I joined a new team as a software engineer. I am helping fixing security vulnerabilities on these existing applications. The owner of these application has been working on them for many years but I still have to tell him how to do the most basic things such as: running the applications locally, update dependencies etc. Sometimes I have documented procedures step by step but instead of following instructions he wants me call him and show him on his computer where to click. I have mentioned this to our project manager and sometimes she asks me to "help him" since one of our companies pillar is "collaboration" but I am struggling to decide how to handle this. Is not that I don't have time but it is very frustrating to have to show a 10+ years experience developer how to compile a program


3 Answers 3


What should be the limit of someone's incompetence?

You're the limit, because there are no limits otherwise.

Either you stay at this job and accept the current situation, or you find a different employer and you leave as soon as you get a job offer. From what you've described, you don't have much choice left since you've already tried complaining to your manager.

  • Putting aisde my job and responsibilities. in there is no such thing as "expectations" from someone to do their job. What would be the definition of incompetence in the workplace in any field?
    – Oscar
    Mar 22 at 19:28
  • Yes I guess as long as it does not affect your tasks you can keep doing what are other people responsibilities and your best option would be find something else
    – Oscar
    Mar 22 at 19:38
  • 3
    Ah yes, the standard "minor snag in workplace you must leave" workplace answer.
    – Aida Paul
    Mar 22 at 20:23

Is not that I don't have time but it is very frustrating to have to show a 10+ years experience developer how to compile a program

Get over yourself.

That's really it. I hardly feel like the answer needs to be longer, but I'll try for a good measure and a bit of sport.

People need help in myriads of ways, some to you may seem trivial as they are to you. What you do not know is what problems are those people tackling elsewhere, and usually it's stuff you didn't even think to consider as a problem. This is very common arrogance of the "new person on the team", especially when they are more junior in general (and that has very little to do with years in the industry) and it is not going to help you in your career.

This goes both ways, and I am sure you would not enjoy people rolling eyes at you when you ask for help with something they consider trivial. This isn't what makes a healthy work atmosphere, it's what makes a horrible hell pit of toxicity. And I am 100% sure that many of your questions are as, if not more, trivial than the ones you are facing.

So as in the opening: get over yourself, smile, and be glad that when you ask for help people do not roll their eyes at you, and instead give you a helping hand. For bonus points, use that as opportunity to learn more about the person you are helping, what they are doing, rather than feeling like this is somehow above you.

Your boss told you it's not.

  • That is not the question though. What happens when you hire an accountant for example and he doesn't know how to multiply to numbers? Do you teach him once right? Then what? Do you teach him to use excel right? What is the limit of someone's not knowing how to do basic things he is supposed to know
    – Oscar
    Mar 22 at 17:52
  • 6
    @Oscar You didn't hire anyone, you are an employee, you were told what to do.
    – Aida Paul
    Mar 22 at 17:53
  • 4
    @Oscar Incorrect, I am simply answering in a way you don't like. Possibly beause the question is absolutly trivial.
    – Aida Paul
    Mar 22 at 17:57
  • 3
    +1 I've had to repeatedly help some people on our team "use version control". That makes it sound like they don't know something they should know right? Well, our version control system is very different from Git, which is what they are familiar with. It's taking some repetition for them to get used to the new workflow. If I need help using Git, well, I hope they'll return the favor. They are all very capable engineers. And yes, we have a wiki page full of steps, but it doesn't really help when you've gotten yourself in a bad state.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 22 at 18:11
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    @Oscar I deleted my comment since i missed the part where you already complained to your manager. Well of course there are expectations but your question is very subjective. We're not there with you in the office, we can't judge if maybe you're overreacting a bit or probably they're just as bad as you mentioned.
    – Sherry
    Mar 22 at 19:39

You may not be an epitome of communication

This started as a comment, but then I realized I was working my way into an answer.

Reading through your post, I noticed a lot of spelling and grammar errors which made it difficult for me to parse exactly who the parties were and what was overall important. Perhaps your documented step by step procedures have these issues as well, which is making it hard for your colleague to use them.

Another possibility is that your colleague is actually extremely busy with a lot of different things and doesn't have much time to keep up on the things that you're being asked to help him with.

When your manager points out that 'collaboration' is a company pillar, it helps to consider what that can mean. I've worked as a project engineer for about 17 years. From my perspective, it means I have to meet people at their level if I'm to get things done.

Just this week, I had to collaborate with a regulator whom had given me an unreasonable deadline because of their own inaction; with the president of the company who needed assistance with digital verification; and with junior engineers who needed me to explain things that they probably should've learned 2 years ago. If I refuse to collaborate with these people at their level the consequences, respectively, I will have to explain to my client that their permit was denied; I will lose the confidence of the company's president; and I'll eventually have junior engineers not knowing things they should've learned 3 years ago.

Technical knowledge is great, but if you can't communicate your ideas to people who aren't you, you'll have a hard time advancing professionally.

  • I get it. All the answers are biased based on the assumption I’m the arrogant coworker here and never putting in doubt the competence of the rest. Like yeah you must be the problem here no matter how lazy the others are. Yeah they don’t want to read my instructions not because they are lazy but because I don’t know english
    – Oscar
    Mar 23 at 18:33
  • 1
    @Oscar the point I'm trying to make isn't about whether you or your coworker are more competent than the other. Rather, it's that in order to work as a valued team member, you need to consider the needs of the other members and try to meet them where they are at. Folks who can connect with a lot of different people are folks who can get things done and make things happen. Folks who want to insist all things be done their way but lack the charisma to get others to follow often have a harder time with a lot of things. Mar 24 at 15:24
  • To expand on my example, consider the regulator. When everything was submitted, he had 90 days to get things done on his end. He waited until day 88 to convey comments that required a lot of changes be done very quickly; what was more annoying was that when I explained this he wasn't aware at all of the actual technical ramifications. Regardless, I did a bit of overtime, developed a solution that was a middle ground that got both my client and the regulator what they wanted. 1/2 Mar 24 at 15:28
  • Going forward, the client knows that I'm a person that gets things done, the regulator knows they can trust my judgment, and my project manager knows they can count on me for future tough situations that require a lot of technical knowledge that they lack. Was it annoying, yes. But from a strict career perspective, I just earned a ton of goodwill that will see folks valuing not just my company's technical input in the future, but mine specifically. Collaboration is not something to be undervalued. 2/2 Mar 24 at 15:31

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