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I have spent the last 6 months at my first job after grad studies in a team of 8 people. I need to collaborate with my teammates for the project and although I am very comfortable with everyone else there is one person which I feel I have a problematic relationship with. He's generally nice, but when working on ideas I felt that he has strong opinions. He is one year senior than me and always tries to force the way he thinks and works onto me.

I am politely conveying him that we may not needed to strictly follow what he thinks since I prefer simpler, practical ideas, over his approach to follow book knowledge which tends to be more complex. He is still forcing me to follow his approach instead of mine. When I asked him why that would be better, his answer was just that a particular book or paper talks about those ideas.

Since he is senior to me, I give him due respect and try to discuss with him why my approach might be simpler and why I would like to use that instead of his. But I feel that he is uncomfortable with my rejection of his ideas.

What should I do better to convince him to use my ideas without damaging the relationship between us?

  • Have you considered asking him why he likes the more complex ideas? Perhaps there may be some cases his ideas cover that yours doesn't which he may have learned in the past year to some degree. – JB King Mar 6 '14 at 7:09
  • When I asked him why his ideas are better, his simple answer is that a particular book or paper talks about those ideas. – samarasa Mar 6 '14 at 7:14
  • Often you have way more leeway than it feels like. If someone is being over-bearing, you might be better off listening and acknowledging, but minding your own tiller. After all, he certainly has some good ideas, as do you. I do feel it's a shame, though, when I can't collaborate with a teammate because they are too self-absorbed to take input. – Rob Mar 6 '14 at 7:21
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    I would ask him to explain why the paper's / book's approach is better for your business. He should be asked to explain how the extra effort in complexity benefits the company in terms of reliability, security, or volume. – Wesley Long Mar 6 '14 at 7:27
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    Perhaps your question provides a hint: "we may not needed to strictly follow what he thinks since I prefer simpler, practical ideas". He provides an idea based on what he's read, you give him a totally different idea based on your preference. Sounds like you just want him to implement your ideas because they are your ideas, not because his ideas are necessarily bad, or because your ideas are demonstrably better. As-is, I would have trouble answering this question, because it isn't clear what the actual problem is (other than your colleague not doing what you prefer). – jmac Mar 6 '14 at 8:43
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You will face this situation throughout your professional career. If the only reasons YOU can come up with that supports your way of doing something is that "YOU think it is simpler/less complex" or "YOU like it better" then get used to having the over-bearing people walk all over you. I went through the process in my early career. My solution to the problem was to develop my expertise and now I know why my solution is better (in the situations where it is) and I can explain the reasons in concrete terms. I can also show where the other solution is less desirable. The key is that those reasons need to be demonstrable reasons and not just vague opinions like I think it is less complex.

In the meantime, see what you can do about breaking your project into "relatively" stand-alone pieces so he can do his part the way he wants and you can do yours the way you want. You'll still have to negotiate the overlaps, but at least this will minimize the issue.

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Your title says it all, "...to follow MY approach..." It doesn't say "...to follow the BEST approach...". You both think you are right, but neither of you are having a constructive debate about the pros and cons. A constructive debate is one that gets into the details because you are both well versed in the details. The answer is to become more like Margaret Thatcher, who was well known for knowing more about any topic before she discussed it. She did her homework. You can only expect to persuade people when you are well versed in the details. That doesn't mean you will convince others every time, it just means that others will begin to increasingly pay attention and value what you have to say. You will gain respect and that is a precursor to influence.

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I think both you and your coworker are right in your own way. He want to follow what he has read over the years and you are looking the situation at a very practical point of view. Why don't you sit up together and find a middle path in each and every situation, since every situation is different. Your end result should be up to the mark.

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It sounds as if you both are having trouble communicating with one another. You state that your ideas are "simpler." To whom are they "simpler?" If they are only simple to YOU, then they may not be as effective as you may be imagining. You also stated that his ideas are "complex." Are they complex to YOU or others? Are they effective? If they are, then regardless of their perceived complexities, they may also be effective solutions to the problems at hand.

Looking from the outside, this seems to be a problem of your supervision. If that person (or those people) assign you both tasks, they should be able to decide which approaches are used to complete the work in a timely manner. If your supervision prefers his complexity over your simplicity, you may have to emulate portions of his performance to become successful. The inverse may be true if your simplicity performs the same needed tasks in a more cost efficient and effective manner.

The bottom line is that he was their first. If you are eventually promoted ahead of him, then you'll get to implement the changes which you believe to be necessary. If he remains your senior and your management prefers his methods, then you may have to adopt some or all of them to perform well at your job.

The key thing is to not assume that your methods are "better." They may be better for you or you may perceive them to be easier than his. Neither of which is helpful in most situations as it will cause you to butt heads with a co-worker instead of getting work done. Talk with you manager, see how he/she prefers to have things done and then adar your performance to their needs.

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