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I just joined this new company as Principal level dev and I am building a product service where I need to work with a new graduate who just joined as Program Manager in another team. While we have generally got along well, in the recent few weeks, I have had to push back on design suggestions since they were very localized and don't look at the big picture.

However I have got a lot of pushback from this Junior PM who has strong opinions on anything and does not accept feedback about why something won't work or won't scale. I have even had him challenge my work experience and knowledge and claim that he knows better since he founded two startups when he was in college.

I do not want to pull rank on him since I just joined and I find pulling rank distasteful and a forceful way to establish your dominance but I am at my wits end about how to get him to tone down his arrogance. I have also found his tone is often condescending with regards to how he communicates requirements with often phrases like "Are you sure, you understood that and wrote that down. Can you repeat it to me".

Suggestions on how to get him to tone down his arrogance and overconfidence would be helpful. I would have no hesitation going to his manager and telling him to have his reportee tone it down but having just joined, I don't want to start a fresh war with a Junior.

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    Challenge him. Maybe he does actually know better, but you do not see it. The chance may be small, but it's still there. Say that you do not understand his reasoning, and ask for elaboration. Chances are that he will not be able to elaborate and just throws it on "experience" and "I just know it". – Stephan Bijzitter Sep 30 '16 at 22:49
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    It would be helpful to know what the hierarchy is. It's assumed in some of the answers that you clearly outrank him, but that may not be so, the two of you might be at an eqivalent level. How about you post a tree-chart or something which explains the hierarchy at your company? – cst1992 Oct 1 '16 at 12:06
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You outrank him so this is not a war; it's discipline. It's one of the reasons there is a hierarchy. Use it. You need to nip this sort of rubbish in the bud and establish yourself; it's part and parcel of having a responsible position.

I've more than once told a manager on another team that they need to manage properly. If one of their team is misbehaving, why don't they know about it, and how are they going to make it stop. I'd be cc'ing the manager on all communications with anything like that in them.

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Design decisions in software teams are often made through building consensus, collaborative working, and peer review. It's rare that any one person has a monopoly on good - or bad ideas. In terms of how you actually come to a design, let the process do the work; if there are too many personal conflicts over design decisions, it means the process is failing.

If you feel that some of your team don't have enough knowledge to be making good contributions to the decision-making process, that could mean you've identified a training requirement.

I have also found his tone is often condescending with regards to how he communicates requirements with often phrases like "Are you sure, you understood that and wrote that down. Can you repeat it to me".

It's hard to know exactly how bad that is without context. It doesn't sound like an appropriate tone, but it's common in development to have to work with people with different 'social styles'; there's often a general understanding that the technical outcome is king, and that often requires a clarity of communication that isn't common in many social contexts.

I do not want to pull rank on him since I just joined and I find pulling rank distasteful...

I don't really see an obvious thing that you'll be able to do with your rank here, once you've pulled it.

If you genuinely feel your skills and experience are up to the job, then in the long run, that will show through and be respected amongst your peers. Hopefully that will also be the case for your junior developer's skills and abilities too, as he gains experience.

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I do not want to pull rank on him since I just joined and I find pulling rank distasteful and a forceful way to establish your dominance but I am at my wits end about how to get him to tone down his arrogance. I have also found his tone is often condescending with regards to how he communicates requirements with often phrases like "Are you sure, you understood that and wrote that down. Can you repeat it to me".

If you don't do anything at some point you might break. Even if you find it distasteful to establish your dominance this way, you cannot let him talk to you this way :

  • 1 : Because if you say nothing the situation will just get worse. He will take your lack of action as a validation of the fact you are not worth much to his eyes.

  • 2 : Because letting yourself be crushed by someone else shows your colleague some kind of weakness and they might do the same to you since you are new.

Suggestions on how to get him to tone down his arrogance and overconfidence would be helpful. I would have no hesitation going to his manager and telling him to have his reportee tone it down but having just joined, I don't want to start a fresh war with a Junior.

Try to differentiate if it is his work you don't like or him. While you find him arrogant he might find you stupid. What he hasn't understood is that you are probably good in lots of different domains which are essential to the company, but he ignores it.

There are three possible options I see here :

  • 1 : If that young graduate is overconfident as you say, you could show him there is no reason for him to be. Show him there is a lot he doesn't know. Challenge him on something you know he will not get an answer.

  • 2 : If he acts this way towards you and he his lordly then maybe he did not get the chance to know you better. In my company we have a lot of team buildings events. At the beginning I found it rather boring, but there is a real interest. Yesterday I have been able to go to an Escape Game with the people working in my department, and it was a great way to get to know each other individually in addition to working as a team. Perhaps if this young graduate know you better he won't be as arrogant towards you.

  • 3 : The one with the most chances of success : Make him meet other people in the company and let them realize how arrogant and lordly he is. Then, let that shared impression about him get shared and adopted by everyone. He will quickly see he needs to act and then you can have a small talk with him. You can tell him there that even if he is the best PM in the world, he will not go far because arrogance is not seing well by employers. Maybe he will not listen to you but at least you might feel better.

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I have no hesitation whatsoever about pulling rank if the situation calls for it.

The question is not "do I want to pull rank?" but "do I have to pull rank?"

As Principal Dev, you have a set of responsibilities. As Junior PM, he's got his. As long as you have your own set of responsibilities and you are being held accountable for fulfilling them, it's your show not his how you fulfill them.

Your top consideration has to be not his personality and whatever personal issues he's got but the welfare of the team. If his interventions interfere with the workflow of the team and disrupt that workflow, you have to crack down on him.

You have the responsibility. You have the authority that comes with this responsibility and that helps ensure that the job - as you see it, gets done. Make no mistake, it's your head and your hands that are on the chopping block not his. If I were you, my attitude would be that I have had all the backseat driving from this individual that I can take.

"I have even had him challenge my work experience and knowledge and claim that he knows better since he founded two startups when he was in college." Every high school kid can claim to have founded a startup, if they want to. He sounds like the kind of startup CEO that I wouldn't let him throw my trash.

"I do not want to pull rank on him since I just joined and I find pulling rank distasteful and a forceful way to establish your dominance but I am at my wits end about how to get him to tone down his arrogance." Look, somebody is responsible for which way the ship is going and that somebody is you. It's your management prerogative to choose not to exercise your authority but if things fall apart on your watch, you will be held accountable.

If you can't stand being perceived as the bad/authoritarian guy for making necessary decisions, do everyone a favor and stay well away from any job that requires you to work in a management capacity. You have been hired/appointed to do a job. You're not running for Mr. Congeniality. And if your team doesn't function well because you failed to exert leadership, they won't be happy with you. You definitely don't want to be in a situation where both the management and your subordinates find your performance a problem.

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As a developer getting designs that don't scale is a common.
You also face it with UX.

I would just try addressing his language straight up. When he snaps at you just say "I don't care for your tone of voice".

If he challenges your work experience tell him "that will not be tolerated you are the Principal and he needs to get on board with it."

You may need to have a meeting with his boss. Maybe the three of you.

Does he feel like as PM you answer to him? Roles need to be clarified.

  • Thats part of the reason I believe where he believes where I answer to him. – Frank2014 Sep 30 '16 at 23:23
  • You need to have a meeting with the proper parties and clarify roles. – paparazzo Sep 30 '16 at 23:29

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