I was hired as a UX professional at a software company to handle customer surveying, prototyping, and design work for our product group as well as be the creative lead for our marketing department. I have a coworker, who has put a great deal of work into fixing an antiquated product and seems super driven (which I am too), who has taken every chance he can to poison the Product team against me, talk down to me, or simply bully me into doing duties outside of my job description. At one point he said if I wanted to be "part of the team" I would program a product prototype outside of Axure (because the entire team hates doing front-end grunt work). While I can, and did, do this I am still trying to balance responsibilities actually expected/covered in my job description.

I have gone to my manager, the employee directly as a desperate attempt at facilitating healthy working dialogue, and even the COO (whom I am on friendly terms with) to try and figure out what more I can do to try to make a working relationship. (I did find out from my COO that said employee said I should be expected to code, on top of everything else, but his demand was shot down for sake of focusing in on UX, since we drastically need an overhaul.) What further complicates things is my COO (again, a friend) is good friends with our VP, who is good friends with said problem employee.

I am still unable to identify what I have done and am looking to see if anyone has run into this situation.

  • Vietnhi Phuvan brings up a good point. What's stopping you from simply in a polite but firm manner telling this guy off? – Working Title Apr 16 '14 at 20:41
  • @bzav If you have a written job description and a manager, then it sounds like your question really should be something about working directly with your manager to ensure your time and work effort is allocated appropriately, you all have a clear understanding of task assignments, and ensuring the manager manages all the other people who are causing issues. – jcmeloni Apr 17 '14 at 0:25
  • It puts me in an odd position when the manage defends the coworker saying that said individual is just "feeling me out". What does that mean? – bzav Apr 17 '14 at 2:31
  • 1
    let us continue this discussion in chat – bzav Apr 17 '14 at 13:01

There are a few different ways to handle this, and you should probably try at least some of them simultaneously.

When you are in a situation where your co-worker is trying to railroad you into doing something additional in front of the product team, stay cool and collected. Be clear about what your priorities are, what deliverables you are working on, and what your deadlines are. Offer to work with the product team to determine what is the best way to handle the additional work that has been identified. You want the product team to see you as someone who is being professional, and who is working hard to meet the common goal of delivering an awesome product.

When your co-worker is trying to do this in private, be clear about your priorities again. If he continues to do so, you can offer to set up a meeting with you, him, and your manager to discuss the need that he wants to address and your own workload. Then prepare for this meeting by talking with your manager about what brought it on, and have some ideas for how the team can either meet this need or what can be done to mitigate it. For example, you could discuss with him and your manager the need to hire someone who can focus on the front-end coding. This potentially resolves the issue of the product team not wanting to do it as well as you not having time to do it with your existing commitments.

If you haven't already, invest time in building relationships with the product team so that they do see you as "part of the team" no matter what he says. Don't play his games and try to turn them against him. Just be friendly and professional, and let them see that you're doing good work that contributes to the product.

You should continue to have a conversation with your manager about this situation. Frame the discussion as a challenge that you need to solve, and focus on your behavior and what you can do about it. Don't focus your attention on blaming the co-worker. (This isn't 100% true -- if you've got a great manager who you trust and who can accept your venting at them, then vent. When you're done venting, you can then focus on the piece that you own, which is how you handle the situation.) Your manager might choose to intervene. Having the conversation about the situation allows them to coach you through other ways to handle the situation that are tailored around their knowledge of your co-worker and your team, as well as have discussions with other managers about the situation and how to address is. Your manager might or might not choose to intervene in some way; you should give your manager sufficient information so that they can make the best choice.

Keep records about your priorities, deliverables, and deadlines. Do this in whatever way the product team communicates. If they use a bug-tracker to manage everything, use that. If they use wikis, use that. Speak their language. The goal is for everyone on the team to know where to go to see what you are working on. It will help with your conversations about the product and what you are working on with everyone outlined above.

It's also worthwhile to see if you can figure out what the source of your co-worker's issue with you is. Does he fancy himself a designer? Does your work make him feel like he's not as important to the project as he was before you came on? Does he do this to everyone or just you? You might never be able to figure this out. If you can determine the underlying issue, you can use that knowledge to try to craft a more appropriate way to address the situation.


Wow! What a situation you're in!

First of all, make sure management know how you feel - but be extremely diplomatic about this situation. What you hear from them, what happens next, what you feed back, and the results you find may help you understand the politics...

Sounds like whatever you do, someone won't like it. The environment seems toxic and unhealthy - unless there's something else you're not telling us.

If after all that, you're still willing to hang in there then be strong.

My advice to you is very simple. From a business perspective, if you are doing the things that are important and urgent to a company, you'll earn a lot of respect, and you will last longer tan any other employee - however you may find yourself being the "go-to" person doing the things which matter, but nobody else is interested in doing. You can make this situation work for you if you play it right. If you hang in there, always doing a good job, your credibility will increase and you'll have far greater influence as your opinion will be trusted - because you've earned it. Play this game to get whatever it is you need to land your next job.

Don't be afraid to go to interviews, just for the sport - practice makes perfect. If something better comes along, it will be a nicer problem to have!

It might take a couple of job hops before you land somewhere you REALLY like. Along the way, you'll learn a lot about people, organisations, politics, and what ultimately makes you happy at work.

Remember, this is just a job! If you are employed, it's very likely you'll get employed somewhere else!

Personally I've worked with some very difficult people in the past. They will always be difficult. If the difficult person is talented you have a problem. Either you learn to live with them, you move on, or you wait for them to move on.

I have worked with difficult people who have been extremely talented, dedicated and invaluable. There's very little chance they will be fired, especially if they consistently deliver a solid workable solutions while everyone else is still thinking about the problem.

That said, some people are difficult and have lower a competence but are somehow deemed to add value(?!). If this is the case it's only a matter of time before this individual receives many complaints about them. In this situation, it may still be a long time (if ever!) before something is done - it all depends on the company culture and the personalities involved.

  • Since I wrote this post, I've been in very similar situations I've mentioned several times. I've moved on several times too. I've tasted my own medicine, and have to say that it's healthy. If I could +1 my own advice I would. – user924272 Jun 20 '20 at 22:27

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