I have a serious problem with a colleague. I am 26 and I recently joined a company where the average is 45. I am the youngest there, and I have a problem with an older colleague who is 47 and he is really arrogant and bully and is working there for 20 years.

I am a kind and quiet person and he started to target me all the time. When I sit before my computer he passes by sometimes, and when my boss is there he says "Hey are you working or looking at the screen?" or "Hey close the shopping site" (and I am not looking at any shopping site) then I try to counterattack but nothing works out. Or sometimes he comes next to my screen "Hey what are you writing there? It is wrong. Seriously, How did you get this job?" then I start to explain that it is not like what he thinks but he always makes me look ridiculous in front of my boss (that I am afraid will not like me anymore at the end). He has a really strong personality.

I recently joined this company, before I was really appreciated and successfully in another one, where people were of my age.

I am really frustrated and he is always sure to spoil my day, I am back home exhausted and think about changing my job.

How can I deal with this? How can I be superior?

  • 23
    "He has a really strong personality" - a person of strong personality don't act like that normally. May 5, 2015 at 8:36
  • 20
    @Capt.JackSparrow - I assume by "strong personality" he means overbearing, loud, arrogant. That is, not the good type of strong.
    – Alec
    May 5, 2015 at 12:37
  • 3
    When he calls you out in front of your boss, call your boss over! "Hey, boss, my colleague says this is wrong. Can you show me my mistake?" And make sure that your annoying colleague doesn't walk away. May 5, 2015 at 16:06
  • 3
    Just sounds like kidding around to me. Saying "Close the shopping site" when your boss is there is an obvious joke. May 5, 2015 at 17:22
  • 7
    @TheMathemagician: The poster thinks about leaving his job. If you think it is an obvious joke, then it is an obvious joke that must be stopped.
    – gnasher729
    May 6, 2015 at 8:11

7 Answers 7


Unfortunately, you can find those kind of people in almost every company - you have to deal with them professionally. When I had a similar situation like you, I just answered in a pragmatic way, without emotions: "I am not on shopping sites" or "How exactly is this wrong? Could you please show me the mistakes so I can avoid those errors". Do not counter-attack him like "hey are you working or looking at the screen?" or "You don't have a clue what you are talking about. Seriously, how did you keep this job for 20 years?" - this will result in an open war at workplace which he will win because he is far more experienced and established in the company than you and you will lose, even if you are talented.

If he still keeps his offensive even after you give him the same answer over and over again (as he asks the same questions over and over again), talk with your boss about it, exactly the way you described it here. Transparency is very important at workplace. The way your boss and also the offensive colleague reacts to this, you will know whether you should or should not stay at this workplace.

  • 23
    +1 for The way your boss and also the offensive colleague reacts to this, you will know whether you should or should not stay at this workplace.
    – Pavel
    May 5, 2015 at 14:37

There are two possibilities: your colleague is teasing or trying to be funny, or he's a jerk.

"Remarks like that upset me and aren't funny. I expect this to stop."

Say this once, calmly, firmly and politely. You need to make it crystal clear that this behavior is unacceptable; you're not asking him to stop, you're telling him. If your manager is in earshot at the time, great, but don't wait to do this. One of two things will happen, depending on your coworker's intent.

If he apologizes and stops, he was just trying to be funny. Graciously accept the apology and do your best to make peace. Remember, he was trying to be friendly. If he just stops, but also shuns you, it means more or less the same thing but he's irritated or upset that you didn't appreciate his humor. Call that a win and hope you don't have to work closely with him in the future.

If it continues, don't speak to him. At all. Go straight to your manager. Explain the problem, that you told him to stop but he won't, and how it's making you uncomfortable and damaging your productivity (which means it's damaging the company's bottom line). You say this person is well entrenched, so be prepared to hear something like "that's just his way, we all have to live with it". Those are the magic words that mean it's time to run away from that job as fast as possible.


Disclaimer: I have not met this guy, so my guess could be totally wrong.

I would guess the colleague has a strange sense of humor. Maybe he only wants to tease you a little bit. As you have said, you are a quiet person, he may wants to lure you out of your shell.

I don't think he wants to harass you in front of your boss. He knows your boss much better, and your boss knows that colleague, they both won't think bad of you. I also do stuff like that in work (being a 26 year old electrical engineer in a company with mostly young coworkers). One of my bosses is 63, and he has a VERY strange humor. He will sneak by my lab table and make sizzling and exploding sounds when I plug in my devices. Or he would give me clearly wrong advice, just to see if I can figure it out that it is nonsense.

At the beginning, when I haven't known him, I had a hard time. Now I am only laughing it off (or tell him to look for the white smoke over his lab table;-) ).

  • 2
    The difference is, that was your boss.
    – Jack
    May 5, 2015 at 8:17
  • Is that a big difference?
    – jwsc
    May 5, 2015 at 8:24
  • 20
    Uh you don't think so? If your boss joked and told you to stop shopping online while working, HE knows it is a joke and you're not slacking. If your boss walks by and some other co-worker says that, your boss doesn't know if he's joking or you're not actually working.
    – Jack
    May 5, 2015 at 8:29
  • 7
    That guy is working for the company for 20 years. If he really has some strange humor, the odds are very good that his boss knows. To my own example: maybe misleading, you have to know that I have more than one boss.
    – jwsc
    May 5, 2015 at 10:50
  • 3
    @jwsc Your boss sounds like he has a strange sense of humor. OP's coworker sounds like he's just an asshole.
    – corsiKa
    May 6, 2015 at 15:27

Ask your boss what he thinks of these comments. You may find that no one takes this person seriously and your boss has formed an objective opinion of your work.

Don't let him see you sweat. Like all bullies if he thinks it's getting to you, he won't stop.

Or, start learning some comebacks (Use a Sean Connery accent if that helps.):

  • I'll close the shopping screen as soon as I buy your mom that new dress I promised her.
  • I got this job because I used your mom as a reference.
  • You're getting paid to stare at my screen, why shouldn't I?
  • My code is wrong? That's not what your mom said last night.

Soon, you'll discover what really gets under his skin. It's called busting chops. When in Rome...

  • Depends on the climate of the office, and how strong your "Game" is. FOr instance: "I'm working. YOU'RE the one staring at my screen." It's a dangerous path, though, if you don't have the bantering skills. May 5, 2015 at 19:06
  • +1 My advice is pretty much in the same vein. You know the approach works when everyone in the office is vastly entertained :) May 6, 2015 at 10:28
  • @WesleyLong - I'd say most advice on this site depends on the office climate and personal preference/strengths. I wanted to give a fight back alternative as a bit of contrast. This really boils down to: ignore, complain to management, fight back or quit.
    – user8365
    May 6, 2015 at 13:22
  • @VietnhiPhuvan - There are just some people that like to "needle" people. I went to an inner-city public school and played team sports, so I have no problem with fighting back.
    – user8365
    May 6, 2015 at 13:24

We have only heard your side, so I'm assuming that what you are saying matches reality.

What you have here has nothing to do with age, it's someone trying to bully you. You don't win with reasonable arguments. You win be realizing that all he wants to do is to upset you, and strike back. If he says in the presence of your boss "hey are you working or looking at the screen?" you say loud enough that the boss hears it "hey are you working or watching me?". If he says "hey what are you writing there? It is wrong. Seriously, How did you get this job? " you say "You don't have a clue what you are talking about. Seriously, how did you keep this job for 20 years?".

What I'm saying is based on you saying "I am really frustrated and he is always sure to spoil my day, I am back home exhausted and thinking to change my job. ". That makes his behaviour unacceptable. And just because he has been there for 20 years doesn't mean his behaviour is accepted by the company.

I'm older than that guy, and I'd never do this to a younger employee. The reason is that I know I'm good at what I'm doing and not afraid of competition, which he seems to be. That's really the only explanation for the behaviour, that he's so insecure in his own qualities that he has to make you look bad.

  • 25
    I find your proposed solution of "striking back" not satisfying. If someone else is unprofessional it is still not reason to be unprofessional yourself. It will just create a circle of insults.
    – dirkk
    May 5, 2015 at 10:43
  • 2
    As I stated out, do not start a war you cannot win. Stay cool, stay professional. @gnasher729 maybe would have good chances in such a situation since he is established in the company and also a senior. A junior like OP however would shoot in his own knee by reacting in such a way.
    – Orsinus
    May 5, 2015 at 10:51
  • 14
    I can't disagree with this answer more! It's a terrible idea to become confrontational with someone who's been at the company 20 years longer than you and fit the culture better (age). I really don't think this is a good idea at all, unless the OP is totally ready to lose their job.
    – enderland
    May 5, 2015 at 12:03
  • 2
    It also means you completely rule out the option of ever being able to talk to your manager or HR about it. May 6, 2015 at 18:22

This is an awkward situation. While my success rate is certainly not 100%, I find that being direct and sticking to externally observable truths (rather than your own interpretations or feelings) leads mostly to acceptable outcomes.

You may find it difficult, but I think you should first talk with him and tell him that you value his opinion, and when he makes insinuating remarks, you wonder if there is something more to his remarks than just humour. If there is something, then you need to figure it out and solve that issue. If it is just an awkward bravado/social skills issue then you could ask him to tone it down a little.

If it persists, and it interferes with your work, you need to discuss it with your boss.

Some folks are just hard to manage. In that case, I would pay attention to a saying attributed to Shaw, "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it".


He said something outrageous. I'd riff on what he said with something outrageous. The result should be so outrageous that no one but the most dense would believe it true. My advice works best if you are confident of your ability and you've built up your credibility over time with your colleagues and management. What I am doing is the equivalent of redirecting an attack and sending it crashing into the nearest wall:

  • "Hey are you working or looking at the screen?"

"Looking at the screen blankly and getting absolutely nothing done is hard work, you know"

  • "Hey close the shopping site"

"Which one? I have 15 of them" or "I'll close just as soon as I get the order in. What's your credit card number and expiration date again?"

  • "hey are you working or watching me?"

"If I could get my job done by watching you, I'd be freaking staring at you all day" or "Watching you go to and from the bathroom is so compelling to me that I tweet about it every time it happens. Do you want to retweet?"

  • "Hey what are you writing there? It is wrong. Seriously, How did you get this job?"

"Maybe I got lucky. I passed the part of the applicant test that called for reading the directions by a hair's breath"

  • 8
    Not really helpful - at all, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. May 5, 2015 at 12:53
  • If good comebacks really were the solution, I'd advise working on the those suggested a little more. May 9, 2015 at 13:38

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