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Background

I have recently joined a new company through an acquisition. At the old company I was a creative designer here my new role is not yet clear but it would be around graphic design.

First thing I saw after joining was that all the senior stakeholders where very unhappy with the website and the speed at which changes where being made. The website is generally very buggy, the responsive site is completely broken and there are a host of issues around poorly written code I.e. bad JavaScript performance, poor markup etc...

As soon as I joined I was told that I had complete freedom in the way I can update the website and was asked to create a range of pages. Having done those ahead of schedule and to a good standard everyone was extremely happy with the designs.

The Problem

The problem started when I found out that another team within the organisation had hired a contractor who had been making updates and changes to the website prior to me joining.

The contractor is the one I think whose work no-one is happy with as its buggy and he seems to be very slow.

But he is not very happy with me joining and I think feels threatened, he has so far attempted to undermine some of my work that he had input in.

For example I was asked to make an update to the homepage, I asked him whether this was something he wanted to do or whether he wanted me to do it, he said he didn't have time but wanted to have final say anyway. So I asked for approval at every stage of the design process (which slowed it down a lot as he took three days to answer each email) but having revived his approval and double checked with all members of the team I took the design live. Only after I took it live he pointed out that some of the copy wasn't in line with an upcoming update, what's worse even though the issue was very minor he complained about it a lot saying it was unacceptable that this mistake was live. However, senior stakeholders were all happy with the end result and didn't think the mistake was bad.

I don't think I did anything wrong here having done what his superiors requested, and having thought his approval at multiple stages of the process.

the question

So I guess my question is how do I get him to cooperate?

I have no desire to get him fired, but it's obvious his work is slow and sub-standard. At the same time my job isn't fully defined yet and I have only been updating the website as it was needed to be done, I actually have no desire to take over ownership of the website, as I have many other responsibilities.

So what are some strategies for winning someone like that over?

  • 1
    He's a contractor. Here today, gone tomorrow. Because of that, paid a lot of money. Ne need to be afraid of stepping on his toes. – gnasher729 May 4 '16 at 14:28
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    @gnasher729 and when I've encountered that attitude, I don't go above and beyond and move on to where I don't get that attitude. NOT a good idea to treat people like that. – Retired Codger May 4 '16 at 15:18
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    @RichardU: That's what you do as a contractor. You get paid more money per month than an employee, because you get hired when you're needed and you are gone when you're not needed anymore. If you don't like it, start as an employee. – gnasher729 May 4 '16 at 16:06
  • @gnasher729 if I don't like it, I move on. I get paid to work, not to take attitude. And we don't always get paid more either. But If I know a place is known for it's attitude, I'm damn well going to get more. – Retired Codger May 4 '16 at 16:19
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My advice is keep doing what you have been doing.

You appear to have been managing the situation in a professional manner and dealing with a difficult colleague courteously. Furthermore, you have produced great results despite the challenges, and the management is happy.

It may be slightly less efficient than the optimum, but that is often the price you pay for successfully working with others (especially in a delicate situation such as the one you describe).

In short, you have been doing an excellent job and taking the exact right approach. I wouldn't change anything, as long as this situation doesn't prevent the work from getting done.

Do raise the situation with management if it becomes an actual obstacle to progress. If the contractor starts more directly sabotaging your work, outright refusing to cooperate, etc., then this needs to be addressed.

Don't worry about the contractor's negative statements. Let your work speak for itself. It seems clear that management recognize and appreciate the quality of your work. They are probably well aware of the situation and that they need to take this person's words with a grain of salt.

Edit: I agree with AndreiROM that in some cases you need to take action, not just "let your work speak for itself". For example, if the management started wrongly blaming you for delays, you would need to address that in some way. However, given that your work is being recognized and the project is moving forward, I don't think you need to do anything more. Taking a more pro-active approach to counteract the contractor's attitude could backfire, so I would not do that unless his behavior becomes more of a problem.

Your ability to win him over is probably limited. The contractor probably feels threatened by you because you have been doing a much better job, and that does indeed threaten his position. There's nothing you can do to change this basic calculus, so this is unlikely to change. You should continue to interact with him in a courteous, positive manner, but don't expect this to make a big difference (and definitely don't blame yourself for the situation).

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    The problem here is that both fighting back and doing nothing can "backfire". If this guy is attacking your work aggressively, and you simply start acting the same way then it may indeed poison your image (especially if management already dislike the guy). However, I have far more often seen people take "the high road" and end up with a manipulative bastard such as this guy take credit, or make the more skilled and harder working employee look like he doesn't really know what he's doing. In my opinion the OP should defend himself while he still has the chance. – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 14:23
  • @AndreiROM, that is a good point, there are risks to either approach. I think ultimately it is a judgement call that is hard to make, especially with limited information on the situation. I would still lean toward taking the high road in this case, but I appreciate your perspective. – user45590 May 4 '16 at 14:36
  • Indeed, it's difficult to judge. I tend to err on the side of caution when dealing with people like that because I once got screwed over rather badly by one particularly manipulative bastard. – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 14:44
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    and as always..... Document EVERYTHING – Retired Codger May 4 '16 at 15:19
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There's nothing you can do make this slow, under-performing employee to like you. You're making him look bad by virtue of simply doing your work well, and this is, indeed, probably going to cost him his job.

And there is no reason whatsoever for you to feel bad about this. The guy made his bed, and now he'll have to sleep in it.

You should certainly keep doing what you're doing, because you're clearly getting positive results. Him getting fired is going to be a direct result of his own work ethic and attitude, so there's nothing you can do to change that short of sabotaging your own work. Don't do that.

What I'd like to warn you against is being too passive about this guy's attitude toward you and your work.

I disagree with @dan1111 in that sometimes letting your work speak for itself is not enough. Visibility and office politics both play a huge role in how people perceive your work.

My personal approach to someone badmouthing me would be a conversation in which I would establish that I don't appreciate his attitude, and also point out that I have a paper trail of him asking me for those features, possibly followed by a meeting with the manager if his behavior persists.

Take proactive measures to maintain a good reputation. Far too many of the questions we get here are from people who let a situation such as this get out of hand, and want to know how they might set the story straight with their managers (they typically can't at that point).


Edit based on OP's comment:

Defending yourself in a meeting while not appearing overly confrontational, or aggressive is always tricky. There's no one guaranteed successful approach; it will depend a bit on the company culture, your relationship with your bosses, etc.

However, I can offer a few pointers. Always remain friendly, cooperative, and calm. For example, if he criticizes something he previously agreed to you may wish to answer in a seemingly humble way, while highlighting his involvement in the decision:

"I'm sorry you don't like this approach. I'm a bit confused as to why you've changed your mind since our last conversation though. I thought you were happy with this solution. What caused you to change your mind?" (remain very friendly, and "genuinely curious" as you say this)

You want to avoid straight up saying "You're an idiot/liar", but you also want to make sure to put him in his place firmly, while appearing polite and cooperative. As you've mentioned, the managers are not technical people. Make sure to use terminology which makes you appear more technologically informed, while keeping in mind what their own interests are (fast webpages which work well and don't hog server resources because it's expensive to upgrade those)

Him: Why did you implement feature X this way? This is terrible, it's a horrible approach! You should have done my way, bla bla bla
You: I'm following X methodology, which was specifically designed to work with the latest features in version 2.1 of JavaScript and JQuery. I think I know what you're trying to say, but that approach has been obsolete for at least 2 years now, as it was less responsive, and hogged more server resources. I think we can all agree that we want our web applications to perform as efficiently as possible. (what's he going to say at that point? No, I don't want that?)
Him: No, you're wrong, bla bla bla
You: Bob, please don't take my word for it. There's some excellent articles on this topic on several prominent tech blogs and websites! I can recommend a few, and we can discuss this after you've done some research :-) (he comes across as uninformed, and as an asshole, while you're on the ball, and sharing knowledge - a real team player)

What you have to remember is that a non-technical crowd won't understand why a certain piece of code is bad in the same way that a skilled develop will. We can look a system's code and immediately judge whether the person who wrote it understood what they were doing or not. Management can't - they judge the functionality of the final product. What you say to defend yourself might not sound entirely valid, or relevant to a programmer (code executes really quickly, using one approach over another may not make your methodology significantly better from that point of view), however to a layman it will sound like you're a technical God, while the other guy is whiny, and behind-the-times.

If you can give me some examples of things he's said to try and place the blame on you I can try and think up some other "comebacks". Ultimately, however, you may want to have a sit down with one of the managers and say something along these lines:

Hey boss. I have something very important I want to bring up, and yet a I feel a little uncomfortable saying it. Bob's attitude toward me and my work is starting to concern me. I've tried to explain my approach, share my knowledge, and involve him in the development process, however, as I'm sure you've noticed in meetings, he seems to go out of his way to attack my work. I love getting feedback, however I don't think his comments stem from a genuine desire to help the project improve.

Note: If you're not comfortable with the wording simply come up with your own way in which to express those general ideas. Also try Googling articles on the subject before your meeting tomorrow. You don't need to necessarily go out of your way to make the guy look bad, you simply need to defend yourself when he speaks up against you.

  • I agree that office politics and visibility are important. Do you have any further advice on how to handle him ? I set up a meeting with him and several senior stake holders tomorrow I have a feeling he will try and find flaws in my work. Do I prepare a list of flaws in his? How do I demonstrate his incompetence to others who aren't technical ? – Lukas_T May 4 '16 at 13:40
  • @Lukas_T - I edited my answer to provide some more ideas on handle the guy. If you give me some examples of comments he's made I can try to come up with more replies that you can use. The important thing is to always shoot his BS down with calm, calculated responses. Be friendly, and appear cooperative. Point out his duplicity in first agreeing to an approach, only to then try and shoot it down (in a friendly way, of course ;-) – AndreiROM May 4 '16 at 14:18
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how do I get him to cooperate?

Since answers don't seem to focus on this question, I will suggest something that may sound wrong at first: stop being annoying threatening him and focus on helping this guy and/or your (future) job.

I say this because:

I have no desire to get him fired, but it's obvious his work is slow and sub-standard. At the same time my job isn't fully defined yet and I have only been updating the website as it was needed to be done, I actually have no desire to take over ownership of the website, as I have many other responsibilities.

At this rate, he will lose his job and you will get it and neither of you will be happy. You have already demonstrated substantial skill and ability to help with the website. You think this guy is sub-par and slow... so what?? You're not his manager. It's not your responsibility.

If you want to do other work, then the next time something comes up with the website, don't ask the guy who should do the work. Tell him, "Hey, I'm swamped. I know this is your responsibility and I'd like to help. Management is on my case about it, too, though. I'll put in some ideas and then hand it to you, cool?" Or something to stop threatening his job and show him that you don't want it. In fact, make it clear you don't even want credit for helping unless you take joint credit, because otherwise you will continue to threaten his job (and you could end up with it!).

Also, speak to management. Tell them that you do not want that job. Tell them you were happy to make some improvements but you can't continue to do that because you can contribute more value in other areas. You might offer to have a session where you, this other guy and management discuss with them your role and responsibility in helping him improve and maintain the website - making it clear that he is also involved and needed. Perhaps you could even offer to help train him, if he's receptive to that.

But the bottom line is that you don't want the job and yet your actions are threatening his job and propelling you toward a job you don't want. Stop doing that. You've had your win with this. Time to move on.

EDIT:

I just noticed that you have a meeting scheduled. This guy is on a rampage to point out flaws - he's like a scared animal because he's threatened. Who wouldn't be? Stop giving him reasons to be threatened. Have a conversation with him ahead of time to say something like:

"Hey, I know you've been on this website longer than me. I think I've made a lot of changes to try to help, but I know it's not perfect. I can't keep doing it though. In tomorrow's meeting can we try to address how to have me do less work on the website? I would like to help, but I don't want to make mistakes that you could help me avoid because of your experience. Besides I need to focus on other things. I can help, but I think I'm doing too much. What do think?"

Give the guy some credit. Maybe he's not as good as you, but if he isn't needed, then you will be the replacement. Your drive to be a perfectionist is clearly a good thing for your career - but having other, less competent people around is also necessary. You aren't trying to clean the bathrooms when they aren't perfect, are you? Don't do this job either, unless you want it.

  • This answer comes across as blaming the OP for the conflict, which I don't think is warranted based on the information in the question. – user45590 May 5 '16 at 7:18
  • How so? The OP actually is threatening someone's job because of work the OP claims they do not want to do. The OP needs to stop threatening that person if they want them to not feel threatened. If the OP were the manager or even on the same team, I would agree with you. – Jim May 5 '16 at 13:41
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Don't make excuses for this chap, or pander to him. You have the authority to do what you deem necessary, just do it. He's a contractor, if he's not up to scratch then he needs to be let go. Hurt feelings mean nothing, he's hurting your career.

I'm a contractor of sorts, I get paid more than an employee, because I'm better than an employee. I've seen many many contractors who got lazy or were cowboys to start with, these are not people to be pitied, this is business, these are people to be gotten rid of and/or taken advantage of. Just about every client I have used to use a different contractor before me. This isn't your situation, but in general it still applies.

Just be professional about it, don't get into a mudslinging match, cover your back with a solid paper trail. When he takes a swing at you, just quietly provide evidence. Eventually he'll swing his way out the door, and the sooner the better so you can concentrate on uplifting your own reputation and do the job properly without interference.

A career is not a beauty contest, or a popularity award, or a charity, it's fundamentally a very serious part of life.

Make sure you know what you're doing, and don't underestimate this guy either. I have had quite a few clients think they can give my work away to a full time employee. I've not made any protest and just acted professionally, making handover documents etc,. But within a month they're usually back when it all falls to bits on them, (they went the cheap route and they got what they paid for) at which point they find my fee has gone up by 50% or more.

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