I'm working with someone who is more skilled than me in programming, but lacks many of the design skills we need to complete an assignment. He can't stop pointing out that he's a better programmer than me. I think that I have better design skills.

We have to work together on this project. I've spotted some design problems with his work.

He's unwilling to hear my suggestions for improvement, citing that because he's a better coder, I can't be knowledgeable on designs either. He keeps mentioning his better coding skills in a triumphant manner. In a way, his response comes down to bullying. I've resigned myself to never be bullied again, so I keep mentioning our relative strengths. I need the project to be a success, so I've tried being very accommodating with his behaviour. This seems to have increased his sense of superiority.

My concerns regarding his design were validated by a senior dev, causing a stalemate. I still wonder how to deal with such a situation when there's nobody to cover your back.

Question: How do you get past someone's pride when you have different skill sets without bruising each other's egos? Especially when the other thinks they're better than you in terms of skill, but this remains to be seen when considering skills other than programming that are needed to get the job done?

Note: I'm not trying to be the divine type from Dealing with someone who thinks he's "divinely right" not at all. It not the opposite either though. I've tried considering my own behaviour from the perspective in that question as well, and I honestly can't say that I recognize myself in the devine character.

  • 6
    I'm not sure how to phrase this nicely, but it sounds like you guys just need to grow up a bit, and learn to drop your ego when working in a team (or doing anything else for that matter).
    – MrFox
    Apr 4, 2014 at 20:34
  • You do realize that in the linked question that "Divinely" is a metaphor and that the other person does not actually think that they are god inspired? Apr 4, 2014 at 20:37
  • @Chad Yes, but even though there are similarities, I feel that the way he;s handling it is too different for it to be an answer to my question. I've tried applying it both ways.
    – Onno
    Apr 4, 2014 at 20:42
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    I would recommend removing alot of the details and just summarize the problems you are having. Then include the things you have tried and what the problems were with those (again in general) That way we can help you find a solution that will work for you. Apr 4, 2014 at 20:43
  • @chad I've tried to simplify the situation a bit.
    – Onno
    Apr 4, 2014 at 21:13

2 Answers 2


This will sound odd, but you are already doing what you should be. You spot a potential problem, provided feedback, provided a practical solution, and even consulted a 3rd party for input that supported your claim...

This is HIS problem of taking constructive critism as a personally on his competency in design. (Most programmers struggle to learn to detach personal feelings from their code), but if they want to work on a team with other skilled people they'll have to learn.

Now there are things you can do to help avoid putting a person on the defensive while reviewing their code.

  • Never use you, your, the individual's name, ect when referencing who wrote code. (unless in a positive light)
  • Code is never bad, a mistake, wrong, etc. (even when it is) it's also best not to say there is a better or right way. A good code reviewer typically says "did you try ? I'm concerned might happen here " or something similar. Essentially you want them to consider alternatives.
  • If someone gets defensive try to get them to see you're working through the code for potential issues, NOT questioning their work. If you're contributing code as well make sure to include your work for critism as well.

The biggest thing is to keep this as working through the project to cover any and all notable concerns NOT allow it to turn into double checking someone's work. As soon as you put a programmer an the defensive you're fighting an uphill battle that will be stressful and unpleasant.

Hope that helps.

EDIT: also make sure you are being fair about critism as well. Perfectionism can also be dangerous in this field.


It is several years since I read the book called Pair programming illuminated (ISBN 9780201745764). It describes several aspects of pair programming, among other things teaming up persons with different experience as well as less helpful attitudes. One of the chapters is named "My Partner Is a Total Loser" and Other Excess Ego Problems. As I said, it is some time since I read it and as far as I remember it was quite light and general on what to do in situations like that, but you might might have a look in it and see if you find some helpful information.

Your partner seems to suffer from being Unskilled and Unaware of It.

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