I'm a senior'ish software developer working in an open plan office with other departments besides mine. A new member has joined our team, and after two weeks, this person has upset almost all the members of the office.

It seems like this person gets himself involved in other people's conversations just to cause an argument. Personally I would describe this person as a social justice warrior.

So far this person has only commented on one of my own behaviors, however they have done so to pretty much everyone in the office.

Should I be the one to speak to my manager about this person?

  • 13
    I'm still not seeing an issue. You throw out the term "social justice warrior" but then your illustration is about asking you not to whistle. Was the new coworker rude about asking you not to whistle or did he or she simply ask you to try to avoid doing something that you acknowledge would be annoying? – Justin Cave Nov 25 '15 at 16:46
  • 10
    How do you think your manager will respond if you tell them, "when I whistle out loud it bothers another person, can you tell them to just put up with it?" – enderland Nov 25 '15 at 16:58
  • 5
    Was he polite when he asked you to stop whistling? If this is your only example, I think you've got to come up with something better. Asking someone to stop whistling should not be upsetting. – Brandin Nov 25 '15 at 17:02
  • 5
    When I saw the title "A new employee has upset the team/office atmosphere", I remembered a time years ago (90s tech boom, hiring anyone, pulse optional) when there was briefly someone who might or might not have been diagnosibly paranoid schizophrenic on our team. Instead, this person is "upsetting the team/office atmosphere" by... asking you not to whistle out loud? Really? – LindaJeanne Nov 25 '15 at 17:27
  • 5
    I agree with ColleenV, when OP labeled the new employee as a "social justice warrior" I was curious because people who are often labeled this are those that speak out loudly about topics other people might not be comfortable with and are stereo-typically intensely opinionated. However the whistling story fell short as an example of how they have "upset the office atmosphere". Are there more concrete examples of their annoying/argumentative behavior? – Struggling Nov 25 '15 at 19:01

This new person might be a bit on the immature side, however "complaining" about them might be equally so.

I've had to deal with a similar person in the past, and the whole office sort of came together to guide her on a more compromising track. Different people gently spoke to her about separate issues, and how making a big deal out of everything is simply unproductive. Eventually we got through, although, frankly, many people avoided dealing with her if they didn't have to. C'est la vie.

So here's a few things to try:

Have a talk

Try speaking with this person in private. Don't be condescending, simply be matter of fact, and friendly. There's a few factors that may be influencing their behavior.

For example, is this their first full-time job? Or his first job in an office environment? Because you're right, stuff happens which you may not like, and some of it you just have to let go (for example in my office most people eat at their desks. I don't always enjoy the smell of other people's lunched, but I know my own lunches might smell bad to them, so I'm never going to comment on that).

This person may not understand how "the real world" works yet. I personally made a lot of faux-pas at my first job, and I'm damned lucky to have been part of a very understanding company and team.

They may very well appreciate you taking the time to speak to them and explaining that they try to integrate in the group.

Involve the boss

If, however, this person really, truly, doesn't get it, and is trying to mold the world to their views, then maybe drop an informal line to your manager. Don't complain outright, just gently flag their behavior:

Hey boss. You know that new guy? He's a real character, the whole office is talking about him. Bit of a social justice warrior. I think he needs to tone it down a bit, but it's not really my place to speak to him. Think you could give it a try?

That way you're not really complaining, you're helping your boss preempt a possible problem in the team.

PS: I've approached this question from the perspective that your new colleague really is "a social justice warrior", and going over the top. However, it may be that your office culture is a little unprofessional/slack, and this person is not reacting well to that. I can't judge that based on the information you provided, so simply be honest with yourself before you decide to jeopardize this person's future with your company. And for the record, if you were whistling around me, I'd probably ask you to stop as well.

  • 4
    If any employee of mine actually used the term "social justice warrior" to complain about a coworker I'd find it hard to take them seriously. – Andrew Whatever Nov 25 '15 at 22:59
  • Thank you, this I think is good advice. Lots of people got hung up on the whole whistling issue, which was just an example of (what i would call) the trivial things that have been complained about. – Charlie Brown Nov 25 '15 at 23:16
  • @CharlieBrown - it's typically difficult to judge the circumstances of a situation in these questions, so I try to just stick to the facts and roll with it. Hope you figure this situation out. – AndreiROM Nov 25 '15 at 23:20
  • Part of the problem might be the way the new person is making their concerns known, so the private conversation might include ways to let the OP know when he's disturbing them. My colleague that sits in the cubicle connected to mine occasionally "taps" on his desk hard enough to rattle the things on my desk when he is listening to music in his headphones. I just say his name loud enough so that he can hear me over the wall and he stops. We get on just fine. I know he's not doing it to purposefully annoy me and he knows I'm not angry, I just need him to cut it out so I can work. – ColleenV Nov 26 '15 at 1:43

From your description, he is trying to put his views against things which are genuinely disturbing him and which he thinks need to be discussed.

I don't see a problem with him. If the entire team has a problem, maybe you(and your team) should start by sitting down and have a chat with him before taking it up to the seniors (or the manager)


Sounds like you might be part of the problem here. You shouldn't be whistling in an open office environment, it's annoying and rude

  • 6
    This should be a comment. It's not an answer. – Amy Blankenship Nov 25 '15 at 16:51
  • 2
    It sounds like an answer to me. "It's not him, it's you" Is a fine answer. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Nov 26 '15 at 16:58
  • 2
    Even if the whistling story hadn't been edited out of the question, this does not in any way help the OP with resolving his actual problem. While an argument can be made that the OP should also aim to correct his own quirks, that's entirely beside the point: dealing with a serial complainer who's disrupting the office. – Lilienthal Dec 1 '15 at 19:07
  • 1
    It does help the user. He's the problem that's been ignored by the rest of the office. He needs to reflect on being an annoyance before complaining about the new guy – PSU_Kardi Dec 1 '15 at 19:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.