Dealing with condescending colleagues?

6 months ago from Igor Pascoal, Product Designer

  • Andy MerskinAndy Merskin, 6 months ago

    I think it's important to understand why someone might be treating you this way first, and more often than not, it's totally their issue. Sometimes, it's your own issue, however.

    Condescending person:

    • Threatened by your smarts, where they are lacking
    • Not familiar with the process or approach you take
    • Have a personality conflict, particularly in ways of taking in / processing information (i.e. difference in Intuitive vs. Sensory thinking, or could be the difference between those who value efficient decision making (Ni-Te / Si-Te) versus those who value a more relaxed view of considering all the options (Fi-Ne / Ni-Fe)).
    • Want the new team member to listen more and soak things up before handing over the keys, per se (building trust).
    • Just doesn't like you.

    New designer:

    • Wrestling with or not conforming to the team's existing processes well enough
    • Not quite as experienced or talented as you might believe, so you might be projecting arrogance or a know-it-all attitude, maybe without knowing it (be honest with yourself and ask whether you are or not!)

    The "ideal" UX process

    It's not a reality everywhere you go. A lot of it depends on the company's culture you're coming into. If your managers / creative directors aren't very conscious of other people, you might just feel ignored, and it's likely you aren't the only one, because they have an M.O. that's with or without you.

    I've worked for a design agency working with dozens of clients, and a particularly accommodating agency where we do basically whatever the client wants process-wise. So if they don't want us involved in direct user research, tough luck. Chances are, your manager is trying their best to keep the client happy, and at times, the designers under them might be left under the bus in that pursuit.

    Nonetheless, having a condescending manager or team member is never fun, and I can't tell you how many times I've experienced that, partly because I have a bit of a strong personality in my workplace--I feel confident in my skills and talents and know I have a lot to offer, but also know I don't always have the best solutions--but when others feel threatened by you or think a totally different way, they won't be so keen on working with you to get to a solution.

    In those situations, I'm left with a few options:

    1. Be strong, hold your own, and assert your ideas. Know your worth, and know your field really well. And do all of this as kindly as you can.
    2. Build self-awareness and try to understand yourself and your team members as well as you can. MBTI, the Enneagram, and The Big Five are all great tools to do this, but they do take some time to grasp. You don't necessarily have to share this info between you and your team members, but you can start to pick up on how people are thinking and what their motivations are at work, and you can make your own decisions around these insights.
    3. Change teams (if that's an option), or find a new gig. There are plenty of places to go and finding the right fit is worth your time.

    Good luck out there!

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