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I am senior software developer working on a team of 6 engineers, one of them is very difficult to work with, especially when trying to change his mind during a debate or an engineering discussion.

He is a very skilled and very knowledgable developer and most of the time his stubbornness is "healthy" for the team as he ensures we follow best practices and conventions, however, some times he is wrong and it is extremely difficult for him to admit it. I really want to approach him about it and try to talk him into being a bit more open and consider the possibility that what he knows is not absolute.

What is the best way to do so without being unprofessional or mean?

Edit: We are developers of the same role and we both report to the same person on the team.

Edit 2: 3 other memebers of the team agree he is difficult to work with and extends meetings most of the time taking the meeting off topic. When I say he is wrong it's not on a point of view or opinionated topic, it's saying he is wrong about the facts. About the way a method or some part of our code works.

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    What is your role on the team? If you're not the team leader or manager, the obvious answer here is "talk to the team lead or manager". Sep 27, 2023 at 22:41
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    I'm a developer, we have a team leader as well. Sep 27, 2023 at 22:46
  • ""however, some times he is wrong and it is extremely difficult for him to admit it. - does this "stubbornness" slows development time considerably or significantly? or it's "just" that he is stubborn and you'd like that to change?
    – DarkCygnus
    Sep 27, 2023 at 23:02
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    TBH, this is just one side of the story. As far as I'm concerned, your assessment that he's wrong is your opinion, but may not be the opinion of the group or of management. Additionally, you're not his manager which tells me that you're overstepping. Last but not least, your desire to change someone else's behavior based on your subjective opinion that they're wrong doesn't sit well with me.
    – joeqwerty
    Sep 27, 2023 at 23:48
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    Something very small but that has a huge impact: stop saying the very personal "you are wrong" and start talking about the facts and arguments instead of the person. This might sound like just playing with words, but in my experience it's important. People are much more receptive when you work with them to get to a more correct truth, instead of working against them to tell them that they personally are wrong.
    – Stef
    Sep 28, 2023 at 9:44

4 Answers 4

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I really want to approach him about it and try to talk him into being a bit more open and consider the possibility that what he knows is not absolute.

What is the best way to do so without being unprofessional or mean?

I feel like answering with a "flow chart":

  • Does this "stubbornness" slow down development or otherwise affect development time considerably or significantly? Or is "just" something that you think this person could improve on as soft-skill and actually doesn't affect that much otherwise?
    • NO it does not affect:
      • Then this is not an issue and perhaps just something that triggers you.
    • YES it does affect:
      • If you are NOT this person's manager: redirect your worries with your manager
      • If you are this person's manager: manage this person, or perhaps during meeting put a halt to the discussion when you feel it's derailing or being unnecessarily stubborn

Edit after OP enhanced:

Sometimes it blocks the team in a topic and extends meetings that should be used for other topics

I notice the use of "sometimes" and I notice that it "extends meetings". Thus it sounds like it's not that negative as it happens sometimes and not on dev time.

Remember that having a good and thorough discussion and requirement analysis can save you hours and days of coding.

It's usually better to "sometimes extend a meeting" so everybody is 100% clear on what to do and to really think those edge cases out, than rush things and end up re-doing and debugging.

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Feedback is best given as a gift

It's to help the person, not to help you. Feedback given to help you is criticism. Your point of reference is that he's hard to work with, so this is for you, not for him. That just won't work.

Just keep it to yourself.

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I really want to approach him about it and try to talk him into being a bit more open and consider the possibility that what he knows is not absolute.

It's very unlikely that such counselling in general terms will have an effect - at least, not the desired effect.

I'm not convinced all problems in this area come down to only one or a few specific pathologies in intellectual behaviour.

Certainties most often arise not merely from a "stubborn personality", but from having already examined an issue in considerable detail.

That examination can of course be wrong, but just noting the general possibility, or just saying so in a specific case, doesn't help correct the situation or identify where the flaw in thinking actually is.

Obviously, talking things through takes time, effort, and skill.

It may have been easier in this particular case to persuade him if he were less "stubborn", but as you seem to suggest, the stubbornness is functional overall precisely because the team is constantly challenged and his stubbornness is what keeps things on track for everyone else.

So you don't even seem to be saying you want him to be less stubborn in a global way. Just a little less stubborn in one leg during the middle of the week.

Being specific about the flaws in his thinking on the particular issue, may be far more effective than trying to modify apparent personality factors.

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I've had a similar issue. Take it to your team leader, it will probably be the fastest way of resolving things. Note that this is not you throwing your colleague under the bus, it is you trying to help him and the whole team be more efficient.

It is very important that your are transparent with your team. You are not trying to outsmart anyone or prove yourself, solving this issue is in the best interest for everyone on the team. Doing something like this without anyone knowing will only make them lose their trust in you.

He is a very skilled and very knowledgeable developer and most of the time his stubbornness is "healthy" for the team as he ensures we follow best practices and conventions, however, some times he is wrong and it is extremely difficult for him to admit it.

This is your subjective opinion. You are deciding he is wrong on some criteria you have. With most good managers/team leads a subjective argument won't fly well but good documented data will.

Start documenting the effects of this behavior and present the data to your team lead.

Depending on the type of project you are working on, when it comes to your opinion vs your colleagues', you both weigh in the pros and the cons of each approach and present it to the team lead. He can then decide what the best move is. Simply arguing between yourselves will solve nothing and will probably annoy your other teammates.

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