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As a junior, what would you think and do if you getting humiliated by your lead programmer if you can't handle his expectations ?

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closed as off topic by gnat, Justin Cave, Mark Trapp, Thomas Owens May 13 '12 at 12:22

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A senior/lead programmer should be seen as a mentor not a humiliator – RichardOD Sep 26 '10 at 14:20
Can you explain why you feel humiliated? Perhaps post an example? I might be better to talk to him about it before jumping to conclusions about him being an ass. – Josh K Sep 26 '10 at 16:56
How do you deal with people who are really annoying? – Jaco Pretorius Sep 26 '10 at 17:41
In its current form, the question is too open ended and basically does not provide enough information for a relevant answer. Could you explain your situation a bit more? – MAK Sep 26 '10 at 21:11
One thing to keep in mind: just because you feel humiliated, doesn't mean that was the person's intention. Since you haven't posted what happened or why, it's hard to respond, and since we don't have more context, we don't know if the programmer's interaction with you was intentionally humiliating or not. – bedwyr Sep 26 '10 at 21:20

14 Answers 14

That he is an idiot. No one should humiliate you, no matter what they think of your technical skill.

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Too much of a blanket statement.. if someone is just refusing to see that they aren't as good as they think they are, sometimes the only way to bring them back to earth is to feed them humble pie or fire them. Which is worse? – MIA Sep 26 '10 at 19:11
@Jim ... it depends – Joren Sep 26 '10 at 19:17
I also think this is too much of a blanket statement, but not for the same reason as Jim. I've known people who would feel humiliated in this situation even if the senior dev was perfectly reasonable; it kind of depends on how you define "humiliated." – Pops Sep 26 '10 at 21:23
I feel the same way. – Daniel Sep 26 '10 at 22:55
Sometimes shame is a powerful motivator and learning tool. If a jr dev makes mistakes out of repeated laziness or insubordination, it can help. Depends on the person though, and the Sr needs to know if it is a motivator or a de-motivator. A kick in the butt followed by a pat on the back can work well. – Erik Apr 2 '11 at 4:21

If he humiliates you it's only because he is unsecure person. Think about that each time he does it. And if he is unsecure, it's probably because he has been humiliated himself in the past, by his friends or worse, by his parents... think about it too. He may not be a bad person.

Strategy 1: use his weakness

The good strategy would be to come to his desk 10 minutes later and tell him that he is right and you want to learn from his technical knowledge. You tell him it's a chance to work with someone like him and you will be very proud to get advices from him.

In most case, it will change his attitude forever. When you will do a mistake (you will do many in the future), we will take it personnaly.

You may want to dig deeper in his personnality and try to understand why his life sucks like that. Having a such person in your team will affect everybody. Every team member has the responsability to help other team members, including him.

Strategy 2: use your force

It happened to me only once. I was surprised because I don't have the physic of the guy you want to humiliate. I waited few minutes then I sent him an email to tell him I wanted to talk in private. When we were in the meeting room, I said that the next time he talk to me like that, I would %#@& his face. Of course he never did it again, but with time, I do think it's not the good attitude to have with your team members ;) (I changed, I promise)

Strategy 3: use your feet

Walk away...or better... run! Having such people in your team will not affect only you, but the whole team. In a great team, people help each other, and there is no place for humiliation.

Strategy 4: use your resistance

If you show nothing but indifference, he will likely stop doing it. That's that simple.

In any case... good luck !

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Use the force Luke. – Chris Sep 26 '10 at 15:24
I don't quite agree with Strategy 2, but besides that, diplomacy is the way to go. People that behave like assholes often have serious problems that led up to that, maybe it helps if you just go towards them and show that while you respect them you're not someone who is easily intimated. This usually helps you earn your due respect. +1. – Archimedix Sep 26 '10 at 19:00
It's really rare, and it should probably be a last resort, but there is a place for strategy #2. – Steve Evers Sep 27 '10 at 1:49
@SnOrfus: ... and that place is "I'd like to get fired for cause and without being able to use this job as a reference because I physically threatened a co-worker." Strategy #2 has Bad Idea written on it in twelve-foot-high flaming letters. – BlairHippo Sep 29 '10 at 16:55
This is some of the worst advice I have ever seen on any Stack Exchange website. – James P. Wright May 13 '12 at 14:54

If you're referring to a public humiliation, then this person is completely off base and you should talk to his supervisor and let them know what transpired.

If he's making you feel humiliated but doing it in private, then it is not as bad, though still an undesirable way to deal with an employee who's not meeting expectations.

Lastly, you should do your best to set aside your emotional response and try to assess how much truth there is in the dressing down, even though it was handled extremely poorly. If his criticism is at all valid, you should still address it by trying to rectify the shortcomings he identified.

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Unlike most — but not all — of the other answerers so far, I don't think this is necessarily a bad show on the lead dev's part. I am a junior dev, and I know I've made mistakes. Heck, I've been making mistakes since way before I got into programming. We're all human, we all make mistakes.

Even if I'm told that I've made a mistake in a perfectly reasonable way — i.e. constructively criticized — I feel bad about my mistake. Being told that you've made a mistake is supposed to feel bad. It encourages you to not make the same mistake again.

I've known people who use the word "humiliated" even when they've just been the recipient of constructive criticism. For that reason alone, I don't think the lead dev is necessarily in the wrong in this situation. The first thing to do here is to think about what happened to cause the "humiliation," and whether any of it was reasonable. If you did something wrong and/or have room for improvement, and your lead didn't go out of his way to make you look bad in front of others, then you probably don't need to do anything.

That said, I don't use the term "humiliated" that way myself, and I think most people are like me in that regard. So, another answer: if the lead was out of line, I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and let him know so privately, maybe through a quick e-mail. If it becomes a repeated thing, then maybe it would be time to take it to the project manager or HR, or start printing resumes.

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+1 agree. Dressing down isn't bad. And molly coddling people just gives them a false sense of their own worth in relation to their actual abilities. I've worked in some pretty full on environments, but by far the best lessons I ever learnt were from the school of Hard Knox. – Anonymous Type Sep 26 '10 at 22:35
I agree, the ability to take on constructive criticsm is an important part of learning. Of course there is a difference between being humiliated and feeling humiliated. I've seen people, not necessarily junior, who consistently do poor work (at a basic level, e.g. committing 80% commented out code, unused parameters, unused methods, ridiculously buggy, etc) and yet feel victimised when it's politely pointed out to them. In the end, after months, it drags down the team and gets on everyone's nerves resulting in less polite comments and/or badmouthing behind people's backs. – FinnNk Sep 26 '10 at 23:00
-1: You're assuming that the lead developer was dispensing constructive criticism. – Jim G. Nov 2 '10 at 22:51
@Jim, yeah, that was intentional, and I addressed it in the last paragraph. – Pops Nov 3 '10 at 23:22
+1 Ding ding ding. Grow a thicker skin and make twice the effort on the next go around. In engineering, respect is earned not given. This guy was probably just sore after some 'brilliant' idea of his was shut down by the senior staff. – Evan Plaice Nov 6 '13 at 18:18

Your question doesn't really go into much detail. Probably the most important thing to ask is, did this just happen one time, or is it a regular pattern? If he just said something once that made you feel humiliated, you're probably just being a bit oversensitive. Engineers aren't particularly known for their social skills, and he most likely thought he was pointing out something that could be improved. Try to take the advice as it as intended.

On the other hand, if this is someone who makes a regular habit of humiliating you, then you're probably dealing with a bully. How senior is he? How is the environment in your office structured? It's an unfortunate truth that bullies don't usually understand anything but power. You don't have any, but management does. Is there any way you can use the system to get your boss or other people above him to pressure him to stop? If not, depending on how bad it is, you may need to consider more radical steps, such as finding a different job, or (only in severe cases) legal action.

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+1 for this statement: "Engineers aren't particularly known for their social skills, and he most likely thought he was pointing out something that could be improved." The OP doesn't give any context as to what happened or why, and it's possible his humiliation was the result of a miscommunication. – bedwyr Sep 26 '10 at 21:16
I'm tempted to downvote for "Engineers aren't particularly known for their social skills," but +1 because this is the only answer that hasn't assumed that the senior dev was in the wrong. – Pops Sep 26 '10 at 21:25

What do I think?

  1. Welcome to the real world - it happens.
  2. Within certain bounds it shouldn't (sometimes people do actually dig themselves into holes where its almost inevitable) - its really poor management/leadership and unlikely to help the junior or the situation
  3. Not necessarily the fault of the lead (bear with me here) - people are often promoted to lead because of their programming skills not their people or managment skills, worse programmers frequently struggle to grasp that not everyone can do what they do (or knows what they know) and yet more worse they're having to delegate which is horrible... (just because you wouldn't have done it like that doesn't mean that "that" is wrong). I know that it took me a long time to even begin to learn the skills you need over and above the technical skills a lead should have.
  4. Once - once you might have to let go, more than once needs to be dealt with - how will depend on the structure of your company, if you want to stay then you need to work with the broader management otherwise find your way out (and a good reason for going)
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Ask yourself, what does your boss expect from you, and how can you achieve it. Work on it for yourself, not for your boss.

And whatever triggered his reaction, don't do it again.

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Iv only experienced this once, but this wasnt from a senior, it was from a colleague, in a different team. Had the option of ignore it, have a quick informal chat with my boss, or make everything very formal.

I went down the option of a Formal Grievance (am based in the UK), and made the whole thing very official.

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And how does it end? If it is not too personal... – Lie Ryan Jun 6 '11 at 15:07
In the UK, it forces the company to deal with the matter because its on the record - should they fail to deal with it, then I would have grounds to take them to court (The Employment Tribunal), luckily the HR manager spoke to his boss, and he was under very strict instructions to leave me alone. My boss and his boss ensured that we didnt have to work together, and everything worked out quite well. Bear in mind - I was humiliated publicy, and also there was a racial element to it. – Dot Net Pro UK Jun 7 '11 at 15:54

There are a few ideas that I'd consider depending on the severity of the humiliation, nothing that the you in each is just intended to whoever the victim is:

  1. Double check that this is a big deal. If there are witnesses to what was said then this may be worth checking just to see if what you thought you heard was in fact said. I know I've had times where someone is trying to give me a compliment and I'll infer it as an insult. Granted I know that I have anxiety and depression that can cause some of this, that is why it may be helpful to ask another person if this is as bad as you thought. For example, is the situation as bad as walking into class not wearing anything covering your groin area? Is it just a bruise to your ego?

  2. Check what policies you have in your workplace that may be worth pursuing if a line was really crossed. This depends a bit on your jurisdiction and culture obviously but some places may have policies about a respectful workplace where this kind of action if done publicly could be cause for discipline action. While this may not always be well-liked, I could imagine some situations where doing the right thing may get someone some respect if what is being done could be seen as hazing.

  3. While mistakes will happen, there is the question of who will make changes to prevent this situation from occurring again. While there may be many things for the senior to do, there is also the question of what could you do that may help prevent this from happening again. Are there suggestions for how to get a thicker skin? Are there suggestions for when to leave a meeting if things get too heated? What kinds of recourse should you take if you feel like a humiliation is coming? Strategizing here is likely a large part of what I'd do.

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First you should tell him you are not comfortable with that situation.

If this doesn't work (typical), you should tell your boss (that probably is not that senior programmer, because he is not qualified).

If you can't, or this doesn't work, you should tell the person/department that hired you.

You are not responsible of the frustration of your co-worker, none is born knowing to code, so he was in the same situation in the past.

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In most cases, it tells something of the person. In those few cases, it isn't necessarily bad - a little humiliation will definitely help you to remember the error in question and never to make it again. So, swallow your pride and act rational ... if even when you're doing your best he still strives to make you miserable all the time, think whether you wish to stay with him (i.e. in the company).

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I think he's a jerk-ass and it's time to find another job. But, also, look at any criticism and see if there is any value to what he/she is saying. if so, work to change/fix anything that needs fixing.

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I'm all for the indifference method. Yeah, he should not treat you like an idiot as a junior, but I think playing dumb is often the best solution for people like that. It takes away their mottivation.

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It's crucial that you follow a set hierarchy within an organisation that you work for:

  • Raise your concerns by speaking to the senior developer. Agree on the action plan from both parties.

  • If you don't see any changes within four weeks, then speak to whoever is in charge of senior developer.

If nothing changes within few weeks, then consider leaving the company

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