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I am a junior developer and there is a more senior dev on our team (but certainly not the most senior) who, while being a valuable and productive member, occasionally goes on a power trip and decides that he's going to "optimize" something. These events usually go like this:

him: "We should do A,B,C because it will increase our productivity for D,E,F reasons. I'll start this work now. Everyone can adopt the new system when I'm done"

me or someone else: "Wait. That doesn't make any sense and will introduce problems H,I,J."

him: "Oh, I didn't know that, thanks for informing me. So I'll do K,L,M instead."

me or someone else: "That's still overly complicated and doesn't gain us anything, can we just keep what we have?"

him: "Oh, I guess so. I was just trying to learn and help."

Maybe 1/5 times his idea has merit and he proceeds with it, the rest of the time it causes confusion, wasted time, and aggravation on the team. Sometimes the exchanges can get fairly heated with multiple people wasting an entire day replying to this thread.

For example, this week's issue is that he's appointed himself the team expert on designing our migration to git. Nevermind the fact that he has never used git once in his life, and that we have an in-house team dedicated to helping with git transitions.

I assume that this is an effect of his own frustration at lack of career advancement or something. Either way, this happens once or twice a month to the point that it is affecting my own job satisfaction.


By stepping in like I (and my other teammates) do, I feel that I am accomplishing two things:

  1. Curbing ridiculous ideas before he sinks to much time into them, or causes more confusion than necessary.

  2. By taking an adversarial tone, I am definitely contributing (or causing?) interpersonal conflict on the team.

My question is:

I am under no delusion that I can change his habits, so what can I, as a junior member of the team, do to reduce the amount of conflict, and ultimately increase my own happiness?

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    Have you talked with your boss? – enderland Apr 3 '17 at 16:12
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    "wasting an entire day replying to this thread" - is this a heated discussion over e-mail? What if you just don't reply? Or reply very slowly or with "can we set a meeting for tomorrow or so and we'll discuss it" – Brandin Apr 3 '17 at 16:45
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    Ignore the idiot and quietly talk to sympathetic colleagues, suggesting they do the same. Think of it as not feeding the troll. It's only a big issue because everybody joins in. – Ed Plunkett Apr 3 '17 at 17:55
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    @EdPlunkett makes a good point. If he bites off more than he can chew, which at least in the case of git migration, then let him. He has no authority to make anyone start using his changes, so if they are pointless and unwarranted then ignore them. Also, remember the golden rule of avoiding ridiculous email chains when a 5 minute meeting will do, and vice versa. – MDMoore313 Apr 3 '17 at 19:24
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    @MikeOunsworth, One git repo for each release? Are you kidding me? At some point, someone has to tell him. "This is not your job. This is not your decision." I know you could justify those statements by saying: "You have one week experience. They have 8+ years. Plus, I know for a fact that you're wrong. Blah blah." But justifying those statements will just invite him to argue even more. Hopefully, the manager or the team will grow a spine and tell him that. In the meantime, you should just tell him to forward all his ideas directly to the manager or to the team lead, and to stop bothering you. – Stephan Branczyk Apr 4 '17 at 2:49
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In a team project everyone has right to contribute or voice their opinion. One of your concern probably is how he is declaring his idea as next execution step instead of asking your opinion on it. However, complaining on just how he presents his idea may not be the right thing to do.

Curbing ridiculous ideas before he sinks to much time into them

This is very subjective. Lot of ideas which sound ridiculous at first are actually very good ideas. Like you said 1 out of 5 idea is actually good. I do not think you will ever be able to objectively decide on the quality of the idea just by listening to it once.

By taking an adversarial tone,

I do not think that is your job either. If anyone, it should be your team leader or manager who is responsible for the project management. If it is a genuine concern, you and your other team members can discuss this to the project manager and let them decide how to handle it. You can try to give some examples from past on how it created confusion in the team but in my experience it is very difficult to make a convincing and conclusive argument that he is responsible for loss of productivity. There will be always another side to it which will contradict yours.

Finally, I am surprised that behavior of a team member towards a project is causing you unhappiness and threatening your job satisfaction. You will never have a perfect team in any company or any project. Part of the challenge and maturity process is to learn to work with all kinds of people. You may like some and you may not like others. You are obviously posting this question here to get this learning but I think you are already making a conclusion in your question about him and about the effect it will have on you.

Keep an open mind and enjoy the work. Worst case is you would have listen to some "ridiculous" ideas in your meetings and spend some time on that. Is it really that bad? You will have to deal with lot bigger challenges than this.

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The best thing I would suggest is learn not to have as much of an issue with things while learning to deal with difficult people. You will always have some issue with someone that irks you somewhat. In general the Manager is there to help keep productivity going and if he/she isn't going to do anything then it's really your own issue with having to deal with this other persons nuances of annoying behavior, which the manager deems not worth addressing. I would suggest the following:

  1. Analyze the good points of the job with the bad and try to focus on the good points instead of focusing on the annoying bad points like this situation.
  2. Perhaps talk with the most senior person on how they deal with the disruptance of the other individual to get advice on how better to not let it bother you. Often the most senior person is familiar with the individual and able to offer more guidance to you. You might also ask if there are things that you do which are irksome to your peers and how you can improve on those while you talk to the most senior person.
  3. Based on feedback grow to learn to handle situations with difficult people better without losing your job satisfaction. Every job has bad and good points and difficult people. If you change jobs you might lose the difficult situation, but likely will gain a different one that is just as irksome or maybe even worse.
  4. If it is really still bothering you so severely I recommend you leave and find something that is less irksome to you. Talk to your manager thoroughly before making this final decision as he might do something to change the dynamics of the team. Ultimately though you have to find your satisfaction in your job without dependency on everyone else behaving a certain way.

Overall it sounds like you enjoy your job just fine, just not the interruptions of this other persons exploits in imagining grandeur in new complex functionality. You could always try to befriend this person so you can say as a friend the ideas are cool, but need to be more thought out first as they are disrupting progress 1/5th of the time...

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I think you are framing this wrong and your question is a little bit one sided.

I feel like I am on your colleague situation. I pitch ideas for changes, not because I want to be an expert or to disrupt work, but because I honestly want to try to make things better. Yes, sure, I make a lot of ridiculous proposals, but it is worth it for the off chance when I actually hit the mark.

Also, when I have a bad idea and my colleagues oppose it, I don't get angry, I earnestly thank them for correcting me. And even if I go ahead, implement a prototype and it turns out to be a bad idea, I don't consider it wasted time. At the very least we learned something new, which is valuable by itself.

Personally I enjoy a workplace where I can freely share and express my ideas without being bashed by my colleagues. I enjoy a workplace where I can explore and experiment, try new things and constantly trying to improve. Other people don't, and it is a matter of cultural fit.

Instead of trying to ostracise this person, I would suggest that you sanction his behaviour and make it official. Hold brainstorming sessions where everyone share their ideas, try to kill the bad ones and filter the good ones. Then give some timebox for experimentation to validate these ideas in practice.

Ultimately seems to be a matter of culture and it is not for you to decide what to do with your colleague. If there is too much friction to bear then either of you could try to relocate to another team that better fit your culture, whenever possible.

  • Idea without proper thinking wastes time. First understand the problem well, then giving ideas makes sense. – Vishwamithra Apr 4 '17 at 7:45
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    @Vishwamithra 1 out of 5 is not a bad ratio, so I don't think he is just speaking nonsense. When systems are complex enough you can't expect to get everything right, and spending a few minutes brainstorming is well worth the time. – angarg12 Apr 4 '17 at 8:19
  • @Vishwamithra No one should be expected to come up with fully rounded ideas. If that was the case, nothing would change in the world. But if you throw a half-baked idea, maybe your ideas will resonate with someone else. – André Werlang Mar 7 at 21:51
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I'm going to speak from experience here, it seems like a lot of the answerers are treating this like your belief is unreasonable - it's absolutely not. I had the same problem at almost every job I've worked, it's causing me great career troubles. Don't just leave because you're frustrated about this situation, let's find a way to solve it. This isn't the fault of that team member, and this isn't your fault. It's the fault of the whole team. There's a failure to communicate here. (Most professional problems, in my experience, boil down to communication issues. Very few are a skill issue.)

What we've got here is failure to communicate.

Let's ignore all previous encounters - clean slate for everyone. Start fresh, and let's describe the situation.

You're a junior developer with a more senior developer wanting to be the agent of change. That's not bad, but it's also not always good. We can work with it though.

At one of the more recent places I worked we had this very problem between myself and another member of the IT department. He had been with the company far longer and had significantly more experience in some aspects of the work. That was great, but when it came to programming I had my niche at the company. We had an understanding after many discussions that became heated and aggressive - through fault of us both.

In the end our IT director finally had us do mandatory meetings at the end of the day - short or long, it depended on the day. We had good conversations about our work and operations, and eventually came to some very good solutions to our business problems.

This whole story is coming down to the following: discuss this with your immediate superior: the team lead, PM, what-have-you. Ask them if the team can do mandatory stand-up or sit-down meetings for either a short period daily (15-30 minutes), or a long meeting weekly (1 hour or so). We had conference meetings with the business owner roughly 2-3 weeks apart for the same purpose: get the ideas he wants and discuss them, we then have our own department meeting to decide how do we do them. This is where that team member (and all others) should propose these changes, discuss them and come up with the pros and cons. If an idea is "bad", that's fine. You still need to discuss them. You need them logged, so that if it comes up in the future (because people forget what they have proposed) you can all fall back to the previous consensus.

Use this meeting as a brainstorming session, and a discussion session. Use it to describe these suggestions, if you have immediate feedback discuss it. If you need to research it, table it for the next meeting. Organize your communication better. You should not just write off the suggestions that team member has - you should discuss the merits of the suggestion, not the person.

Finally, you gave an example conversation and the issue is, again, not the person but the approach. Discuss this with your immediate superior again, ask them something like the following:

I've noticed we have a team member who is frequently (this may or may not be an accurate term) proposes new (sometimes radical) changes and immediately suggests adoption. It seems to distract our workflow for relatively large periods of time. Would it be possible to arrange regular, possibly weekly or daily, meetings amongst the team where these types of ideas could be exchanged and deliberated on, not just the ones proposed by this team member?

Discuss this with your superior, but if you go into a meeting/discussion with them, you had better have a solution to propose. The last thing your superiors want to hear is "we have a problem, I don't have a solution."

  • the most senier agent of change has no experience in the domain while he has most senior than himself with plenty, which can handle way better the role. – Walfrat Apr 4 '17 at 13:19

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