Handling hostile seniors with more experience than you

#1

Hey guys, In need of some advice, I’m finding myself in a tough situation.

I’m the Product / UX Designer in our small startup team. We’ve recently hired 2 senior developers (who has been colleagues for about 6 years at their previous company) due to their company being acquired, leaving them to job hunt.

One guy is our new CTO and then we’ve hired a dedicated senior front end developer (who brands himself as a solid Fullstack / Product Designer). When we hired this frontend guy, we made it abundantly clear that he will not be doing UI/Product design but he’d be a dedicated React developer that needs to help migrate our Angular app to React + establish the front end standards & support the product vision. He was completely fine with not being the product designer but rather a dedicated developer.

It turns out that he’s really not open to collaborating with me at all. He’s not consulting me to understand the vision of our product. Instead, he’s taking things in his own hands and bypasses me and the sprint (constantly picks up tasks not prioritised in the sprint and changes our product’s UI and behaviours without checking with me). It’s very obvious that he’s not impressed with the fact that he has to run things through me and I think it’s due to his experience. I think he finds it very challenging having to “report” to someone 15 years younger.

How does one go about working with these seniors if they don’t feel the need to collaborate with someone they don’t deem experienced enough?

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#2

Have a clear, honest conversation before you consider any other course of action. Don’t assume he doesn’t feel the need to collaborate unless he’s explicitly told you so. Sit this person down and explain what you’re explaining here in paragraph four. Calmly. “Look, I just want to clear the air and talk about a few things. It feels like you’re not really open to collaborating with me…” He may simply be obstinate or resentful, but you’d be surprised how many times people don’t really realize how their behavior lands on others. Talk first, get the real story. Let us know how it goes.

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#3

So much this. He may also just be repeating behaviours that he learned in his old workplace without realising how inappropriate they are at yours.

Of course, this may not be the case – he may be hostile and resentful – but deal with that once you’ve tried Joe’s course of action first.

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#4

Thanks @joenatoli, I’ll definitely try this approach. We’re a remote first company so I think that might contribute to this disconnect. I’ve been planning on breaking down our milestones in categories ie. standardisation, benchmarking, UI improvements, bug fixes. With this, it’d be easier to ask him to rather log and tag the tasks he wants to do and have us collaboratively find the best solution/improvement.

I’ll look into these proposed actions and report back!

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