In my company we have recently received a new hire that is specializing in automating testing, which is a part of what we do but it is not our core business. I specialized at university in the field of our core business and I have been working in my field for the past 2 years, I am well aware of my limitations and the bounds of my knowledge.

The new hire has at most read 1-2 courses in the field and I reckon he is of the same age as I and he has not worked in this field before.

The problem I have with him is that he is rude, he is constantly criticizing my knowledge in different fields and today he explained what he was working on and started to explain some of the most basic parts of my field. Constantly asking if I understood what he was talking about. I answered politely, and refrained from giving him the pleasure of a sour remark but I grow tired of his antics. I have told him that I know well of what he is trying to lecture me on, but he continues to explain as if I had no previous knowledge of the subject.

When he arrived I gave him a warm welcome and helped him get sorted, but I have limited my input to when he is in the wrong or when asked to come with input. I do not back talk him and/or say anything bad about him.

However, I fear that he might be trying to back stab me with the boss, he has tried once already and I am starting to sense that the environment between us is growing toxic.

What can I do to protect myself? And what can I do to improve the relation?


Following Thalantas advice I observed the collegue during the past days, and his behaviour is not limited to only me but he acts this way against others as well. At lunch one day he remarked that the testing done in-house was poor and needed to be redone entirely because they lacked technology x, y and z that weren't around when the system was first implemented. He was unaware of this when he made his remark, and that seems to be a common thread in all his interactions with me and my colleagues.

Regarding his attempt to backstab me, at a meeting with our boss he made a similar remark regarding my work. Due to extreme time constraint a product I designed was less than optimal, it is clumsy, cumbersome and lacks grace, this is well known but we didn't have the time or the resources to optimize it. It was and is strictly speaking good enough but nothing else. His comment to my boss was that the design was subpar and it should be redone from scratch, a valid assessment but the board has no interest or resources to dedicate for a re-design.

In both these cases he has been unaware of the reasons behind design choices. He speaks like someone fresh from university with all the knowledge and none of the experience to temper his skill. Takes one to know one I suppose.

With this knowledge I can see that even though he is uncouth at times, he means well and will in time come to understand his limitations. This allows me to overlook his wantings even if he still irritates me when he starts his antics. I have begun an amicable relation with the chap, we will never be good friends but on the other hand we will not be bitter enemies either.

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    the environment between us is growing toxic Of course it is, if you revert to tactics like I am quite content in letting him crash. Luckily you are asking here for a way out, so not all is lost ;-), but you definitely have to drop that level of resignation. You final question What can I do to protect myself? also seems to demonstrate that you want an outcome that works for you, regardless of others. I'm sorry to say that that is unlikely to work. It's 'fighting' language. As long as you think you have to win a fight, forget it.
    – user8036
    Feb 6, 2017 at 10:14
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    @janDoggen, You are quite right. I will re-phrase it to be less phyrric. He gets on my nerves and It is showing I fear. Feb 6, 2017 at 10:24
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    Sorry, but have you ever tried telling him that you are offended by his way of treating you? Because it sounds to me he might have no idea that you feel like that. If this is escalating from your point without being an issue from his, he has no chance to change his behaviour before you will escalate it officially in a way that could be difficult to handle for both of you.
    – skymningen
    Feb 6, 2017 at 10:53
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    Others have more detailed answers, but in short - stand up for yourself. If they overstep your bounds, let them know. If they do so again, make it clear what the bounds are and enforce them - so to speak, tactfully but if need be, forcefully. If you let people walk over you, they will keep walking over you. Admittedly easier said then done.
    – David Hobs
    Feb 6, 2017 at 15:19
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    In my experience, people fresh from school have a very perfect world view or think that everything is clear cut and that there is no external factors that may need to be considered. I like to refer to this as the vacuum effect. I think you are right when you say his intention is not inherently malicious and that he will learn what the real world is like in time.
    – jkdba
    Feb 15, 2017 at 0:41

5 Answers 5


I would take a step-by-step escalation approach. (I believe the best protection is to solve the problem and communicate about it.)

Step 1: Analyse the situation.

  • Is he intentionally rude, or is he just not used to a workplace relationship? He might just not be used to working, as you mentioned he is a new hire. A simple 1-on-1 explanation of what is correct and what is not could go a long way.

  • Is he rude only to you, or to everyone? The answer to this will allow you to know whether he's a bad/problematic fit for the company, or if he just dislikes and distrusts you. You can get this answer through informal talk with other colleagues.

  • Have you ever given him signals that his behaviour is not acceptable? If not, he might feel you are okay with the way he acts.

Step 2: Talk with him.

Depending on the step 1 answers, several courses of action are open. Overall, if he just did not understand how workplace relationships are supposed to go, this will stop the escalation.

If he is actively hostile towards you, he will either decline the 1-on-1 meeting, or make it bad enough for you to be certain that the problem needs to be escalated.

Step 3: Talk with your boss about what you can do.

This will ensure you have not let a problematic situation go unnoticed. When the management has knowledge of an issue, they can take action. Ask for advice on how to handle the situation. Your boss could either give you excellent advice, or could say he will handle it himself.

If the advice given by the boss is low-quality, or if he just refuses to get involved, you have to go to step 4...

Step 4: Fill a formal request (according to company-specific guidelines).

Complain to your management and HR about the person. This will break any possibility of cooperating with him in the future, and is very close to a request-for-firing. This should be a last-resort option, especially because you're engaging your credibility in the balance. Be careful, however: this can boil down to asking the management/HR to choose between you and him, so you should ensure that you are in a favourable position before going to that extent.

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    You might consider swapping steps 2 and 3. Tell the boss that you are concerned about the situation and that you have a plan to try to help it by having a talk with the other employee. The boss may have some useful input, for one thing. But you also want to make sure that the boss hears what your intent is from you first. If the other employee is acting in bad faith, they may go straight to the boss with a false version of the situation and that will put you in the defensive position.
    – msouth
    Feb 6, 2017 at 17:17
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    While I understand your point, speaking to the boss without at least saying "hey, it seems we have trouble cooperating, can we talk for a moment?" would be awful for future cooperation with this person. Maybe the person is just a bit crude, or maybe he is trying to banter in the wrong envrionment. At least give him a chance. (That being said, in France, escalating without trying is seen as a betrayal in a lot of cases, this might weigh on my opinion)
    – Thalantas
    Feb 6, 2017 at 17:23
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    I agree with the caution about going to the boss 1st. I should clarify that what I meant was that it might be advisable to tell the boss something along the lines of "I don't think this is a problem that needs action from you at the moment, and I'm hoping that can be avoided. I'm going to try to handle it myself, and thought maybe I should get your advice before proceeding. How do you think I should handle the situation?". However, local culture and company culture can differ. I'm just concerned about the "back stab" thing--if the peer is hostile and conniving, going to him can expose you
    – msouth
    Feb 6, 2017 at 17:45
  • I see both points of whether to swap or not. Ultimately swapping comes down to your personal relationship with your manager. I've had some managers who know how to keep things like that on the DL and can give you good coaching and set you up for success. I've had other managers who if you told them that they would feel the need to show how amazing of managers they are by stepping in and screwing everything up... so if you have the right manager, definitely consider swapping!!
    – corsiKa
    Feb 6, 2017 at 21:47
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    Steps two and three would depend on your relationship with your boss. A formal complaint or report before speaking to the new hire would be unadvisable. But, you also need to be sure to cover your own back; the perceived backstabbing behavior should not be ignored.
    – David
    Feb 7, 2017 at 8:52

He has a different pattern of communication than you, and this difference is getting under your skin.

he is constantly criticizing my knowledge in different fields

So he's a know-it-all. I believe you can generally ignore this, or at least stop taking it personally. There are a lot of resources for dealing with people who constantly criticize, and it's unlikely that you are this person's only target. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Repeat and objectify their comments. Remove subjectivity, remove personal attacks, and simply repeat what they've said. This should make it clear to them and to observers that you are 1) listening and 2) not interested in how they delivered the message, merely in the information they are trying to convey.
  2. Try to understand why it bothers you internally. If you can't take it as honest advice or feedback, and you didn't ask for the suggestion, at least try to figure out what it is about the feedback that is causing you to be upset.
  3. Disengage and ignore it. "This isn't interesting to me," then move on to another subject, or "Have a good day!" and turn back to your work.
  4. Show them kindness. They may simply be trying to engage the only way they know how. Turn such conversations around into topics and paths you're interested in or find useful. Find some common ground and re-engage that path every time they attempt a non-productive path.
  5. Avoid them. It looks like you're doing this already to some degree. Just increase it until you're limiting your contact to only that which is necessary to perform your job. Explain to them and your boss why you're avoiding them, that's it's become a distraction, and limiting contact appears to be the best way to resolve the difference in communication styles.

he explained what he was working on and started to explain some of the most basic parts of my field. Constantly asking if I understood what he was talking about.

I have told him that I know well of what he is trying to lecture me on, but he continues to explain as if I had no previous knowledge of the subject.

Most of what I've said above applies here as well. In addition, you may come to find that he's just feeling your knowledge and skillset out, and that after several weeks he won't be doing this any longer. You can speed this process up by cutting such conversations short. Try to understand what it is you need from him, and interrupt him: "Sorry to interrupt, but I understand what you're talking about. What I need to know is [specific, directed question that requires minimal answer]...?"

It may be that his communication patterns keep him explaining things until told to stop - so he may need your help to understand when you're ready to move on from the presentation portion of his communication to the question and answer portion.

Maybe he just needs more feedback.

I fear that he might be trying to backstab me with the boss, he has tried once already

Without specific details it's hard to assess and recommend a specific course of action.

Sit down with your boss and have a discussion about all these issues. Phrase it with "I, me" and ask for advice as to how you can change to better communicate with this individual rather than using "Them, they" and expecting the boss to magically change them.

They may not have any advice, but at minimum they will understand better what's going on without having to guess, and it should short circuit most attempts that others might use to undermine you.

If they have advice, take it. Show a good faith effort towards making this working relationship succeed, and keep in touch with the boss frequently so they know how things are going. Chances are the new person has a lot more contact with the boss than you, so increase your contact and if something comes up it can be dealt with in a timely manner rather than waiting for things to fester.

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    "you may come to find that he's just feeling your knowledge and skillset out, and that after several weeks he won't be doing this any longer" - +1 for this: I have been on the receiving and giving end of this and, while it can be irritating, it is a necessary process between unfamiliar colleagues.
    – Ant P
    Feb 7, 2017 at 11:33

There are two points you can work to protect yourself:

  • visibility: Be sure that your boss is aware of what you have done in work. What you have produced, how many times you spend helping him or other people; see Why is it important to gain "visibility" in the workplace?.
  • traceability of the communication: Avoid oral communication; say something along the lines of, "I don't have the time right now; send me an email and I'll answer you." So you can trace any communication and especially any unprofessional one (though he might not write what he usually says).

It may be a personality type peculiarity. Some types like INTP's work through problems by talking them through out loud. They may not have the answer yet but will arrive at pretty sound logic by the time they do. For other personality types this can be an annoyance. The INTP's thought process can come across like a lecture in the basics. Couple this with the naked insecurity of being the newbie, and this may be what you're seeing in this colleague.

If your co-worker constantly sounds like they're verbalizing a half-solved problem you may want to suggest that they go off and think about it some more and come back when they have a (fully formed) solution. This will get them off your nerves and give them a well deserved confidence boost when they come back with a workable answer.

  • You should add some information : what is an INTP ? I do know but not everybody does. And from what sources comes that affirmation ?
    – Walfrat
    Feb 7, 2017 at 11:50
  • @M. Hall: I am a ENTP -T. What are you? Feb 7, 2017 at 14:51
  • Information on the INTP and other personality types as defined by Myers-Briggs and other personality tests - 16personalities.com/personality-types
    – NKCampbell
    Feb 7, 2017 at 15:26
  • well I redid the test, for them I am ISTP with 51% P and 53% S, last time I took one I was INTJ. i'm pretty much in the middle of four profiles xD. Some things said for ISTP definitively match me, some others not.
    – Walfrat
    Feb 8, 2017 at 8:30
  • I personally do not mind the INTP types at all. I get more into trouble with the ENTJ types. One famous example of the ENTJ type is Gordon Ramsey. I would feel the urge to knock him down instantly a soon as he would start his trash talk in front of me ;-) While I totally love other ENTP types: Tyrion Lannister (game of thrones). The Joker (Batman series). Feb 8, 2017 at 12:26

One thing to find out in such a situation is what duties and responsibilities that new colleague was given.

Inexperienced or not - if that person was, from management perspective, given accountability for certain aspects/projects/tasks, that might force them into a position where they feel they don't only get to define, but are expected to define what is right or wrong.

That person might have been told "We are not good with how the foobaring is done here. If somebody gives you input about foobar, ignore them or even shut them up since we have seen they cannot foobar. Make this shop foobar again.".

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