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I am a senior developer in a software team. We have this co-worker in the office environment who is not a member of the team and makes arrogant comments about everyone's mistakes, characters, skills, capabilities etc.

What I am trying to describe is a character who insults and degrades everyone around him to feel better and to give the appearance that he is superior to everyone else. This character doesn't actually dislike anyone, but feels compelled to act in an arrogant manner because of his high social standing.

As a team, we disscuss things about project on our desks in a way that everyone can hear and this gives him additional things to comment. we can't go to the meeting room everytime to avoid this situation. It is waste of time.

I personally warned him a few times not to behave this way. I don't listen him if he makes this kind of comments and I don't care much. But I feel that his behavior demoralize our team members and it lowers the productivity and makes our working environment uneasy.

Is there anything I can do about it?

  • What is this co-worker's position? What is their seniority? What's the reporting structure? – AakashM Jun 12 '15 at 7:25
  • He has more work experince than me in total but relatively new in the company. There is a long way to go through my manager to his manager. I am not sure if it helps the inform management because of this hierarchy. – user2191454 Jun 12 '15 at 8:12
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Talk to your manager - either to have a word if this colleague is their responsibility, or to pass it through the appropriate channels. If you've already appealed to the colleague directly to change their behaviour, I wouldn't try anything further directly, just talk to your manager and ask them to deal with this.

In the meantime, I would advocate going to the meeting room as much as possible anyway. First, it allows you to talk more freely - you can discuss work as you're actually going to implement it, and more junior colleagues can feel that they can ask questions about things they don't understand without being belittled. Second, it withholds information from the problem colleague - if there are things he doesn't know about what you're doing, he might be less willing to assume that his answer will be correct, just in case he hasn't taken everything in to account and makes himself look bad for being wrong. You can then follow this up with references to "As we discussed at the meeting" in conversations that are in the problem colleague's hearing - he can't easily continue this behaviour if he doesn't know what you're talking about.

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Making rude comments and not stopping it after being personally asked to do so is a no-go i think.

You probably have a superior who should have an interest in the office not being uneasy and the productivity not sinking. This superior should have administrative power over this person and thus be able to talk some sense into him. The time you spend dealing with the problem is time you do not deal with your work.

Get your team behind you first and then talk to your superior about this persons rude comments and how they affect your work.

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If he is insulting other employees' character, then this is a lawsuit timebomb that is both smoking and ticking. You need to alert your manager, explain that to him, and get HR involved quickly. I would also strongly suggest that this employee needs to be relocated away from your team.

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You can try taking this up with people higher up in the hierarchy as others have suggested but in my experience that usually leads to no meaningful results. After decades of working in many different companies in several industries I have realized that corporations are breeding grounds for all forms of mental disorders (especially ego disorders like narcissism) much like septic tanks are breeding grounds for bacteria. The higher you go in a corporate hierarchy the more are the chances of encountering people with mental disorders, especially at the C-level. That is why taking up such problems with the supervisor may not yield anything meaningful.

The most effective way that I have found handling such narcissistic co-workers is to do unto them as they do unto you. Rather than tackle the morale problem, confront the cause of the morale problem - the narcissist himself. For example, always refer to the narcissist within his earshot as "genius" in an obviously sarcastic and sneering way. When he makes a comment on some technical topic your team is discussing you can point to him and say something like "Look at this genius - he hasn't got a clue what we are talking about but he still butts in with his usual nonsense". If on some day he remains quiet and does not butt into your discussion, comment on that to your team loudly so he can hear, "Look the genius did not butt in today with is usual nonsense" and laugh derisively. If you are discussing a problem with your team, remark loudly "Maybe we should give this problem to Einstein over there, he will of course solve it in a second", followed by sneering laughter. I think that gives you an idea of what I am trying to describe.

Always treat the narcissist the exact same way s/he treats you.

No one can reason with a narcissist. It will have no effect anyway because it is a mental disorder and narcissists are not reasonable people. If they ware reasonable people they would not be narcissists. It is only possible to deter narcissists, so that they will leave you and find another prey that is easier to victimize. It is a very bad idea to suddenly feel compassion for a narcissist and go easy on him/her in the middle of the deterring action. The narcissist will not understand your compassion but will see it as a victory for him and so his behavior will become even worse.

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In private discuss the consequences of his actions, how his picking at people like this will degrade their morale. If the behavior continues inform management of the issue, the steps you've taken, and what has happened since. At this point step back and let management do their job at their own speed.

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