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Author Topic: Dealing with a difficult coworker  (Read 1074 times)
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hepcat
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« on: May 08, 2008, 07:44:15 PM »

So as some of you OO folks may remember, I work with a person who I strongly suspect has Asperger's Syndrome.  He's extraordinarily brilliant but completely lacking in most social skills.  He also obssesses over things to an alarming degree.  He's our software developer and I'm the system admin in our small (approximately 20 employee) company.  My primary responsiblilty is running our Oracle and MSSQL database servers, our Exchange email server, the mobile PDA's connection to the Exchange server, maintaining about a dozen total servers between here and a data center, and making sure our primarily travelling employees have working computers and connectivity.

In the last couple of years I've started doing more QA stuff, writing documentation, and working more closely with this developer.  I admit to leaning on him quite a bit for help but since I'm not a developer and I'm filling roles that force me to work in waters I'm not familar with, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. 

However, I've noticed over the last year or so that this developer gets very moody with me.  Almost openly hostile at times.  It always occurs when I have to ask him a question regarding his software for documentation or deployment purposes, or whenever I'm forced to work within his development environment (he's a diehard linux guy who has to use all open source software for development).

Finally, after I got yet another tart reply from him when asking him about his build environment for a legacy VB6 application I haven't touched since last May, I decided to just have a sit down.

...which turned into a steady stream of the most demoralizing comments I've ever encountered in a workplace.  I was basically told he was sick of having to hold my hand and that I kept asking redundant questions over and over again.  Considering that we hadn't worked with the product we were discussing earlier in almost a year, I found that answer to be a bit curious...but I let it ride. 

One of my biggest character flaws, I suppose, is that I'm always ready and willing to take the blame for almost anything.  (Hell, I still feel guilty for the Hindenburg.)  So I didn't really try to defend myself.  Even when he kept telling me that he kept notes on everything he did in our software versioning tool.  Now, as even my boss has noted as recently as this week, the numerous branches he creates when "organizing" these notes makes it very difficult to follow his development path during a project.  But again, I didn't bring this up.

In the end, I told him I'd try to follow a new process of documenting each and every single thing I did when working with him and then store that documentation for further reference in future cases.

The end result:  I'm sitting here completely demoralized.  I'm actually feeling nauseous at this point. 

Anyone have any experiences like this they can share that might make me feel better? 

...of course, I'm aware I'm also inviting tons of "you ARE an idiot!" replies, I suppose.  But at this point, I don't think I could be made to feel worse.   icon_frown
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rickfc
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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2008, 07:49:09 PM »

You're not an idiot, but you need to stand up for yourself.  It's that simple.
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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2008, 07:51:48 PM »

I have certainly had a few experiences like this.  In the end it took me firing right back with indisputable facts to put the cement back under my feet.  If you have shortcomings, fine - own them.  If somebody is calling you on things you've not done, that has to stop.
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hepcat
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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2008, 07:59:56 PM »

I guess part of the problem is that this person expects me to have been involved with every aspect of his coming and goings for the past 7 years.  I do have other duties here, as I mentioned earlier.

However, I suppose it is also true that I should document every one of my dealings with him. It would probably help in my day to day interaction with him.  Since his mind works in a very ordered manner and he spends hours obsessing over the smallest detail, I assume it must frustrate him if others don't do the same.
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rickfc
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« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2008, 08:04:17 PM »

Quote from: hepcat on May 08, 2008, 07:59:56 PM

However, I suppose it is also true that I should document every one of my dealings with him. It would probably help in my day to day interaction with him.  Since his mind works in a very ordered manner and he spends hours obsessing over the smallest detail, I assume it must frustrate him if others don't do the same.

His habits or routines do not, and should not, concern you.  That is something that HE has to deal with, not you or anyone else.  That's your hang up.  It's his problem if he expects other people to do as he does.
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« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2008, 08:09:42 PM »

The only way to deal with this is to bottle it up, and then one day in a rage pull out a twin pair of louisville sluggers with the words "Coaching" and "Feedback" carved into them, and tune him up right.

In all seriousness, bringing him to realize that your job does not revolve around his whims, and while you appreciate the assistance the next time there are issues with his area of expertise you will warm transfer the work to him, day or night.

Fucking uppity developers. I hates them, my precious.
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« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2008, 08:14:14 PM »

I have a co-worker who I also think has Asperger's. He's VERY socially awkward and the way he does programming is completely alien to me. Whenever he asks me a question I have to read it like five times, as he seems to live in his own world. And when I tell him to do something or give him advice, he never does it. He pretty much has to do it his way. He hasn't gotten hostile towards me personally but he gets very angry if something isn't going his way. The only uncharacteristic thing about him in terms of Asperger's is that he's not very smart and is actually a pretty poor programmer. Perhaps he's brilliant in something else.

When it comes to day-to-day things, I just tend to avoid him because dealing with him is nothing short of aggravating.
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Moliere
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2008, 08:16:28 PM »

Quote from: hepcat on May 08, 2008, 07:44:15 PM

I work with a person who I strongly suspect has Asperger's Syndrome. 

Tell him to stop being such a retard. Then go ahead and report yourself to HR for disciplinary action.
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« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2008, 08:17:18 PM »

Quote from: hepcat on May 08, 2008, 07:59:56 PM

I guess part of the problem is that this person expects me to have been involved with every aspect of his coming and goings for the past 7 years.  I do have other duties here, as I mentioned earlier.

However, I suppose it is also true that I should document every one of my dealings with him. It would probably help in my day to day interaction with him.  Since his mind works in a very ordered manner and he spends hours obsessing over the smallest detail, I assume it must frustrate him if others don't do the same.

No!  You're letting the crazy person define reality.  It's what crazy people do when sane people are afraid to confront them.  Don't let them.

If he really is an Aspie, consider that the direct approach may actually be the best.  The one I knew did great with people once there were "rules" established about how to interact with them.  He couldn't puzzle things out on his own and that led to a lot of frustration on his part.  People had to be very clear about what was acceptable and what was not, and once he had his role laid out for him, he was fine.
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hepcat
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2008, 08:43:57 PM »

Well, I don't want to use the term "crazy" because on OO there was at least one person who claims to have Aspergers who also happens to be one of the nicest, most coherent guys around.    icon_wink

But good advice all, I must say.  And for those with humorous replies, I appreciate the smile it brought to my lips.   icon_biggrin

I think what I need to remember are two things:

1) He's called everyone who's ever worked with him here an idiot at some point.  When we had a small development team during our heyday, he thought each of them was idiotic.  When we had a dedicated Oracle DBA he constantly told me how useless the guy was.  And when we had a Q&A guy who's only job was working with him, I remember more than one instance where a voice was raised in frustration from that side of the office.

2) There's a silver lining in this in that it will hopefully motivate me to work harder.  I have been discouraged with my job for the last couple of years so perhaps I can take away from this a "revenge fueled sense of purpose".   Tongue


« Last Edit: May 08, 2008, 08:52:42 PM by hepcat » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2008, 09:26:21 PM »

Kudos to you for not jumping down his throat as he insulted you. It's better to walk away, think about how to handle the situation for awhile, and come up with a good plan to hopefully make things better.

If that doesn't work, he needs concrete galoshes and a trip to the nearest bridge.
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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2008, 11:48:59 PM »

You're from Chicago...you know how to handle that shit...make him dig his own grave before you kill him with his shoe...
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kronovan
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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2008, 12:44:00 AM »

One of the interview tests we have for prosptective QA techinicians at the company I work at involves a scenario in which a Developer won't listen to them when they're reporting a bug. If the prospective interviewee doesn't demonstrate a tact and persistence in letting the developer know they must hear them out and that not listening isn't an option, they don't get the job.

On a development team, whether you're performing QA or documentation, developers must listen and give their time; period end of story. There's just no way you can have an effective development community without that. I've been in your shoes before and my advise is to stand your ground and be ruthlessly diplomatic and persistent.
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EngineNo9
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2008, 01:07:46 AM »

As a developer, I say you just need to pay more attention.  slywink
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hepcat
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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2008, 01:55:33 AM »

Quote from: EngineNo9 on May 09, 2008, 01:07:46 AM

As a developer, I say you just need to pay more attention.  slywink

i'm sorry, were you speaking?

 Tongue

Quote
You're from Chicago...you know how to handle that shit...make him dig his own grave before you kill him with his shoe...

take 1 rat, 1 butane torch and 1 copper bowl.  place rat on developer's chest and place bowl over rat.  heat bottom of copper bowl with butane torch.  rat has only one direction he can possibly go.

...enjoy pop tart in developer free office!
« Last Edit: May 09, 2008, 01:57:51 AM by hepcat » Logged

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