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I'm a web dev (mostly front-end/UX designer), at a small shop of less than 10. I was hired quite quickly as they had projects piling up and the previous person in my position had kind of left them high and dry, not really doing his work before eventually leaving without notice.

I've been here almost a year now, and I am pretty happy, but I am having issues with one co-worker in particular.

To set the scene, my co-worker mostly works on back-end module code. I would say he has very weak personal skills in general, my guess would be some sort of high-functioning autism - not that I am judging or have any notion that he doesn't deserve his position because of this.

As a somewhat anti-social myself I do feel for him, but lately I have been struggling to keep my composure (i.e: been getting pissed off, anxious throughout the day).

We are more or less expected to work together to complete projects, with him taking care of the DB/backend code and I the templates and front-end duties (usually just the two of us will complete a full project). I think that there is some degree of perceived competition between he and I, and lately he has been trying to do my work.

When front-end matters are being discussed I am often railroaded by his "superior" solution. His solution is almost invariably more complicated, time-consuming, performance-heavy, and unnecessary to what the client has asked for.

Decisions that fall under my expertise are always questioned, and harped on. The end goal is for me to see the error of my ways and realize that his solution is better.

After I complete tasks and test/publish my work he is constantly going back into my templates/sheets/scripts and making huge, annoying modifications to the code which supports his 'More is better' philosophy and ignores my 'This works, is fast, is secure, is what the client wants, and is semantic code' philosophy. The code becomes unreadable, the site becomes slow, and I feel shitty.

Often he'll call me over to his desk, distracting me from what I'm working on, to 'get my opinion' on his front-end work (which I should be doing anyways). Of course when I offer any type of feedback that deviates from what he's already produced it turns into an awkward silence, or I am immediately challenged on what I say.

He seems to hold these notions that things have to be done a very specific way, and that our boss will be upset if it's not. I have found this to be untrue.

The delegation of tasks between the developers is not very clear, and we're all expected to a bit of everything, so I can't really say YOU DO THAT I DO THIS since that's not really the arrangement around here. He has these behaviors with others in the office, but I seem to get it the worst.

This competition to show me that he's better at my job than I am is causing me a lot of frustration, and my productivity is suffering. I suspect the overall productivity of the office is suffering as well since I am not able or interested in handling his work. He has been stretching himself too thin, and as a result has had multiple freakouts at work where he is seemingly unable to control his emotions (back to my suspicions re: the autism), and acts in a manner that's not suitable for an office and definitely wouldn't fly at a more prestigious environment. Like really loud awkward sounds of frustration, running between offices with an inflated sense of urgency, and is visibly upset and unable to formulate full sentences. It makes the rest of us a bit uncomfortable, but we shrug it off.

I believe that I am very forgiving of strange behaviors and personality traits, and he's generally a nice and smart guy, but it's just so far over the top that I am losing my ability to deal with him in a cordial way.

My boss has a very hands-off management style, and my co-worker does precede me a good 2 years, so I don't want to do anything that will cause even more of a rift in the office (of 6 people). Is it possible to keep the peace but stand my ground? What should I do?

marked as duplicate by gnat, Chris E, Monica Cellio Mar 29 '15 at 3:37

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Have you tried to have a serious discussion with him about what you perceive to be the problem? – Anthony Mar 26 '15 at 23:13
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    This is a large enough wall of text that I don't think many people will bother to read it. I strongly suggest cutting anything which isn''t absolutely necessary for understanding the situation and your question. – keshlam Mar 27 '15 at 2:29
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    @keshlam is exactly right; I skipped to the bottom halfway through the fifth sentence. It also comes off like something of a rant. You have a genuine problem, but take some time to edit your question to be as clear and objective as possible. You might find that writing it this way can help your perspective on the matter, too. – Esoteric Screen Name Mar 27 '15 at 3:05
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I would say he has very weak personal skills in general, my guess would be some sort of high-functioning autism - not that I am judging

That's exactly what you're doing, one way or another. Stop talking like this immediately. It's unprofessional and undermines your position. We all get frustrated and have these sorts of thoughts - plenty of mine go a lot farther than geez is this guy autistic or what? - but expressing them isn't productive and eats away at your attitude. However, keeping them bottled up can do the same thing. Vent as needed, but do it over a beer (or however you best like to relax) with some friends (not coworkers), well away from anything even approaching work.

  • When front-end matters are being discussed I am often railroaded by his "superior" solution.
  • After I complete tasks and test/publish my work he is constantly going back into my templates/sheets/scripts and making huge, annoying modifications to the code
  • The delegation of tasks between the developers is not very clear

The last part is the part that needs to be addressed first.

Speak to your coworker in private. Be polite but direct about the matter. This about how to best get the work done. You're both very busy and duplicating effort is a big waste of time, so come up with a process that clearly and objectively defines who's doing what. A whiteboard, your task tracking system, a daily email exchange; whatever, as long as it serves the purpose and creates an audit trail.

Ask him to pick what tasks he wants to do and tell you, so you aren't duplicating his work. If he says he will take on some UI tasks, let him. If he says he wants to trade completely (he does the UI and you do the back end), tell him that you aren't comfortable doing those tasks and it's not what you were hired to do.

Often he'll call me over to his desk, distracting me from what I'm working on, to 'get my opinion' on his front-end work (which I should be doing anyways).

You're enabling arguments. Stop doing that. Tell him you're busy with your work. If he consistently tells you he needs your help with front end tasks, politely suggest that he should leave those tasks for you to do.

  • I think that there is some degree of perceived competition between he and I, and lately he has been trying to do my work.
  • The end goal is for me to see the error of my ways and realize that his solution is better.

But you have the same goal, don't you? And you're certainly perceiving competition, whether he feels that way or not. Getting a clear division of labor and not arguing over how best to code something will go a long way towards reducing your stress.

  • The delegation of tasks between the developers is not very clear
  • His solution is almost invariably more complicated, time-consuming, performance-heavy, and unnecessary to what the client has asked for.
  • The code becomes unreadable, the site becomes slow
  • I am not able or interested in handling his work

Speak to your boss in private. Explain that you and your coworker have been struggling over division of tasks, and there's been a lot of duplicated work happening. State that your productivity and stress levels have taken hits because of this (that's because of the way the work's getting done, not because the other guy is a dick). Explain how this problem has increased your workload to a point which affects your quality, and that you're worried about burning out. Express that you're concerned your coworker is similarly suffering, and you don't want him to have any problems at work, either.

Tell your boss that you had a meeting with your coworker, discussed the issue and came up with a solution. Explain the solution and tacitly request your boss keep up to date on who's doing what. If the meeting with your coworker didn't go well, then tell your boss you tried to do this, but weren't able to agree on anything and request that your boss step in, because duplicated work is a waste of time and money.

Make it clear that you are going to let your coworker do these UI tasks his way, even though you think the approach is flawed. If you have objective, quantifiable evidence that the way your coworker does things is seriously damaging performance, present it, if you can do so in a concise and easy to understand way. Offer to set up a demo contrasting the approaches if there's interest in investigating the matter. Be prepared to hear this isn't a big / worthwhile / actual problem.

If things are as bad as you say, your boss already knows and will be able to read between the lines. If they aren't, then you've made your boss aware of the problem and brought up things which can be addressed with a minimum of animosity. Either way, you've stayed professional and made a good faith effort to address the problem.

After sufficient time has passed (a week at a bare minimum, better if it's two or three), follow up with your boss and provide an update on how things are going. If your coworker isn't adhering to the division of labor you both agreed to, ask your boss to step in. If you've ended up doing back end tasks that you aren't comfortable doing, say so.

I've been here almost a year now, and I am pretty happy

It doesn't sound that way to me. Seems like you've a negative opinion of the person who held your position previously, the environment, your coworker, and your boss. Perhaps you should look for somewhere that's a better fit?

  • Perfect answer. – keshlam Mar 27 '15 at 4:51
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I think the most important thing to tell you, is that it is okay to set limits. When someone does something you do not truly do not like - tell them!

Tell him. Every single time from now on. Be straight and precise. Keep it civil, but be firm.

Keep each incident written down.

Talk to your manager. Tell him that your ability to do your job is affected by this individual. Be professional about it.

Also, start looking for other jobs.

  • Like "You made all these changes to my code. I removed them". That's what source control is there for. Don't look for other jobs. Look for other jobs that he might be interested in. – gnasher729 Mar 27 '15 at 15:41
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Are you confident of your abilities? Do you believe that you know what you are doing, and that you are doing a better job of it than your co-worker? If you are, then push back. Hard.

Make it very unpleasant, expensive and painful for him to second guess you. Personally, I'd go for a showdown in front of the boss where I tear your colleague limb from limb over his unnecessarily complex, unmaintainable code. I don't like pain. I don't like to inflict pain. But if I am pushed, I WILL inflict pain rather than receive pain. I don't mind being second guessed and challenged, but the person who second guesses me or challenges me had better know what they are talking about. Because I go to a lot of trouble to make sure that I know what I am talking about. I don't care how many years of experience someone has on me, if I have less experience but I do my homework, I run sanity checks on what I do and I don't take unnecessary chances.

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    This strikes me as career-limiting advice. – keshlam Mar 27 '15 at 4:52
  • @keshlam Calculated risk - the other guy has poor interpersonal skills, his methodology sucks and he's practically got no political support. On the other hand, I have done my homework, I have a track record, I know what I am doing,I have done my homework. And I have been in more than one political knife fight. I acknowledge that my advice is not for everyone and not everyone has my personality. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 27 '15 at 9:58
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    I stand by my analysis. Win or lose, this approach ensures you lose in the long run by building a reputation for not being able to handle challenging situations in a constructive/productive manner. – keshlam Mar 27 '15 at 12:24
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    @keshlam I destroyed him - that's pretty constructive to me. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 27 '15 at 12:31
  • If someone constantly interfered with my work, stopping them from interfering seems to be very constructive/productive. If it's done in a way that no repeats can be expected, and if there is a learning process, that's even better. – gnasher729 Mar 27 '15 at 15:43

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