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I work in the software industry in India. My coworker keeps suggesting to change the work I did. This happens 3-4 times per week.

For example, my tech lead instructed me to build a contact form, and he has allocated time for it. My coworker suggests that I add a Captcha as well. This will take more time that has not been accounted for. Besides, if a Captcha were necessary, the tech lead would have told me.

I want to tell the coworker "you mind your own business", in a manner which is not 100% polite, but it should not sound so rude either. He should get the message that I really, really don't like such interference.

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  • I know this is an old question, but were you successful in resolving this problem? One idea that hasn't been mentioned so far is to ask him to put it in an issue tracker for the Tech lead to review. I don't know if you use an issue tracker, but if you don't, you definitely should. For me, if it's not in the issue tracker or not in our online project management tool, and if it hasn't been assigned to me by my manager, then I do not get the credit for that work. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 8:20

11 Answers 11

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Just be honest about what's going on.

Sorry, but I don't decide what to build. Tech lead does. Please take any suggestions to them.

If he keeps up, emphasize the point further:

I've already told you, I don't decide what is built. Raising suggestions with me is pointless. Take it to tech lead.

Or maybe even:

Please stop wasting my time with suggestions. They should go to Tech lead.

If even that doesn't help, you need to raise it with your boss as a distraction from your job. At that point, I don't think anything is going to stop the interruptions.

However, I feel it's important to at least point out that reacting in this way very likely has a negative impact on how you are being perceived by your colleagues, possibly including your lead and/or boss. Developers who only do what they are told and show no initiative whatsoever are generally not the most appreciated type.

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    The last paragraph is important
    – Joe S
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 11:59
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    The last paragraph is very important. The last thing I want as a technical leader is a load of drones writing code who expect me to make every little decision. "Hey tech lead, I notice we're not using a captcha here. I reckon I could knock one up in <some amount of time>. What do you think about that?" is what I want to hear, not that you wouldn't even consider a reasonable suggestion from another developer. Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 19:22
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    I did with "Sorry, but I don't decide what to build. Tech lead does. Please take any suggestions to them.". And not extracty it. But I think it will work and I added I am allocated just to do this task. And there is time problem and I think he understand it also. Thanks Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 3:38
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    I suspect that most of the colleague's suggestions are not regarding the "what" to build but "how" to build it.
    – colbin8r
    Commented Aug 14, 2017 at 14:59
  • About your last paragraph: I agree that the (boss's) perception of showing initiative is important. I just don't think that carrying out "orders" from the nosy coworker shows a lot of initiative. Or that, on the other hand, the boss would appreciate it if OP's work suddenly took twice as long because they "have to" include all the extra features that the coworker thinks up. To show initiative, they'd have to use their own judgement, not the coworkers. Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 7:32
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Thanks for your input. I'll keep that in mind.

Edit: I like this, because it's to the point, and it can be dismissive whilst not offensive. If the suggestions from your co-worker are valid, consider them. if they're not, ignore them. Just because someone offers you advice, it doesn't mean you have to accept nor act on it.

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  • Perhaps that's the message the OP should consider instead but that's not what's being asked.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 11:18
  • @fubar I have tried saying similar things, but he is not stopped. Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 11:29
  • While I think this is a valid thing to say and means something pretty close to "mind your own business" especially based on how you say it, I think the answer itself could use some more context.
    – Erik
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 12:11
  • @DamithRuwan Why is it a problem though? He is free to make suggestions, you are free to reject them. Three to four suggestions per week doesn't really sound like a problem. And you can take the suggestions to the lead. Are they really objectively bad ideas all the time? Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 19:00
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    While saying that, crunch a piece of paper into a small ball and throw it in the waste basket.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 19:12
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In your comments, you've given one specific example of unwanted suggestions from your colleague when you'd been tasked with creating a contact form;

But co-worker suggest me to add captcha too. It takes more time from me and generally if it is needed, tech lead tell it me

In my opinion, being in your field of work, this is a solid suggestion and something certainly worth doing.

That leads me to question why you're reacting negatively to these suggestions? It's not that they're always pointless or unhelpful - your colleague actually looks to be trying to help you do a better job.

But, if you're dead set on ignoring them, given the information you've supplied I'd suggest telling your colleague;

Thanks for the suggestion, but tech lead has just asked me to do it this way for now.

I'd strongly recommend you're not actually rude to your colleague. If they're being disruptive, then talk to your manager about it. If they're trying to be helpful and you're rude in your response the only person it reflects negatively on is yourself.

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Thanks for your suggestions. If I need your help, I will ask you, ok?

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    Tone might be important here. Saying the same thing with a certain tone of voice could come across as passive aggressive sarcasm. Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 12:44
  • @SimonHoare Right, but the original version of the question explicitly asked for it. Now it was edited and this sounds needlessly brusque, rude and sarcastic.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 13:52
  • Ah, the old editing switcheroo. Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 14:21
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What is a polite (not 100%) way to say 'you mind your own business'?

I used to work for the CIO at Delta airlines, while in a similar situation. His advise to me was "Always be nice, until it was time to not be nice." What he meant was choose carefully when to move from a subtle approach to a more direct approach. In this particular case I think you have moved passed the be nice approach.

With that in mind, I would try this "Might I suggest unless unless there is something terribly wrong from a performance perspective with my work, or I have not successfully full filled the requirement that you mind your own business?" I may even go on and ask "Why are you so interested in my work?".

I think you your case, polite isn't going to work, but firm might. Your going to have to be more direct in your response to this individual.

Another option for you to consider is to take the same action toward the offenders work as they are towards yours. He may like reviewing and making suggestions towards your work, but I wonder how open he is to accepting similar input on his work?

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    You should never say "mind your own business" in any business context, no matter how many preambles you add.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 11:41
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    @Lilienthal While I respect your opinion, I disagree. I have worked in several situation where that was the only thing that worked. Being nice doesn't always work.
    – Neo
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 11:42
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    @Lilienthal, I worked as a civilian for the Navy. I had a Navy Officer, who was not in my chain of command, order me to do something my boss had specifically forbidden me to to do. I tried the polite route several times and finally had to tell him it was none of his business and to get out of my office because he was so sure he had the right to order anyone else around that he would not give up.This guy was a known problem who was only assigned to temporary shore duty until the Navy could kick him out after the investigation as to why he ran a ship aground. My boss backed me up 100%.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 14:52
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    @MisterPositive Perhaps you're right, but I really can't imagine any conventional office setting with a Western culture where this kind of reply would be acceptable or where it wouldn't be preferable to avoid such a response in favour of going through management to handle a coworker like this. As for my initial comment it was intended to be critical and strong but certainly not condescending, though I can see how the cursive formatting that I used for emphasis may be seen as belittling. I fully agree that the time for being nice is over, but this is a step too far for me.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 19:24
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    @Lilienthal I like this response better than your initial one. ;-)
    – Neo
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 20:43
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I try it the way Robert Downey Jr suggests:

Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway.

Source: Quotes of Robert Downey Jr

Thats a good way to not insult people.

And if people repeat to tell you what to do, they will get the message after a while and leave you alone, since they see you are not interested in their opinion.

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I got this/it, thanks.

It's just a tiny bit dismissive depending on your tone, and it can be vague enough that they think you actually appreciate their input.

But as others have said, your sole example is something that any programmer should welcome, a valid suggestion on design. If you feel he is going about it the wrong way, or trying to create more work from you, you have two options.

  1. Direct him to bring it up in a design meeting or to the team lead.

  2. Turn it back around on them.

Thank you, I'd be happy to include it when you are done coding it.

Or

That is a great idea, when can you have it ready?

Polite, while making it clear that they should put their money where their mouth is.

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I suggest: "Thanks, I will put it (or: it is already) on the list of possible improvements. If the customer/lead/product owner thinks it is important enough, we will do it".

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I have go with following sentence (Not extractly it because we are using Sinhala language.) and it worked.... Now his suggestions come via tech lead....

Unfortunately I have problem with time, other wise I also like your suggestion. I had a time problem in some previous cases also. If you can give your suggestion directly to tech lead it is a big help for me. So me also in safe side as well as project will be also great because of your good suggestions.

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  • Downvotes? Why? Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 7:06
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    I didn't downvote you, but I suspect the translation didn't work as you intended. The quote you posted makes it seem like the OP has a problem being slow with his projects.
    – GWR
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 17:33
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You can reply by saying:

That's personal. Shouldn't you be tending to your own affairs?

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+50

I got this from a dictionary:

Please stop prying into my affairs.

However I think the best way to get to your point is to explain in detail what you don't want that person to do and why it's your business and not theirs. That is the way of being polite, because your are talking with arguments. To sum up I don't think that a single fixed phrase will solve the problem.

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    Maybe "please stop prying into my affairs"? Anyway i don't think that a single fixed phrase will solve the problem Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 12:42
  • @gnsanty edit your answer with your comment. Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 20:39

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