If I bring it up openly it sounds too trivial. If I don't bring it up then slowly it's going to burn me out.

This guy is really good at his work technically, but behavior-wise he's an a**.

For example, there is a developer in our team who ends up receiving a lot of bugs in his assigned area. Our snobbish guy tells him "You should bring a notebook to the meetings (he pauses as the victim looks at him puzzled) so that you can remember all your bugs".

1) What replies can the victim give on this occasion to defend his dignity?

2) How can the victim deal with this guy for the long term?

Edit: I think that this question is not a duplicate. I'm copy-pasting my comment into this question so it doesn't get missed:

I don't feel that this question is a duplicate of that one because that other one is about a colleague smirking and insulting behind his back. In this one the colleague is actively making statements and IMO it's not advisable to keep quiet or ignore. You can't ignore when you're being spoken to during a meeting. –

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    Is he already attending meetings with a notebook? What's the procedure in your company for reporting and tracking bugs? I really hope it's not developers writing them down in a notebook. Apr 8, 2014 at 15:20
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    I don't feel that this question is a duplicate of that one because that one is about a colleague smirking and insulting behind his back. In this one the colleague is actively making statements and IMO it's not advisable to keep quiet or ignore. You can't ignore when you're being spoken to during a meeting.
    – Mugen
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:22
  • @AnthonyGrist We track them using a bug tracking tool not on paper. Nobody brings notebooks to the meeting or is expected to bring either. When our victim was told to bring a notebook to the meeting the implication was that there have been so many defects logged in his feature area that it would not be possible for him to keep track of all these things.
    – Mugen
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:29
  • Sounds like valid advice too me. Do you have another example?
    – Kevin
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:31
  • @Ajaxkevi I'm not getting another example right now but I'll see if I can make a note of the next occasion he makes a sniping remark.
    – Mugen
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:54

2 Answers 2


There are several ways to handle this. My three top suggestions are

  • appear to ignore it, while considering it a chance to learn
  • respond with questions, excellent when the teasing is not founded in fact
  • actively respond to the tone and the teasing rather than the "facts"

For example, the notebook tease. Perhaps one person really does have a lot more bugs than anyone else, or perhaps tends to forget some of them. In this case the teasing might actually be an attempt at "constructive criticism" disguised as a joke (although in this case the humour really isn't softening the blow.) On a first occasion I wouldn't respond at all, but I would ask myself later if there's a chance that in fact I should do something about my bug quantity or my forgetfulness.

Perhaps the "victim" doesn't have more bugs than others, and doesn't forget bugs. In that situation, and when needling is happening pretty regularly, I would probably ask (sweetly and with a straight face)

Why do you say that Joe? Do I have more bugs than anyone else? I don't think I do.


Joe, are you saying I forget often? Is that something we need to discuss offline? Is it really a problem for you?

The risk is that Joe will say "yes, it is a problem, you did this, this, and this, plus you have 14 bugs and nobody else has more than 3" - be prepared to find yourself in a "learning moment". But it's also possible that Joe thinks it's funny to tease the newest team member, or the youngest, or the one that threatens him, and simple fact-based approaches will make it stop.

If it goes on and on, whether it's aimed at everyone or just one victim, even if someone speaks up after each incident and contradicts the implication that the victim is often late, doesn't pay attention, forgets things etc, you can still feel worn down and hurt. At this stage I think it's perfectly ok to ignore the content of Joe's comments entirely and say something like

I feel singled out by your tone and your teasing. I would rather you didn't talk to me like that.


You've been making a lot of funny comments at my expense in this meeting. Could you stop doing that, please?


Cut it out, Joe. Nobody's laughing.

(This last comes better from a manager in the moment but can also work from a peer. Again, in the moment.)

These last two work just as well if you are sticking up for someone else - does Steve have more bugs than anyone else, Joe? - instead of do I, for example. Responses, in my experience, are better right when the bad behavior is happening than saved up for later grievance-airing.

  • Thanks a lot for the examples and explanations. This makes sense to me. Could you please provide some more information for the case when the facts are valid (meaning that our developer indeed gets the highest number of bugs logged in his area)? I personally feel that just because he has the maximum number of bugs doesn't mean he's doing a bad job, isn't it? It could be that his area is complex, or he has less experience, or he's a slow learner, or he's clumsy and makes mistakes. But who knows if he's good in some other aspect? ...CONTD 1...
    – Mugen
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:44
  • ...CONTD 1... What if another person joins the team and starts having even more bugs in his area? Then by his logic we would conclude that the new guy is actually a bad coder. Now what can we say about the original victim? By his logic he is not a bad coder anymore even though he's working with the same level of efficiency. <br> So I feel that it is rude and insulting to be spoken to in this manner.
    – Mugen
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:48
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    I am not defending the rudeness in any way. When it's both rude and inaccurate, questions can highlight the inaccuracy. If he does have the most bugs, then don't ask "does he have the most bugs?" but instead ask a different question. Apr 8, 2014 at 16:05
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    In my previous 2 comments I was just thinking out loud how I felt at the meeting. It was more of a rant . I should have mentioned earlier that I liked your suggestions and felt that it was one step forward towards more assertiveness.
    – Mugen
    Apr 8, 2014 at 16:06

That doesn't sound like bullying to me. Certainly someone who this happens to should not be considered a victim. Maybe he should just remember to bring a notebook to future meetings as it seems a valid criticism. Not all criticisms are bullying. In the workplace, there is no time to coddle people. The "victim" needs to get a thicker skin. The victim also should try to produce less stuff ofor him to criticize.

If the person this was directed to was not you, you can usually let them handle it. That person may not have felt bothered. And if they did, working people are adults, they need to be able to handle such things on their own. Kate's advice is good.

If you feel as if it went over the line and has happened repeatedly (and I personally would set the line a lot farther out than this), then just speak up at the time it happens and say, "That's out of line, Joe. You need to apologize to Sam for that statement." But really only do this for something truly nasty that clearly made everyone uncomfortable from their body language. Otherwise, you look like the jerk. If the guy goes over the line repeatedly even after being asked to stop, the team's manager needs to have a chat with him about his behavior. If his behavior is making you feel uncomfortable, you need to then discuss it with your manager.

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    It could be valid criticism, but it could also be a calculated, subtle way to draw attention to the fact that another developer - a rival for projects, promotions, training, etc - has a consistently large number of bugs in his work. Apr 8, 2014 at 15:21
  • It was the way it was spoken to him. It sounded more like an uncontrolled vent and insult than a suggestion.
    – Mugen
    Apr 8, 2014 at 15:31
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    @Mugen: I also don't think this is bullying. If one person on a team is causing a lot of issues, as it appears, then the team should highlight that in a public way. There are two purposes. The first is to encourage that person to get better or leave. Noting that tech people tend to not suffer fools lightly. The second is to ensure management understands what's going on. Quite frankly the "victim" here should be happy that such statements are being made publicly rather than behind his/her back in private meetings with the manager.
    – NotMe
    Apr 23, 2014 at 15:20
  • @ChrisLively I disagree. Let me explain. It's true that that engineer was causing many bugs to leak out but he wasn't the only one. There were other people on the team too. I felt in general it was more to do with the development processes than a specific engineer being exceptionally "foolish" or "bad". However, in case there is someone ever underperforming on the job I feel the Manager/Lead should speak with him on a 1-1 basis and try to find out what the problem is and whether it can be improved. Pointing it out in public will more likely alienate team members than spur them into efficien.
    – Mugen
    Apr 26, 2014 at 17:28

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