When I joined the company my co-worker was very nice; he taught me a lot of things, always paid attention to my questions and he really tried to help the most he could.

However, as time passed and I gained experience, I grew to the point of not needing his help at all. Now my contributions to the team seem to add more value than his and my boss constantly congratulates me in front of him whenever he comes to our offices. My coworker has been in the company for several years and is a valuable member, but he lacks initiative and he only does what he is asked to and no more. Since I have arrived, he spends most of the time unnoticed. It might also bother him that I'm 10 years younger and less experienced but we pretty much perform the same task and hold the same position (i.e same salary).

These facts have caused an extreme change in his behavior towards me: he doesn’t talk to me anymore, he barely shakes my hand when I say hi, and I suspect he is looking for any mistakes to make me look bad. I do not look for his praise or worship but I feel there was a change for the worse and really want to fix it. I just want to be in a stress free environment. I don’t really want to tell my boss or HR because, let’s face it, I am the new guy and there were no issues until I arrived. I really don’t have any interest in causing him any problems.

How do I proceed? If is not affecting the team performance, is it even worth to try fixing things?

Also, he's been here for a while and, as I stated before, he is still a valuable member. If our boss gets promoted, he will likely get his position and become my boss. If that happens and we haven't fixed things by then, I will be screwed. Of course, this is just a possible scenario. I don't know if it is even going to happen.

EDIT: So it has been a while since I posted this for the first time

I asked him what happened and he admitted he didn't like me anymore. He was not ok with the way I do things. I asked him to tell me specifically what was bothering him and that I was willing to change. He said there is not a particular reason.

I don't even joke around or make bad comments or treat him rudely. As a matter of fact, I get along with everyone but him. I think there is nothing I can do and I honestly tried to fix it but at this point I have stopped caring.


4 Answers 4


Looking back on my career, I have been on both sides of this situation, both the new person coming in and the older person who is somewhat upset at the new person. It's not an easy situation.

So first, already you have done better than I did in my twenties because I was totally oblivious to the reactions of others until I had someone 20 years older than me sit me down in private and verbally smack me down. It's a lot harder to recover relationships when that happens (luckily he was professional and let me recover).

Now what I have noticed is that this is a two-way street and sometimes addressing it works and sometimes it does not because you can't control the other person's behavior. There are some people who can't get out of jealous mode. So first what to do to try to rebuild the relationship and then some advice for mitigating any problems he can create for you in the workplace.

First, talk to him straight out. Say something like, "Hey, I seem to have made you angry at me, what can I do to fix this?" His response will probably tell you if you have a hopeless case or not. He might not even actually be mad at you, sometimes people are having a hard time in their personal lives and it affects them at work.

If it seems he has a lot to say, try to set up a private place like a conference room to meet about it. Listen to what he says and reflect back to him what you think he said to make sure he feels listened to and understood. Now for the hard part (like bringing it up wasn't a hard part, LOL). Do not get defensive no matter what he says or how unjustified you may feel it is. Let him say everything he has to say.

This conversation is likely to be painful, you may be doing some things that you had no idea were annoying. If what he has to say is really upsetting, then don't discuss solutions at this meeting, take a break and calm down and think about it first. And really think about whether there is truth in what he is saying (even if you disagree with his interpretation, there is usually a grain of truth in there somewhere, look for it.)

Then make suggestions for how to change things. Then (oh darn another hard part), actually make the changes.

Since this person is someone who you respect professionally and feel you can learn from, tell him that. I once sent an email to a colleague I was having difficulty getting along with because he didn't think the organization needed anyone in my specialty at all. It basically thanked him for the help he had given me and told him how much respect I had for his knowledge. That really turned our relationship around, we were never best buddies, but at least he stopped being so negative in our interactions because he no longer felt so threatened by my existence.

Getting the boss to reduce the amount of the public praise of you is also a good idea.

Now to mitigate things if he doesn't respond or stays angry. First, you want to take the high road. You want to appear professional and not as if you are having a feud. Treat him the same way you treat everyone else. Make sure you publicly praise him for his contributions. It makes him look petty if you act as if you respect him and he treats you like dirt.

Next, people like this can be very good at throwing the blame around and trying to make sure that you are the person who is blamed for stuff that happens. So document any interactions with this person. Make sure your boss is aware of the conversation you had with him and what you personally are trying to do to improve the relationship.

Make other friends in the organization. It helps to have others who will advocate for you.

If the bad behavior escalates, you may have no choice but to ask the boss to tell him to cease and desist (it helps here to have that documentation) if it starts affecting your ability to get the work done. Try to keep your request professional and fairly neutral. You aren't out to get him just to get the cooperation you need.

  • +1 Thank you this was a good advice, and I really sounds that comes from someone that lived a similiar situation.
    – user1544
    Jun 29, 2012 at 16:09
  • 4
    Few months ago I published this post and this advice has been really helpful thank you for sharing the experience
    – user1544
    Oct 18, 2012 at 17:52

As Jarrod rightly points out, in comments, the change in his attitude towards you may have nothing to do with you at all. I would talk to him first, ask him in a friendly way what has changed and if you've done something to offend him.

If it's nothing to do with you, he will probably tell you straight. In this situation, don't push for more information. Just let it go. Having raised it with him will be enough to make him think about treating you differently going forward.

If it is something you can change then you need to take on board what he says and decide whether the relationship is worth saving, to you.

If it is, as you suspect, the way your boss treats you, point out to your senior that it's a bit unfair for him to treat you differently because of something you never asked for. And, if necessary, talk to your boss.

He is creating this situation, probably entirely unintentionally. He is probably giving you more credit because you are younger and expectations are lower (and thus being exceeded). He might figure that giving credit to someone paid to be a senior, for basically doing their job, is a bit patronising.

If, on the other hand, it turns out that his actions are deliberate and he is trying to provoke the senior into pushing harder, he still needs to know that it's not having the desired effect. So telling him is still a good idea.

All that said, I wouldn't phrase it quite the way you have here. It does sound arrogant, even if the arrogance is justified.

Simply go to him and say, "There is a problem that I need you to understand. It's affecting team cohesion." It would serve you well, I suspect, to start humble and suggest that he praise you less in public. Say that you're big enough to assume his support for what you're doing until he tells you otherwise.

This is probably not the way he will want to be, but it does show that you are trying to solve an actual problem by any means necessary.

  • ok I could do that but how to restore the relationship? You think that if my boss stops that behavior things will fix by itself?
    – user1544
    Jun 29, 2012 at 13:38
  • @Rafael.IT: I think it'll help, for sure. The rest was largely covered by pap's answer.
    – pdr
    Jun 29, 2012 at 13:42
  • I have considered that option, I don't know what approach to use cuz as you said that could cause him to hate me even more.
    – user1544
    Jun 29, 2012 at 14:24
  • @Rafael.IT: Did I say that? I didn't intend to. I have never seen a situation yet that is made worse by invoking an honest conversation.
    – pdr
    Jun 29, 2012 at 14:26
  • lol you didn't, I mixed the answers, sorry !
    – user1544
    Jun 29, 2012 at 14:28

I'm in a really similar situation with the exception of our team being contractors. I have less than 4 years of experience and my knowledge contradicts with the knowledge of a 40+ years old guy with knowledge of HTML dating from 1990 (never updated himself). He doesn't like that I correct his work and he doesn't like that my solutions take 10 minutes to implement when his are complex and take way more time. We had an argument about skills vs. experience and it was clear to me that the problem was there.

I talked to the manager about this and he told me the following: You can't be friend with everyone. If the attitude becomes a problem to the productivity than he'll have to grow up.

I get along with everybody at work. Everybody except him. I would be more comfortable if we could enjoy each other's company, but he clearly doesn't like me. So I just decided to let it go and I only talk to him when I need to and when it's job related.

If it becomes a problem because you can't work together at all (or he refuses to do so), talk to the manager. A manager is not only a paperwork guy he's also the one who can talk to other people and offer help and advice.

  • I don't really want to talk to the manager as at this moment is not causing me any issue, although even though I don't talk to him anymore hostility increases on a daily basis, but let's see what happens
    – user1544
    Oct 5, 2012 at 22:40
  • just stay mature and professional and if it becomes impossible to work with him, I highly suggest you talk to your immediate superior.
    – user3041
    Oct 7, 2012 at 2:18

He sees a younger (junior) member overtaking him and he perceives that his career has stalled. This is probably not the first time this has happened and he may have been passed over for advancement or increased responsibilities before, in place of someone less experienced (on paper).

This is not your fault, nor your responsibility and there is not much you can do. This person is probably unsatisfied with his situation and perhaps a little bitter as well. You are one manifestation of this and he's projecting a lot on you.

You can try to be supportive, nice and invite him to engage with you, but chances are very big he's going to see that as patronizing and gloating on your part, which will only increase his animosity. Not saying it is, but that's how he might perceive it. You can try to give him some wins, get him highlighted for particular successes and valuable contributions. Again, the risk is that he will hate you even more if he finds out since the last thing he thinks he needs is your help. Also, beware taking on his career as your responsibility, managing your own career is enough until you become a manager.

One thing you should do is whenever you get praise or accolades for something you did, if your co-worker was involved and legitimately helped out, be sure to point this out. Don't be disingenuous (again, patronizing), only give credit where it is due.

If this is not affecting your work in a negative way and it's not overly hurting the team's/project's/department's output then I would let this be for now. Accept that he's not going to be your best friend and maybe things will improve on their own, as you both adjust to your new dynamic.

If this does have a negative impact, of course you need to address it. My only advice there is to not think in terms of repairing relationship between you and your coworker, think in terms of improving your team's output. In other words, assume that your relationship is what it is - how can you still work efficiently?

  • it is not really affecting the teams output but it leads to some ridiculous stuff to happen, for instance if he need anything from me no matter how little it is he will send me an email instead of talking to me, and his desk is just in front of me, it wasn't like that before,
    – user1544
    Jun 29, 2012 at 13:36
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    @Rafael.IT - These are things you should have put in your question instead of the conjecture that he was jealous of you. spell out the specifics you have an issue with and ask how to correct it. Jun 29, 2012 at 18:19

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