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Today we have had a sort of problem where a colleague of us delivered some sort of "bad practice" work. For clarification, I work in a Software Engineering Department.

In this question I'll referencing to two persons:

  • the Senior (experienced Developer)
  • X (third coworker, made an experienced impression in general)

The Senior developer approached me, as we were struggeling both with X's work. We have had to fix his bugs in order to complete ours, which - sort of - gave us both a bad feeling about it.

At some point he came at me and asked me what my opinion was about X's work (not about him personally). I should judge his work. You need to know that I'm currently the youngest and in my humble opinion least "good" programmer, therefore I rejected the approach by saying that I cannot judge X's work based on my experience, as "code from others is always hard to understand" with my knowledge of programming and that I wouldn't feel comfortable in doing so right now. However, as the Senior delivered always pretty good and clean code I asked him about his opinion, as it seems that he has a (strong) opinion already on it. Not asking wouldn't change much and by approaching him on HIS opinion I've seen the chance to deescalate things maybe a little.

Turns out that X started to work for the company just 2 months earlier then me, which I didn't knew, and the Senior said that his motivation seems to fall apart, which finally leads X to make more mistakes and causing more work for the others.

I finally said that he (the Senior) should approach X with his objections and ask him right about it why he did this or that. I also emphased the importance of Code Peer Reviewing and that such errors might not happen if there is propper peer review.

The question in charge now is: what is the most professional way to handle such approaches? I don't thing judging others is contributing to the group flair in general, as there will finally be some sort of separation from each other if everyone would do so.

About the mistakes done: they're just... annoying. They're not breaking anything seriously. Yes, they are causing additional work. Yes, X could have avoided them. Yes, its not the best quality of code. Additionally to that, I've personally could have made this mistakes as well, so judging it would make me feel extremely uncomfortable in the future when such things would happen to or by me.

Again, I'm the youngest developer (24), X is something about 30 and the Senior is about to be 50-ish. Both have long work experience - more then me.

  • Hello @Max welcome to The Workplace. I am afraid that "should I?" questions are mostly off topic here, as they are asking us to make a choice for you. Is it possible you rephrase your question so it is more on topic? Not just a should I do something, as those questions can only be answered by Yes or No (and one of them invalidates the other). I see that your post has valid reasons and quality, so it would be a shame it got closed for a bad question phrasing. – DarkCygnus Sep 19 '17 at 16:47
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    @GrayCygnus Rewrote that part, maybe it now fits better. Could you give me a quick feedback on this? – Max Sep 19 '17 at 16:50
  • Yes, it is much better now. If you like, I recommend you read What not to ask and also what to ask so you get better at question writing here in TWP. – DarkCygnus Sep 19 '17 at 16:51
  • @JoeStrazzere to be fair I don't really think that the Senior came to me to spread some sort of "hate" against X, I guess he was just mad about the bad quality. However, I still don't feel comfortable by judging mistakes I've could done by myself at some point, you know? – Max Sep 19 '17 at 16:52
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what is the most professional way to handle such approaches?

It is best not to judge others, as that could be also done to you (call it Karma or whatever you like). No one is flawless as to have the right to judge others of what and how they do things.

I believe that you handled the situation properly, and avoided in a polite way answering that compromising question.

Given that the work X did obviously lacked some good practices and had bugs on it, the Senior asking your opinion could also have been done in a way to see how you react to such situation: would you give a respectful and professional comment (or refrain from answering) or would you take advantage of the situation to harm your coworker reputation? This sort of questions speak more of you than about your coworker's work.

In the future, if you are asked similar opinions I suggest you handle them in a similar way as you did here. If you really have to give your opinion, try to give it as professional as possible, focusing on the good and bad parts and giving alternatives if you can come up with some. Never judge the person; you should focus on their work (as you correctly mentioned in the post).

Note: It is worth noticing that judge could be a strong word to use here, as it is not the same as giving your professional opinion. We all make judgments every day. Judging your coworker would mean you are saying what he did is good or bad (again, who is one to say what is good or bad?).

Giving your professional opinion is more than that, as you are not limiting to just classifying your coworker's work into 2 categories, but are instead analyzing the job done, commenting what you agree and disagree with the proposed solution, providing alternatives to the way you would have handled it, and giving possible solutions or guidelines to handle the flaws of that approach.

That being said, don't be afraid to give your professional opinion now and then. Probably when you get more experienced you will feel more comfortable doing so while refraining from "just" judging other's work.

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