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I'm a female developer and I've been working at my current employer for 4 months. I’m new to the technology and to the business domain. I basically don’t know much about anything.

I am working on the front end of the web application and I’ve never worked back end systems in my entire life.

I need to ask the senior developer questions about what the server expects and every time I ask this person a question or ask about a possible server-side bug he rips my head off.

He gets extremely agitated and says stuff like "Your knowledge of this or that..." and shakes his head. I just started so how would I know this information?

I feel burnt out because I can’t get the information I need to do my job without being subjected some kind of hostility. I want to quit.

I find it very strange that he said he wishes there were more women in this industry but then rips my head off.

After another interaction with this individual it seems that he just blows up whenever he is confused. The front-end terminology is confusing to him so he gets extremely agitated. Very odd but at least it's not personal.

There are no docs, no these people won't go over the API with me, no it's not organized. No I don't constantly ask him questions either maybe once or twice a month. So what can I do to improve our working relationship, and get the answers I need to solve my challenges.

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    Hey guys, my edit is being discussed here: meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/3434/… The commentary that is going on here is going to be deleted by a moderator at some point--if you want to keep discussing it, please let's talk there. – Garrison Neely Dec 9 '15 at 23:18
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Dec 10 '15 at 16:32
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    Give it a little more time, but think long and hard about the future. The ideal is you find a better mentor in the organization, but you may need to transfer to another department or find another job to get away from this. Trying to fight company culture will be a losing battle. (I've seen this kind of thing repeatedly over 20 years...) – Tim Dec 14 '15 at 13:26
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    I dont think the comments are intended to be snarky. They were legitimate questions trying to discern if it was possible the problem was you perception of your interactions rather than someone who is difficult to work with(I know its an understatement but trying to be kind to all) – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 18 '15 at 20:54

16 Answers 16

213

You have several separate issues here:

  • you can't get the information you need from documentation or any way other than talking to this abrasive person
  • the person you have to ask objects to being asked, and does so in a way that makes you feel bad
  • the person's behaviour (demeaning you) is out of sync with their expressed beliefs (wishing there were more women in the industry), leaving you feeling a cognitive dissonance and doubting your own observations about the behaviour
  • things you have tried to shield yourself from the bullying, such as switching to email, don't work since he just visits you to deliver it in person

My suggestion to you is that you stop ignoring the bad behaviour. However, I don't think you should have a chat with him about nothing but the behaviour, and nor do I think you should (yet) report it to a manager, HR, etc. Instead, the moment his responses begin to upset you, start asking questions. Try these:

  • Are you angry?
  • Is this something I shouldn't ask you?
  • Would it be better if I asked you this later?
  • Is this something I should know already?
  • Is this in the documentation? (if you get a "yes", "Where?")
  • Am I interrupting too often? Should I save my questions for specific times?

Many developers are rude because they believe that smart people can judge people based on their knowledge and results, rather than their intentions. It is reasonably common among developers over 40 to feel that social skills such as politeness are overrated and unnecessary (or even a sign of weakness), and that bluntly speaking whatever they think is a virtuous behavior and a sign of technical skill. You will not cure this person of such a personality trait, but you may be able to train him to stop saying things to you at work that upset you.

For example, if you ask something like "are you angry?" and he is not, he may well say "no, I just can't believe you don't know that already". You learn something. He's not trying to make you feel bad. You can even tell him "you sound angry." If you ask "should I know that?" and he answers "yes!" you can go on to ask "how?" and you might find out that many of your questions feel like repetitions to him. (For example, "how does the server expect dates to be formatted in function X?" and "how does the server expect dates to be formatted in function Y?" would be the same question, ""how does the server expect dates to be formatted?" but you might have asked both on different days.)

Eventually either you will understand why he is reacting so poorly, or he will realize he is reacting poorly for no reason and stop doing so. Along the way he may tell you that he's not angry, that you shouldn't have known [whatever] already, and that the documentation is as bad as you think it is. These should cheer you up at least a bit. You may discover he is mad at whoever hired you, or assigned you to the project, or didn't approve the documentation effort request a year before you started, not you. You may discover his football team lost last night or he has a hostile voice even when he's happy. Anything could happen. But clearly, pretending he isn't upsetting you isn't working, so doing something is the right move. And I think questions are the way to tackle it.

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    "Many senior developers are grumpy and rude because they were raised to believe that smart people don't need social skills" - These tend to be the "senior" developers who have just waited in the same job long enough to get promoted. Development is a team game, having poor social skills is not OK. – Joe Dec 10 '15 at 19:46
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    Also make sure you record down every piece of technical information you receive, like IP addresses, particular network configuration, anything technical and classified as "tribal knowledge" (something you can't possibly figure out unless you are told). Something like a password, but those need to be secured and not on a piece of paper :) – Nelson Dec 11 '15 at 1:16
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    I like to point out that the senior developer could simply be annoyed because he is interrupted a lot. Being a senior developer often puts you in a position that many less senior developers come with questions to him all the time. This can be frustrating. A small interruption gets you out of the flow and I think I read somewhere that a 5 minute interruption really makes you lose 15 minutes of productivity or something. – Ivo Beckers Dec 11 '15 at 8:47
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    The last point about flow is on point. I ask people to write me in Hipchat instead of coming to my desk or yelling at me when they need help, because then it gives me a chance to address the question when I have come to a stopping point. Most people feel awkward using a chat application when they're sitting next to the person, but I would argue that time spent getting into flow is the most expensive part of programming. Since the OP is a junior dev with very little experience, they just may not know about this, and may be coming to the senior dev and interrupting their flow. – L0j1k Dec 13 '15 at 8:51
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    @IvoBeckers a 5-minute interruption can even cost you an hour of productivity, if the timing is "perfect" :) – Alexander Dec 13 '15 at 8:51
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First you say this:

I need to ask the senior developer questions about what the server expects and every time I ask this person a question or ask about a possible server-side bug the man rips my head off.

He gets extremely agitated and says stuff like “You’re knowledge of this or that…” and shakes his head. I just started so how would I know this information?

Then you say this:

I find it very strange that he said he wishes there were more women in this industry but then rips my head off?

First and foremost, why are you seeing this as a gender related issue? 100% nothing in what you are describing seems to be based on gender bias unless there is something else you are not explaining.

But past that, the behavior you are describing from the senior developer sounds like classic old-school developer behavior. I’ve worked with tons of senior developers and systems administrators who seemingly have no patience.

Sometimes this is just an initial “hazing” ritual where they bark and bark and they are essentially testing you to see what’s up and things calm down. Other times these folks are just a-holes and since they are the only ones who knows how a system works, they have decided that is their “territory” in life and will never let go of it.

On a practical level, I would approach it as follows:

  1. Get it in Writing: It’s not clear from your post how you are communicating (i.e.: method) to this senior developer or how he is communicating back to you, but you need to get this in writing. Nothing more and nothing less. If these exchanges are in emails, then save, archive and share those emails with someone senior to you two when you can. If these are casual conversations that go sour, then you need to email the senior developer and state something like, “Thanks for the explanation on how XYZ works, but I am increasingly getting uncomfortable with the hostile way you have been approaching me when I ask these questions.” Something along those lines.

  2. Establish Some Kind of Procedure: A lot of what you are describing sounds like casual/impulsive encounters. Perhaps that is the culture your company has, but in general it might be best to have some kind of structure to these queries that makes both parties seem fine. For example, do you have weekly meetings to review issues? Can you schedule weekly meetings to review issues? In some way can some formality be placed on these encounters? As a developer and Linux systems administrator myself, I find that having some kind of issue discussion structure works well since while I am open to casual discussions with team members, there are times where the impulsive requests just degrade to constant nagging. Better have some established and respected procedure in place so everyone is happy.

  3. Centralized Documentation: This might be tougher to manage, but I find having some kind of centralized documentation source is a great way to alleviate the pressures of constant back-and-forth and allows the “invisible” world of tech development to be visible. Some people keep a centralized document directory on a file share. Others use a collaborative documentation system like a Wiki. Whatever the tool is the goal would be to document things in a way that questioning doesn’t result in just one person having “the knowledge” but rather a constant growth of shared knowledge across the organization. In the case of your senior developer, somehow getting him to sit down and document core functionality might actually be useful to you, him and others in the organization. And honestly, documentation depersonalizes the act of dealing with things like this in a constructive way. For example, let’s say you read a page on a Wiki about a feature but don’t understand it. Then you can just email the senior developer and ask, “I read about XYZ but I’m still confused about one part. Can you clarify this for me?” The response should be something such as an email clarification to you or—and this is the better scenario—your colleague updating the Wiki to clarify the issue.

In the end, I would not consider this a gender clash as much as an issue of you dealing with an overly aggressive co-worker. And for the record, I have dealt with all forms of this type of personality from all genders: They have some chip on their shoulder for some reason and they are upset at you not because of anything you said but just because you happened to say something at that time/moment.

Don’t take it personally; stay focused on your work and be as professional as possible. Cool heads prevail and your ability to handle such a personality might make you look better to your employer in the long run.

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    +1 for writing. Some profiles like this are just hating being interrupted. By going email, you avoid that trap. Your answer will come later, but probably more accurate (don't hope it to be polite, but it's nothing personal - it's just his standard way to communicate) joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000022.html – gazzz0x2z Dec 10 '15 at 10:51
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    Because men tend to do this to women a lot. – user42272 Dec 11 '15 at 4:25
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    Also because if she screws up she makes all of women look bad in the eyes of the Architect, who has voiced that he's concerned about more women being in the field. Men don't have to worry about their gender being judged for their mistakes. – user42272 Dec 11 '15 at 4:31
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    @djechlin I agree with the assessment but not 100%. I’m a man. I have been doing tech work as a developer and an admin for 20+ years. And despite my experience and proven skills, I have routinely been threatened by other developers—who are men as well—over utter nonsense. Such as one developer threatening me not to develop when I was an administrator. He was a crappy dev and I ended up having to develop to clean up his mess. But more to the point the issue is men really tend to create conflict where none exists even in supposedly collaborative fields. And women might be intimidated by that. – JakeGould Dec 11 '15 at 4:41
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    Not sure if it's a good idea to put "the hostile way you have been approaching me" in writing. That's bridge burning. The next time you'll ask a question, don't be surprised if the answer will be "I'm not sure, go check in that 500-pages spec." – Dmitry Grigoryev Dec 11 '15 at 10:18
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Most important, I want to focus on this comment in your question:

I need to ask the senior developer questions about what the server expects and every time I ask this person a question or ask about a possible server-side bug the man rips my head off.

I added the bold because you need to realize that this is essentially you, a junior person, criticizing the architect. This approach can immediately make anyone that takes pride in their work defensive. A person can feel criticized by even implying that there is a bug.

You need to approach the architect with the position that you have a problem and need his help to understand how to solve it. Approach with much more caution. Showing your research, making it clear you do not know the source of a problem but you have spent significant effort trying to find it, and asking for a better understanding of the system will help.

You probably have already caused a lot of problems without even realizing it. Not that it justifies his behavior. However, you need to make it very clear that you value this person and his work, and be sincere about it. And expect the condescending tone to some extent until your sincerity is understood, unless this person takes it up with a manager. It may be a form of "hazing" as one answer suggests.

Also, some people are just angry and rude. If all else fails then just try to respond as if the person is not being rude or condescending. You need to focus on your job, and if you are doing a good job then don't let this person's bad attitude and behavior impact your self-worth or value to the company. Just because this guy grew up with "tough love" doesn't mean that you did or that you need it now. Or maybe he's just a jerk but he gets things done, and it might be valuable to learn how to work with jerks that get things done.

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    +1 for emphasis on the phrasing of the question. Big difference between "the code on the server is buggy and broken" and "I think I may be using the wrong inputs" – Tas Dec 9 '15 at 22:34
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    I take issue with: "This approach can immediately make anyone that takes pride in their work defensive." ... Well, no. Only someone who is fragile and lacking in self-confidence and maturity would get defensive. – Todd Lehman Dec 10 '15 at 0:12
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    Someone who's confident and well-adjusted will still find it fairly tedious if they get "there's a bug on the server!" ... (10 minutes of questions later) ... "oh yeah, that's my client code's fault" more than a few times. It's like the classic newbie error of blaming the compiler. One key question is, how many of these have actually been bugs on the server? If less than, say, 75% of them then be more circumspect. If more than 75% then frankly he should worship a junior with 4 months experience who's helping him solve that many of his errors, even if she could word the questions differently! – Steve Jessop Dec 10 '15 at 0:21
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    @ToddLehman Only someone who is arrogant and condescending would claim that only someone who is fragile and lacking in self-confidence would get defensive. See what I did there? – barbecue Dec 10 '15 at 22:16
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    @ToddLehman - The irony is thick.. Should I disregard your comment due to confidence in mine? Suggesting a bug in someone else's work is a mild accusation. Accusatory comments shift focus to blame instead of keeping focus on understanding. I agree secure and mature people handle accusations better. Add pride and the slope downhill to a poor response gets slippery again. The OP is clearly dealing with someone with a poor response and needs to understand what creates defensiveness. Avoiding accusations keeps the focus where it should be regardless of the audience. – Jim Dec 10 '15 at 23:15
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The sad fact of the matter is that the senior developer is behaving in an extremely un-professional manner. I don't know if you've read Robert Martin's The Clean Coder, but in it he states that the sort of behaviour you've been subjected to here is unprofessional in the extreme.

The fact is, you've been there four months, and as a senior developer it's his JOB to train or mentor new developers. I quite enjoy working with new developers because more often than not they show an area in my skill set that's lacking, or they open my eyes to something I'd not considered before.

And as a Junior Developer, you're there to learn. No developer, no matter how long they've been developing for, knows everything about everything; the field is waaaay too big for that.

As for how you deal with him? I can't expand any better on the guidance you've been given so far here. I would really encourage you to follow up with reading your company policy on bullying and harrasment, and if push comes to shove you may need to talk to his line manager, but I'd do that as a last resort really.

Your line manager should be fighting your corner and explaining to this guy that he needs to treat you with respect. And sometimes you've got to fight your own corner. I'm not saying rant back at the guy, far from it actually.

You can always choose how YOU behave. And if you treat the guy with the proper respect (although it sounds like none is due, frankly...), then you don't lower yourself to his level. And hopefully your managers will then see that he's behaving in a manner that probably doesn't fit with corporate policy, or the image the company wishes to project either.

Hope that helps a little, but I'd encourage you not to let this sucker get you down. It's HIS failing, not yours!!

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    I've never in my entire life experienced anything even close to resembling 'mentoring'. By the time I do I'll be a senior and no need for it anymore. – user1261710 Dec 11 '15 at 22:45
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    I'm sorry to hear that's your experience. I really hope you do manage to get this resolved. Let us know how you get on. – Emyr Williams Dec 12 '15 at 0:23
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The response to situations like this is fairly standard. One option is to just quit, but let's assume you want to try to resolve things.

  1. Send the Architect an email asking the questions. It's much harder for him to be abusive by email, and if he does you have a record of it. Explain why you need to know the answers. If they are complex questions suggest setting up a meeting to discuss them. If he doesn't reply, send him a couple more emails reminding him. If he is abusive to you again, start recording occasions on which he is abusive, writing details of when and where and what was said.
  2. Simultaneously find out if your company has a formal policy on bullying. Read up about it.
  3. If the emails don't work, approach your boss. Tell him what's been going on, and give him the specific examples you wrote down. If the bully was stupid enough to be abusive in email, give your boss copies. If you still believe you are being bullied after reading the company policy, tell your boss that. That should get his attention.
  4. If none of that works approach HR, giving them the same info. Again make it clear that what is happening falls under the bullying policy.
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    When I send the man an email he comes over to my desk and lets me have it lol – user1261710 Dec 9 '15 at 17:56
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    Step 1 is the best part. Show why you are asking a question, additionally, show your research effort to answer it yourself. In a lot of cases, you wasting your time searching for an answer is still cheaper than taking an architect's mind off of a task and incurring the spool-up time for him/her. – Garrison Neely Dec 9 '15 at 18:08
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    @GarrisonNeely Agree strongly - essentially the requirements for asking a question of stackoverflow :D – Gusdor Dec 9 '15 at 21:04
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    In my experience, an email that is also CCd to your boss, as well as the abusive person's boss (if different) works best. Rude and aggressive people become very well behaved when there is an email trail. – Shantnu Tiwari Dec 9 '15 at 23:17
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    @user1261710 if he comes over to you but still isn't answering your questions, then the emails worked. There's a paper trail showing you asked and he didn't respond. You can even say, "He comes over to talk to me but still refuses to answer. He just tells me I shouldn't be asking.." – Chan-Ho Suh Dec 10 '15 at 3:39
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I get there are 4 good answers but here is a slightly different slant.

You say documentation is scarce and error messages vague. That is not a good situation and not a sign of a good back (or front) end developer.

You need to perform error handling anyway. Trap the error and report it in the UI. If your boss asks you what the error means then tell them you don't know and you have asked

Keep a list of question / issues. Document what he had told (or not told) you.

Don't call it a bug. Give him the call and the data you are sending and the error message. Ask him if the input data is wrong. Consider writing some test scripts.

Remember to point out:

Please don't get upset with me I am just trying to do my job.

Bullying in my definitions needs to rise abusive / intimidating behavior. I get this is unpleasant and not productive and you are even intimidated by it but it probably does not rise to bullying (yet).

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Next time he does it, simply ask him, "Why are you so hostile everytime I ask you a question?" If he can't answer it or continues to get hostile, then go to the manager and explain that everytime you ask him something, he gets very hostile. Certain people have different personality types and it could be his personality and he's doing it without knowing what he's doing. Talking to him will help. Chances are he would apologize and maybe approach you differently.

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    Are ask him to point you to the documentation. That'll shut him up. (I mean what are the chances that someone with so little self control that he flies into a rage whenever a question is asked has managed to document anything). – gnasher729 Dec 9 '15 at 17:57
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    @gnasher729 I wouldn't even do that. I would first establish it isn't his personality to come across hostile. Some people are just disgruntled and it doesn't mean you have to "put them in their place" or get them fired. It does however mean you should gain an understanding of who they are so you can better react and not take anything personally. – Dan Dec 9 '15 at 17:59
  • Nope no documentation and lousy error messages too. – user1261710 Dec 9 '15 at 18:04
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    my 2 cents: I absolutely would not ask directly "Why are you so hostile every time I ask you a question?" - this guarantees to put up a wall psychologically even if there wasn't one before, leading to distrust and suspicion, and shutting the door to open communication. Nobody likes being called out in this way, especially if the question is valid and hits a nerve. It is hard to backtrack after initial aggrevation. On the other hand, there are strategies for ameliorating hostility that should be attempted before any direct "intervention." – A.S Dec 9 '15 at 19:11
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    do not say "everytime" or "always". Such statements can be negated with a single counter example. But do ask about this time. In fact, I think I have an answer now. – Kate Gregory Dec 9 '15 at 19:44
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The escalation procedures recommended by other posters make great sense, but I want to focus on the options that may improve the situation before you take a more hard-line approach, since once you do there is no going back and things may get worse before they get better.

What I might do: First, go to the manager and tell him/her that you are having a hard time getting some answers from the dev, because you are finding it somewhat challenging to interact. Do not point the finger and mention hostility (i.e. assign blame) - simply say that you are struggling a bit with hitting a stride in communicating with this person. In any case, tell the manager that your proposed approach is to give it another shot and try to have a brief informal meeting with the dev around the questions you need answered to do your job.

Ask the manager for suggestions on what to do IF this doesn't work out and you continue having a difficult time get answers required for time-sensitive tasks. (Document this meeting in a note for yourself, and then do exactly as the manager says if this happens.)

Finally, suggest to the manager (or ask if it would be OK) that you will document the questions and responses from the dev in a follow-up email after that meeting, and cc the manager. This way if/when the manager gets that summary they will know what it's about.

Managers like it when employees solve their own problems, and will appreciate that you are trying to work out the situation while at the same time making them aware of it, assuming they would want to be aware of this as your superior.

Then go to the Evil Genius. Ask if he has a second of free time, and if not, when would be a good time to stop by with a couple questions.

When you finally catch him to talk, explain in a calm and matter-of-fact way that being new to this job and to the subject matter you are doing your best to learn but recognize you have gaps in knowledge, and his input is very valuable to you.

As part of this conversation, make it very clear how your and his jobs are tied: even if his back-end stuff works perfectly but you are unable to do your job well, then the front-end will be broken. Make the point that no matter how well his stuff works, it won't matter because the user will continue to encounter errors and bugs. So you wanted to talk to him because you want to make sure that his quality work on the back end is reflected in the quality of the front end application, where it matters from the client/user perspective.

Tell him you are doing your best trying to learn but in some cases have questions that would be very difficult or nearly impossible to figure out without additional knowledge or answers about back end functionality. Therefore, you have a few specific questions (have a printed list) to discuss.

Also, try to create an "in" for future similar conversations, e.g. "It is possible I may hit roadblocks as I continue working through this, so was wondering if you would be OK if I occasionally bug you with questions, I wish I did not need to take your time but if I look everywhere and still can't find an answer, I may need to come to you. Would that be OK?"

Hopefully all this will set the stage for more positive and productive communication going forward. The whole prelude above should take 2 min of your and his time before you get down to business. Be clear, firm, and neutral/friendly in tone.

After the conversation, follow up by email documenting the work-related questions you had, any resolution/answers that he suggested, or if you were unable to get answers (again, do not make this sound personal - rather than "you did not answer my questions XYZ, say "I was not able to get answers to questions XYZ"). Copy the manager.

If the conversation got nowhere and only generated more hostility, go to the manager, explain the issue and ask for input on how to handle it. From this point, start a paper trail of questions and response (or non-response) from the dev, with cc to manager.

Do not appear phased if he responds with hostility. Simply thank him for his time and leave. Then, refer to suggestions in previous posts for escalation with manager, etc. Good luck!

4

I find it very strange that he said he wishes there were more women in this industry but then rips my head off?

Thats not acceptable, and neither is tearing into a Junior because she doesn't get all the details yet. If you feel comfortable doing it, have a stern talk with him, once. Make clear you find this behaviour unacceptable and tell him it has to stop.

Failing that, it may get dirty.

  1. Talk to your manager, and let him know how bad it is. A good manager will handle it from there

  2. Failing that, talk to your Company's HR. HR people are very sensible to this and a good HR person will not sit still for long at such a report.

  3. Further failing that, talk to the highest Management you can have a talk to. Make clear that you're ready to quit should this continue.

Ps: If he keeps making mean comments, especially if he does so in writing, and if you dont mind a dent on your career, you can lawyer up for a hostile environment lawsuit. The possibility of that is by the way why HR will probably tear the guy a new one upon hearing this.

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    Not only can a Junior dev not know everything, but this is in different areas. Backend developers develop a system, and then it is their job to distribute the information to everyone who needs it, for example the Junior dev posting here. She shouldn't have to ask, she should be given documentation. Which probably doesn't exist. – gnasher729 Dec 9 '15 at 18:00
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    "If he keeps making sexist comments"? There's no mention of any sexist comments in the (current version of the) question. Being rude to her doesn't make it sexism just because she's female and he's male. – Anthony Grist Dec 10 '15 at 10:11
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    @Magisch 'he said he wishes there were more women in this industry', that isn't a sexist comment, in fact the exact opposite. He actually wants there to be more female developers, which seems to be the goal of 'social justice' obsessed part of the IT industry. – user1450877 Dec 10 '15 at 11:03
  • @user1450877 I misread that as "less" :/ I edited my answer to reflect. – Magisch Dec 10 '15 at 14:12
2

One way you can shift this feeling is to automatically assume that everything you "don't know" is a failure of your teacher. Basically, whenever he says something like "Your knowledge of this or that...", your first thought should be "how could I have learned that?" If the answer isn't screamingly obvious, then you can respond with "I know, I'm clearly missing some stuff, how did you learn it?" Almost certainly his answer will be something along the lines of "comes with experience", which completely absolves you of not knowing.

Critically, you are not responsible for not being as advanced as him within 4 months. If you joined at the same time, and he was massively outpacing you, that would be an issue. But 4 months for a new developer is literally no time at all. People working on the same tech stack for 5 years have new stuff to learn, even if it's only about applying new advancements to old problems.

I would definitely have a talk with your manager and ask about how he views your progress. He may have no issues at all. At the same time, you could suggest that you're worried that you're currently too dependent on other members of the team for support, and ask if there have been any complaints. If there haven't, then all you have is a grumbly employee. Some people like to grumble.

If it's upsetting you, it's entirely fair just to ask if there's somewhere you could look for this information so you don't have to bother him so much. See what he says. He might be fine with it, but just need to vent, and unaware that he's making you uncomfortable.

2

You may be a help vampire.

The colleague may be heavily loaded with his tasks, concentrating on difficult problems, or even be behind schedule. Try to be more efficient, consuming less time from him:

  • When possible, ask multiple questions at once instead of coming repeatedly. Context switch can easily take more time than the time required to answer the question.
  • Be sure you save or write down all commands, links to documentation, web URLs and other difficult to remember pieces of information and never ask again. Bookmark while talking, recall from the command history and save separately, in the worst case if not your machine ask to E-mail.
  • If it is already clear for you, say thanks, say understand and end the conversation. Do not extend it unnecessarily.
  • Spend the firm 20 minutes looking for the solution yourself before asking for the help. Use web, books and other similar sources.
  • You may also look into some documentation, while I understand it is most often incomplete and may be hopelessly obsolete.

Do not assume he is not willing to help for some reason. The problem, he maybe also must work on his task, even if he likes the task less than explaining something to you.

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    this is just blame the victim apologetics; none of this absolves the person from being unprofessional in the worst way. – Jarrod Roberson Dec 11 '15 at 1:34
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    Yes, I actually think that the "victim" is behaving unprofessionally, using up its "resources for attention" inefficiently and too quickly. – eee Dec 11 '15 at 7:10
1

You will encounter all kinds of people in your career. There are plenty of jerks, like your senior. There are also plenty of people who can be really helpful if you can figure out what they need from you. For example, I worked with an architect who was all about data. If you asked him about certain things, and you didn't bring data he could look at, he would send you away. I learned very quickly that if I didn't bring data, I wouldn't get an answer. If I brought the data, he had all the time in the world for me. That was just his way.

One perspective not really addressed is that the senior may feel that you are wasting his time, because the information you are asking about is something you could easily figure out yourself. That is a legitimate gripe for the senior. So, what he needs from you is the knowledge that you tried to figure this out on your own, and he is your last resort. When you go to the senior, you should list the steps you've done. Something like, "I can't figure out how A does B. I traced the code through and saw it was doing C, and then it does D, but I'm not seeing how we get from D to B. Can you help?" You could even throw in your hypothesis, such as "I think it's because we are doing Y before we do X." This clearly demonstrates to the senior that you put in the effort to figure it out, and it also narrows the scope of what you are asking. Believe me, it can make a huge difference in the reaction you get.

1

Some people are awful in face to face communication. To the extent possible, you might try sending this person an Email with your questions. Maybe you will get a different response. Also, your questions might really be challenging this person, and to cover up their lack of deep knowledge, they might be taking it out on you. If you send an Email, they can read it, review it, research, collect their thoughts, and then answer you.

Make no mistake, bullying is a serious and growing issue in the workplace. I see it all the time, and as a union shop steward I deal with it regularly.

There is a huge array of information out there about how bullying adversely affects the financial bottom line of organizations. As such, management should take an eager and active role is attempting to curb bullying whenever they find it because bullying costs money--mostly not from lawsuits but from lost productivity.

Does the organization any sort of probation period for employment? 3 months is often the norm, and if so you are past that. However, I know of organization that have 6 to 12 month probation periods.

If you are past probation, start out having a private, one on one conversation with your immediate Supervisor. Tell your Sup that this senior male architect makes you feel uncomfortable and bullied whenever you speak with him. In my view, I would leave out any reference to gender bias or discrimination. I find that organizations will often interpret charges of bad behavior to the worst possible scenario, gender bias, and then attempt to disprove gender bias without addressing the more general charge of bullying. Keep the conversation around your discomfort and a feeling of being bullied. Also, humanize the person by using their first name. I understand why you didn't use their name publicly here on SE, but in talking with your Sup use his name and don't refer to him in any way that could be seen negative, like "That man" or "That person" or "HIM!"

All that said, after 26 years working in IT, I've never seen any organization--either public or private sector--take a serious interest in addressing and curbing bullying. The cynical advice, that I've followed myself on more than one occasion, is to heed the wisdom of Ed Yourdon in his book "Death March". It is easier to find another organization that matches your values than it is to change the values of an organization.

  • You are correct about changing the system. Going to HR is almost always a horrible idea. For all you know he is married to the HR person, maybe him the boss and founder all vacation together. Either way, he will never clean up his act. Documenting and quitting based on hostile work environment probably best bet. Take unemployment insurance and change jobs. – Dan Shaffer Jan 12 '16 at 15:52
  • No sure what country. In USA, quitters don't get unemployment insurance. Nor people who are fired for their own misconduct or incompetence. It has to be a "lay off" for some reason not your fault. – WGroleau Dec 24 '16 at 22:53
1

The only way to tell whether this interaction is being affected by gender issues would be to see the senior developer interacting with a young man with similar experience and questions.

Meanwhile, I suggest ignoring tone of voice and just dealing with the content. If the senior developer implies you are lacking in knowledge, ask for recommendations for books, web pages, tutorials etc. you should use to fill in your knowledge. If he does make any recommendations, follow up by using the materials.

1

Perhaps the guy has a point. Unless he is using abusive language, which you do not say he is, then all he appears guilty of is delivering criticism in a tone you don't like.

The criticism maybe legitimate because after 4 months at the job and you "basically don’t know much about anything", that is clearly unacceptable and the Senior Dev seems unhappy with your level of knowledge.

you made the comment " I'm wondering how they managed to get this far with such high levels of emotional instability" Which begs the response, exactly, so maybe the problem isn't with him. I suggest you take his criticism on board and up your game.

The code is the documentation, if you have access to it and can run it you shouldn't need to be asking people what it does. If there is a bug, fix it and commit it to a branch and ask him to look at your fix, bring him solutions not problems.

  • 1
    I up-voted this because this is indeed an opportunity. If documentation doesn't exist and you need this information, up your game, document everything you learn send it to you colleagues so they would add information. Maybe this person is frustrated because everything is directed at him – Sigal Shaharabani Dec 10 '15 at 12:34
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    @SigalShaharabani In the real world where you are working pre-existing systems in an enterprise situation It is very rare for there to be any documentation. basically the documentation is the code and you are expected to learn it and debug it to solve problems. If the OP has access to the code why does she need to keep asking the Senior dev what it does. If there is a bug then fix it, commit it to a branch and ask him to look at your fix, stop bringing him problems and bring him solutions. – user1450877 Dec 10 '15 at 13:45
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    @user1450877 If you genuinely feel that you don't have a responsibility to support your junior's development, or at least to engage them on the level as a peer who wants a second pair of eyes, you have no business being a senior developer. Computer systems are complex, and getting a second opinion before you screw up something you might not fully understand is a good thing. There's a difference between directing them to the tools and simply complaining that they don't know everything that you know. How are they supposed to know it if they've never been shown it? – deworde Dec 10 '15 at 13:59
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    Critically, you're expecting someone with no background in server-side programming to become fluent to the point of independence in 4 months. That's simply unfair to ask. The OP could clearly hack something together, but if you're trying to do it right, getting a second opinion matters. – deworde Dec 10 '15 at 14:15
  • 1
    Server side code isn't magic, if you have access to it and can read it or debug it then any competent developer should be able to understand what is going on. Nobody held my hand like you suggest they should and I wouldn't expect to do it for anyone else. I would only expect Junior developers to be asking domain specific questions, if they are asking a technical problem it better be because its a difficult problem and not because they suck and/or are lazy. – user1450877 Dec 10 '15 at 15:08
-2

There is only one correct answer to your question:

Report your concerns in writing to your immediate supervisor.

Take notes of the results of your report to your immediate supervisor every day there is an incident.

If no action is taken, or it gets worse because of action taken.

Take written notes and compile evidence ( emails or im messages or whatever ) with dates. Log verbal abuse encounters in writing in a journal on the day it happens, list witnesses.

Do not let this go on more than 4-6 weeks after the first report to your immediate supervisor. Otherwise it will be dismissed as not that important to you if you let it go on so long so don't.

Report your situation to the HEAD of HR for your location.

Nothing else is appropriate.

They are the objective unemotional detached arbitrators.

This is what these people are paid to do.

  • 1
    Upvoted, because although I disagree that this is necessarily the best approach in this case, this is the by-the-book solution. If it really isn't an issue, and can be solved by the OP like some other answers say, it's HR's job to tell the OP that, after documenting the issue. – Peter Dec 13 '15 at 16:49

protected by Jane S Dec 9 '15 at 20:30

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