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I hate two of my colleagues who I'm forced to share close proximity with in the office.

If someone asks me a question one of them will jump in. If someone asks me for help with something easy, one of them will jump in. This means I lose out on opportunities to show I'm adding value, build relationships, etc.

There is nothing I can learn from them. They frequently look at my screen and copy the techniques that make me a productive employee, like the software and websites I use, the way I manage my time - even taking prompts from my email/calendar/todo list for what they should be doing.

One of the most annoying parts is from watching what I'm doing they jump into conversations and act like they had some involvement in the work I've done or if I'm discussing plans with a manager they'll act like they're part of it or append moronic suggestions/problems that sound reasonable to non-technical people.

I think they're parasites but dealing with them in a hostile way isn't working and is making me unhappy. I don't have the tactfulness to say "you contribute nothing, leave the conversation" in a way that sounds appropriate to the other employees. I dropped a hint the other day by saying "he thinks his name is my name" because he answered a question directed to me. I'm not sure if that approach makes him look bad or me look bad.

Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better.

I'm thinking about just trying to be nice and helpful to them, being open and sharing what I'm doing, allowing them to handle questions directed to me but I'm also really scared I'll regret it because it seems like they'll win, I'll give them everything and I won't benefit in any way other than not being seen to be rude to them by other colleagues.

Should I go with the new approach or act to stop them benefiting off my back?

closed as off-topic by Jim G., Dawny33, gnat, jcmeloni, Marv Mills Dec 22 '15 at 9:35

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Real questions have answers. Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here." – Jim G., Dawny33, gnat, jcmeloni, Marv Mills
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I don't understand what's going on here at all. You have some sort of floaters attached to you who read your screen and then tell other people what it says? "How can I get people to stop reading my screen" is one thing, but beyond that, you're kind of expected to, and paid to, share knowledge, and should be grateful these colleagues are quick learners. – user42272 Dec 20 '15 at 3:19
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    "Dealing with them in a hostile way isn't working and is making me unhappy" - have you tried dealing with it in a non-hostile way? Being hostile is unlikely to be the right choice. – Brandin Dec 21 '15 at 12:08
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    I'm thinking about just trying to be nice and helpful to them, being open and sharing what I'm doing... Why is this Plan B? It should be your first inclination in a team environment. Career protectionism is silly. You'll get far more recognition for being an enabler of many, rather than a knowledge hoarder. – Kent A. Dec 21 '15 at 19:22
  • It was my first inclination until I realised it was a one way street that makes them look like they're adding more value and me adding less. I'm an enabler for the rest of the team. I think my new course of action is going to be to communicate with them as little as possible without being hostile or obstructing their work. – Host Dec 24 '15 at 0:13
  • "copy the techniques that make me a productive employee, like the software and websites". Is the fact that you use specific software and websites the only thing that makes you more productive? Then you have problems. – DJClayworth Dec 24 '15 at 4:43
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You have problems and non-problems in this post.

The Problems

Your coworkers are not respecting your privacy. See: How to deal with coworkers not respecting privacy

The Non-Problems

You are supposed to share knowledge with your coworkers. That is your job. That is the thing you are being paid to do. You should be grateful they are quick and agile learners who learn from you rather than sit you down and expect you to spoonfeed "what tools and websites you use" to them. If they then know the the things learned from you (as tautologous as that sounds...), they will then know those things and use that knowledge to do their jobs too. I'm sorry but that's just how jobs work, this isn't a school class.

  • This doesn't address a few points like them answering questions directed at me and taking credit for my work. – Host Dec 20 '15 at 12:12
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    @host I don't have good advice for that, just really think you should get out of this very wrong adversarial mindset where them learning from you (though brashly) is wrong and should be stopped. If I were your boss I would reprimand you for trying to compete with other people I have on payroll because it pisses you off when they learn from you and I wouldn't want to hear your explanation why you think you're justified. – user42272 Dec 20 '15 at 16:02
  • Them learning isn't the issue. Normal coworkers say "Have you tried X? Y showed it to me", these two say "Have you tried X?" and rush out to tell as many people as possible like they've made a discovery from their own research effort, depriving me of recognition so I end up looking less valuable than them. – Host Dec 24 '15 at 0:05
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Replying just to one point: If you go to your boss and say "I found this really efficient method to do X, and I can do it twice as fast now", that's nice, your boss will like it.

You seem to think that if your colleagues copy you, you are losing out. Quite the opposite. If you go to your boss and say "I found this really efficient method to do X, and I showed it to my colleagues, and we all can do X twice as fast now", that isn't nice, that is excellent, your boss will absolutely love you.

On the other hand, if you say to your boss "I found this really efficient method of doing X, and because I hide it from my colleagues, I can now do X twice as fast as they do", your boss will not be one bit impressed. Quite the opposite. He will tell you to show them, and all good reputation that you might have gained by finding that better method will be gone because you refused to share it.

BTW. If I ever, ever heard someone calling one of their colleagues a "parasite" in a serious way, HR would be involved. The use of the word would either be justified or not, and one of the two involved would likely leave the company.

  • Wish I had more upvotes to give you. This is the absolute right answer. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Dec 21 '15 at 13:25
  • Fair answer but I don't think hr jumps straight to firing people when there's a conflict. – user42272 Dec 21 '15 at 14:46
  • Not "a conflict". Someone calling someone else a "parasite". That's not just conflict. – gnasher729 Dec 21 '15 at 16:23
  • If I got recognition for it it would be fine. As it stands it ends up looking like the knowledge came from them because no-one else is aware what they've copied from me or explained to them in private. I don't think going to my boss and saying "I found this really efficient method to do X, and I showed it to my colleagues, and we all can do X twice as fast now" is realistic, it sounds like boasting. – Host Dec 23 '15 at 23:59
  • Okay, I don't think HR jumps straight to firing people when someone calls someone else a "parasite." – user42272 Dec 24 '15 at 0:43
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I hate two of my colleagues who I'm forced to share close proximity with in the office.

Pretty strong words

If someone asks me a question one of them will jump in. If someone asks me for help with something easy, one of them will jump in.

Do these employees have their own work to do? Sooner or later, this will look petty on their part.

This means I lose out on opportunities to show I'm adding value, build relationships, etc.

I disagree. There are infinite ways one can always show they are adding value, build relationships.

As long as there is a lot of work to do, a lot of things to innovate, then their is an ocean of such opportunity, one needs to ask themselves how else they can contribute.

There is nothing I can learn from them. They frequently look at my screen and copy the techniques that make me a productive employee, like the software and websites I use, the way I manage my time - even taking prompts from my email/calendar/todo list for what they should be doing.

Are these coworkers straight out of college? Perhaps college interns. Sometimes they behave that way because they don't understand real-world.

Or they can just be annoying people

One of the most annoying parts is from watching what I'm doing they jump into conversations and act like they had some involvement in the work I've done or if I'm discussing plans with a manager they'll act like they're part of it or append moronic suggestions/problems that sound reasonable to non-technical people.

Can you schedule time to meet with your manager in a conference room, office, etc so you can discuss without the peanut gallery?

Surely, your boss must be aware of who is responsible for what, who is doing what (that what boss is supposed to do)

I think they're parasites but dealing with them in a hostile way isn't working and is making me unhappy.

Oh wow. And after you were hostile, they are still bothering you. They probably thinks this is a full-out war. That's quite immature of them though.

I don't have the tactfulness to say "you contribute nothing, leave the conversation" in a way that sounds appropriate to the other employees. I dropped a hint the other day by saying "he thinks his name is my name" because he answered a question directed to me. I'm not sure if that approach makes him look bad or me look bad.

It probably made you look bad. They say pig likes to fight in mud, only difference is pig enjoys it. Pig is your coworkers in this case.

I'm thinking about just trying to be nice and helpful to them, being open and sharing what I'm doing, allowing them to handle questions directed to me but I'm also really scared I'll regret it because it seems like they'll win, I'll give them everything and I won't benefit in any way other than not being seen to be rude to them by other colleagues.

Well here is the problem. Lot of people are scared of sharing information, also known as collaboration. But I think if more you share, more others will eventually share with you, or more opportunities will open. And certainly the coworkers will start to warm up, and you can find the relationship beneficial. If you have too much work on your hands, you can get their help.

Do this slowly and steady, so you all feel comfortable.

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You need to tell them to butt out. Unless one of your contracted tasks is to train others, then there is no need to do so unless you feel like it. I lock my machine whenever I leave the desk, and tell people to brush their teeth if they hang over my shoulder too much. You have to be a bit blunt sometimes. But you're not in a beauty pageant.

In saying that I wasn't the most popular guy at work, but I got a LOT of uninterrupted work done. You need to find a balance you are comfortable with. People will take advantage of you if they can enhance themselves doing so. Perhaps not even consciously or maliciously.

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What is your boss paying the employees for? So that the job gets done. Everyone who receives a salary shall do what is needed so that the company's job gets done. Not only its.

You are obviously a senior, et least compared to those people. The way they inspire from you to get the job done is the proof that

  1. They want the job to be done. They are positive players.
  2. You are a leader in the domain.

The point 2 is the one you have to be proud of, and sell. Sell during 1-1, Sell during yearly evaluations, or even later sell when you'll look for another job. You are a lead. It means your role is not only to do your job, but to have others behind you, and raising them up as much as possible.

Be sure to ask for a compensation for that, but be grateful to the copiers. Imitation is the sweetest form of flattery. Make sure that flattery comes to your management's ears.

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    If they wanted the job to get done they would do their own work at a faster rate instead of looking for cheap wins by taking from me. – Host Dec 20 '15 at 12:18
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    If your boss wanted the job done faster he would tell you to show them and reprimand you for not showing them in the first place. – gnasher729 Dec 21 '15 at 11:48

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