One prickly programmer can poison a whole office

A new hire pushes one programmer's bad attitude to the brink -- but ultimately benefits the company morale

One prickly programmer can poison a whole office
Credit: Getty Images

Why are some people so prickly? They gain nothing by being difficult and nasty, but their insecurity makes the rest of our lives difficult and doesn't help their cause at all.

At my company, "Jean" was a tough person to work with due to his poor attitude. Specifically, he was on the defensive at all times. Managers talked to him about this demeanor, but it didn't do any good, so the rest of us tried to have patience. Still, it was tough, especially on group projects.

Jean's primary job was technical programming. He also took on Web design since nobody else in the office had the skills. Jean was better at the technical programming aspects, but he got the job done.

Finally, there was enough money in the budget to hire a full-time Web designer and have Jean focus on the technical programming work. It seemed like a win-win for Jean, the company, and all involved.

A difference of opinion

Jean didn't see it that way at all. Who knows what the managers explained to him when they discussed the shift in job duties? For the rest of the company, the move was presented positively regarding Jean and his skill set.

But Jean focused squarely on the fact that he was giving up some parts of his job to an interloper. He grumbled about hiring someone new, saying it wasn't necessary. He felt he was being replaced, even when assured otherwise.

Regardless, the hiring process commenced and someone was found for the job.

New blood

We'd worked with Jean and knew his personality, but even we were shocked at his first interaction with the new hire.

It was the Web programmer's first day, and he made his way through the office, getting introduced to everyone. Then it was Jean's turn.

Immediately after he met the new hire, Jean arose from his chair and gruffly commanded, "This will be your computer. Now, perform."

The silence hung for a minute until someone stepped in to steer the baffled new hire toward the next cubicle and, eventually, his own desk.

Needless to say, the new hire and Jean did not work well together. Jean saw him as a threat to his job, and that was that, no matter how hard the new hire tried to smooth things over. The Web programmer ended up finding another senior employee to work through, and he teamed up with Jean only when necessary.

A couple months later, Jean quit. 

After his departure, the feeling of the office changed dramatically. Not to say that there weren't bumps or personality clashes here and there, but the atmosphere was certainly happier and more relaxed. It's amazing how one person's prickly attitude can affect so many others.

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