I want to make this question more clear/less personal, so here goes.

I am working with a senior co-worker who is not acting professionally towards me and generally speaking, has not ever acted professionally towards me. I'm wondering how to act professional towards someone like this as an entry level employee. He has said (to me and my managers) that I am lazy and worthless even though there is proof to the contrary. But he doesn't treat me like I have valid or reasonable questions and is flippant and rude.

I do not have any options to work with someone else and he won't be fired for treating me this way (because there would be no one left to do the work that he and I are supposed to be doing). He could be reprimanded, but probably not fired.

What behavior is "acting professional" towards someone who has seniority over you and knows that they're pretty much safe from losing their job, but is acting rudely towards you?

Personal, background information

Today I had a meeting with my old manager, the temporary manager (head of our department) and a co-worker. We were talking about the need to give me sufficient training. I am entry-level and my co-worker is senior level.

My co-worker, the person who was supposed to be training me, called me lazy and essentially worthless. He accused me of not doing any work. All of this is wrong and there is proof of this... so, my manager and the temporary manager seem to be with me as far as this issue is concerned. I'm worried about moving ahead past this.

I do not want to work with this guy, but at the moment my temporary manger has no alternative to the situation (as my co-worker is the only person available to train me). Not only would this be a blow to my self-esteem, but this guy is petty, rude, and holds grudges. I don’t know how to approach him and I don’t want to work with him if I have the choice. Sometimes, it seems, I will have to work with him.

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, jcmeloni, jmac May 15 '14 at 3:57

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Why does he think that you don't do any work? – Jim Clay May 14 '14 at 19:46
  • 1
    I'm trying to understand why you would be willing to continue working for a company that doesn't value their employees enough to handle situations like this. – NotMe May 15 '14 at 22:39
  • 1
    @ChrisLively I just don't have many options right now, more or less. I am looking for another job but there's a lot of positions that I can't get just out of school that don't require relocation. I would rather just leave, but for the period of time that I'm here before I get a new job, I need to be... professional. – Ice-9 May 16 '14 at 14:07

It's too bad, but you have to work with this guy and you have to behave professionally. You don't have to like him. You have to work with him as well as you work with people you do like or you will be the one who will pay the price.

Part of why he may be nasty to you is that he suspects you are being trained to take his job. He is probably very frightened of you. Take the training, document what he tells you in emails (so if he deliberately tells you the wrong way to do things, you can show management what you were told.) and ignore his attitude.

You act professionally towards him by treating him in person exactly as well as you treat someone who isn't a jerk. Be polite, be totally focused only on work as there is no point in small talk with such a person. Listen to the work points he makes and verbally agree with him when he makes a good point. (Out of thousands of comments he is bound to be right occasionally even if by accident and it throw s off his rant if you agree with him on something.) Thank him for helping you when you actually get the information you needed.

Try to handle things through email rather than in person when you can.

If he goes off topic, you bring him back to the point (and you may have to do this a number of times, polite persistence is what is called for). If he rants about you, then you tell him that you just need to get this information and will be out of his hair and return to the subject and ignore the childishness as if he were a three-year-old having a tantrum. In some ways you reward the childishness by paying attention to it.

You can set clear boundaries with him as if he were a child for totally inappropriate behavior such as if he touches you. But this is difficult to do when he doesn't report to you. Sometimes a disgusted look or a comment like "Are you done now? Can we get back to the subject?" will work better than trying to get him to listen to any boundaries you as a trainee try to set.

  • 9
    +1 and don't be surprised if this "senior" person really doesn't know what he's doing and is afraid everyone will find out. – user8365 May 14 '14 at 18:45
  • I understand I need to work with him, but I'm just not sure how to be professional with him. He says things in a flippant, almost argumentative way, and he doesn't listen when you start talking, he just talks over you. He acts as though he's always right, even if someone is making a valid point. I guess my questions is kind of... personal, though. I'm wondering how you act professional towards someone who is actively acting unprofessionally towards you. I guess I should... edit the question some. – Ice-9 May 14 '14 at 20:01
  • @HLGEM, Email is simply not usable in many places.... Why emails instead of audio recordings? – Pacerier May 28 '15 at 9:43
  • 1
    Becasue audio recording are illegal in many places without consent. Because they are not easily searchable like emails and because the information is much faster to read than to listen to. Emails are usuable for this purpose in most workplaces. – HLGEM May 28 '15 at 14:44

Sometimes, it seems, I will have to work with him. How am I supposed to work with someone who has already called me worthless to my face?

That sounds horrible. The solution? Take the high road. Clearly work with your manager define goals & expectations on whatever project you are working on with them. And meet them. If the co-worker still treats you badly despite you doing good work, who looks better/worse in that scenario? You who are making an effort or this co-worker who is sabotaging your ability to perform.

Past that, does the company you work for have a human resources department? It’s clear management knows about this scenario, but if I were you I would write down specifically what happened in this incident. And keep a log of any future incidents. Go to human resources & clearly state that you & your manager are attempting to work within this odd scenario, but you are giving H.R. notification in the form of a “heads up” just in case things escalate.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.