artphoto by splunge
artphoto by TheophileEscargot
artphoto by Kronos_to_Earth
artphoto by ethylene





Mecha Wiki

Metachat Eye


IRC Channels



Comment Feed:


24 March 2010

Work problem I've never had (angst inside) [More:]So this new guy has joined our department. He's super-smart and knowledgeable, and someone I thought/think I could really learn from.

He's been in our department for about six months, and, until now, he's been pleasant and enlightening to interact with. All of a sudden, we're assigned to the same project, with him as the lead, and he's turning into a total dick. I make progress on our project, and he's the first to jump in with something like "I don't think that's the right direction" without even backing-up his opinion. I ask for help or insight, and he gives me vague responses that don't really answer my questions.

Ok, so I get he's trying to assert his dominance and may feel threatened by my seniority (I've been there nearly three years, he's only been there about six months), and I'm more than willing to let him take the intellectual lead (I don't even want that responsibility, and I have very little interest in "leading" in general), but why on earth does he seem to be trying to make me feel/look like an idiot? Or is it just my own insecurity that's making this feeling way worse than it would be otherwise?

Has anyone else gone through something like this? I *almost* sent him a "WTF is going on?" email tonight, but figured it would be better to wait until I see how I feel in the morning. It just seems like it's quickly reaching the point where we won't be able to work comfortably together unless we somehow put our respective cards on the table.
I always handled this by saying, "Hey, it's great that you're the team lead but that doesn't give you permission to be a dick." And I normally do it either in front of a group or in a group e-mail.

Actually, I've used much harsher language than that. I tend to work jobs where the people that hire me know that I curse like a sailor and that if I'm telling somebody off or to back off that I HAVE LEGIT REASONS and WILL HAVE BACKING DOCUMENTS/evidence to support my opinions.
posted by fluffy battle kitten 24 March | 03:32
Or you could try the opposite approach and compliment him in the hopes that he become more secure and less cryptic in his input.
posted by Obscure Reference 24 March | 06:23
Take him aside and say 'hey, do we have a problem here?' I wouldn't do it in public.
posted by dg 24 March | 07:26
What dg said.
posted by Miko 24 March | 08:37
Assume the best case scenario. Maybe he's feeling insecure, feeling like he has to LEAD, and doesn't have good leadership skills yet. You can do some leadership from the middle, by giving him positive feedback for being non-dickish and effective, and raised eyebrow, or other feedback for dickish-ness.

he's the first to jump in with something like "I don't think that's the right direction" without even backing-up his opinion. I ask for help or insight, and he gives me vague responses that don't really answer my questions.
Ask why something is the wrong direction, and ask what the preferred direction is. When he's vague, ask for clarification. Be super-polite and friendly, and act as if he's doing a good job.

"I don't think that's the right direction." Dick, it would be pretty useful for me to have clarification on that. Can you tell what direction you want to pursue? "I think we should use PQR instead of LMN." I'll go ahead and start researching PQR. As you know, of course, we standardized on LMN in 2008, but I'm always happy to add new technology to my toolkit.

If there's a real WTF event, schedule a half hour with him, and ask him if there's an underlying issue that you should be aware of.
posted by theora55 24 March | 11:23
yes, I'll nth "what dg said". Also, be polite but direct.

Be strong. I've had this happen to me and it was extremely disconcerting, especially as I was a clerical temp at the time, attempting to deal with one of our senior scientists here at BigPharmaco, who was all passive-aggressively recalcitrant about providing necessary data or assisting in any meaningful way with process analysis on a quality project we'd both been assigned to.

In fact, it turned out that Dick In Question was not necessarily irked at me for any reason. Upon further investigation (meaning: I took him aside for a gentle "WTF dude?" moment), turns out he was completely pissed off about being assigned to a project he felt was a complete asinine clusterfuck boondoggle.

tl:dr: Dude was merely projecting angst about the project onto me, since I was the nominal "team lead" (responsible for sending out meeting requests and forcing people to show up on time for project sessions, etc...)
posted by lonefrontranger 24 March | 17:54
Thanks very much for the supportive comments and suggestions, all! It made today much easier to face.

Good news: I had a fairly brief, polite, but to-the-point "when you did this, it made me feel this" kind of conversation, and it went very well (at least as far as I can tell). He was totally open to talking about it, apologized, reaffirmed that he respects me and enjoys working with me. I couldn't have asked for a better response, really. And I also acknowledged my own insecurities about my lack of a formal scientific background, and that this might have been playing into an exaggerated reaction on my part.

We worked for the rest of the day on the project, and made a lot of progress without any weirdness.

Thanks again, all. This thread really helped put me at ease, give me options, and put things into perspective.
posted by treepour 25 March | 01:13
AskMechaaaaaaa || The theme for this week's Photo Friday will be: Things That Make You Go "Hmmmm"