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My team was discussing some advanced data issues the other day in a meeting. A junior team member (a recent Ph.D. graduate) began interrupting our meeting to discuss tools, new to him, that he was learning about. The discussion was strained and unnecessary, because it did not benefit the rest of us as we were already familiar with what he brought up.

It was upsetting to me. How should I respond to this type of activity in the workplace?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jun 10 '17 at 21:47
  • Don't advertise the name of the product; "tool which allows users to connect to databases..." here suffices. – Brandin Jun 12 '17 at 12:54
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    @Brandin - Its not really advertizing... Its not like there is a link to the product or something.. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 12 '17 at 17:11
  • Somewhat relevant xkcd – AakashM Jun 13 '17 at 8:06
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    This question should be closed. This is truly a non-issue. I would reconsider the OP's ability as a manager or as a team-lead. I think this is where the problem lies. – JahKnows Jun 14 '17 at 15:08
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So, you've got a junior member of staff who has gone off on their own initiative, found an appropriate tool and is using it. Don't complain about this - a lot of teams can only wish for proactive members of staff like that. All you need to do is to say something like

Yeah, that's a common tool, we use it on a daily basis

and move on. Making any sort of fuss about this would just be unprofessional.

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    I like to close this question. I think I found the answer. – Emily Fassbender Jun 9 '17 at 16:26
  • You could mention that a new person with fresh eyes using a tool can teach you something. They may find something that you did not know about. – Ed Heal Jun 9 '17 at 16:27
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    If so, they need to make that clear in their question. They've been asked multiple times what the actual problem is but have refused to clarify... – Philip Kendall Jun 9 '17 at 16:57
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    Maybe add "Glad to see your initiative. Keep up the good work" – Reuben Mallaby Jun 10 '17 at 18:39
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    @EmilyFassbender if the answer is one supplied here, you can choose it as the accepted answer for your question. – mcknz Jun 11 '17 at 17:19
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How do I deal with such coworkers?

Cherish them. You've found someone who not only shows initiative, wants to improve their skills and seems to to be able to find the right tools for the job, but they are even willing to share that information with their coworkers.

The question should not be "How do I deal with a coworker sharing things we already know", the real question is why this only came up now. I would think that someone would have talked with this junior before and told them about these tools that the company is already using.

Whenever one of my colleagues comes up to me all excited about something that I've been using on the job for years, I consider that a personal failure. If the tool in question would be useful to them, and I'm already using it, I should have told them to check it out already.

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    +1 for the last paragraph. It is OUR responsibility to teach the generation coming up. I have the same point of view. – Old_Lamplighter Jun 14 '17 at 12:35
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This person is eager and enthusiastic.

DON'T KILL HIS SPIRIT!

The way to deal with it is to always let him save face.

Remember, YOU have been doing this for years but to him it's new. Getting agitated over youth and exuberance is more of an indication of your becoming jaded and cynical than any lack of professionalism on his part.

The thing about someone discovering and falling in love with a technology is that they will see things that more experienced people won't. They are coming at older technologies with a fresh perspective and may discover new ways to use the technology that your team may never have thought of.

There is a reason why technology has always been driven and innovated by the youth and not by us older folks and it is the youth being excited over the potential they see in technologies that others do not.

Case in point: Steve Jobs at Xerox seeing their mouse driven, object based interface and excitedly proclaiming that Xerox didn't know what they had. He was right, they didn't.

This employee will be a valuable asset to whatever company has him. Be grateful that right now, it's your company.

If he has another outburst, ask him to do a write-up as to what he's discovered and see if he has any new insights. He may surprise you, but in the very least, he'll feel valued for his energy and not punished for it.

You've got a great employee, don't ruin him.

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First, I have worked with (and even been) the person who was new to the workplace who thought she was smarter than everyone else and I learned differently. I have also worked with several of these people and with others who at first glance might have seemed arrogant but were not.

The first thing though that I have to say is that based on your responses for legitimate requests for more information, you come across in writing as the arrogant one. You need to look out for how you personally communicate with people if you are to successfully solve your problem.

Often the problem is that the person new to the workplace has no idea of the type of experience anyone else has. They don't know this is not new information to you, they don't know that their attitude is annoying to more senior people.

So the first thing to do is assume that the person meant well. Don't get angry about this at first, but take the person aside and explain privately why their behavior is not appropriate. For most people this will solve the problem. The genuinely arrogant though might need a stronger approach. Some people are hard to reach without a 2 by 4.

With those people you need to make sue they understand that you are senior to them and that in the case of a technical disagreement, your opinion is going to carry more weight than their shiny new degree. Tell them extensively why that is so and what accomplishments you have.

If you are their boss, then you can tell them outright that their behavior is unacceptable in the workplace. If you aren't their boss, then you may need to discuss the attitude adjustment with their boss and let him or her handle it. You can also shut people down through peer pressure and ridicule. This is not a the best option, but sometimes it i the only thing that works. This is a drastic thing to do and can backfire, so don't do it unless the entire team is frustrated with the person and nothing else has worked.

The person may back off or he may quit which is a win if the behavior is truly obnoxious. However, what you described seemed to be more of a problem in general communication that true arrogance, so don't start out with this.

The other thing you need to look at is why is this behavior upsetting you so much. What you described seemed very mild to me and apparently to several other posters.

Sometimes, this might be a symptom that you are having difficulty dealing with a new employee who seems like a rising star to senior management. I know I felt this way when we hired a new guy once to do a task I would have loved to be assigned to but they hired this wonder boy before announcing the project. This become especially true when you start to hit the age when age discrimination happens.

Its hard to no longer be the wonder girl of your early 20s and then see others take over that role. But you have to realize that it isn't this person's fault that he got what you wanted.

The best way to deal with a situation like this is to treat this person very well and to compliment him when he does something good so that criticism doesn't make you seem like a person with a grudge. If you start to give people the benefit of the doubt and treat them with the same respect you want, then they tend to be more likely to treat you with respect.

Often when you release your initial annoyance that this person exists, you may find someone who you can mentor and who has something to teach you. In my case, the person they hired as the Wonder Kid eventually became my boss.

He turned out to be one of the two best bosses I ever had in 40 years of working even though he was half my age. Sometimes our initial impression is wrong. Always keep that in mind.

Another issue that comes up is that there is a generational difference and Millennials often communicate differently than Boomers or Gen Xers. It could be worth your while to look up some of the training offered in this area to understand how to communicate across generations.

It could also be a personality type conflict. You came across as a person who tends to hold to strict rules of behavior and this person may be more freewheeling than that. Again, if this is the case, do some reading on personality types, It helps to understand how different personality types communicate.

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DO NOTHING

If this person is truly bragging and boasting, then the team will easily see that, get annoyed, and work to have him removed or disciplined, without you having to get involved.

However, it also possible that your team may instead view him as a "go getter" and "team player" - in which case you do not want to risk appearing to be a mean spirited, negative person by complaining about him, saying demeaning things to him or trying to "take him down a notch" in front of others, as those things will backfire if the rest of the team views him positively.

Therefore, do nothing and let his actions determine his fate.

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I can understand your feelings pretty well. At least he has a PhD and he is talking about the tools that he has discovered.

I can see it is irritating but I think it is also tolerable, as long as he is not preaching you about the stuff he learns from you.

My newbie colleague does not have any degree, (I have a PhD), he is a developer, has no analytics background. Yet, he is preaching me about the stuff, (actually my stuff) he has been learning from me. Quite irritating, I know.

In your case, I think it is important what kind of personality your new colleague has. If his intention is only to show himself and show his motivation, I would encourage him to present and discuss his work with the seniors but I would also point that we all have been at that point years ago, he may benefit from listening more and speaking less. But is is up to him, I would also add.

But if his intention is something like 'hey I know hell a lot more than you do, guys, I am the brightest person in the whole universe', then I would not hesitate to say him in the meeting 'which tool again? TOAD? oh, we've been using that for the last 20 years. Do you know any other tool that we might not have come across with?'

Some new graduates have this attitude unfortunately and there is no hope for them to think about what these people have been doing all these years and what experience means. (I am an ex-academic) They learn their lessons rather in the hard way. In this case, teaching him sooner than later saves his time, too. Gaining experience involves learning from the experienced. I always saw that as a great chance when I had experienced colleagues around me, and was really eager to learn from them, rather than jumping in their discussions in an irritating way.

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    Passive aggressive behaviour like you suggest is never appropriate. – Philip Kendall Jun 13 '17 at 20:48
  • Believe me it is a lot worse in private industry. My suggestion is conditional. If the guy is underestimating the other colleagues deliberately and always after his own show-off, I think the response I suggest is only proportional. – mdk Jun 14 '17 at 8:08
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    I'm a senior architect (with a PhD) in private industry, and the one thing I can tell you is that I have no respect for anyone who talks to junior staff like that. – Philip Kendall Jun 14 '17 at 8:12
  • Everybody's experience is different. I can tell you from my experience (ex postdoc with own staff) , some people just do not get it otherwise. It is a mentality issue. If you never had anyone like that in your team, you have been lucky. – mdk Jun 14 '17 at 8:37
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    Even if the person is arrogant, it does not negate their value. When I was young, stupid and arrogant, I had a mentor who let me try anything. 9 times out of 10, his way was better, but one in ten I improved things. Being this dismissive of someone, even someone who is actually arrogant, is a bad idea. – Old_Lamplighter Jun 14 '17 at 12:40

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