Ask HN: How do you deal with a co-worker who thinks they are always right?

Using a throwaway here to stay anonymous. I am putting together a design document at work that deviates from the direction an opinionated co-worker is all in on. I’ve got buy in on this technical direction from the rest of the team, but this co-worker is weaponizing comments on the document to hold things up. Some points are great and have been taken into account. Others amount to basically concern trolling. How do you deal with these situations?

25 points | by questionThrow 404 days ago

17 comments

  • scrapheap 404 days ago
    As they've put them in the comments on the document then can you get someone senior enough to simply say "That's a small issue, we can accept the risks around that". If you can't get them accepted as risks then they probably do need considering.

    One thing to bear in mind is that you're far better off with a colleague who points out all the problems they see, even if some of them are tiny, than you are with colleague who sees the problems and doesn't say a thing until after you've hit them.

    • paulcole 404 days ago
      > One thing to bear in mind is that you're far better off with a colleague who points out all the problems they see, even if some of them are tiny, than you are with colleague who sees the problems and doesn't say a thing until after you've hit them.

      I kinda agree. If somebody delays projects because they’re pointing out tons of unlikely and low consequence issues, then I’d rather not hear from them. But if they’re identifying (the hopefully rarer) semi-likely and high consequence issues, then that’s a much better person to work with.

      This is why it’s important that everybody is on the same page about what kind of problems you can live with and which need to be caught early.

      • hayst4ck 404 days ago
        I would not be surprised if there is an element of responsibility that is missing from the story.

        If the problems you cause will cause yourself future pain, but not others, then you should get privilege proportional to your responsibility.

        If the problems that are caused will be experienced by someone else, and that person is already under a lot of pressure, every new small problem has a chance of being the piece of straw that breaks the camels back.

        If the person writing comments is oncall, but OP is not, then OP is wrong and OP needs to be put on the oncall rotation to get some empathy.

        "You dealing with this problem is a price I'm willing to pay" probably isn't going to have good outcomes for anyone.

        "I'm going to write this system that other people will be responsible for maintaining" isn't going to have good outcomes for the people who inherit it.

        If OPs money is where his mouth is, if it's OPs skin in the game and not the person writing comments, then what the commenter says doesn't really matter that much. If OP is writing checks that are debited to the commentors account, well, OP is in the wrong.

        Regardless, OP does not trust his co-worker and thinks his coworker acts in bad faith, and that is a problem the manager needs to address.

        Me vs them is not a productive mindset and is the one OP clearly has. Us vs the problem is a productive mindset.

  • BoiledCabbage 404 days ago
    > Some points are great and have been taken into account. Others amount to basically concern trolling. How do you deal with these situations?

    You said you've made some fixes corrections based on his/her feedback. Are the other comments actually concern trolling? Or did you understand their point in some of the comments and don't yet understand the point in the others?

    Have you tried sitting down with them 1:1 to see if they'll explain them to you?

  • ActorNightly 404 days ago
    No advice is going to be valuable here without knowing the full situation. Your design could be full of holes and the coworker is pointing them out, or you could be in the right and he is just trying to appear knowledgeable.

    In general, dealing with conflict at work requires a good bit of understanding of human psychology that you cannot condense into a post.

  • danwee 404 days ago
    They are the best. You can give your opinion and they will always go against you. That means if the project goes south, it's their fault (you have the chance to say "I told you so", but ofc you wouldn't say because you are a decent guy). Basically, if you have a few years of experience in the industry, working with these kind of people leads always to a relaxed environment because they also tend to work a lot to show off.
  • readonthegoapp 404 days ago
    i feel like i've dealt with this a lot over the years.

    not sure i ever handled it successfully, but to the extent i ever did, it would have been later in my work life when i'd realized that not everything had to happen today, immediately, or yesterday, and that consistency and longevity at work (like, working for days/weeks/months/years, not just 15 minutes/hours of burst output) is or can be really important, and staying level-headed over ankle-biting and ankle-biters is really important, and things would eventually either go/work out, or they would not -- but my huffing and puffing at someone's ankle-biting was only ever going to look as amateur-hour as the ankle-biter and the team -- assuming the manager lets the behavior drag on forever -- which they usually do (when they're not me).

    so, i'd keep on keepin' on. in the panicked, hyperbolic 'But what should we _do_?!' meetings that will eventually happen, i'd let everyone else talk, keep your cool, stick to your feelings, and if it's not out of line, talk about the Jobs/Bezos strategy of picking a direction, going with it full force, and if it ends up sucking, you'll change directions, done.

    ps i really dislike the "You will never get any usable advice on HN because HN readers are not _personally_ showering with you" or whatever they're on about -- it's just a weird thing to say on a social bulletin board-type thing.

  • guilhas 404 days ago
    Everyone thinks, you probably think too. And many times both people are right, it will just mean different tradeoffs later on

    I wouldn't derive malice, some people have a lot of opinions, and they might clash with others, and some times it is too much

    But like everything else life does not stop, so you just have to set a cutoff date and move forward. Say you took note of all the comments and scheduled a review next year

    In general I think those people are valuable, even if annoying sometimes, but the project will always benefit. Better than coworkers that don't care

  • mecklyuii 404 days ago
    When I do a review I do a holistic one.

    Doesn't mean I hate an idea.

  • throwawaysalome 404 days ago
    Fight, win, then realize no one gives a shit about your design document.
  • roland35 404 days ago
    Try to find out _why_ they are disagreeing. Are the concerned about cost? Performance? Trying to make it generic to accommodate future work?

    If you focus on that you might see you're approaching the problem with different requirements in your heads.

  • hayst4ck 404 days ago
    INFO:

    Is the person who is adding comments from a different team or org?

    Is the person who is adding comments the person who will eventually be responsible for operations or on-call, especially if you are not?

    Does the person who is adding comments have a specialized set of skills that differentiates them the rest of the team?

  • tsuujin 404 days ago
    Before we jump to the cacophony of hyperbolic “quit” replies you will inevitably get, try talking to your manager. This is what we’re here for. Your manager will have context that HN commenters do not and can give you specific advice for your situation.

    Voice your concerns and be wary of emotional bias. “I would like to do this, I have suggested it and it seems like the team is ok with it, except for Mr. X. I don’t think he’s being reasonable but I would like your opinion, and I would like a suggestion on how to move forward.”

  • tmaly 404 days ago
    In this specific scenario, I would utilize mirroring and calibrated questions from the book Never Split the Difference.

    This puts the onus on the commenter to explain everything. They will tire of this quickly and eventually give up on their efforts and settle for your proposal.

  • giantg2 404 days ago
    "How do you deal with a co-worker who thinks they are always right?"

    Tell them they are and good job. Because I'm always right.

  • tcbasche 404 days ago
    Have you tried talking to them one on one?
  • fud101 404 days ago
    resign
    • gwnywg 404 days ago
      I love Friday humour, this single-worded answer made me chuckle :)
  • SavageBeast 404 days ago
    Sit back and relax confidently knowing that very soon an AGI will render your "always right" co-worker unnecessary and the both of you will be soon be looking for jobs in an obsolete economic sector. A pyrrhic victory if ever there was one but a victory none the less.

    Calm down now - Im half joking.