Unfortunately, we probably all had to deal with unsympathetic people who like to push their ideas and ego with toxic behavior. In this post, I aggregated some of these social anti-patterns. Many of the listed arguments might be very valid in many situations, but they can also be used to push your own will without long discussions. As always, more power (e.g. being on the top of the hierarchy) helps with this. Please don’t be the one applying those patterns, your colleagues probably won’t like you very much.
I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. - Abraham Lincoln
Show your experience and influence
I work at fancy company x.
I have more years of experience.
I have contributed to project x.
I have a repository with x stars on $CODE_HOSTER.
I have x followers on $SOCIAL_MEDIA_PLATFORM.
My blog post has x views.
You know the things that matter
When you know something with a steep learning curve, show your superiority.
Try to teach and convert others over and over again, even when they don’t want to migrate.
When someone else knows something complicated, say it’s too complicated and just not worth the effort of learning.
Show that you are the smartest person in the room
Use many technical words and buzzwords to look smart. The lesser known the words, the better.
When someone points out a mistake you made, immediately teach this person something complicated you know from any random topic.
If someone disagrees with your idea or asks more detailed and uncomfortable questions, answer slightly aggressive and use your body language, most people don’t want to start an argument.
Getting back up from industrial leaders – or not
When it’s in your favour: $BIG_CORP is doing it, they know what they do, so we should do it, too.
When it’s not in your favour: We are not $BIG_CORP, we shouldn’t do it as they do. They have completely different requirements than we have.
On Performance optimizations
When someone wants to improve the performance of an implementation but you don’t want this, tell them that hardware is cheap, developer time is expensive.
When someone doesn’t want to optimize something you want to have optimized, tell them, on scale, this will save a critical amount of resources/money.
Quantity over quality
When you want to push your idea against a counterproposal, describe as many benefits as you can think of. As long as you give more benefits than your opponent, you are winning because weighting the benefits is never done and only the quantity matters.
Context doesn’t matter
When someone had a different opinion on a specific topic than you, remember the arguments used. When there is a similar situation and the arguments are now to your advantage, use them, even when the context doesn’t match anymore. If the person disagrees now, she has to justify her past decision with her changed and conflicting decision.
Only you are allowed to be overly critical
Be very nitpicking and criticize everything you can find. Call it “helping to make the result better”.
When someone else is too critical and nitpicking to you, complain that this behavior is very demotivating.
You have a mission
You have your own (hidden) and your company’s mission, don’t do what would be ethically correct, do what helps the company in their mission (especially, when it also helps your own mission). Your boss will agree with this.
Will they help your career?
When someone you don’t like or someone more subordinate, doesn’t know something, be very reproachful.
When someone you like or who might be beneficial for your career doesn’t know something, it’s ok.
Be the professional
Apply these patterns long enough to single persons and they might lose their mind. Tell them that you don’t like their unprofessional behavior.
When someone legitimately accuses you of being unprofessional on a certain topic, be explicitly professional on this topic from now on. Everyone will see the claim is wrong and the accusor is just a mad person (bonus points: be professional to everyone except the one who accused you).
As you can see, it’s very easy to always give a right answer or showing others, why their answers are wrong.
A single person with a certain amount of power might be enough to destroy the fun for everyone else. Don’t expect people who regularly use these patterns to change on their own. When you have to work in such an environment, it might become difficult to not adopt this behavior to yourself and/or you might get extremely demotivated because you can’t do a single thing to their satisfaction. Technology changes very fast and many engineers put a lot of effort into keeping up-to-date while working on becoming a more decent person would last for our whole life, and yet it seems like we spend very little time on it. On the other hand, being a decent person might be very detrimental as it allows people to exploit you more easily.