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I work with some senior colleagues, some of them have over 25 years of experience and I have around 5 years. One of them is my boss and he always seem to override whatever I say during meetings and in my view he thinks that I am too inexperienced to make a decision. I am not saying every one is like that but it seems most senior colleagues especially who have put in 20+ years confidently or rather feel happy to ignore / override the decisions made by less experienced. I hugely respect their experience, their understanding of the domain but I believe they should take some time in respecting the comments/decisions suggested by the less experienced and correct them if needed. What would you say? Am I just one of those? :)

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To me, it seems that you and the senior colleagues have some disagreement about who is in what role.

Are you supposed to be equals? Or are they senior to you?

If you are supposed to be equals, you should go to your manager and ask for some guidance, here. If your decisions are not as beneficial to the company as the senior colleagues', you may need to work on understanding your company's culture more and finding out where your ideas are falling short.

If they are your seniors, you should ask them (privately and when their schedule allows) to help you understand where they feel you're not making decisions as they'd want. Now, keep in mind, this is NOT the time to argue. This is where you ask, listen, and process.

Going with the Ask-Listen-Think model also will earn you some respect from the seniors. If they believe that you have been listening to them and understanding what they've told you, you're likely to get more respect from them for your decisions later on.

I've been on both sides of this issue, to be honest. 5 years' experience gives you enough knowledge to know what will work, and work well. 25 years' experience gives you enough knowledge to know what won't work, and why, as well as what problems you'll encounter along the way.

Also, to soothe your ego: You get the knowledge of what won't work by making mistakes. Someone with 5 times your experience has likely made AT LEAST 5 times your mistakes.

  • I am not saying I make right decisions all the time, in fact I bite my tongue whenever I realize I did a mistake. I appreciate my boss correcting me in that case. But there are certain situations that I am pretty confident I am making a better decision than suggested, but the boss doesn't seem to appreciate it. Nothing to do with my ego though. May be I should be more assertive. I don't know. But your answer provides some insight into what I need , so upvoting. – Sunny May 10 '16 at 16:02
  • @Sunny It could also be that those times you are confident are just times you haven't yet realized why your way is the best way. There are many factors that go into a decision, and often junior people like you just don't have all of the information the senior folks do. – David K May 10 '16 at 16:03
  • @DavidK I believe 5 years will install enough matter in anybody's brain to be able to judge if the decision is right, I might have to get into specifics here but let's not. The boss seems to have a liking to make everyone think of him as the high level authority and go-to guy which is very reasonable I don't disagree. But as a person who is progressing in his career I think an acknowledgement of right decisions or right suggestions would be encouraging. – Sunny May 10 '16 at 16:13
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    @Sunny - I would ask you to print that comment you just made out, and stick it in your safe with your important paperwork. Every 5 years, I want you to take it out and read it. 5 years from now, you'll probably agree with it. 10 years from now, you'll say, "Well, not always." 20 years from now you'll think, "Wow, I really did think I knew everything back then." Not that how you think is bad. We geezers sometimes need young whippersnappers to challenge our opinions. However, you gain a LOT with the gray hair. – Wesley Long May 10 '16 at 17:04
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The problem may not be with your solutions, but the fact you're stating them out loud in a meeting. Some people feel threatened by this or as a senior, feel the need to make a better suggestion because it is expected of them.

Instead of confronting them in public, ask for a one-on-one session to review your suggestions and get some feedback. This is a learning opportunity for you and it may be more political then technical.

I'm not sure how to phrase it, but at some point you could ask if your boss prefers you to keep quiet during meetings instead of offering suggestions. It's fair to say that being rejected 100% of the time is discouraging. Or you can just stop making suggestions in meetings. Maybe follow-up with an email of suggestions just so they know you have a brain and like to use it.

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If you think are more correct, show them why ... Or, better, ask them why your solution wasn't a good one and how it could be improved. You may learn something useful; if not you will at least learn what their biases are and how to avoid triggering then.

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Well, it means that you, with your 5 years, are alone in a group of people with 25 years of experience.

It is honor.

Second: imagine a sitution as if you would work together with somebody with fewer as a single year of experience. Behave to them, as you would want it in this imaginary situation from your beginner collegue.

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    If only everyone with 25 years of experience deserve the honor. – user8365 May 10 '16 at 17:45
  • @JeffO True, but this is not what I said, I said that it is a honor to work in a group of people with five times more experience as me. – Gray Sheep May 10 '16 at 17:48
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Ideally and in a perfect world, your senior colleagues would be mentoring you. At 5 years of experience, you should be getting to be more independent when it comes to completing work, but still have a lot to learn. I think there may be two approaches that can help you.

If you are having a meeting to discuss ideas and you throw out an idea that is rejected, ask questions. Try to learn why the decision that gets accepted is better in the given situation. Show interest in learning how the decision making process works and how ideas are evaluated by the more senior colleagues.

If you are having a meeting where you are being told about a decision that has already been made, ask questions to probe into why the decision was made. Doing so during the meeting may not be the best time, depending on length, but you can always go up to the person making the decisions after the meeting and ask questions or schedule some time to learn.

It would be a problem if your senior colleagues didn't take the time to help you learn. You probably shouldn't expect it all the time - there are other things that may need to take priority. But getting questions answered and helping you to develop your careers should be an expectation of senior employees in a workplace.

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tl;dr

If the seniors are as you describe, you can try a thing or two to change it up, but if that fails you need to just suck it up, let people make stupid mistakes because they think they are smarter than you, do the best you can within the box they force on you, then accept your paycheck (that's the ultimate reason why you're really at work) and leave work behind when you go home.

long version

You are correct that the coworkers with more seniority should pay more attention to you. Unfortunately, sometimes there is little to nothing that you can do, especially if the people in question have made it clear through repeated offenses that they are unwilling to compromise. They have the advantage.

Could the problem be yours, as some other answers have suggested here? Could it be that you just aren't seeing something that the senior member sees? Sure, that's possible, but it's just as likely that the senior person just assumes their way is better because of the logical fallacy of appealing to an authority figure (themselves) who must be correct. "I must be right; I've been doing this twice as long as you."

I am going to relate my case to you, since it is similar, and tell you what I do about it.

In my case, I actually do have seniority within the field. I have more than 15 years of software engineering experience. At my current position I was offered only a junior position because I interviewed poorly (I suck at interviews), but I did accept because the pay was good and I had heard good things about the company.

The fact that I don't have "senior" in my title seems to be all many people care about, which is difficult since I'm on a team of 7 people (including myself), 5 of which are senior engineers. If I remind them that I have more than 15 years experience, they forget that in a half hour. And I know that it's not my performance or my abilities that are the problem; I get rave reviews, awesome accolades, and all around wonderful compliments on most of my work. But it doesn't matter what I do this week, next week people forget and all they remember is that I'm "not a senior." So the week after that I again put in 110% to do another awesome job, have people make comments about how they didn't know I was capable of all that, etc. etc... only to be forgotten again the following week. And then it's right back to the same thing you say; I speak up in a conversation or at a meeting and I'm told "no, we're doing it Bob's way." "Well, I have done before what Bob is proposing, and I already know from experience that we will encounter problem A. In my experience, an easy way to work around that and still do a good job and have it done before the deadline is to do B." And I have literally had people respond to that with "Well, Bob has been doing this for 30 years, so we will go with Bob's way."

I have lost count of the number of times that this has happened and we have run into problem A just like I said we would which put us behind schedule and even caused us to miss deadlines. Sometimes I have even implemented a stable and well tested solution B which would put us back on track and had it rejected even though the hacky workarounds to "A" were still making slow and unsteady progress.

In the worst offense to this, one time I actually fully programmed a solution B as a side-thing in my spare time after doing my main task, and B what I had would have allowed us to be done with the project and distribute it next month literally, and I did a demo of it at a meeting only to have one of the senior engineers at the meeting respond with "But I just found this 3rd party software that will help me continue down path A, and I just spent a half-million dollars to license that software for use in our software. We can't just do B, I mean, then what would have been the point in what I just did? We would be wasting a half-million dollars!" O_O What? I had no idea he was about to do that to support his "solution." He hadn't mentioned it at any of the meetings I had been at. And yes, I am not exaggerating - a half-million dollars. And even then, he got "A" moving forward again and made it do what they wanted, but they estimated that they "might" (not will, but might) have the full thing operational by end of year (remember, my solution was already operational at this point), and it was buggier than what I offered (the failure rate was ridiculously high and resulted in a LOT of helpdesk calls). Of course this is not the norm; this is just my personal horror story of the very worst case of this problem as it has happened to me.

I have worked with both small groups and large, and I have worked with multiple different groups doing different projects at two of the large companies. Though none of my other examples would be as bad as my above horror story, nonetheless I affirm that I have found the majority of companies/development-teams to suffer from this problem to one degree or another, often in more than half of their senior engineers.

I know this might seem like a "too long, didn't read" answer, but I'm hoping that I am driving in an answer by examples. My answer is already between the lines in what I have said so far, but now I will spell it out explicitly: you need to remember that you are not working in a vacuum, rather, you are working alongside other people who are just muddling on the same as you, and these people will do what they will do; if these people insist on being the way they are, and if there is nothing you can do to stop it, and these people are in a hierarchical position to call the shots, then there is nothing you can do to make the situation any better. It sucks, but that is the naked truth. All you can do is decide whether you want to be a martyr or to march along half-comfortable - I suggest the latter since the former is often not worth it.

What I have taken to doing is to try to make a suggestion and then drop it when someone with more authority says no. I'm not being a yes-man; I tried to give my opinion, but if there is no place for rational thought in the room then I drop it. If, as is sometimes the case, someone actually takes me seriously, then I will continue to press my case; in these cases, which are not common, we often end up avoiding some pitfall or taking advantage of some synergy and are better off in the end, and then I can take my momentary victory, but be ready to bury it again if necessary next meeting.

Another trick you need to master is to only speak up when you are 100% sure about something and when it's not trivial. I am almost always correct when I speak out about something, but that's not because I'm always correct in general - it's because I keep my mouth shut if I'm only 85% sure. I can have all the dumb thoughts I want if I keep them to myself, and I can come off as sounding always smart, if I only talk when I'm 100% sure that I know what I am talking about. This means that I am silent during many meetings.

Also, posing questions the right way and being polite and diplomatic about it might not generally change the minds of these people you are dealing with, but I still highly recommend it. My performance reviews often include comments about how polite and courteous I am; this might not get people to take me seriously, but doing the opposite is sure to make people listen to you 0% of the time.

Another related point: You can try to talk to management. Sometimes a good manager might be able to help with something you bring to them. In my experiences with thick-headed seniors, I have found that management usually can't (or just doesn't) do much, but your mileage may vary. It's hit or miss.

In the end, as frustrating as it is, remember that making every project follow all the best routes and include all the best decisions is not necessary; not for the success of the company nor for your career success within it. As long as the project does reasonably well despite its flaws and as long as you do your part well, then the company progresses, you progress, and you can try your best to forget about everything at work that you think is stupid when you get home and just be happy.

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