9

In my job, my coworker and I handle a certain aspect of development which has 2 parts, my focus is on one part while my coworkers focus is on the other part.

Over the last few months, I have noticed that my coworker frequently has improvement suggestions aimed at the work I'm doing. Sometimes he states these suggestions privately, sometimes in front of the rest of the team and the manager. I, on the other hand, didn't so far propose any improvements to his part of the work because I assume he is doing a good job and I don't want to propose new ideas for parts of the work which are not my responsibility if not specifically asked to do so.

I feel like he is meddling with my part of the work. Recently, he was literally going over the code I (and people I collaborated with) wrote line-by-line. He was doing this because he wants to add a new feature, which is a task he auto-assigned to himself. While we do collaborate closely together, I think this is casting me in a negative light because if he keeps doing this the question of: "Why didn't I suggest / implement that?" gets asked. I think it's OK to express some improvement suggestions, but I think at this point he is sort of overstepping into my part of the work, making me look like I'm not trying as hard, even though I complete my tasks competently and on time.

How can I handle this situation gracefully? Should I speak to the coworker or my manager? Should I say something like this to my manager: "I appreciate my coworker's improvement suggestions, but sometimes I feel that he is casting me in a negative light because that piece of development is my main responsibility. I do value his suggestions and I'm happy to ask him for help if I need it, however I feel that he is overstepping his work scope with some of these suggestions, some of which he auto-assigns to himself and executes."?

8
  • 9
    Question: Are the things he is suggesting good Quality? Dec 19, 2023 at 19:40
  • 7
    the reason I ask is because how you handle a legit good suggestion, a maybe useful suggestion and an overtly bad suggestion are IMO very different. Dec 19, 2023 at 20:00
  • 6
    Does your development workflow include code reviews?
    – shoover
    Dec 19, 2023 at 20:38
  • 1
    "He was doing this because he wants to add a new feature, which is a task he auto-assigned to himself." Please clarify this point. Did he create this task out of thin air? Or was that task already on the queue of things to do? Is he a cowboy programmer? Or is he following a to-do list from management? I believe this distinction could be very important. I've known cowboy programmers in my time, and a cowboy programmer can easily derail a project with too many tangential features. Dec 20, 2023 at 5:07
  • 1
    Who decides what this person should be doing? Dec 22, 2023 at 20:30

5 Answers 5

17

So, based on your answers to Comments - Here's my answer:

1: For the Good requests - these, regardless of how appropriate or not that they are raising them, should always be well received. What you could do is try to formalize the process for raising these requests (this will become important later)

2: For the 'Maybe' requests - these are still helpful, and again - formalize the process by which they are raised

3: For the 'Crap' Requests - Formalize the process by which they are raised.

Okay - so I've said formalize the process by which they are raised 3 times - Imagine a suggested change on code via something like Azure DevOps or other Code management system - by getting the requests formally logged and marked, you can then do some analysis on what is being suggested.

Let's say that there are 10 requests logged, 1 is good, 1 might be good and the other 8 are Bunk. Repeat that a few times then you can go to Management with objective data - 'My Co-Worker keeps logging spurious and unhelpful Code changes and it's taking time out of my day to look at them and assess whether or not they are helpful'

Then, there's the flipside - if I've got to spend time filling out a form to make a code change, if it's a 'Meh' change, I'm probably not going to bother doing it, whereas if I think it's really important and a really good change, I'm more likely to log it.

In short - Put some structure around these requests so that you can log and track the quality of the requests - if lots of them are rubbish, you now have the ammunition to raise the problem with Management. However, I suspect by putting a small barrier to entry, this will result in them self-selecting out the crap ones and only sharing the good ones (which you do want).

2
  • 1
    Sort of a weir rather than a dam. Very few things benefit from being completely frictionless. Dec 22, 2023 at 14:31
  • +1 on the "formalize the process" idea! I think it might also be helpful to keep both scheduled tasks and coworker's suggestions in the same backlog (or issue tracker), prioritized by the stakeholders. That way, if a suggestion the coworker offers gets higher priority than some other scheduled work then it's a win for everyone - they identified an impactful piece of work, and if they have the time to tackle it it's awesome. And if their suggestions fall below scheduled work in priority, there's clear signal that other stuff is more important.
    – Egor
    Dec 26, 2023 at 17:57
14

Get used to receive and deal with feedback.

Software development is a team discipline and being able give and receive feedback is a big part of being a software developer. You seem mostly bothered by how it reflects on you that your co-worker is pointing out improvements. But be assured that how successful you will be in 10 years from now will not depend on whether someone publicly pointed out a flaw in your code today, it will depend much more on whether you are still writing code with the same flaws. Someone giving you feedback with mostly useful improvements is an advantage not everyone gets, make good use of it and encourage it.

If you are worried about the light this casts you in right now, you can ask your coworker to give you feedback in private or reach out directly for code reviews, so that they can get it if their chest and don't need to mention things in public.

6

I'd try to get into a more collaborative mindset.

You say that this solution is a pair of tightly coupled projects that you are each responsible for. It stands to reason that you'll each have inspirations that cross the line between the projects.

You should probably set a standing appointment, maybe 10 minutes twice a week, where you synchronize with each other's work and progress, and you can offer each other suggestions in private when you can explore them a little in a non-confrontational way.

I'd believe your counterpart is just trying to collaborate, and not undermine.

1

there are 2 separate pieces … and my focus is on one piece, while my coworkers focus is on the other piece.

Just how separate are they? Do your coworker's suggestions relate to aspects of your work that can impact his work? Those are the things where it would make most sense for him to comment.

…he wants to add a new feature, which is a task he auto-assigned to himself.

Are either you or your coworker responsible for selecting the features?

Should I say something like this to my manager: "I appreciate my coworker's improvement suggestions, but sometimes I feel that he is casting me in a negative light … "

No. Frame it in terms of things your manager cares about, like the point above about features, or your ability to get your work done:

Considering and responding to your coworker's comments takes time and distracts you from your assigned tasks.

-5

How can I handle this situation gracefully?

Don't be so defensive.

Try rolling your eyes and saying something like "Thanks for the suggestion. I'll consider it".

Then do whatever you were going to do anyway.

4
  • 2
    And if he self-assings the suggestion to himself and implements it? Also ignore that as well? Dec 19, 2023 at 18:21
  • 8
    Rolling your eyes is typically considered rude and dismissive, would not recommend because it will make you look bad.
    – GammaGames
    Dec 19, 2023 at 20:39
  • 2
    If review of his submission agrees that his change is an improvement, why wouldn't you accept it? If it doesn't pass review it doesn't get accepted, a bit annoying but also harmless. If he's wasting anyone's time, it's his own, and that's between him and manglement.
    – keshlam
    Dec 19, 2023 at 22:06
  • Maybe too many downvotes. People are free to consider this approach and dismiss it. Sometimes we don't have to bring out the big guns to solve what might not be a big problem. Dec 22, 2023 at 14:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .