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At my job some days I would work out of a room with only one other person in it. 95% of the time he would just sit at his desk watching YouTube videos of World of Warcraft. He wasn't management but he had more seniority and I was new. I found it really demoralizing especially when he told me about mistakes I made. I think he saw it as training me. While it was true that work was slow, I would try to read up on things that would be useful for the work or try to automate or prepare for common tasks. Should I have said anything to anyone about how he just sits there watching YouTube? Should I have said anything about how he complains about mistakes I made or asked for clarity if he was supposed to be managing me or training me? I know not everybody feels this way, but I feel a lot better in a workplace where I know my coworkers take their work seriously. How do I express this in an interview or a job search?

For completeness this is my view: if someone isn't doing their job and it's effecting your ability to do yours, then it's OK to speak up. But if this isn't the case it's better to mind your own business.

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    Why do you want to say anything, what do you hope the outcome would be? More so as you say, work is slow, and you are not doing direct work things either.
    – Aida Paul
    Dec 22, 2023 at 5:25
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    @AidaPaul I think there's a difference between preparing for work vs watching unrelated videos all day. If this really is considered acceptable behavior I would like to know it.
    – ClanLatin
    Dec 22, 2023 at 5:40
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    So you hope that by bringing it up they will get told off by the management and do better?
    – Aida Paul
    Dec 22, 2023 at 5:57
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    I had a coworker like that. When I quit last year, I finally told the boss - he already knew, but didn't care because this guy did a specific task well, and that was enough to satisfy management. Furthermore this specific task was so mind-numbingly boring that this person would be very difficult to replace, since nobody else wanted that task as part of their responsibilities.
    – Gertsen
    Jan 8 at 13:51
  • @ClanLatin One of my co-workers spends all day with rocket/nasa related videos on his second monitor. He's also one of the most productive devs I've know in 15 years in the field. One thing has nothing to do with the other.
    – T. Sar
    Jan 16 at 17:53

4 Answers 4

14

Focus on your own productivity.

It may be that he's found ways to be productive despite this, such as watching those videos at times when he's waiting for a long-running process to finish. If so, he might be able to be even more productive by doing something more work-related with that time -- or he might need the break between highly focused sessions. I know some of my own most creative work gets done in the back of my mind when doing something else.

Or he may indeed be slacking. In which case the best thing to do is take advantage of the opportunity to show management how much you can accomplish in the same time, rather than actively complaining about him. The sole exception would be if some of your work is delayed waiting for him; then you can legitimately complain about that. Why he isn't delivering it soon enough is not your business until/unless you are his supervisor or you are directly asked.

Let management manage. Accusing another employee of slacking is Not A Good Look.

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    Obligatory xkcd
    – gidds
    Jan 7 at 17:11
  • I objectively agree with everything you say. I include this in a comment as it's purely subjective and more my personality. In past workplaces, it was common for coworkers to socialize a bit if the work was slow and they were stuck together anyway. (I actually find it helps with work to know my coworkers personality/communication style a bit) This guy seemed extremely concerned with ending every conversation as quick as possible. I later noticed he is like this with everyone. Should I have said anything to anyone? Is it OK to ask other coworkers if they noticed he doesn't like to talk?
    – ClanLatin
    Jan 15 at 22:25
  • If you have a new Question, please open a new Question rather than posing it in another question's comments. My immediate reaction is that some folks just aren't comfortable with on interested in idle chatter, and there's nothing inherently unreasonable about that. Why ask others if you say you've already noticed it isn't just you? Let it go
    – keshlam
    Jan 15 at 23:40
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    @ClanLatin Sometimes people just like to be left quiet. Specially in tech - a bunch of us are just "leave me alone to do my thing" type of folk. Personality types can be different.
    – T. Sar
    Jan 16 at 17:51
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As a brand new employee, never badmouth a coworker's work ethic unless it's directly affecting your own productivity. And even then, this should only be done as a last resort. Making an enemy at work can easily get you fired, or make your work life a living hell.

You don't know the political situation. You're not in school anymore. In the workplace, being able to collaborate is essential. And if a coworker refuses to work with you (because they suspect that you told on them). It's usually a thousand times easier for your employer to fire you (the new employee) than fire your coworker.

And don't mention this story during interviews (prepare a different story if they ask you about a conflict you had at work). Telling this current story as is could give the impression that you're bitter because of the negative feedback, that you didn't have much work to do at your last job, and that you're not good at fitting in.

Nothing good can come out of telling this story. I mean. The initiative to automate tasks is nice, but there is probably another way to bring this up.

0

Generally speaking, focus on solutions rather than problems.

Your workplace isn't "wrong"; neither are you. It simply might not be the kind of place you want to be.

Determine in your own mind why the non-productive behavior persists.

Does the supervisor not know whether or not his work is getting done? If not, do you want to work for a supervisor like that (efforts to "train" your supervisor will likely only frustrate you)?

If so, talk with the supervisor about whether they want an environment of initiative, innovation, and productivity (without pointing fingers at your co-worker), and how you can help create it. Good supervisors want employees to thrive, and will welcome ideas on how to create that environment. If they don't, do you really want to work there?

If you decide you do want to work there, certainly clarify with the supervisor what level of direction they want you to take from your co-worker. If it is the silly things like where to sit, then decide if this environment still fits you.

If you reach the conclusion that the environment doesn't fit you, then, indeed, you can certainly talk with prospective new employers about your desire for a productive and innovative environment. They'll respect that you're looking to leave because you don't have it where you are; if they don't, you don't want to work for them, either!

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This is a Tricky situation.

For reference - I often will have some form of YT video going, especially when I have multiple screens - but that doesn't mean I'm not working - most of the time I'm thinking about whatever issue I've got going on.

It's just how I roll and I'd be a bit salty if someone raised a stink to Management about it.

The general rule of thumb is 'So long as the Work that needs to be done is getting done...'

So I'm going to address some of your points:

I would try to read up on things that would be useful for the work or try to automate or prepare for common tasks

This is Admirable - and one could (and perhaps should) make the point that if you are on Company Time and the Company Dime, you should be doing things to benefit the Company - however, depending on the role and how much room for improvement/advancement within the role, it may be moot.

In short - if you are choosing to use down-time to make yourself better, that's great and you do you - but don't try and force your standard of behavior onto others.

Should I have said anything about how he complains about mistakes I made or asked for clarity if he was supposed to be managing me or training me?

This is where I think the root of the problem is - you are annoyed at him for being an ass to you and you are looking for ways to 'Get back at him'

The key question here: Are the mistakes you are making genuine? That is - If I was to pull out your corporate procedures manual or look up industry best-practices, the things he's hitting you up about would be listed in there? If the answer is 'Yes' - then I would first and foremost focus on what you are doing - spending time upskilling is great, but if you are making basic mistakes... If the answer is 'No' - then this is where you should consider discussing with Management.

Furthermore - whilst having ambiguity over Training or responsibility is frustrating - if the things being complained about are legitimate, then rather than worry about the formality of the process, worry about not making the mistakes.

Finally - you said you want to work somewhere where people take their job seriously - so I want to ask you a question:

Which employee takes their job more seriously?

Employee A always shows up 10 minutes early to their shift, spends all their down-time reading process manuals and trying to upskill themselves - yet makes mistakes on their core function vs

Employee B shows up mostly on-time, doesn't lift a finger when it's quiet - but perform their core function flawlessly.

To put it another way - if I'm going in for Brain Surgery - I don't care if the Brain Surgeon is a Gambling addict, chronic womanizer with mounting Credit Card debt who is pawing at everyone in the hospital - I care that they can do Brain Surgery and I'll live and be cured.

To conclude - if the mistakes you are being chastised for are legitimate, I'd first and foremost work on fixing them before doing anything.

If they aren't, I'd consider discussing it with Management - but I'd weigh that heavily against whether the work is being done. If it is being done, I'd be more likely to mind my own business. If it isn't - that's when I'd consider talking with Management.

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    I think you're examples are a little extreme regarding someone who does the bare minimum but makes no mistakes. Most of the things he complained about were undocumented/not written down things, like telling me where to sit workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/193017/…
    – ClanLatin
    Jan 5 at 6:36
  • @ClanLatin - Your question made no mention of that. The important take away is that this coworker is NOT your manager and nor are you their manager. However, they might be your mentor, or responsible for your code. So their opinion might matter, but your manager, can clarify if that’s the case.
    – Donald
    Jan 7 at 20:09
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    "For reference - I often will have some form of YT video going, especially when I have multiple screens - but that doesn't mean I'm not working - most of the time I'm thinking about whatever issue I've got going on." This sounds very dubious. Jan 8 at 19:42
  • I'm still curious about this philosophical points this question makes. Sometimes it's more subjective than objective if a mistake was made. Like even with the brain surgeon, would you say he made a mistake if he had a decision to make a took the non-optimal approach? Or is your definition of mistake any time someone doesn't follow a written rule?
    – ClanLatin
    Jan 15 at 22:21
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    @StephanBranczyk some folks need to have noise to think. Sometimes I'll be working on a complicated model while some streamer drones in the background about a game he's playing. It becomes a nice white noise and I'm familiar with the game, so I can understand what's going on very quickly if I turn my attention to it. Different people think in different ways. Jan 18 at 0:41

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