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I have a colleague who has one year more experience than me and probably from other bigger companies. When she joined our team, I thought I would learn a thing or two from her. When I told her that she must point out to me if she sees I can do something in a better way or if she thought it needs improvement. She agreed.

There have been a lot of instances when she had easily the chance to come up to me in person and tell me where I could improve and she did not. Instead, she happily does it in front of other team members and in fact my seniors.

For example, when I ask her what she thinks is missing in it, she tells me "nothing" or "I just wanted the documents to be in one place" whereas she earlier spoke to my teammates or colleagues that "the documents need to be rewritten". There is a very big difference between having to rewrite a doc, and the need to keep them in one place. Obviously, her goal is not to correct or improve me, but to come up better than me in front of others.

How do I deal with this?

marked as duplicate by gnat, jcmeloni, Garrison Neely, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Jim G. Aug 16 '14 at 1:22

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It looks like you're going to have to learn from everyone but her. Not the end of the world. If she's trying to prove that she's better than you, she is not telling anything that everyone else knows since she's got one year on you.

Shrug it off and let her play her pointless mind games. You've got better things to do, like improving your existing capabilities and potential. Line up your ducks, hand in your deliverables on time and since you don't have the answers yet, learn to ask some sharp, pointed questions.

If you are going to ask her questions, don't ask generalities like "how can I improve?" that she can wave off with one hand and with the other hand tied behind her back. Ask specific, pointed questions like "this is how I am thinking of accomplishing this particular task. Can you think of a better way to get it done?" and ask the question loud enough loud enough that everybody can hear it including your manager.

Make it awkward for her to be non-cooperative. And if you cc: the manager from time to time, you're making it it hazardous for her to be non-cooperative as well. She wants to be non-cooperative but if she doesn't want to be seen as non-cooperative, that's your pressure point.

And again, I repeat: use her and pick her brains as much as you can but don't depend on her for your learning.

  • @Vietni Phuvan - i basically want to make 1 sharp comment such that she will never bother doing this again. what shud i say – nysa Aug 15 '14 at 2:16
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    @nysa One sharp comment won't cut it, especially if no one but the two of you hear it. – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 15 '14 at 2:54

Your work colleagues will not be blind to what this woman is doing. There is nothing to gain in pointing it out to them as they likely already know and (potentially) are not interested in getting embroiled in a very personal situation.

You -could- go toe to toe with the woman, drag the situation into the open and even perhaps do to her what she's doing to you but that way, everyone loses.

What you need to do is to act professionally, keep your composure and remember the golden rule - if you act in the best interests of your employer, you're in a strong situation.

Basically, fake objectivity. :)

You're grateful to your co-worker for highlighting issues within the team and want to work with her to prevent mistakes from being made. Suggest a bi-weekly or monthly team meeting where everyone can talk frankly about how the past period has gone. What mistakes were made and what can be done to prevent them happening again, or even salvage some benefit from them.

These sessions should be honest but non-judgemental as, after all, you're all professionals working towards the same ends, right?

You'll (probably) come across as open, honest and professional, dedicated to process and departmental improvement. If your co-worker continues to talk behind your back, you then have a perfect opportunity to talk to her about it and say "Let's not waste time talking about it secretively, let's address it as a team. We can get more benefit out of it that way".

Which allows you to effectively say "I know what you're doing" and "If you have something to say, say it to my face" whilst -also- being a positive influence on the team.

I work in an Agile Development environment and we do just this. Every few weeks, we have a retro meeting where we talk about what went well and badly. Due to the personalities around the table, we're able to talk frankly about problems and have made considerable improvements over the past year.

It's worth considering.

  • she does this in front of me!!! may be behind my back in worse ways, or may be not, but - she does that in my presence. and then once the 3rd person is gone, she never mentions the issue to me!! – nysa Aug 15 '14 at 2:11
  • There is some good idea here. But don't limit the meeting to problems and learning from them. The meeting should also deal with what went well and learning for it. It is good for motivation, and it is useful. – Nicolas Barbulesco Jan 23 '15 at 15:19

There could be a couple of things at play here. Either your co-worker truly believes that her suggestions will be taken seriously, and she is doing you a favor for pointing out their problems, or she is trying to one-up you in front of everyone.

I would start with the assumption that she's oblivious to how her behavior is affecting you. The next time this happens, pull her aside afterwards and explain that her behavior isn't professional, and is undermining you at this company (give specific instances, but avoid naming others).

If the above does not work, you've got to assume that she actually IS undermining you. Likely your coworkers and boss have already figured this out, but you may be able to mitigate the problem. Never argue with her - ignore what she says, and if she tries to start an argument, say "I think we should take this offline" or change the subject. You will draw attention to her behavior by doing this, and hopefully she with either change, or find another position.

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    i have done this once when it was the very 1st time she did this. guess what she did? she elevated her voice and started speaking things in a way that would mean i am not giving her what she wants!! – nysa Aug 15 '14 at 2:18
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    Sounds like its reason #2 (she's trying to undermine you). Just keep being professional and if she tries yelling at you again, walk away. – sevensevens Aug 15 '14 at 14:07

Ask for clarification of her criticism in front of the others. If she says "he documents need to be rewritten", ask straight away for more details - what is wrong with the document, what is missing, ask for an example what should be changed and how. This is your best chance to expose her in a professional manner.


Hmm, lots of either confrontation or avoidance in both question and answers.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Don't approach it as "you must tell me when it's wrong", engage her. "can I ask you a favour? I'm not sure about what I've written for this doc, would you mind having a look? Thanks, that sounds a good idea" etc

If the boss comes back and says whatever was great, give credit to your colleague if they contributed.

You'll soon have an ally on your side, and the best way to get on is to make others look good.

As Abraham Lincoln said "I don't like that man, I must get to know him better"

  • This sentence from Abraham Lincoln is a great attitude in life. – Nicolas Barbulesco Jan 23 '15 at 15:24

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