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Problems with coworkers

Problems with coworkers

Problems with coworkers

I've been an electrical engineer for 7 years and I've worked for 4 different companies. I've been with my current company for 2 years.I like the type of work I do, but I'm constantly having problems with my coworkers. I used to think I was easy to get along with, and never had these problems at any of my old jobs. I try to be friendly with everyone, but it gets me nowhere. All day I deal with rudeness, sarcasm, being ignored etc. from the other engineers. To the point where I can not get answers to questions that I need to get my job done.

I think the problem is that I'm a relatively young guy (30) and most of the other engineers are in their 50's or older. They have all worked here for many more years than me, some for 20 years. Sometimes I can not get the answers I need from anyone and I guess at what I have to do. Then of course I guess wrong, and the problem isn't caught until test. Then the project manager has to involve one of the senior engineers anyway, and the senior engineer puts me down for not figuring the problem out myself. Which could have been avoided in the first place, if they had answered the questions I had originally. This exact situation has happened over and over again for the last two years. Again, I have been an electrical engineer for 7 years, and no one at my old companies ever thought I was incompetent.

This is affecting me to the point where my health is suffering and i now have back pain, am overweight and have high blood pressure. I have zero motivation anymore and I think my personality has changed for the worse. I've been applying to other jobs and I've had 4 job interviews in the past few months, but every time I was turned down. Now I feel too discouraged to even look for new jobs. It's come to where i have to go to this anonymous forum, to ask for help. Any advice is appreciated.

RE: Problems with coworkers


It is likely the culture where you work, and not you. Eventually I'm afraid you will only get away by getting out. Until that point, I have a couple of book recommendations for you to hone your skills dealing with and understanding difficult people.


10 types

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: Problems with coworkers

This is hard to figure out through a forum. Do you have at least 1 person in the company that you get along with and who is familiar with all people involved? If so, tell him or her in all frankness what seems to be going on and ask whether it might have anything to do with you. It may or may not. It can just be frustrations that hang in the air and have nothing to do with you. Some companies can never maintain the junior engineer, they always leave after 1-2 years and the older guys are fed up explaining all over again and again and get cynical and rude. It may be jealousy. Maybe they had a hard time hiring a new person and you make more than they do or at least they think so. Things that you can't even imagine while you're trying to figure out what you're doing wrong. Or maybe it is you. Ask.

Regardless, if it affects your health, keep looking for another job. The 5th time may be the right one.

RE: Problems with coworkers

I would guess the old guard at this company are insecure and want to keep the turmoil present so they can demonstrate their value. Talk to your project manager that you have observed this cycle of not getting the info you need and that since he gets involved in the end anyways you would like to pass your requests for information through him going forward. He will either run the traps for you or tell the other engineer to be more responsive directly to you. If he tells you to work it out yourself tell him not to expect things to change. When you do get answers to your questions, keep a notebook outlining the solution so you can apply it in the futre without having to ask again.

For your physical health make a point of staying hydrated throughout the day and taking a walk at lunch and maybe a walk through the office once or twice a day

For your mental health, make a point to smile before you answer the phone or reply to an email - it helps set a positive tone for the subsequent interaction. When you are interacting face-to-face with someone they usually get creeped out if you smile at them before you talk to them so I will try to draw a slow deep breath in to keep me calm

Finding a place to work where you enjoy the technical aspects as well as the people is hard.

RE: Problems with coworkers

I was where you are 35 years ago. I feel your pain. Life can be tough for a fresh young engineer in an established old-school environment. The old-timers will never give you a break. But realize this fact - they are treating you EXACTLY the same way they were treated! As far as they're concerned you can sink or swim on your own merits, and without a life preserver. I have two bits of advice for you. One you might like. The other you probably will not.

One - ask for help. Right now you're asking for information. Instead, ask for help. Find one or two of the least abrasive old farts, maybe some of the younger ones, share some of your challenges with them, and ask for their advice. "I really need that data from Charlie, and I want to do a good job, but he is either too busy or just ignores me. Do you have any advice for me?" That is not a question for your boss. Its for a coworker. I have found that many people will respond positively when you show that you respect their skill and knowledge by asking them for help. It makes them feel good. I have learned to go out of my way to ask people for help, even when I don't need it. Most people think that engineers think they know everything. Prove to them that you're not that way. Sometimes your most valuable engineering advice will come from folks that wouldn't know one end of an equation from the other.

Frankly four jobs in seven years seems like a lot to me. Maybe there's a trend here, a common factor. Think about it, and look inward.

Two - Many young engineers are hesitant to "show their ignorance". Don't be! You are the low man on the totem pole. Don't be afraid to joke around about your own knowledge, or lack of it. I've been doing this for decades and I still joke around about my designs being overweight or ending up in the dumpster. Don't be afraid to make fun of yourself. Don't take yourself too seriously. Join in with the joking around! That is one way of showing the old farts their due respect. It also helps you to deflect the pain it could cause otherwise. Show them that you consider them to be a source of knowledge, and even wisdom. In many ways, your willingness to endure their abuse and shrug it off is the ticket to gaining their help. Their treatment of you is not going to change. Your reaction to it MUST! It is a fact of life. Deal with it. Don't dwell on it. Shrug it off and move on. You don't have time to wallow in self-pity. You have a job to do and the obstacles aren't just technical.

I will quote to you what my father (an engineer himself) told me when I graduated: "Now that your schooling is behind you, your real education can begin." That's where you are now, the school of hard knocks. Learn well.

RE: Problems with coworkers

I'm just a few years ahead of you in my career. I had a similar experience a few years ago when I started a new job. The difference is that my colleagues were mostly my age or younger. I was unique and marketable because I had my PE when no one else did. When I asked where to find information on equipment, I would get the response "I thought you were a 'professional '." I of course fail to see how having a license gives me some supernatural insight into a company's proprietary filing system without any explanation. Now, a few years in, most of those people are gone, I understand the system (having corrected a lot of the inconsistencies myself), and people come to me to find where things are. I resolve to break the cycle. Becoming the go-to man can be very valuable.

Consider that the reason why you went from a more comfortable job to this one is probably for more of a challenge (and compensation to match). Embrace it, rise to it, a big part of engineering is people engineering.

When looking for help go as far as you can, flag the gaps and then use the words "peer review" when looking for help. Try to use the colleague who will most likely denigrate you at the failed test. Give them a stake in success; no design should go out the door without a second pair of eyes, that's just common sense. Also, bringing in a dozen donuts every once in a while doesn't hurt.

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

RE: Problems with coworkers

Thank you everyone for your feedback. I definitely got some perspective on the issue.

RE: Problems with coworkers

If you don't have a support network outside of work, start building one. If you don't have a support network at work, start building one. It sounds like you have the people skills to do it but you may need to grow them or add to them for this culture. Each place I worked had its own culture, which had to be navigated. It wasn't always easy to determine what their culture was let alone how to navigate what I couldn't discern so I certainly have my own failures in that regard. Good luck!

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: Problems with coworkers

If you're all out of ideas, there's always the one at a time "Hey can I talk to you for a second? Do you have some problem with me?" Pick a time when they might not be cranky, like an hour after lunch.

Maybe you forget to refill the coffee pot and don't realize it. Maybe you ate the last donut one time. Maybe they just don't like you but haven't stopped to figure out why, ask them to please let you know when they do.

RE: Problems with coworkers

Are you maybe ambushing the old farts?

I was once young and thought that the oldies were just furniture. Now I am an oldie and get irritated when a young and super-enthusuastic youngster just won't leave me alone for a second. Yes, you have a great idea, but just leave me alone for a few minutes to think it through rather than repeating it over and over. The problem is new to me and I need some time to be able to appreciate it and your suggested solution. Don't ambush me with the problem and solution at the same time.


RE: Problems with coworkers

I agree with above.
BALLS will get you many places in this world. If I were you I would confront head on (professionally) what you are experiencing.
Just be honest and objectively outline your concerns and relate them to company objectives etc. if possible.

RE: Problems with coworkers

There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of books written on the subject of toxic/dysfunctional coworkers and work environments. These type of work environments are found in most companies to some extent. This is the main reason why the Dilbert comic strip is so popular; people can relate to it based on their own personal experience. Welcome to hell kid.

It sounds like your job is the main focus of your life right now. And even if it isn't, it is having a profound negative impact on your health and your outlook. When people are not happy in their jobs, it shows. And it can poison relationships outside of work too. I have one important recommendation for you, since you mentioned that you are overweight and have high blood pressure. When you leave work force yourself to get some regular physical exercise. Join a gym and get into an exercise class that you like; join a bicycling club and go on group rides; play Frisbee golf; just get outside and join up with some other non-work related people and get yourself into a regular exercise routine. This will help you both mentally and physically. And when you are healthier you are better able to deal with the crappy stuff at work.


RE: Problems with coworkers

Agree with the others - age deltas are a poor excuse. My former boss and current coworker is 28 years my senior, and ended up being the best man at my wedding. One of the strong points of our professional relationship is the ability to take up arguments over a technical subject, even if we don't agree with it for the purpose of vetting out the opposition. Nothing professional has soured our relationship in over a decade.

Find the common ground - whether it be sports, cars, fishing, kids, etc. If they ruffle your feathers a bit, ruffle them back. Eventually you'll be able to communicate, and the trust (professional or otherwise) comes along for the ride.

RE: Problems with coworkers

Thanks again to everyone for your advice. I wanted give an update to help anyone who is in a similar situation. I finally had enough and quit. I didn't have a job lined up but I had some money saved and luckily found a new job that I started recently that is going fine so far. I wasted a lot of energy on stress and guilt that I should have used to accept the situation: my old job was a bad fit and there was little I could do about it. Sometimes you just don't fit in to the company culture. There is no excuse for neglecting your health and I can not blame others for my health problems. Sometimes the best thing to do is to focus all your energy on finding a new job, training and self improvement. Happy New year to everyone!

RE: Problems with coworkers

There is a healthy amount of not caring that everyone should have.
Not too much or too little.
And things probably will never be as good as you would expect unless you work at a really small company.
Really small.
Like for yourself.
And that could be a curse in itself.

If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.

RE: Problems with coworkers

RE: Problems with coworkers

I work for myself and my boss can be a real asshole sometimes.

RE: Problems with coworkers

Glad to hear you turned a corner

RE: Problems with coworkers

I have had my share of stressful jobs, as others here have had too.
Over time you figure out how to work out certain situations and move on.
I try to come up with come-backs with a-holes to make my life more enjoyable.
I had a job with a small company when I was younger where the owner was Irish, my manager was Scottish, the secretary was British.
They constantly bickered at each other. The senior engineers were jerks.
They day I put my notice in (I had enough of it), my manager asked me about my last name.
I told him it's German. He sat back laughing and said "If I knew you were German I wouldn't have hire you!".
I replied "If I would have known you were an Irish kiss-ass, I wouldn't have taken the job!"
I walked out while he was cursing at me. LOL

Chris, CSWP
SolidWorks '17
ctophers home
SolidWorks Legion

RE: Problems with coworkers

Some places value German engineers. Others don't want the best.

RE: Problems with coworkers

Don’t know your particular circumstances. But some comments on your environment.

Went to live and work in Mass. for 12 years. I worked and socialized with a mixture of native New Englanders and transplants like me. Got along with most but the natives were much more provincial, it seemed to me. Much harder to befriend and guarded of newcomers.

I got a job offer in Texas. When I told my friends and acquaintances, I got two distinctly different responses, almost directly related to native/transplant. The transplants said, congratulations! You’ll love it. The natives by and large said, why do you want to move there? They’ll never accept you.

Just my 2 cents.

BTW, love the Sox, Pawtucket or not.


glassesJust traded in my OLD subtlety...
for a NUance!tongue

RE: Problems with coworkers

To Tick: A friend of mine once worked at an automobile plant and one of his co workers came from
Germany. Co worker made the statement "I have never made a mistake" My friend replied "But your wife sure did".

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