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I work as software developer for a small company and two weeks ago we got a new colleague, he was hired to work on the same team as me and our interactions so far have been friendly, he is a nice guy, polite and helpful.

I just now noticed that he always double checks everything I say. It first happened when he asked me to explain how the database entities of one of our costumers worked, I happily explained and he confirmed he understood. The next morning I find him asking the same question to our senior, I initially thought I may have explained poorly or he wanted a more in-deep explanation so I didn't pay much attention to it, but recently he double checks everything I say. He asks me something and then a couple moments later he ask the same question to another person, he did so even when asking questions about a software that I am the lead programmer right now and multiple people told him he should ask me, not them.

He is a friendly person, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt but today he asked me a simple 'yes or no' question, and yet there he went to double check what I said with another colleague.

Despite it looking like he doesn't do it to intentionally hurt me, this started to hurt me badly especially because I am the only woman of the team and casually the only person he seems to double check the information, and all the times he double checked, people answered the same thing I had previously said so it's not like I'm giving the wrong answers.

How do I casually talk about this situation with him, with out sounding like I'm punishing him for asking, but pointing out that his constant double-checks are hurting me? We are both colleagues, same age, I'm not his manager or superior or anything.

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    How do your coworkers react? Wouldn't they be like "I'm not going over all of it again, what was the specific thing you did not understand when Mark T explained it yesterday?". If not, why not? Aren't they wasting their time, too? – nvoigt Jun 19 '18 at 7:04
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    There are an infinite amount of possible answers to the question "How do I deal with this situation?". Please edit your question to add specific goals that you want to achieve, so the answerers do not have to guess your desired outcome themselves. This will prevent the question from being closed as too broad. Thank you – Kaspar Scherrer Jun 19 '18 at 7:29
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    Questions should ask for help achieving a specific goal. Your question is asking for personal advice on "what to do" without defining a goal; this is too subjective. Edit your question to explain what you hope to achieve and how you would like to interact with the others involved – Jon.G Jun 19 '18 at 8:24
  • @nvoigt Usually there is no specific thing that isn't understood. Usually there are lots of little things, and each on its own is simple, but the big picture how everything fits together isn't at all obvious. – gnasher729 Jun 19 '18 at 21:54
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The first thing I would do is getting the suspicion out of the way.
Is he second guessing everyone or just you?

First, I would check in with some people he has repeated questions to. Don't make any accusations, just start a little smalltalk.

Hey, I noticed Bob talked to you a few minutes ago. How is he doing? Did he ask you (repeat the question)? Do you have the feeling Bob understood the answer / is learning well?

This opens the conversation up to the matter that bothers you.

Did you notice him repeating questions to other colleagues as well? I'm concerned I'm not explaining things well enough to him or that he has difficulties understanding what I tell him.

Basicly, the answers will boil down to one of two possibilities:

He double-checks every question

It's nothing personal. If you are concerned about the amount of time he uses to double-check, talk to him or his manager. If you are genuinely puzzled, bring the topic up during a relaxed smalltalk, ideally a coffe or lunch break.

He double-checks only your questions

As a female software engineer I can understand that you feel hurt, but it is important that you dont accuse him of anything before you actually understand his motive. A rash reaction may hurt your reputation more than his. Talk to him in private, behind closed doors. Make it a "learning the ropes review" and ask him how well he feels integrated, how he is learning new things, if he maybe feels overstrained or not challanged enough. Get a feeling for how he feels in this new environment.

The important thing is to get him to talk, not so much the topic, so let him do the talking. If he delivers only one-word-sentences, he will most likely evade unpleasant questions. Only then ask him about his cross-referencing. Ask, don't state the fact. Voice your concerns about it.

I initially thought I may have explained poorly or he wanted a more in-deep explanation

The important points are:

Ask for a reason instead of stating your suspicion. Give him the chance to explain himself. If he was not aware of his behavior, he will be now. Give him the time to collect his thoughts.

Keep your feelings out of it! You are in a professional setting and should act professionally. Let him explain his behavior, you might be surprised by the true reason for it. Even if he states something like "women cannot be trusted because all of them are stupid", don't show your feelings. Receive his answer and report him if neccessary.

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As a software dev with "minority status" I, too, occasionally get the impression that people are treating me differently and condescendingly because of my status. But it's usually very hard to prove (unless it's really blatant and expressly stated) and people like to give "the accused" the benefit of the doubt.

What I usually have much more success with is focussing on getting work done efficiently - and, if necessary, questioning whether the offending behaviour serves a purpose to achieve the development team's current goal.

One current goal in your company seems to be on-boarding this new employee as quickly and efficiently as possible. (Well, at least it would be prudent to have this goal.) But if he has to ask everything twice, that doesn't sound efficient. So approach it from that angle:

Hey Bob, I noticed that after I explain something to you, you go and repeat the same question to other colleagues. So it seems to me that my explanations don't serve their purpose of informing you. What can we do to improve your on-boarding process and reduce this overhead?

Maybe he really has a different learning style - and this is his chance to explain it and explain what he needs to work efficiently. Maybe in his eyes he didn't repeat the same question to others but tried to clarify some edge cases or details. Maybe he's a journalist retrained as a software dev and tries to always find two independent sources ;-) ("Two sources are always better than one.") Maybe he stammers and evades because he isn't even consciously aware that he doesn't think of you as competent because you're a woman. Or something else completely.

If this doesn't resolve the problem, I'd go to my boss and tell him something like:

Hey [boss], you asked me to onboard Bob but I'm not sure we're getting anywhere with this. If I explain something to him, he goes and repeats his question to someone else from the team. I don't know why he does that - I tried asking him but he couldn't really explain. This doesn't look like a particularly efficient on-boarding process to me. What can we do about it?

Hopefully, your boss cares about bringing a new employee up to speed quickly and about their developers' time (at the very least as a valuable company resource) - which should be incentive enough to clear this up.

If that doesn't help, you may have a bigger problem with perverse incentives or a disorganised company.

6

First of all, crossreferencing informations is generally a good thing. You might feel that he doesn't trust your experience, but in the end he is probably doing the right thing from his perspective.

I'd say you should look at it from a different perspective, as you said he joined you recently and is still new. Maybe he is still nervous and wants to make sure he understands everything right before taking action on things.

You also said that initially you thought you might have explained things poorly, it just might be the other way around, you explained things well but due to his limited experience or knowledge he didn't quite understand what you were saying and was too embarrassed to admit it in front of a lead programmer. He in fact might find your opinion more valuable and therefore doesn't want to look like he doesn't understand your explanation because that could make you think less of him in his head.

What you could do? I'd say you could maybe talk with him and make sure he understands that it's totally fine to ask questions if something is unclear, and that you are glad to help, maybe that would make him more comfortable. If that doesn't help, or maybe the problem lays in a different place, I'd say just deal with it and let him ask others if that's what he feels is right.

  • crossreferencing informations is generally a good thing This is why meetings are often a time where misunderstandings are solved, sometimes even before they present themselves as actual problems. A lot of bugs occur because two programmers have interpreted the intended logic differently (eitehr option might work, but you usually can't do both ways at the same time). When they only focus on their work, they don't see the other interpretation. But when both explanations are presented, the conflict between them becomes easily spottable. – Flater Jun 20 '18 at 6:15
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    But the OP stated that she is "the only person he seems to double check the information", it doesn't really seem that he's crossreferencing information just for his nervousness. How do you account for the aforementioned statement in your answer? – LinuxBlanket Jun 20 '18 at 13:52
  • @LinuxBlanket for that i mentioned the coworker might be intimidated by her superior programming knowledge / leader position – aMJay Jun 20 '18 at 13:58
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    But she said also "We are both colleagues, same age, I'm not his manager or superior or anything." How come she's the only one intimidating him, and how does intimidation results in him double-checking the info she gives to him? If that was the case, I'd find more natural the opposite case, him double-checking info coming from everyone but her. – LinuxBlanket Jun 20 '18 at 14:02
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    I am the lead programmer right now and multiple people told him he should ask me, not them - that pretty much points towards that, why that's causing the intemidation is explained in my original post [he] was too embarrassed to admit it in front of a lead programmer. – aMJay Jun 20 '18 at 14:58

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