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I am working in a somewhat old startup with a team size of 10. In my opinion, all members are technically sound and work great as a team. A few months before I joined, another programmer joined the company. It seems that he is the 'chest beater' in the group. There's nothing wrong in that.

I am a few weeks into the job and now this guy cannot help but - at every available opportunity - take me under his wings and groom me on what a good technology team member should do. There are unstoppable instant messages from this guy telling how I should arrange sessions with the CEO and the client and brag about the big fix I did. In break rooms, he cannot help but say 'I am trying to groom this guy - break him into the team -' and he doesn't listen.

I do not want to beat my chest about anything I do at work.

I have told this person that I do not want to talk about my work in the fashion he encourages, but he doesn't seem to get it and is in wonder why someone wouldn't yell and shout 'I did it'.

How can I let this person respectfully know that I do not want to be groomed by him?

Update: Ignoring him hasn't helped. The situation has only gone worse with this guy. Now every hour in pretext of banter he pops by my machine and asks for a status update on what I am doing and if the manager really asked me to do it (whatever I am doing) in a friendly/teammate'ish way - where in it is not appropriate to ask him Why are you interested ? or Are you my boss ? For every code check in I do, next day is a flurry of IMs on what a great job I did and how I am improving and how he is happy with me. If I am in earlier than him then its either a why did you turn up earlier than me ? Or Good that you are an early morning person, I like it. Urrrgghhhh !

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    @JoeStrazzere - Personally, I would not so bluntly block a person like that. It's quite a slap in the face to block anyone to begin with... – Andrew Cheong Feb 26 '14 at 11:58
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    Its a small team and I don't want to officially voice a concern about this. Can't block him on messenger either – happybuddha Feb 26 '14 at 23:32
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    @acheong87: Agreed, especially as the guy seems to already have a possibly immature/childish/insecure personality... I wouldn't go about making him feel bad. Ignoring him seems effective enough. – haylem Feb 27 '14 at 18:24
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    What is disrespectful about saying, "I do not want to be groomed by you"? – Brad Thomas Mar 7 '14 at 5:43
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    @AndreiROM I just kept suffering for a while. Quietly. This somewhat damaged my ability to hang out with other mates. Eventually, the guys who pay coin found this guy was just full of it and he was asked to leave. – happybuddha Jan 31 '16 at 11:14
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+50

Keep Ignoring Him

Keep ignoring him as you do and eventually he'll stop. He has no incentive to keep doing this for ever, so he'll stop. For the most part.

Do Your Job

And if you do good work eventually your output will speak for itself and show - if not to him, at least to others - that you don't need grooming anyways.


In essence: be Zen. Be a rock. The path of least resistance is also the one of least annoyance, at least in the long run. Sounds a bit guru-ish, but that never fails, whether it's with this kind of co-workers, bullies, etc...

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    Just noticed some might think my answer relates to my avatar. This is coincidental, but I can't say there's not some sort of life lesson there :) – haylem Feb 27 '14 at 18:19
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    ++ on this answer. If this guy was being negative about your work, it'd be another thing - but it sounds like you're impressing this person, which is never bad! Overall, I'd just add to this and say to keep on friendly terms, and to just treat his comments as compliments; say thanks and that's the end of it. I wish I had your problem! – Kver Mar 5 '14 at 16:47
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    "Keep ignoring him as you do and eventually he'll stop." No he won't. This person is a bully. Bullies rarely stop unless they are stood up to, hard. "He has no incentive to keep doing this for ever". His incentive is that every time he says he is grooming OP, he looks senior and more skilled. Every time he tells OP to go brag to the CEO, he is advising him to make a CLM (career limiting move). The truth is this bully, like all bullies, is acting out of fear. In this case it is fear of his competition (OP). – Brad Thomas Mar 9 '14 at 6:01
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    @BradThomas: I disagree: bullies do stop when you ignore them, because they don't always act solely out of fear but also out of pride and for fun. OP ignoring him takes away the fun, and the OP's actions should disprove anything else that guy gets from pretending to be grooming him. Even if that guy is not only annoying but also good at what he does, people will eventually figure out that he's done nothing helpful for the OP and that he can stand his own ground. – haylem Mar 11 '14 at 7:03
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    @BradThomas: But you can feel free to prefer a more confrontational approach, and see where that brings and if that's not a risk of CLM for you. Surely, confronting him can bring faster results. Maybe not the right ones though, and it diverts your efforts away from doing what you're supposed to be doing. I've more confidence in the other way, though it requires more discipline and patience on your side. – haylem Mar 11 '14 at 7:04
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It's been said that IT professionals are a bit reluctant to increase their visibility, or taken to the extreme, chest beating as you say. You say the team is small and everyone pretty much knows everyone so the following may not be necessary in your situation, yet it might prove essential in a different workplace.

A little chest-beating doesn't hurt.

At the very least your client's opinion of having hired the most competent people their money can afford them is reinforced. When it's time for the next project, the Accounts guy will thank you for being able to charge accordingly.

As I said before many in our profession tend to be shyer than, say, salesmen. I'm exactly the same way but from the outside you may be seen as being timid (and lazy).

So yes, do talk to the client about the awesome bug fix. You don't have to brag about it to the entire team, or cold-call him in the middle of the night for every eureka moment, but do increase your visibility where it counts. At the very least it might make your colleague think his work here is done.

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    So your solution to get this jerk to stop trying to groom him is to let him groom him? I think that is the opposite of the goal here. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 4 '14 at 22:35
  • @Chad I do not want to beat my chest about anything I do at work That's the issue I was going after. Perhaps I took it too literaly. Perhaps the jerk has seen potential and is trying, in his own way, to help the OP advance his career. The other answer deals with the annoying colleague, mine with the periphery. But you are right, I don't give advice on how to stop that behaviour. – rath Mar 4 '14 at 23:11
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    That is the question... there is no question about chest beating... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 5 '14 at 14:35
  • Hey rath, great post. I'd suggest including ways to avoid having to change one's behavior, since it sounds like the op doesn't want to do this. On Workplace SE, it's okay to say "don't do that, try this instead", but sometimes it's best to also include the answer anyway just in case the asker really does want to do what is asked. See How to Answer for more guidance. Hope this helps! – jmort253 Mar 9 '14 at 1:10
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    @jmort253 Good point, I'll do my best. – rath Mar 9 '14 at 2:10
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Tell the colleague that you do not want to be groomed by them, since (imo) saying that is not disrespectful.

I think the person you are dealing with is a bully who views you as competition and is trying to outmaneuver you. I do not believe you should just passively let this happen, I believe you should assert what you want, and if that is not heeded then you should escalate by taking your complaint to management. I believe you should remain professional throughout. Even though bullies will only stop if they are hit with a tough response, do not take that action yourself, that is not your role, that is managements' role.

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Perhaps you could turn the tables and try to mentor him in being humble, at my work (not software related) the IT team are salesmen (chest beaters) that get barely any work done.

If they spent more time working and less time beating their chest they would be appreciated much more and of much more value to the company

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This kind of clown can be really annoying. But getting rid of the annoyance is difficult without being a jerk yourself.

Keep being nice to the guy. Don't make an official complaint. After all, the guy keeps making compliments to you. It could be worse !

Try humour.

When the clown gives you his so-smart advice, laugh and reply :

"Thank you, but I don't need your advice !"

He is the newcomer, you are the old one in the company. You can tell him with a smile :

"Thank you Billy for showing me around. I'm usually lost when I am new in a company."

The idea is to make him sound ridiculous. So hopefully he will stop. When he congratulates you loudly in front of the others, take him by the shoulder and reply, in laughing :

"Ah, Billy, my biggest fan !"

Regarding instant messaging, blocking Billy would be a bad idea, it is rude. But I suggest to stop using instant messaging. You will have more time to do your work.

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    Not sure where you're from Nicholas, but using those examples where I live, particularly the first one, would be considered extremely offensive. The other two, if not offensive, would probably just encourage the behavior. – brichins Jul 8 '15 at 23:09

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