I've got a senior colleague, whom I can't get along with too well.

We've had some bad interactions when I just joined the company, because he just throws everything he thinks out in the wild, without thinking about the impact that it might have on somebody.

I responded to that in a defensive way and since then, our interaction is different, than the interactions he has with other colleague.

When discussing work related things he just acts normal, but whenever I shine something through to my other colleagues about things I'm doing in my private time, he immediately picks it up and starts to comment in a disparaging manner. I get that some people might want the conversation to end and that stands in their full right. However, this person does not ask for the conversation to end, but starts joking negatively about the things that I'm talking about.

He quite often joins the out of work conversations of other colleagues and is happy to involve in those conversations, but whenever he is involved in my conversations he places negative jokes into the conversation.

I find it annoying that whenever I'm showing what I've accomplished or the next thing that I need to accomplish, non work-related, that he's so negative and disparaging.

Sometimes it goes through my mind, that he might have influence on the career path that I'm working on, since he is a senior after all.

I am quite sensitive to social outings, such as these.

How should I handle this? I've tried to ignore it, but unfortunately it does have an impact on me. Should I take him aside (non-aggressive way of asking, why he said something negative) the next time he says something disparaging, and ask him what that was about?

I want our relationship to be normal, as with any other colleagues.


3 Answers 3


First off: I think you meant to write "take him aside" instead of "take him apart" given the context of the rest of the sentence? If so, that would greatly change the tone of your question.

I genuinely don't understand why you are getting so much negative feedback here. Why is everyone acting like it isn't completely normal and healthy to have a relationship with your coworkers where you can discuss activities you do outside of work? And why is everyone seemingly on the side of the guy who is constantly disparaging and belittling you and only you for it, when he isn't even the person you're talking to? Especially someone senior to you. I would be going straight to HR if this happened more than once to me. Maybe my workplaces have been different from what other people have experienced, but that is bizarre to me.

What they are saying that is valid is that you should probably take a step back and examine your own behavior. You stated that you responded defensively to him early on - is it possible that you are more consistently defensive and closed off to his criticism than your coworkers? He is your senior, so if you are that could be contributing to your poor relationship. And it is not out of the question that your enthusiasm about your interests does manifest itself in a "braggy" way, which does not excuse his behavior but is something you should work on. That being said, IMO it is ridiculous for people here to assume that you are being braggy and blame your problem on that. It may be worth asking a couple of your coworkers if they think that's how you come across.

Now, for your actual question as to how to handle this: I would start by toning down how much you talk about your interests when you are near this coworker. It's the easiest way for you to reduce the friction short term. Also, start documenting exactly what is said any time he does make negative comments to you, so you can A) build a case and B) maybe you'll find that it actually doesn't happen as frequently or what he says isn't as negative as you think. I wouldn't confront him about this issue, that's a job for HR if you eventually get them involved. Finally, be honest with yourself about whether you are treating him with enough respect in the first place. He is a senior, so a certain level of respect within the workplace is warranted. Make sure you are not acting as the antagonizer in his story.

  • 8
    @Or4ng3h4t nothing in the original question specifically indicates that the asker is chit-chatting at inappropriate times, and nothing about the senior colleague indicates that they're being negative because they're being interrupted - in fact it reads like the timing and content of these conversations are perfectly reasonable for their workplace. As InBedded16 says in this answer, it's a bit ridiculous to assume the worst when there's no concrete evidence for it.
    – jla
    Jan 5 at 10:33
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    @Or4ng3h4t The assumptions you're making about the OP here, and the absolute confidence with which you've made them, are frankly bizarre. I would respectfully suggest that you should question whether they are well-founded on things the OP has directly described, or whether they are patterns of behavior that you dislike in your own workplace and have imputed to the OP as a matter of speculation.
    – Sneftel
    Jan 5 at 11:23
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    @Or4ng3h4t And maybe they are jealous! Or maybe they aren't, but why start by assuming the OP's apprehension of the situation is flat-out wrong? If they're delusional about the problem then they'll be delusional about whether the 'right' solution applies to them. As a matter of practicality we're sort of forced to take them at their word.
    – Sneftel
    Jan 5 at 12:52
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    @Or4ng3h4t thanks for mentioning the edit. This "I've got the feeling that he's quite jealous. I've got a special car, I'm working on my own business ideas, I've got a YouTube channel, I'm going to the gym everyday. He has got none of that" makes me see the OP in a different light
    – Aaron F
    Jan 5 at 15:17
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    @AaronF it really shouldn't. You're making an assumption about OP by a single sentence they wrote, a sentence which is simply trying to give us context for why they think this coworker is being negative towards them. You have no idea if OP is actually "pretentious and braggy" just from that sentence, and assuming so takes away from the point of the question.
    – InBedded16
    Jan 5 at 18:11

He most likely doesn't like you. Face it, you started off in the wrong foot with him, and kept pressing on the gas by constantly speaking about (insert whatever you talk about) in the workplace.

My advice would be to refrain from touching certain topics (which trigger said behavior), and keeping your relationship strictly professional and respectful, the workplace isn't the place to talk about your private "achievements" IMO.

Take the people you want to talk with for a coffee after work, then you can talk away about any subject you want without negative comments.


Talk to him and ask why he always makes such negative comments about your personal life, and say you are sorry for the comments you made when you first met, most likely he was just trying to banter and you, being the new guy, got defensive. I did that in my first job, had problems with my team leader because I took it too personally and not as a witty playful comment. Bantering was the way to break the ice with my team leader, maybe it is too with your senior.

This will make or break your relationship, either he tells you why, and you can/want to fix it. He might always shrug it off and not give you a reason (which I think is more likely), in that case that's a clear signal of "I don't like you and have no interest talking to you". That's where you stick to my first point and just be professional and respectful.

Personal Opinion: He is also a senior, that should warrant some respect on your part which you clearly lack when you ask if you should "take him apart the next time he says something disparaging", he has as much right to comment negatively on your hobby as you have to bring it up near him. In all my time working, I've never had a single ounce of interest for other people's hobbies, maybe he just doesn't like the typical "car guy", and sees you as one, who knows if he tries to deter you from talking about X near him, get away.

  • 10
    the workplace isn't the place to talk about your private "achievements" IMO We spend a huge chunk of our lives at work - it is absolutely a place where work tangent or unrelated topics are discussed and this is a normal thing, at least in my culture (French)
    – WoJ
    Jan 5 at 14:40
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    @WoJ So it is in mine (Portugal), doesn't mean that I personally need to abide by it or enjoy it, I keep things to myself and force others to do the same around me. Not once has anyone been offended, I've been called anti-social, which I guess I am. That doesn't give everybody else the right to make me miserable, and vice versa.
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Jan 5 at 15:00
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    That doesn't give everybody else the right to make me miserable, and vice versa OF COURSE not. What I meant is not that everyone should discuss of personal stuff at the office, I was referring to your statement that the workplace is not the place to do so. Everyone is free to speak or not speak. BTW I have a very diverse team with all extremes and they live together extremely well because everyone behaves the way they want without any pressure (on them or others).
    – WoJ
    Jan 5 at 15:05
  • @WoJ Seems like a dream environment, keep up the great work
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Jan 5 at 15:12

I find it annoying that whenever I'm showing what I've accomplished or the next thing that I need to accomplish, non work-related, that he's so negative and disparaging.

This is workplace, your coworkers are free to not care even one bit about your out of work life. And yet if this continues to come up, and you somehow involve that person in that conversation (for example by having them in the ear shot, instead of doing it at a break room), eventually they may speak up hoping to cut it short.

Them eventually telling you to cut it out is not their fault, you are the one forcing them to hear something they have no interest in.

But honestly, more telling than your question is your tone and the comments, as you seem quite oblivious to how it can come across. You can say "I am not bragging at all!" but 'that's like just your opinion, man' situation and you are in the middle of it, unable to see how it comes through.

Should I take him apart the next time he says something disparaging, and ask him what's wrong?

This is prime example of what I am trying to say. You ask on how to handle it, how to get along, but at the same time somehow you consider it even as a possibility to go and tear them a new one for being disinterested in your out of work life. They don't have to care, and if they have to keep hearing about it, you can expect backlash, where honestly that backlash may just be casual remarks that disagree with your view, but you take more personally.

Especially after you've done that to them at the start of your relationship, but now dislike the other end of the stick.

How should I handle this?

Take your out of work chat to the break room. It's simple as that, if you actually want to maintain those good relations.

Think about it as working remotely, having a channel called "project X work discussion" which gets hijacked a lot with chatter that's on entirely unrelated topics and there already exists the channel called "off topic" where that discussion would belong. But because it keeps taking over "project x work discussion", people who may have "off topic" muted now have to deal with the conversation they specifically set out to avoid.

Treat your office in the same manner. Yes, small off topic will happen, but keep it at that - small and sometimes, anything bigger goes to a break room.

  • 2
    I get that collegues do not care a single bit about my out of work life and everybody has it's rights to request the end of a non-working conversation, but the main point is that he doesn't do that. He starts speaking negative things and starts making negatively loaded jokes, whereas if somebody else talks about his out of work life, he goes along with the conversation without saying something negative once Jan 4 at 13:18
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    @GeneralOctopusNL Then the answer stands, don't start the topic, don't nurture it, they got nothing to chime in. But as I said, i don't believe your question as honest, you seem very keen on taering them a new one rather than happily coexisting. Which you have the right to do, just be ready for consequences.
    – Aida Paul
    Jan 4 at 13:25
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    I get your point on not starting a topic, so he got nothing to chime in about, but I believe there must also be another solution. Jan 4 at 13:32
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    @GeneralOctopusNL Are these conversations of yours the same type as the ones that your coworkers start, e.g. do they regularly share about their outside of work accomplishments too? I’m trying to see if you are being singled out because your behavior is different from your colleagues’ and your senior just objects to your behavior (rudely), or if you are all acting exactly the same and your senior just doesn’t like (or is for some other reason picking on) you. It’s an important difference that we really need you to clarify to fully help.
    – bob
    Jan 5 at 3:06
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    I suspect there is a misunderstanding here. It is very possible that when the OP wrote "take them apart", they meant "take them aside and talk to them privately", not "rip them apart into pieces".
    – Stef
    Jan 5 at 16:57

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