This is related to my previous question. In short, I have recently become teamlead of a team, which I had just joined. Problem is that I have a bossy, arrogant subordinate.

In order to address the issue, I had have a discussion with the subordinate. While, setting the meeting timing I had kept manager in the CC, but kept the email's wording very generic so that manager just gets the image that its a team's internal meeting about structuring. I did this so that I give subordinate a chance to improve his ways.(After the meeting I had wanted to tell the manager that there was this situation and I have talked to the guy, but manager was too busy and so was I, so we could not set a discussion time)

Well, in the meeting he was being agreeable. He understood some of the things but clearly not the others which he has shown in recent working days. It is not a professional statement to give, but he does get on my nerves. With such negativity around me I can not even work. His arrogant behavior towards me is even visible in client meetings, he does not even understand that you can not give such impression about your company to the clients. His behavior almost feels like harassment.

The lead of this team before me had stepped down because of various reasons, and it has come to my attention that this subordinate's complicated behavior has played a part in that. I do not want to end up like xlead, if things are gonna blow up in my face then I'd rather have them blown now than wait around for 6 months for it to happen. PS: xlead is the one whom I got this info from, but he was not okay with me using his feedback in front of the manager, so I guess I can not use this data...

I want to bring everything to my manager's (who used to be my teamlead) attention to deal with these things right now. I also want to pull him out of the client meetings, since he is clearly not professional enough for those. My manager is a smart guy, he does not accept any BS, if you are talking to him you need to provide solid reasoning and be really careful about what you say.

Unfortunately, on last working day, I lost my cool with that guy and got really angry, which is quite unprofessional of me and I have never done such thing in workplace before. And...my manager was standing in the background and he witnessed the whole thing, and later Skyped me to read about effective leadership. It was late on Friday night, so he did not call me in for discussion, he might have done that otherwise.

Perhaps, it is not the best time to talk to the manager but I do not think I can just let this thing keep happening. I am pretty straight forward, while my subordinate is straightforward too but he is the sort of guy who can turn around conversations and talk people in, though in my experience he is more talk than substance and I think my manager is smart enough to detect such things. Also in contrast to my simple personality he is way too full of himself. If I am to escalate this issue, take it all out I do not know how things are gonna play out.

How do I talk to my manager about this issue? Complaining about someone, it is not the sort of thing I do even in personal life. How do I highlight such issues to manager and convince him to rein that guy in?

  • Did you hit this employee? (i.e lashing out?)
    – Ed Heal
    May 1, 2016 at 18:10
  • Oh, no, I meant I talked to him in an angry rough tone. I need to re-word this line
    – blackfyre
    May 1, 2016 at 18:16
  • "I did so to avoid escalating the issue without giving subordinate a chance to improve his ways." Was that your intent? To make sure he doesn't get a chance to improve his ways? May 1, 2016 at 19:24
  • ah, I have written in clumsy way today... I meant that I wanted to avoid not giving someone the chance to improve, i.e. first give him a chance by talking to him, that's why I kept the email generic. One would think why did I have to write the email then, well I had to because subordinate had shut me down when I asked for a discussion, he had to realize this is serious
    – blackfyre
    May 1, 2016 at 19:45
  • Get rid of him, he's interfering both with your ability to do your job effectively, and your professional reputation, don't monkey around with him, get him out.
    – Kilisi
    May 2, 2016 at 12:59

5 Answers 5


Unfortunately, on last working day, I lost my cool with that guy and got really angry, which is quite unprofessional of me and I have never done such thing in workplace before. And...my manager was standing in the background and he witnessed the whole thing, and later Skyped me to read about effective leadership.

Use this as an opening to ask for some coaching from your manager. The fact that you indicate "with such negativity around me I can not even work" is a sign that you need help now.

Explain that you want to learn about more effective leadership, and use the case of this one subordinate who somehow pushes your buttons as a specific example of where you aren't sure what to do.

Discuss your plans (such as pulling this individual out of client meetings), and your reasoning. Ask for feedback.

This can be a great way to show that you really want to do better, to work more closely with your manager, to be a more effective leader, and to learn how to deal with the 'arrogant subordinates" of the world.

  • 4
    Interesting! Instead of seeing this subordinate as a nuisance you use him to improve and prove yourself towards others. I like how this answer not only deals with the problem but also opens up opportunities.
    – Migz
    May 2, 2016 at 12:34

I read this, and I think you might have a major problem here that needs some changing.

We know that someone acted totally unprofessional and started shouting, and that person was you. You claim that this "subordinate" behaved in an arrogant way in front of clients (and the use of "subordinate" alone is a major red flag to me). That sounds quite paranoid to me. What exactly made him "arrogant" in your view? Now you call him "clearly unprofessional" when the only unprofessional person so far has been you. I would suspect if you go through with your threat to bar him from meetings with clients, it might be you who will be accussed of harassment by creating a hostile working environment.

  • Even assuming that everything he has said is true, his outburst put him in a position where nobody will believe anything he has to say about his "subordinate" (yeah, I caught that too) without a ton of documentation and proof. May 2, 2016 at 14:32
  • 3
    When someone reports to you, there is nothing wrong with using the word subordinate, it is the correct term to use. Why would this be a flag to anyone?
    – HLGEM
    May 2, 2016 at 16:58

As a team leader, making sure the team is working correctly and efficiently is basically your job. If one of the team members is (according to you) reflecting a poor image to the clients by his attitude, then you indeed have a problem.

Now, about your manager. You say he's smart, wants solid argumentation, and doesn't seem to have a lot of time to waste. Here's an advice you'll read a lot here : if you have something to say at your manager, be clear about why it should matter to him. It's not about Mr. Annoying-Subordinate getting on your nerves, it's about him giving a poor image of the company during meetings. You need to tell youe manager why it matters to him, and not why it matters to you. The negativity, well, you'll probably have to handle that on your own. But if your manager understands why this situation is bad, he will react accordingly. Be also sure to show that your objective is not to put your subordinate back into his place (even if you might feel this way), but to make things better for everyone, you cannot stress enough the fact that this situation has a negative impact on the general quality of the team's work.

This is also an occasion to learn how to handle this type of situation, which you will probably encounter quite a lot in your career. Losing your temper to a subordinate is not a professional attitude and you should work on it so it doesn't happen again !

Edit : typos.


Professionalism is the key to dealing with this person.

  1. Document everything
  2. Keep Calm
  3. Correct behavior immediately, in private.
  4. Praise in public: You want to reinforce good behavior as well as stop bad behavior.
  5. Schedule meetings with your manager to raise concerns don't approach him informally.
  6. When documenting incidents, take note of what was done, what was wrong with it, what should have been done instead, and what actions should be taken in the future.

Unfortunately, it was you that lost your temper in a very public way, which puts you back to square one, making documentation even more important.

Anything you say about your coworker from this point forward will be seen as a revenge move unless you have iron-clad documentation to support your claims.

Let me make this even more clear. Because you behaved in an unprofessional manner and it was witnessed, nothing you say about him from this point forward will be believed unless you have proof.

He set you up, now you are in the unenviable position of trying to unring a bell


Be careful when you jump to conclusions and label someone as arrogant. Focus on specific behaviors you want to change and hopefully, general attitudes the person may have are changed as well, so they can generalize what you're trying to accomplish.

Many technical professionals feel they are expected to know their subject matter, so when a situation arises for them to give input, they can come across as arrogant. This gets worse when it contradicts a supervisor. Before a meeting with a client, your team needs to have a consolidated front on what you're going to suggest. Let your team know that if something comes up that you haven't covered, you, as the team lead, are going to address it. You may defer to someone else if you feel they have more expertise, you'll give your own opinion, or you may suggest getting back with the client when you can look into it further. Others need to follow your lead.

Write up some sort of agreement with this person. Point out the behaviors that need to be changed, by when and how you're going to determine this. Share it with your boss and make sure you have support for the consequences you may have to bring to this person. Promises of threats you can't keep is the best way to reinforce this kind of behavior.

Don't try to change everything at once if you have any hopes of redeeming this person, but if there are a number of serious problems that could result in losing a client for example, you may have to include more at the expense of being able to manage them. You may start with giving the person a warning at a meeting if you feel he's being disrespectful to you. The second time, he will be asked to leave. Nobody is perfect. Help this person build this skill gradually. Offer some time to let him address some of his opinions in private.

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