I recently joined a company as a network engineer. I was trained about systems in the site by the team leader.

He didn't train me properly. He kept secrets which he should not have, like log-ins and some customizations of the system. This is not a smart way, because once I have access to one system I can explore from there, and I have. My boss have given me all access except a firewall and I said that to the team leader.

He became the team lead because everyone else left. Technically and interpersonal skill wise he is not that competent. Definitely I can say I'm better than he. I'm messier than he is. One of my colleagues had the same feedback about this person and he told my colleague he is afraid of getting demoted.

So, my problem is how can I get this person to train me properly and disclose everything he knows to me while talking him out of his fears?

"I'm better than him" is not my opinion but my manager's. Me and manager had a discussion about how we are going to improve network security, performance and control. I am going to work at this particular site because this team leader lacks of technical competence. As it seems this person have lost trust with management also.So I am instructed to do particular things and I need this person to help and I always will be in his help.

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    "He became the team lead because everyone else left" <-- I'd maybe focus on that particular issue first. Seems like there's much bigger problems here. – DA. Nov 23 '14 at 8:06
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    How is being messier better? – HorusKol Nov 24 '14 at 0:11

Definitely I can say I'm better than him.

This sentence makes me curious. To be honest, even if you are way better then him, you - as a professional - are supposed to keep thoughts like that to yourself.

Even if you didn't tell him that exact sentence face-to-face, it still makes me assume that you treated him with that attitude more or less directly in the past.

After all he is the team leader and management is expecting you to support him. Otherwise they would have directly hired you to replace his position.

My honest advice to you is therefore, that you should try to support him as best as you can. Try to back him up and make his life easier in any situation to gain his trust. If he thinks of you as a valuable member of the team he will give you the needed insights by himself.

If that information isn't documented somewhere, the only solution is that he is giving it to you voluntary. So I honestly can't think of any other possible way.

You could go to management and try to force him to give you that information, but as you are the new guy, you are very likely going to loose games like that - he has the advantage of being with that company since some years.

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  • IMO you get the respect you earn(ed) (with a little headstart giving by 'rank'). I will not follow a leader who can't lead or is missing fundamental knowledge required. Note the <em>or</em>, eg you might be more skilled in coding, but the leader more in leading. – Martijn Nov 24 '14 at 12:13
  • IMHO most of the time the options are only a) follow or b) leave, but that is a decision that Jim has to make and in the reality if everyone would have left when they had no respect for their manager, half of us wouldn't have a job anymore. – s1lv3r Nov 24 '14 at 16:59

Defining the issues

Definitely I can say I'm better than him

Here's at least part of the issue. I get the impression that you think that the team leader should be the person who's best at all the tasks you're doing. This isn't necessarily the case - IMO, the team leader should be the person who's best at leading the team to do all the tasks that need doing.

In other words, the team leader should be the one who can keep track of what needs doing, prioritize among the jobs, know which member of the team is best suited to do any particular job, is able to get that person to actually do the task (even if/when they may prefer to do something else), know what's getting done and not, and make sure that the manager/clients get the feedback they need.

You also wrote that

I'm messier than him.

That's something that he may see as an indication that you're not going to be structured in your work and thus he doesn't trust you to do the job according to the procedures and standards that are current in your company. Also, it's a fair bet that he's picked up on your view of him - that he's less competent than you and that he's treating you unfairly because he knows you're "better than him". These things are likely to give him a view that you can't be trusted to do the job properly according to his/company standards, and that you're likely to try to show him up in front of both your superiors. Given this, why should he trust you?

Suggested solution

You need to win his trust.

First: Respect

Stop thinking you're better than him. You are certainly better at some things, but you're not better at all things. Not even all things needed for your job. Also, he's been there longer than you - this means that he knows more about the company than you do. You may be the best network engineer to ever walk the earth, but he's the one who knows what this company needs. That's more important than most of us like to credit.

Second: You're messy - work on that.

Use GTD, or Time Management for Systems Administrators, or whatever system works for you to keep some structure both on your time and your desk. Schedule time to do the boring parts of your job - documentation, feedback, managing emails... Show him that you are actively working to improve your behavior and to be a better coworker.

Third: Talk to him.

Ask him what he thinks you're doing well, what he wishes you would do different, and find suggestions on how to improve. Then follow through on that.

Ask him what bugs him the most about the systems you work with. Come up with suggestions about how to improve that issue. Don't ever use the words "But why haven't you done $THING..." - that implies that he's stupid for not having done $THING, and will make him go on the defensive to tell you why $THING is impossible. Instead, make it a suggestion - "I've not been here as long as you, so I may be missing something here, but do you think that if we do $THING it might improve the $FOO issue?"

Once you actually talk to a person, treat them with respect, and show that you're working on improving the areas where you're not currently doing well, it's amazing how much the relationship can improve and how much more fun the job becomes.

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Other answers focus a lot on you saying that you are better than him. That shouldn't matter. Although it's weird that you say you are messier, because good network engineers are not the least bit messy.

You say that he feels his position is threatened by you. That matters. The question is, is his position threatened? If it isn't true, you don't have any credibility when you tell him so, because it isn't your decision. Ask his boss to find out. He's the only one who can reassure him his position isn't threatened.

If his position is threatened, and you already do feel that you are better at his job than he is (if he'd train you properly), the only thing you can do to get information out of him is deception. Don't do that, it's not decent. Inform your boss of the state of things, and let him sort it out.

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  • Thanks for your insights and taking your valuable time to answer.Boss and me had a discussion about what we can do to improve the network and this person lacking of technical competence is one of the reasons I'm going to work at the location. – user27584 Nov 24 '14 at 11:28

I don't want to be over-simplistic, but your supervisor expects you to accomplish certain tasks. When other people refuse to comply to the things you need to do your tasks, you have to inform your supervisor or take responsibility for not getting things done on time.

Make the request. When it is declined, explain that you have to give your supervisor a reason why this person thinks they don't have to do this. Maybe he is interpreting the security policy different than you and your supervisor are. Maybe his supervisor told him not to.

You've jumped to the conclusion this person is playing some sort of office politics game without confronting the issue directly. It doesn't matter what he "feels" like doing. Everyone needs to understand what is expected. No one likes to go over someone's head or constantly have to have their supervisor intervene when they have a conflict with another employee, but some people leave you no choice. Find out the real problem and go from there.

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  • I think your approach is valid if we assume, that we are talking about "solid information" here (like in the password example). If the topic is about undocumented information (like "he didn't tell me about side-effect of doing X, or the modification of Y"), then the approach "You can't force him. You need to gain his respect." will be the way to go. – s1lv3r Nov 23 '14 at 16:39
  • @s1lv3r - From the supervisor's perspective, you can choose who you want to respect, but you are not allowed to withhold information and sit back while mistakes are made as a result. I can't answer any question if every premise about the situation is incorrect. – user8365 Nov 23 '14 at 18:13

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