My co-worker was explaining her work (we were working together, I being in a supervisor role) and suddenly made a personal comment saying “I think we are going wrong with this hit ‘n trial.” IMO, this shows low confidence in my suggestions. I am confident that I was methodical in the approach I suggested to her.

Being a senior co-worker to her, what should my actions be? Since the incident I have hardly spoken about it. Meanwhile I am getting mails and direct questions on what to do next, but why would I continue with her on the task when she has shown so little confidence in me?


4 Answers 4


You are her supervisor? That's good, because you are on your way up somewhere in the world. As you go up in the corporate ranks, you'll be getting all sorts of unfortunate language slung at you, some of it intentional and some of not. In almost every case, I doubt that the correct reaction is for you to retreat into your shell, wall yourself in there and refuse to have anything further to do with the world at large. You are not going to make it further up the ranks if you are reacting this way every time somebody says something to you that you don't like.

For one thing, if you have a formal role as her supervisor, you have far more options than what you are doing. One of these options is to ask her why she thinks your approach is "hit and miss" and what approach does she have in mind instead?

Sometimes, lightning strikes, wisdom comes out of the mouth of children and by George, she is right! Or more likely, lightning didn't strike and as you query further and further into what she is has in mind, she has nothing but hot air to back it up and she fizzles under your inquiry. If someone thinks they have a better approach than mine, I'd certainly want to know about it.

You need to develop a thicker skin because as you go up in the management ranks, you'll be getting all sorts of stuff slung at you, some of it justified, some not. Learning how to take it and how to react to it is an essential part of your toolkit. On the job as well as in life.

I'll note that as her supervisor, your task is to train her. You are not anywhere close to finishing your task. I trust that you are not training her out of the goodness of your heart but because your organization requires you to do it so that she can perform her role. And until you have fully trained her, you haven't performed your task.

Ignoring her e-mails amounts to going into a sulk. Seven year olds go into a sulk. You are no longer seven years old. Finish your task of training her, and the sooner and the more thoroughly you do it, the more effectively she will be out of your hair. Not finishing the task of training her is not an option. You are expected to do it. Do it. You can't let a couple of loser remarks stop you and what you have to do stop you dead in your tracks - that would be just too easy.

If sergeants stopped training recruits every time recruits mouth off at them, there wouldn't be any armed forces any more. You are her sergeant, she is your recruit and your task as a sergeant is not finished until your recruit is trained. So, get your task done by whatever means necessary including telling her to stifle it if that's what you have to tell her. I'll tell you this much, going into a sulk is NOT how you exercise authority as a supervisor. Or as a manager. Or as the CEO. And especially not as a parent :)


If your colleague is unconvinced that your approach is suitable they are absolutely entitled to question it, and I don't think simply describing it as they see it (I assume the expression you're using is similar to 'trial and error') is unreasonable.

If this is a single event, I think you're overreacting. If this colleague continues to be abrupt or dismissive there are two conversations you need to have:

  • Discussion of the technical merits of the approaches being considered. Most workplaces expect senior employees to take some responsibility for mentoring less experienced employees and most workplaces expect you to find a way of collaborating effectively, where everybody is engaged.
  • Tone and appropriateness. If the complaints are valid (and I would expect that they are - someone who disagrees is right to question) but they are delivered in a way that is simply rude, then address that issue specifically.

My co worker was explaining her work—we were working together, I being in a supervisor role—and suddenly made a personal comment saying “I think we are going wrong with this hit ‘n trial.” IMO, this shows low confidence in my suggestions. I am confident that I was methodical in the approach I suggested to her.

Honestly? You want to know what I am reading here? You don’t have much confidence in your methods or you are being a bit thin-skinned.

Is this co-worker’s statement impeding your ability to do work or get through the task? If so, then you have an real, operational issue. If on the other hand this is just a co-worker attempting to push buttons—either consciously or not—that is a whole other issue.

If you are above this co-worker in rank & skill you should act as such & not take every criticism personally. Focus on the task, ignore the noise & the end-product of the task being completed should reflect well on your competency. Also…

Meanwhile I am getting mails and direct questions on what to do next, but why would I continue with her on the task when she has shown so little confidence in me?

So you are frozen in the wake of this co-worker? That is you actually giving this co-worker’s claim validity. You should end the issue once & for all by working cooperatively with your co-worker, allow their non-cooperative behavior to shine through, and—as said before—if/when the task ends & your process wins, the net result is you created something that works while your co-worker just complains & does not work cooperatively. Which means you truly win in the end.

  • 2
    MPO is that it's not possible to be a true senior developer if you're this easily derailed. A true senior developer needs to be able to overcome any obstacle that gets in the way of the work. I think the OP is simply someone who has more years of experience than the person he's posting about. Commented May 14, 2014 at 17:33

Being methodical does not state you are doing it the best way, just an established method. She may of been suggesting there is a better way of doing it. You shouldn't see it as her judging you, but maybe an opportunity for you to teach her WHY the method you suggested is an established method of doing it and what its advantages are to other methods.

Quite honestly, being a senior member and being so easily thrown off by anyone questioning your judgment is worrisome.

It's like thinking just because you programmed for 50 years of your life that someone who has only been programming for 2 cannot possibly think of a better solution than you, or at least be able to state that your solution may not be optimal.

If this is a consistent problem, then sure, have a conversation with her boss or even to her. Talking to her may be worthwhile as she doesn't realize how sensitive you are to opposition. Talking to her Boss may be worthwhile as he can give you either tips on how to handle her or move her on to something else or even talk to her.

Best of luck with the situation.

  • Thanks for writing, if the comment followed an alternative approach it had some base but i wont put up the question here. But, its just a "what now" question from her that all means u say i will march ahead and then will come back asking why u sent me there
    – nil
    Commented May 14, 2014 at 13:41
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    As a junior one can identify things that are not necessarily optimal(or possibly don't know why it is optimal), but not have the experience to provide a better alternative. I still think you are being overly sensitive about what she is doing, she wants the best possible method to do something to help the company, to make her and her work more valuable, you need to guide her into learning why things are the way they are. I would understand if she wasn't a junior, but you explicitly said shes a junior and therefore new to the field. Commented May 14, 2014 at 16:11

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