I am tech lead of my team. Another developer on my team has been taking actions that are putting me in an uncomfortable situation.

He is around 20 years older than me, and naturally carries more years' experience in the industry.

I respect his experience and constantly include him in tech discussions and decisions, since I want to use his experience for the good.

He, on the other hand, has been doing a couple of things that are making me unconformable, such as correcting me in meetings, on things that I say, most of them are right from my side, in other words, there is no correction, but he makes sure to rephrase what I have said, and then play the role of expert in front of others, mangers and more Junior developers.

He has also not been answering my emails to him, I have to constantly ask him to respond back.

He also makes sure to ignore my comments in code reviews and do not respond back, unless I talk to him.

I am new to this team as a tech lead, and I am still acquiring the ownership pf the code base, and it is true that at this point he understands better and deeper the code base - even because he was the main contributor so far.

I was entitled to accountable and responsible for the team, the team skills, and the System Architecture.

A couple of notes:

  • I don't have any issue with any team member taking the lead on anything, but I do have an issue if I have people undermining my knowledge, or not respecting my opinions
  • I am open to criticism as long as it is meaningful and constructive
  • I don't believe sarcasm, disrespect, and doing things such as laughing at me on meetings, are really not helping at all, on the other hand I am totally open for him or whoever call me out, and give me feedback, whatever that is, etc.
  • All of us make mistakes in our day-to-day activities, and I don't want to build a culture of finding the guilt but rather have learnings, and a nice atmosphere

Another interesting thing is that the company the other day has created business cards to everybody, and allowed the employees to put their titles as they wanted. And this particular guy put "lead developer"

Needless to say, I don't agree with the company allowing those things, but nevertheless.

I am informing my manager and asking her to moderate a talk between me and this developer, where I plan to explain that I expect him to work as a team, and the he should stop his behaviour, and respond to my emails, and follow my advice.

I am not stupid, or arrogant, I do know he is more experiences in number of years, and I have great respect for that, but that does not change the reality, he needs to listen to me, and many times my approach may be the best.

That's my job, and not his.

My question is: How can I handle the situation and have him understanding we are a team, and he needs to be a developer, communicate well with me, and act professionally by respecting my work, and my position?

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    This reads like an extended rant with a smokescreen question attached at the end to me. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Feb 12 '17 at 22:36
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    @DanNeely It does not appear to me. It appears OP has encountered a clear situation of disrespect and wishes to obtain tools to deal with it. It generally seems that OP already gave their colleague too much leeway in the beginning by involving them in questions etc. and they took advantage of this. I am all for an all-inclusive approach in teams, but if there are power-appropriators involved, this is not that easily possible. OP could suggest an even more impressive title for themselves for the businesscards, without direct confrontation (which I am not sure is anymore viable at this stage). – Captain Emacs Feb 12 '17 at 23:31
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    Have you actually tried managing him? Do you have the authority to do so? I agree that this reads more like a rant than a question and the question at the end can just be summarised as "how do I manage someone" which entire books have been written on. – Lilienthal Feb 13 '17 at 8:14
  • Is it clear to all of you who is the boss of who? He might not be used to having others on "his" project? – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 13 '17 at 11:23
  • Some or perhaps most of these probably have trivial small solutions and you just need to tackle them. For example, you said he ignores code reviews "unless you talk to him". Well, then, why not talk with him? Or find out why he's ignoring the notifications (not getting notificatinos? too many emails?) – Brandin Feb 13 '17 at 12:24

Undermining your authority in key situations is indeed a big problem, especially since you've only recently joined the company.

As his direct boss, I believe you should try to resolve the issue yourself before having management "mediate" your encounters (this will send the message that you can't handle him on your own). I would ask him to step into your office (or into a conference room, if you don't have a private office), and outline the problems which you see:

  • He does not reply to e-mails

  • He does not engage with you on code reviews

  • He undermines your authority in front of the team, and management

I would address these issues head on:

Hello, [Name Here]. I scheduled this meeting because there's a couple of things which I feel we need to discuss. Over the past X months we've been working together I have noticed a pattern of behavior which I've tried to address informally, but hasn't worked so far. Particularly, I've noticed, and mentioned to you previously, that I would like you to check your email communications on a regular basis, and reply to my inquiries in a timely manner. That you might overlook an email or two is only natural, you're busy and I understand that, but this has been an ongoing issue which I'd like you to improve on. Second, you have similarly been failing to engage with me regarding code reviews. As you know, the proper procedure after a code review is that Y take place. You've instead been avoiding me, and ignoring this procedure. I know you're the most experienced member of the team, but the rules are in place for a reason, and I'd like you to follow them. Do you have anything to add to this conversation?

At this point you would let him say his piece, but keep in mind that you're the boss. It doesn't matter if he has excuses as to why he's ignoring you - it's unacceptable, and he needs to change his habits. Period. This is not a negotiation. It's you laying down the law.

This conversation and how you handle it is absolutely crucial. You will either impose your authority as leader, or lose all legitimacy.

Now that you've got thrown him off balance, you get to address your last, and arguably most important, point:

Last but not least, [Name Here], I am aware that you are very experienced with our code base, and understand the systems quite well. It's why I've been including you in most of our planning sessions, and been encouraging you to express your thoughts and opinions on technical matters. However, while I encourage all my developers to speak their mind, I need to remind you that I'm still your team leader, and that when I make a decision it's final. I will not tolerate destructive criticism in team meetings. If you truly disagree with one of my technical decisions you can feel free to approach me in private about it, but please refrain from turning our team meetings into debate sessions - they are not.

Now this is sure to not go over well. And how you handle things will, again, either make you stand out as a figure of authority, or a pushover.

Don't raise your voice, and don't plead with him. Avoid saying things like

"I understand your point of view, but ... "


"Sorry if I sound harsh ..."

There is no situation in which his behavior is acceptable, thus, he needs to change it - no excuse. Don't apologize, and don't play the softie. This is one situation in which you need to show him that you are ready to walk all over him if he tries to do it to you.

Last but not least, if things get really heated, and this guy blows his top, you need to show him beyond any doubt that you are in charge, and will not tolerate it. I would recommend an approach which an old manager of mine once used against a very arrogant senior dev (it was exactly the same situation, the senior dev was refusing/ignoring the technical decisions of the new manager):

Manager: Grab your stuff and go home for the day.
Senior Dev: Excuse me?
Manager: You heard me. Your behavior is unacceptable, and disruptive to the team. Go home and cool off. Only come back when you're ready to be a part of this team.

The critical thing here is that you need to have management's backing to do this. If he can safely ignore you then you will have lost the battle for leader of the team (no matter what your title may say).

You may wish to approach your manager prior to discussing things with this person, outline the issues, and ask that you be allowed to handle it. This all depends on how much authority you have. Ultimately, if this guy doesn't wise up you may need to recommend that he be fired, and you want to be sure that management will have your back in that situation.

As a final note, maybe start excluding him from some meetings where you might have previously had him attend as your technical adviser, and start bringing different team members instead.

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Throw the dog a bone. It seems as though he is well qualified and has some leadership ability (or at least tries to). It would be better to use his attributes to the teams advantage than being in opposition. When you give him some authority, such as a project leader or some other arbitrary title, His authority is derived from your own. This solidifies your position and could give him satisfaction as well. Taking the matter to a superior should be a last resort.

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    Could backfire badly. More information is necessary. People who consider themselves senior can be quite nasty to perceived juniors who are higher in rank. No bone to throw here. – Captain Emacs Feb 12 '17 at 23:33
  • doing nothing could go badly, so could going to the superiors. With this solution he is still in a position to correct this person if he oversteps his authority, as you suggest he would. – RedOculus Feb 13 '17 at 0:05

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