshlam
    Feb 3, 2023 at 17:26
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    There is no manager, just CEO. Team lead don't want me to talk to anyone else. He want me to solve problem on my own.
    – CodePanda
    Feb 3, 2023 at 17:54
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    What the team lead wants, and what works, may be different things. And in the absence of an intermediate manager, the CEO is the manager. But I've given you advice on how to possibly solve it without assistance from above
    – keshlam
    Feb 3, 2023 at 17:56
  • (I should add that I have some friends who are on the autism spectrum, are even more aware that they may be lacking social skills, and equally willing to listen to suggestions that they back off a bit. Of course this individual may "not" be aware that they need to give you more space, but it's still worth asking them, putting it in terms of what you need rather than accusing them of deliberately ignoring you.)
    – keshlam
    Feb 3, 2023 at 18:01
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LEAVE!

Basically:

  • There is one employee who behaves aggressively.
  • The manager does not tell that employee (s)he's wrong.
  • It's a small company with less than 10 people.

=> You have at least 20% of the company personnel who agrees with aggressive behaviour against you.

I have been in such a situation and the manager has taken the decision for me, and I'm still thankful for that :-)

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Since you are a contractor, talk to your manager there. As a contractor, taking orders like an employee can have serious tax consequences both for you and for the company. If HMRC classified me as an employee, my cost to the employer would go up instantly by 15.05%, and the money in my pocket would go down as well, so we would have to renegotiate the contract.

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    Manager/team leads feels it's my responsibility to fix issues with the other senior developers on my own.
    – CodePanda
    Feb 3, 2023 at 16:28
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    I believe @gnasher729 was suggesting to talk to your manager within your own company, not the one you are working with right now.
    – InBedded16
    Feb 3, 2023 at 17:09
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    Also valid, @InBedded16. If you're in different management chains,been within a company, it's not unreasonable to ask your manager to talk to the other person's manager to help straighten things out.
    – keshlam
    Feb 3, 2023 at 17:28
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    Do you work for yourself @CodePanda or a contracting company? These comments are assuming you work for a contracting company and have your own manager, nothing to do the company you are currently contracting for Feb 3, 2023 at 19:36
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    I am independent freelancer. I am currently contracting for a company. @mattfreake
    – CodePanda
    Feb 3, 2023 at 19:56
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in a <10 people startup

reviews turn into long discussions with no results

If PRs continually turn into massive discussions, it is either because of really bad code (rare) or you are facing different coding styles/philosophies (common), especially in smaller start-up companies.

Larger companies tend to establish coding standards, use automated code formatting tools such as clang-format, etc. This eliminates the vast majority of review discussions, leaving the views down to functional things like rules on max-lines per function, etc.

If your PRs are always falling into debates over little things, work with the other senior guy on formatting tools and coding standards that the whole team will follow. It really can solve many PR issues out of the gate.

Ultimately though, you have to respectfully but firmly stand up for yourself with the person. If they are aggressive that is unfortunate, because they still have to explain why they want or do not want something.

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  • Hi @Chris how many lines should a function have as a maximum? Feb 10, 2023 at 22:05
  • Some of our teams have it as low as max 10, others just fit one screen max
    – Chris
    Feb 10, 2023 at 22:08

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