should I tell my boss I know I’ve been a jerk and I’m getting therapy?

A reader writes:

I found AAM recently, and after reading some of the archives, I realized I often don’t act professionally. I recognized myself in your “brilliant jerk” article. People criticizing me tend to include words like arrogant, condescending, argumentative, blunt, and self-absorbed. Although this problem affects my personal life, I always assumed it didn’t matter at work because you’re there to work, not be friends. From my perspective, I get really worked up whenever I’m trying to explain things to people, and the harder it is to communicate whatever it is, the more frustrated I get. From others’ perspective, I start sounding annoyed with them if they ask questions or don’t understand something immediately.

For example, one time when I was trying to explain a new feature to our team lead, Wakeen, he ended up sarcastically retorting, “I guess my brain’s clearly slow compared to yours, but why don’t you calm down and explain X to me again?”

Several coworkers have also let me know I sound disdainful when talking to another coworker, Fergus. He’s my father’s age and has 16 years of experience in programming to my five, but he codes at a quarter of my pace and creates mediocre results. My coworkers occasionally discuss how the quantity and quality of his work is substandard, but I don’t think anyone has brought it up with management. When he asks me questions I would expect from an intern, I struggle (and typically fail) to keep calm. Sometimes I get so impatient with his difficulty with easy (for me) tasks that I just take over and do it myself. However, none of this excuses my rudeness towards him.

Two weeks ago, I started seeing a psychologist so I could fix my behavior. I really don’t know how to change on my own.

Then, last week, Grandboss told us that our team lead, Wakeen, is being promoted to become our team’s manager. Unlike our previous, hands-off boss, Jane, Wakeen has experienced my “jerk” side firsthand, many times. He and I don’t really get along, mainly because punctuality is very important to him, and I’m the late-to-everything type. At least, he often makes sarcastic jabs about my tardiness. The jabs about me being frustrated with people are much less frequent. My typical reaction to this is to laugh and make additional self-derogatory comments, but one time when he was particularly passive-aggressive, I called him out on it, and we had a “loud discussion” in front of the whole team.

I warned Grandboss privately about Wakeen’s dislike for me and that I thought my lack of punctuality is the reason. Grandboss smiled, said something about “you creative types,” and said if I have trouble with Wakeen, I should come talk to him. That’s somewhat reassuring, but I’m still very worried about this situation. Under Jane, I was very likely to get a promotion this year because I have been receiving attention all the way up to the CEO for my most recent invention. Now that I have Wakeen instead, I don’t know whether he will work with me or against me when it comes to this promotion. (It’s a better title and more money, but otherwise my job stays the same.)

If anyone complained to Jane about me, she never documented it or talked to me about it. They probably didn’t complain, though. On our team, I’m the highest performer and the only woman. My coworkers, including Wakeen, might worry about seeming sexist, especially in our company culture.

My question is, should I tell Wakeen I’m getting counseling for my unprofessional behavior? It seems job-related, but it’s also mental-health-related, and I don’t know whether sharing this will make him think better of me or not. Also, what things can I say and do to get him on my side, or at least out of the zone of active dislike? I’m adding “punctuality” to the list of things I’m working on in counseling, but I’ve struggled with it my entire life, so I doubt the results will be immediate.

First, you’re awesome for recognizing that this is a problem and getting counseling for it! Seriously, so many people never have that realization and, if they do, they often don’t end up seeking help for it.

I don’t know that you need to tell Wakeen that you’re getting counseling, specifically, but I do think it would be both helpful and smart to tell him that you’re aware that your behavior has at times been inappropriate in the past and that you’re actively working on improving in that area.

Wakeen may be dreading what it’s going to be like to manage you, or may be thinking he’s finally going to have the authority to do something about your behavior, and either way, you can probably really disarm him by addressing it before he does, acknowledging it’s a problem that needs to be fixed, and saying that you’ve already begun that process.

You could say something like this to him: “I want to acknowledge something that I know has been a problem in my work in the past. I’ve recently realized that I can be pretty difficult to work with. I know that I often sound annoyed or impatient with people if they’re asking questions or don’t understand something, and I know I can sometimes comes across as condescending or even rude. I’ve come to understand that this isn’t okay to do, and I’m actively working on getting it under control. And while we’re talking about it, I should also mention that I know you’ve expressed concerns about my punctuality in the past, and I’m working on that too. It’s not something that comes easily to me, and I’m definitely someone who thinks the value of punctuality is context-dependent, but I know that I’ve under-valued it in cases where I was wrong. So I’m working on that too, and I just want you to know that it’s on my radar as a place where I need to improve.”

Depending on how this conversation goes, it might also be worth telling him that you hope that the two of you can get a fresh start in your relationship, and that you’re looking forward to working with him. (If this won’t sound genuine, though, it’s okay to skip it.)

But I don’t think you need to mention the therapy specifically. The only exception to that might be if Wakeen seems skeptical and asks specifically how you’re working on it. In that case, you might mention it — but I’d factor in what you know of Wakeen (and how enlightened he seems about mental health stuff, in particular).

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 432 comments… read them below }

  1. Cambridge Comma*

    If Wakeen asks too many questions, you could always describe it as coaching instead of therapy.

    1. orchidsandtea*

      That’s a really good idea. And if you have a list of tactics you’re working on, you may also share specific ones of those. For instance, asking Fergus to email you questions rather than asking in-person, so you have a chance to edit your response before sending. Or setting your “must leave by” alarm early by 15 minutes to account for traffic.

    2. AthenaC*

      Or “checking in with an independent third party to retool my frame of reference.” Or something along those lines that sounds less jargon-y.

      I personally would avoid any mental health-type verbiage. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because you may not want to be one of the sacrificial lambs in changing broad perceptions of these sorts of things.

      1. Uzumaki Naruto*

        I would also avoid it because it may be the kind of situation that doesn’t sound like it’s related to mental health (at least to an outsider without more context). I’m absolutely not questioning the LW’s assertion that this is mental health-related. But I’m concerned that the boss might think: “You’ve been acting like a jerk. That doesn’t sound like a symptom of depression or bipolar disorder or other mental health situations to me. So are you really just trying to make up an excuse for your poor behavior?”

        1. SystemsLady*

          A reasonable person isn’t going to think anything is an excuse if the person saying it is observed improving and apologizes for their past behavior.

          (Not to mention irritability can be found on the symptoms list for just about any common mental illness, and therapists aren’t only there to treat mental illness but also viral thoughts – much like a doctor treats both chronic illness and infection)

          1. Uzumaki Naruto*

            I’m irritable at most of my coworkers every day. I haven’t been rude to one of them yet.

        2. Kali*

          It sounds like ADD to me, but I may be projecting. For me, ADD comes with a massive helping of frustration, impatience, and lateness.

      2. SystemsLady*

        This is a 100% accurate description of what a therapist does, anyway. It’s kind of sad there’s a stigma around that word.

        (And even if it’s something that also needs medication or whatever, if you’re not comfortable sharing that, just don’t. I was fortunate enough to have been previously well-liked on top of being comfortable sharing that stuff)

    3. EddieSherbert*

      I like this suggestion – it’s not incorrect (you ARE getting coached), and it doesn’t draw the same (potential) reactions as “therapy” might.

    4. Not A Morning Person*

      I like that idea and thought of calling it mentoring vs. counseling. Coaching and mentoring sound more professional, although both and counseling can cross over into both personal and professional territories.

    5. OP*

      I really like this idea! If he seems skeptical that I can fix my issues, I might consider mentioning the “coaching” I am receiving. Thanks!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I think so (if he is going to end up as her supervisor). One of my coworkers got fired when her boss retired and a colleague she didn’t get along with was promoted to that position. They were peers for 15 years and argued often, but she was never rude to him; it was really just a personality conflict. He fired her the first time she tried to argue with him once the promotion was in affect (it was a vindictive move because she got along great with everyone else).
      I think it would be smart for OP to apologize and ask Wakeen if they could “start over”.

  2. Morning Glory*

    It can be really difficult to recognize this kind of behavior in yourself – good for you for being self-aware about this! And good luck with everything, I hope it goes well for you.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      Seriously OP, major kudos! I hope you find the help you’re looking for, but even just the self-awareness is a GIANT step in the right direction.

    2. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yes, OP, it’s a really big deal that you had this realization and are working on it. It’s truly not something that everyone does. Plenty of people never realize they have this kind of issue, and others realize it but do nothing about it. Good for you, and good luck!

    3. AMG*

      Yes–I LOVE this post and send you a virtual high-five for seeing this and doing it! Admitting your shortcomings is never fun but you will come out on the other end of this a better friend and much stronger professional. I don’t know you but I am still really proud of you.

    4. Venus Supreme*

      Yes, kudos OP! It’s never easy looking at the ugly parts of your personality. Congrats for the self-analyzing, honesty, and action to make yourself a better person. That’s so freakin’ awesome, and rare to come by. Keep us updated!!

      1. Teclatrans*

        Apparently I cannot control my facial expressions, and was telegraphing “you are sooo stupid, WTF.” At some point I learned that there were complaints that I was completely shutting them down, which amazed me because I was dutifully biting my tongue. Turns out I have *very* expressive eyebrows.

  3. CaliCali*

    I just want to give you kudos for this level of self-awareness (albeit a level likely triggered by the fact that you might experience negative repercussions with a boss that doesn’t stand for the “brilliant jerk” behavior). Most jerks never reach this stage and stay within the “justified arrogance” realm, or use career advancement as justification for their mistreatment of others. I hope your therapy gives you the tools you need to not only become a better coworker, but to have more patience and peace within yourself.

    1. Molly*

      Re: “albeit a level likely triggered by the fact….”

      The OP stated that she came to this realization and started therapy before Wakeen was promoted: “Two weeks ago, I started seeing a psychologist so I could fix my behavior. I really don’t know how to change on my own. Then, last week, Grandboss told us that our team lead, Wakeen, is being promoted to become our team’s manager.”

      H/T to OP, sans caveat!

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Well, then the timing is just really, really unfortunate, because even though it’s sincere, the optics of discussing it now are going to be dreadful.

        1. TL -*

          I’ve definitely had friends had similar realizations (and I have too, though mine were not about how I was treating other people; more about my own stress levels) and I have to say, when I actually saw improvement – most of the time, because my friends are awesome people – I didn’t really care what drove the change, I just cared that my friends were becoming happier in their lives. I imagine the boss will feel the same way; he won’t care, eventually, why she’s no longer difficult to work with, only that she is now easier to work with.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            No question, but I think it’s something that now has to be demonstrated over time, not discussed and promised.

            1. Uzumaki Naruto*

              I think it has to be both. When people at work piss me off, they almost always refuse to acknowledge that they’re doing anything for which they could be faulted. Especially for interpersonal stuff, that itself can be a substantial part of the problem. So by saying, “hey, my bad, I realize this isn’t cool and I’m going to try to change it” — that’s a big first step. But then, yeah, you need to follow up.

          2. NonProfit Nancy*

            Yeah and most of us only learn to change our behavior when we see it’s not getting us the outcomes we want, one way or another. Wakeen may decide he’s happy to work with a high performer who’s willing to work with him, no matter why the change happened.

  4. Banana Sandwich*

    It is an amazing thing when someone recognizes their faults and actively addresses them. Good for you OP!

  5. neverjaunty*

    Good for you for recognizing that you need to stop being a jerk AND taking concrete steps, OP!

    You can also work on the being late to everything pattern with your therapist – being late to everything is a behavior, not a “type”, and a good therapist can help you shift that too.

    1. Dee*

      Amen to both of those. Congrats on doing the hard work of therapy, when it’s a lot easier to just keep doing what you’re doing.

      And being late is one thing when it only affects you, but if you’re late to every meeting, for example, you’re doing a disservice to your coworkers. (It’s possible that I have coworkers who are late to every meeting.)

      Good luck!

    2. CaliCali*

      Definitely agreed. I also think there tends to be a correlation — being late is usually a matter of 1) underestimating the time it takes to get ready to go 2) overestimating your ability to do things within a certain time frame 3) underprioritizing the effects your lateness has on other people. If you’re in therapy to address certain patterns of, for lack of a better term, arrogance, it’ll likely help a lot with 2 and 3.

      1. AMG*

        Yes. For me, it’s perfectionism gone awry. I used to live in this magical world where I could wake up late, be ready and out the door with full hair & makeup and still show up at the same time. I had to really focus on exactly what I could get done and how long it would realistically take, then calculate the time of arrival and he impact of being late. Now that I walk myself through that, I may not have my makeup on and my hair is still damp but I am on time. :)

      2. TreatYoSelf*

        I’m a recovering “chronically tardy” individual (with a side of jerk) and I know it can be done! I tackled my lateness and treated it as a data problem to be solved. I noticed consistent patterns and then implemented new schedule changes to account for it. Honestly, it’s pretty boring, but keeping myself disciplined about when I go to bed, when I wake up, when I leave, when I workout, etc., has really helped. I also view it as a way me to be more efficient and take the edge off of the annoyance some of my other jerk tendencies can cause…

        Good luck!!

        1. Parenthetically*

          I love that you called it boring! Totally my experience as well, a boring but fortunately really simple-to-address problem in my life. I’m still late sometimes (that snooze button is a tempting, tempting siren), but the fixes were, for me, “Tab A into Slot B” levels of straightforward.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely. I’m a “just one last thing” kind of late person, but I’ve found that writing down where I left off on something helped me pick it back up (instead of trying to race to completion and showing up late to the next thing on the agenda).

        When I was in college, my dad had a great piece of advice regarding budgeting time. He said to figure out how much time you thought a task would take, and if it was new to you, multiply the time estimate by 1.6. If the task was something you’d done before, multiply by 1.3. That, plus adding a significant buffer when traveling/walking between things can make a massive difference in punctuality (my grandfather used to always say, “German punctuality means being there 5 minutes early.”—I thought that was overkill, but the older I get, that adage has become more and more accurate).

        1. Hellanon*

          Yeah, my dad would call me and say, “We’ll be over between 6.30 and 6.35,” and pull into my driveway at 6.33. I am generally a shade early to everything only because I find being late really stressful (and only a shade because being really early is equally stressful!)

          1. Pickwick the Dodo*

            oh man, I am a punctual person who is also really stressed out by being early! I will drive around the block (or walk all the way to the top floor and back down again) if I realize I’m going to be the first person somewhere!

            Parties are REALLY awful because if you say it’s from 8-midnight, I will show up at 8! But all my friends are very “the party don’t start til I walk in” types, so I have to judge how well I know the host and if I really want to hang out with just them for a while. But for my good friends, I see it as doing a service by making sure other people they don’t know as well aren’t the first ones.

            Also, I’ve convinced myself that all parties actually start 15-30 minutes later than they actually do.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              OH man, this is my life! I’m always the first person at a party even when I try to be fashionably late. It’s so embarrassing.

              1. PK*

                This happened to me at my first holiday party held at the EVP of my dept’s home at my new job. I arrived a half hour late but was the first person there by 15 mins! I’d only been working a month and met the EVP once before that night. I’m socially awkward by nature so it was like my worst fear come true, but fortunately he is great so it was fine.

                1. Not A Morning Person*

                  And at 30 minutes after, the EVP was probably wondering where everyone was! Unless that’s a cultural expectation for the team and/or your location. For social occasions, at some point in time, late is not fashionable, it’s rude. The trick is in figuring it out!

            2. Jessesgirl72*

              If I had a dime for every time I’ve arrived early, and then sat in my car until others started to show up…

          2. Chameleon*

            I’m a chronically late person, and I really think a big part of that is the stress of being early. I hate being the first one there…

            If there is a host we have to sit around while I worry about how much I’m boring them; if I’m meeting someone I stress about whether they’ll show, did I get the day/ time wrong, am I at the wrong Starbucks, etc.

            I know it’s unreasonable and also that I’m just pushing the stress of waiting onto the other person, but there it is.

        2. Early bird*

          Oh gosh, in my family, punctuality meant being somewhere 30 minutes early. I haven’t broken that habit yet. But I’m always terrified that SOMETHING is going to happen on the way to a place that I’m not anticipating, and that I need to budget in extra time in case that thing happens (that thing happens maybe once out of every 25 trips). But I do recognize that no one wants me someplace early, so I entertain myself by walking around until it’s actually time to be somewhere.

          1. Parenthetically*

            “punctuality meant being somewhere 30 minutes early.” As a person who is absolutely definitely getting things ready right up until the time the get-together is supposed to start, please allow me to insert my howl of anguish.

            1. Marty*

              Most of us who are inclined to show up 15 or more minutes early have no real expectation that everything will be “ready”. In fact, many of us are happy to help set up. When we show up, just say hi, an continue to get things ready, we won’t mind.

              1. fposte*

                It doesn’t matter, though; at that point we’re uninvited guests, and the host doesn’t want us. We can drive around the block and play with our phone if need be, but no early ringing of doorbells.

                1. Adonday Veeah*

                  Another vote for DON’T DO THIS!!! Unless you’re my very best friend, and you’ve seen me before without my makeup and in my bathrobe.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Yes, please don’t! There are some small exceptions for very very close family/friends (I’m talking your bff since you were 12, or your sister who you’re super close with), but even then, it can’t be a normal/regular thing.

                  It’s awful to have someone come before you’re ready to host. Even if they have good intentions, it puts the host in an awkward and awful position that isn’t helpful and is instead stress-amplifying.

                3. Lablizard*

                  I am a 15-30 minutes early person, which is why I always have something to read and a place to hang out or walk near my destination planned in advance. Although it was awkward once when a hiring manager noticed that I walked past his window 5 times before an interview. What can I say? Industrial park, so not all that many walking routes

              2. Ismis*

                I usually err on the side of too early as well but I walk around the block or something before going to the house. I would find it a real imposition if someone arrived 15 minutes before I expected them. It would really stress me out.

              3. Parenthetically*

                I’m in my dressing gown 15-20 minutes beforehand, possibly with my hair wet. IMO it’s a real imposition and inconvenience to show up unannounced, even volunteering to help, unless we’ve arranged beforehand for you to do that.

            2. Ktelzbeth*

              In fact, Early Bird specifically said “I entertain myself. . .until it’s time to actually be somewhere.” It sounds like she recognizes the host may not want her there early.

        3. CrazyEngineerGirl*

          “German punctuality means being there 5 minutes early.”

          Cracking up! We’re not German but my mom always said “If you’re early you’re on time and if you’re on time you’re late.”

          I still hear her voice in my head saying this on a regular basis and I’m in my 30s.

          I think hearing this all the time growing up made me into a chronically-early person. Like so early to places I will drive around in circles so I’m not embarrassed about arriving. Or getting pretty severe anxiety if I’m running late (by which I mean I might get somewhere exactly on time or – gasp – 1 minute late.)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            If it makes you feel better, I’m not German, either ;) (and neither is my grandfather—he studied abroad in Germany and came back with all sorts of mistranslated idioms).

            My parents were chronically late, and it drove me nuts. I became a chronically early person as soon as I was in charge of my own transportation, etc., but as I get older I’ve gotten much worse at being on time. :(

        4. Bryce*

          “That, plus adding a significant buffer when traveling/walking between things can make a massive difference in punctuality”

          My family motto is “get there early, bring a book, embrace patience.” Might need to be adapted a bit for business situations, but hasn’t served us wrong yet.

        1. fposte*

          It can be, but it can also come out of the same impulses as procrastination and messiness. Most people don’t procrastinate to control other people.

        2. Parenthetically*

          There are some folks who use their time management intentionally or unintentionally to control people and circumstances. There are also a lot of people who have executive function disorders/ADHD/whatever and for whom the steps leading up to, “arrive at theater for 7 pm movie with friends” are absolutely not decipherable. I could write out a reverse timeline that puts my butt in a theater seat next to my friends at 6:55; a person with a certain type of EFD absolutely could not do that.

          Anyway, the point is, “late = controlling” is over-universalized.

          1. many bells down*

            Yes, my daughter apparently inherited her father’s complete inability to understand the concept of time. She’s not trying to manipulate anyone, she just has absolutely no idea how long it takes her to do anything. She thinks she spent 5 minutes doing her hair, but it was really 30 and she’s astonished when I point it out.

            And of course I’m chronically early, so this was rather a large source of conflict for a long time.

            1. NonProfit Nancy*

              This is so true, I believe some people really struggle to judge the passage of time when they’re absorbed in a way that others just … don’t experience. Not an excuse – we all have to learn to be timely when it’s going to affect others – but it’s true that the experience varies.

            2. Nolan*

              My father and I are the same way. I’ve become pretty aware of the problem and have figured out ways to control and/or work around it, but he’s still pretty absent-minded most of the time. I call it “time travel” because I’ve lost hours, literally hours, just to random trains of thought that distracted me.

            3. Marty*

              Phone calendars are a lifesaver for this. All you have to do is figure out how long it takes to get ready, and set a reminder for that long before something starts. If not for this, I would never be on time.

            4. OP*

              This is definitely my problem. Unfortunately, setting alarms don’t help me much. I either ignore the alarm or think, “Yes, but I scheduled this alarm 10 minutes early, so I have another 5 minutes.”

              1. Parenthetically*

                It’s absolutely something you can bring up with your therapist! Especially if s/he does any cognitive-behavioral therapy.

          2. not late anymore*

            Yes, but there are always ways to work on that when you know that is the issue. For instance, I can’t track time at all, so I have timers and alarms running. I timed how long it takes me to do regular tasks so that I can get estimates–like until I timed it, I couldn’t tell you if it took me 1 or 10 minutes to walk to the bus. (I usually time something three times to get an average). When there is something I have to do at a specific time, I set timers.

            You might not get perfect, but you can usually improve.

      4. SignalLost*

        I’m very similar to this OP in behaviour, and in my experience, it’s 3. I finally got concrete proof of that when I realized what I’m late for are jobs I’m frustrated with and one person I see socially. Otherwise, I often leave late because I underestimate how long it will take to do something, but I’ve never missed the start of the movie or been late to meet friends (other than traffic reasons, which where I live I have to say are not in my control – there are few alternate routes). So, OP, you may want to examine your punctuality with regards to how you feel about people and events you are late to.

      5. MoinMoin*

        I’ve been having a lot of time management issues with some projects at work lately and this hits the nail on the head. There are other factors out of my control too, but I’d wager they’d be pretty minor if I got those other points in order. Thanks!

      6. LawBee*

        I have to set alarms for everything because I have zero sense of time passing. The timer and alarm functions on my phone are in constant use. So, OP, try alarms!

      7. OP*

        I think the reason all the advice I receive/find on this subject never works for me is that my main trouble is a lack of time-passing sense (as described in other comments). I am also the opposite of ADD, so I have an “inertia” problem — it is very hard for anything such as alarms and so forth to distract me enough to get me to stop whatever I’m doing. Even if I don’t like something, I just can’t seem to stop in the middle of it.

        1. Dana*

          That can be a symptom of inattentive type ADHD actually. It’s not a lack of attention so much as the inability to control where it is directed – if you haven’t been assessed in the past, I would look into it. Emotional instability, temper problems, difficulty switching focus between tasks and perfectionism are all common but less well-known symptoms of ADHD and are especially common in women. I have ADHD myself and was only diagnosed as an adult, everything suddenly made much more sense.

          1. halpful*

            ahh, hyperfocus. me too!

            dexedrine helps me with choice, but makes the hyperfocus worse at times. watching myself ignore and disable alarms is awful. :( I’m trying not to use emotional abuse on myself any more, and figuring out what to replace it with is… frustrating to say the least. But mindfulness and compassion seems the most promising route so far. (plus the obvious stuff like exercise and sleep)

            monday my mind turned into a war zone because I just couldn’t get myself to rest my eyes, even when they were actively hurting. once I was too tired to have feelings, I talked myself through the problem and remembered that I can rest if I’m in a sensory deprivation tank (partly because I paid good money for it), so I booked myself an appointment for the next morning (even though it was the “wrong” day and a bunch of other anxiety-BS). Best decision I’ve made all month. :) I missed the late bus and had to walk partway, but somehow still arrived exactly on time (oh, because I’d intended to be early so I’d not have to rush getting out). :) My brain has been working a lot better since then – I even went to the gym today! :)

          2. OP*

            While I do have perseveration issues, I believe they’re coming from the autistic spectrum bits of my genetics. Three of my four brothers are autistic, and the last brother and I share a lot of traits with people on the spectrum without quite meeting the diagnosis. My problem is not in controlling the direction of my attention, but rather in changing direction, period. That’s why I call it “inertia.” However, once I wrest myself away from something, I can turn to whatever it is I need to be focused on and do that instead, whether it’s boring or not, unlike the descriptions of ADHD that I’ve read. To sum it up, I only have the less-well-known symptoms of ADHD, and in contrast, I have the opposites of all the well-known symptoms.

            Actually, the most commonly-listed symptoms of inattentive ADHD sound 95% like Fergus to me. I think I will read more about ADHD to see if I can understand Fergus a little better.

            1. halpful*

              I’m on the spectrum too – but my inertia problems made more sense when I looked at them from an adhd-hyperfocus perspective (and cleared up a bunch of my misconceptions about adhd). r/TwoXADHD has some good resources in the sidebar iirc. :)

              “once I wrest myself away from something, I can turn to whatever it is I need to be focused on and do that instead”

              even horribly tedious things? maybe that’s where my aspergers ends and adhd begins – I can hack until my fingers cramp up (and then some), but if I’m supposed to write an essay, not only is starting it horrible, every endless second is torture. I would rather watch paint dry.

              the lateness, though – how much is time blindness vs inertia? adhd-style approaches to both may be useful regardless of whether you have adhd. the frustrating part is needing to fix both to get results – my checklist may keep me on track, but that’s moot if I don’t start it by the second alarm. and alarms are an arms race that never ends…

              1. OP*

                I really think it’s time blindness most of the time, but inertia when I am low-energy and in the mornings.

                Yes, I’m good at most really tedious things. I’m nowhere near perfect — I procrastinate about things I consider unimportant, such as mopping the floor, and I made a terrible librarian because I kept giving in to the temptation to read the books instead of shelving them. But part of my social problems at school were that I had zero respect for people who had trouble getting their homework done on time and with high quality, because no matter the subject or the stupidity/busywork of the assignment itself, all it took (for me) was just sitting down and doing it. If I’m tempted to procrastinate, all I have to do is tell myself, “Yes, I want to do Y, but I can’t do that until X is done,” and then I do X, followed by Y.

                Unfortunately, my interpersonal issues aren’t something that I can plan for or block out specific times to work on, so I struggled to work on them until recently. I am already feeling less frustrated by people just from having scheduled counseling sessions to think about.

                1. halpful*

                  hmmm… could your “Yes, I want to do Y, but I can’t do that until X is done,” be used to solve “Yes, but I scheduled this alarm 10 minutes early, so I have another 5 minutes.” ? like, “yes, I want to spend another few minutes on this, but my alarm went off so I’m getting up”? if you promised yourself you’d follow the alarms even if they seem stupid at the time, would you?

                  once I’ve gotten myself physically away from the shiny thing, my checklist gives me a script to blindly follow while my brain takes a few minutes to come unstuck and catch up. :)

                  and if you’re good at simply choosing to do a thing, omg, schedule yourself some meditation sessions. if I was meditating instead of on the internet right now everything would be easier… heck, maybe I’ll walk away right now and try that :)

            2. Candi*

              ASD and AD(H)D aren’t mutually exclusive. A quick Google search suggests it’s not even that unusual to have both. (That has got to be annoying. I feel bad for them; AS by itself is hard enough for me to deal with.) :(

      8. MM*

        For me, I think it’s an ADD thing. I do not have an internal clock at all. Half an hour can feel like five minutes to me. So if I allow myself to, say read one news story before I get out of bed, or check my email before I get in the shower, or answer just one message before I leave to get to the meeting/function/etc., I am risking losing far more time than the thing I was going to do necessarily takes (I’ll get distracted in the middle and do something else, but because of not sensing time passing I see myself as still within the “time block” that the item was going to take in my mind; or the news story will have an interesting link in it, which I’ll click on, and then that’s another ten minutes; etc). Similarly, I tend to struggle with getting to bed at a reasonable time because it’s so easy to just read/watch/write one more thing before bed and before I know it it’s been two hours and I’m going to struggle to get up tomorrow.

        I’ve gotten better at managing this because I understand more how it works, but it’s still a struggle. I live very much in my own mind (I once missed a plane while sitting at the departure gate, where they called me by name several times, because I was absorbed in a book), and that combined with the ADD stuff I described above means I’m constantly at risk of just kind of falling out of the world and making myself late. Thank goodness my current job lets me pretty much set my own schedule.

    3. caryatis*

      I think there was another AAM thread about the chronically late, maybe someone can link? One thing that helped me is being more pessimistic. For example, if everything goes well, I can get up at 7:25 and be at work at 8:00. The reality is, though, that if I got up at 7:25 I would routinely be late, because there’s often something unexpected that comes up, I have to wait for a train, the weather’s bad, or I’m just tired and operating inefficiently. So, to be at work on time reliably, I get up at 6:30. This is how punctual people operate–you always need a margin.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Yeah, I have a friend who’s chronically late. I think it’s just that she always has in mind the best possible scenario. Like, it takes 20 minutes to get to NotMad’s house. In perfect weather, with no traffic, on Sunday. But for her, it takes 20 minutes. Always. So she leaves 20 minutes ahead on a snowy Thursday evening during rush hour, and shows up 30 minutes late.

        1. TL -*

          Yup! I know a couple late people who work like that. Everything is always planned in the perfect circumstance (or, worse, they timed it once and always take that time).

        2. shep*

          I also have a friend like this. Her entire family is like this, and to boot, she is one of those rare late twenty-somethings who still doesn’t drive. I would dread having to pick her up. “Ready in five minutes!” was actually “I’m nowhere near ready and am going to make us both at least forty minutes late.” It was even worse if her family was dropping her off.

          I love her dearly, but aside from us both having crazy-busy schedules now, it does factor into how often we are able to get together; I know I have to pick her up and drop her off, and her lateness is so chronic that I’m not always sure it’s worth the hassle.

        3. Rachael*

          Ha. I have a friend who used to live North of Seattle and used “traffic” as an excuse for lateness everytime. She was always at least half an hour late. Everywhere.

          “Sorry, there was traffic at Northgate”.


          1. SignalLost*

            I have been stuck in traffic on the Ship Canal at 2 am on a Wednesday. There is ALWAYS TRAFFIC.

          2. Candi*

            We lived in Puyallup when I was a teen. For her job and various other reasons, mother often had to go to Seattle.

            Past and current PNW residents might want to get the pillows placed on their desk.

            She somehow got it in her head that Seattle was only 50 minutes away on the freeway. Every time. All the time. So she would always leaved no more than 55 minutes early.

            Anyone who has lived in the area in the past thirty years knows the traffic in and around Seattle is always fugbuck nuts.

            Mother was routinely at least 15 minutes late. But she never learned. Still hasn’t.

        4. many bells down*

          My ex thought that if he had to be somewhere at 8:30, and he left the house at 8:30, he was on time. In Los Angeles. So he’d roll in at 9:30 and still think he was “one time”.

      2. Siberian*

        Just sharing here, in sympathy—not diagnosing: I’ve always struggled with punctuality too—I was rarely more than 10 minutes late but I was rarely on time and pretty much never early, for anything. Then in my late 40s I was diagnosed with ADHD. Adderall was very helpful for all my other symptoms, but my punctuality didn’t really improve all that much. And then I started Wellbutrin for depression/anxiety, and suddenly I was not only on time but even early for things! I’d always done all the things you’re supposed to: overestimated how long each step of a journey/prep would take, gotten up early, prepped ahead, and still been late. So now I do the same things and I can be on time. Realistically, I’m probably less distracted so I stay on task more and don’t do last-minute unrelated things before leaving. But what it felt like was that I didn’t change—the whole world changed around me. My behavior seemed identical but the results were different. First time I was 10 minutes early for my kid’s parent-teacher conference instead of running in from the car late again…I was totally floored.

        1. Simonthegreywarden*

          Anecdotal but similar: Growing up, my dad made Sunday mornings absolute HELL because he would be in a beastly temper trying to herd us out the door to mass on time. Never mind that he would get in the shower fifteen minutes before mass started, still have to put on a suit and tie and slick his hair, etc… we were the family trying to “race the priest down the aisle” and more than once my mom said that if we made it before the homily she considered us on time. When I was 22 I was diagnosed with ADHD, went on medication, went back off medication because I lost insurance, and then again in my 30s I went back on it and holy cow, it is amazing how much more time there is in a day and how much more I can accomplish. I’m off it again right now (pregnant) and I can definitely feel how much harder it is to track time than it is when I can take it. For me, the antidepressants I was on didn’t help, but Adderall taught me how to actually keep track of time.

          1. Michelle*

            My husband used to get up 15 minutes before we had to leave, shower, get dressed, and be completely ready to go on time. And then be irritated and want to know what was taking me so long to get myself and 5 kids dressed and ready to go. By myself. (After starting two hours before he got up.)

        2. MM*

          I have this too! I think depression/anxiety factor into it because deep down, you just don’t want to leave the house; you don’t want to actually do the thing you’re leaving to go do (whether it’s work or social). So you avoid leaving (and preparing for leaving) subconsciously for as long as you can, which means you usually end up being late.

  6. Temperance*

    LW, it’s going to be more important to Wakeen (and the rest of your team) to see the change. It’s great that you’re working on mending your ways, but you also need to show the work. It’s not enough to just say you’re trying to be better, you need to be better.

    I think working on your punctuality would be a good start to show Wakeen that you’re respecting him as your boss and changing for the better.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      I still think that acknowledging your past behavior as “not okay” and telling Wakeen that you’re trying is a great way to get off on the right foot with a new boss who you have a (difficult) history with. I hope it helps Wakeen have a bit more patience as the OP tries to improve as well as the confidence that the OP will be receptive to feedback.

      1. the_scientist*

        Agree with both- paying lip service to change isn’t enough, there has to be action associated with it. I also want to caution OP that it’s entirely possible that Wakeen may have just reached “bitch eating crackers” status with her — I don’t think OP needs to be looking for a new job, or anything, but I think it’s worth keeping in the back of her mind that there’s a long history of poor behaviour here. It also sounds like OP is at BEC status with one or more of her coworkers, which might warrant looking for a fresh start in and of itself.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          1,000%….if I were Wakeen, I would have already reached BEC status with OP a long time ago, and to keep it 100, I would strongly consider finding a way to manage OP out, if nothing were said to me by OP. Even with Alison’s suggested wording, which is great, I would remain very skeptical, because generally speaking most people don’t change. Action and change is what Wakeen and your co-workers need to see IMMEDIATELY!

          Kudos to the OP for recognizing this in herself and I sincerely hope she can make some major changes. I think it will drastically improve the qualify of her life and those around her.

          1. SebbyGrrl*

            Along with Allison’s suggestions and a couple of pointers at the top of the comments if it were me I might also have kid of a 5 point plan:


            1. I think maybe having Fergus email me his questions and me responding there is a good start.
            2. I’m going to use my phone alarm/clock/reminders to work on being more punctual
            3. The first things I am addressing with coach/mentor are
            a b and c

            Sharing this with Waukeen and asking what do you think 2 other important first steps would be?

            This is saying what you are doing, showing you have begun to develop a plan and direct actions and you are asking Waukeen for his insight/expertise/management – shows you really are engaged in change.

            Lastly, ask him to hold you accountable in you one on ones (if you have them) or ask for month email check in.

            You are showing him you respect he is the manager and that you will act to change with his input.

            1. OP*

              I won’t be asking him for his help. This is because I have already read reams of advice on my problems and made zero progress. I am afraid of him giving me more advice that I don’t know how to follow, such as “Think before you speak.” My response to that is, “How the #$%& do you do that??” Hence why I immediately went for the professional help. It is really unfortunate Wakeen got this promotion before I had gotten anywhere with it.

              1. Mb13*

                Op it’s good that you are talking to a professional. But I think you should change your view on not asking him for help. If you actually said that (or conveyed that attitude) you showed that you were an awful employee to work with. By not asking him for help you are pretty much saying “I’m too good for my managers input.” Asking him will not only humble you in his eyes but is also an actual first baby step to showing that you are trying to do better and not just paying lip service.

                1. sstabeler*

                  bear in mind that Wakeen is presumably new to management themselves, and OP has legitimate concerns Wakeen will see it as a purely disciplinary matter- metaphorically, that OP just needs to behave- not the at least partial mental health issue it actually is. It’s not “I’m too good for my manager’s input” as much as “I’m not sure my manager will understand what the problem actually is”- OP probably has a reasonable fear of receiving advice not actually appropriate for the situation, and then Wakeen deciding it means the OP wasn’t serious about changing their behaviour. (the biggest problem is that my read of the situation is that Wakeen believes the problem is that Jane was too hands-off. Remember that Wakeen had actually confronted the OP- and it sounds like they were shouting at each other- which is not particularly likely to be conductive to a good boss/employee relationship. My major concern is that Wakeen will seek to make an example of OP- particularly since there is a personality clash.)

      2. Temperance*

        This might be my own bias showing, but I’ve seen many difficult people in my life claim via words that they wanted to change, and then not put in the real effort to actually change. So for me, I don’t want to hear that you’re trying to change unless you’ve already started changing.

        1. fposte*

          I agree with that in general, but I think the situation here merits a different approach for two reasons: one, people really aren’t good at noticing the diminishment of a bad behavior without cues, and two, this is a new, more power-freighted relationship with somebody that there’s already been friction with. So I think it makes sense to talk to Wakeen now about your commitment to working with him pleasantly rather than hoping he notices that you’ve gotten less abrasive.

          1. SignalLost*

            Plus, I think without the context of explicitly mentioning it, this change could look like “oh, NOW you’re my boss and I have a promotion coming up so I’m going to brownnose you to get it!” Which leaves open the question, if Wakeen sees it that way, as to whether OP will continue her good behaviour after getting promoted or go back to being a jerk. I would definitely explicitly lay out what is going on, to avoid that perception.

            1. fposte*

              And plus there’s demonstrating the ability to participate in some calm yet vulnerable conversation, which it sounds like the OP hasn’t excelled at before.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Honestly, I think “I understand my behavior was inappropriate and I apologize” IS evidence of change. Obviously more needs to follow, but a meaningful apology is a big first step.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Although, after reading other comments, I agree that the timing is bad. “Oh, you’re my supervisor now? Time to pull out a heartfelt apology and promise to do better!”

            1. J.B.*

              Yes, but it may also cool Wakeen’s stress level of the “OMG what am I going to do with the OP” variety and give everyone some breathing room.

            2. Temperance*

              That’s why I’m reacting so strongly. She wants Wakeen on her side now that it will benefit her, but didn’t seem to care much beforehand. Maybe she did, but the timing will absolutely seem hinky to her coworkers, especially Wakeen.

              1. fposte*

                Could be, but I don’t think that’s enough to make inaction and avoidance of the topic preferable. Even if there are two evils, you want to pick the lesser one.

          2. Temperance*

            I don’t see words as evidence of change without actions. I would take her apology at this stage as insincere, since Jane just left and LW is angling for a promotion. It’s really hard to get people to trust you when you’ve treated them badly.

            1. Whats In A Name*

              She has already sought out counseling and is actively working on her behavior; not promising to work on it in the future and definitely not promising the action will work. She is simply acknowledging she has learned she needs to be better at work and is trying to work towards that.

              I don’t think letting him know she is sorry for past behavior and currently working on it makes her dishonest, a kiss ass or a bad person, all of which you seem to think it does.

              1. Temperance*

                I didn’t call her any of those things, just pointed out how I would feel if someone who was difficult and rude to me when she didn’t need a good relationship with me suddenly changed once a better one would benefit her greatly.

            2. fposte*

              I think you’re thinking of this as more of a personal relationship; I don’t think in work the sincerity or insincerity of the apology is hugely relevant at the time of its making, because its job is mostly to be a cue for the manager to look for the new behaviors he’d otherwise not notice. I think there’s a greater chance of the OP’s changes going unnoticed than there is of this kind of communication making things worse, so I would still consider talking to Wakeen to be the better choice.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      It’s true that they need to see the change. But, on the other hand, I know from experience that changing perceptions, once they’re set, is really difficult. And talking with Wakeen about “I know these issues are problematic, and these are some things I’m doing differently” can be a valuable cue to Wakeen that he needs to re-assess his perception of the OP.

      I know this from experience, as I had a boss who had some concerns about me being “too blunt,” “not nice enough,” and so on. So I worked on a few things, but also talked with Boss about “hey, I’m trying this – is this more what you’re looking for?” Partly to get her feedback, and partly so she’d notice what I was doing differently. I hated it, because it felt like sucking up, but it did help.

      Also, OP, one thing that helped me deal with some co-workers I found frustrating was to sit down and spend a little time thinking about them more holistically, if that makes sense. Not just focusing on what they didn’t do well, or what frustrated me about them, but thinking about what they’re good at. Especially what they’re better at than me. It helped me see them as people, who aren’t purposely being dense or annoying, and to acknowledge that they do have skills that have value. For example, one co-worker is just not good with process. He just has a really hard time with it, and he struggles with detail. On the other hand, he’s fabulous at dealing with upset, frustrated clients, and getting them into a more productive frame of mind.

      If you can figure out what Fergus is good at, it might help you be less frustrated about the stuff he’s not as good at. Maybe he’s really good at focusing on tedious tasks, or maybe he’s good at catching errors, or troubleshooting code. Or maybe his code isn’t elegant, but it generally works the first time out and is easy to integrate into a larger project. Or maybe he’s good at documenting his code. If you can find something you can respect about Fergus, it might help.

      Something I read in a document from a group called the Hermoine Granger Leadership Academy that has stuck with and helped me is this: “I will imagine people complexly; idolization and demonization are both forms of dehumanization.”

        1. Mookie*

          Seconded. Very thoughtful, and excellent advice about humanizing Fergus, approaching him as a true colleague would (getting from him what you can and, in turn, giving him what he needs to succeed, too) rather than treating him as an inconvenience.

      1. turquoisecow*

        I had a manager once who told me the key to being a good manager (and he wasn’t the best, but he was better than some others I’ve had) was seeing the strengths of everyone on your team. Yes, that person is super slow at the job, but you need someone who’s willing to do the tedious tasks. Yes, that person likes to argue a lot, but he really knows this aspect of the job. You need to see their weaknesses also, but you need to see both sides of the coin, and how to assign tasks appropriately.

        That viewpoint is easier for a manager, who has a more holistic view of the team, than for a person working in the trenches, but if you can start looking at it with that mindset, and having a little empathy, it will probably help you to feel less annoyed and frustrated with others.

      2. had to google was BEC was*

        I also have a hard time with one “old” IT guy at my company; in fact, when I call the main IT helpline and he answers, I pretend I dialed the wrong number just so I don’t have to deal with him taking an hour to fix something that anyone else in IT can solve in ten minutes. However, I was once moaning to a coworker about this IT guy, and she mentioned that he’s been with my company for over 20 years and is frankly the only person on staff that knows how to fix some of our more “ancient” applications and devices – that most of the IT staff (ages 25-40) has frankly never had to use these outdated technologies, but which we still need occasionally for reference, archival projects, etc. I had never thought about that before! I still don’t enjoy working with him, but at least now I don’t think he should be fired.

      3. SignalLost*

        I got similar feedback about being blunt, did try to change it, was successful in the eyes of others who had a similar concern, did not tell my boss, and got fired anyway partly for bluntness – I think my boss was obviously an enormous tool, but he also clearly did not see the effort I was making, which, again, was recognized by others in different parts of my professional life. I’m in favour if calling out changes you want others to see when you suspect the existing perception is bad.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Has it occurred to you that sometimes, a bridge stays burnt? Your boss wasn’t under any special obligation to give you the benefit of the doubt, and he didn’t fire you only for the bluntness.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I think this is pretty harsh. SignalLost acknowledged that the firing was “partly” for the bluntness, but also states that the changes made were noticed and acknowledged by others. So I don’t see where “benefit of the doubt” comes in here. If the boss thought SignalLost didn’t do enough, then that’s absolutely his decision to make. But still, this comes across as fairly harsh when it doesn’t seem necessary.

            1. Grr*

              I don’t think it’s nearly harsh enough. Signal’s post indicates that he/she still, posting now some time after this event happened, appears to not have learned that in real life one does not get an A for effort.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Whoa, no, I think that’s really unwarranted here. She wrote that she “was successful in the eyes of others who had a similar concern.” There’s nothing here to indicate she’s expecting an A for effort.

              2. SignalLost*

                Among other feedback I got on my improvement, I literally was told by a decorated career Foreign Service diplomat that he wanted me to handle his correspondence because I was better at being diplomatic than him. I wasn’t asking for an A for effort, I MADE AN EFFORT, people noticed it, my boss did not. What the hell?

          2. SignalLost*

            It doesn’t matter whether a bridge stays burnt or not; if as a manager you explicitly provide the feedback that someone needs to change their behaviour, you are in fact at home to having your perception corrected – otherwise you would fire them then. You just may not see the change, depending on circumstances like how often you’re in the office, how often you interact with your employee, etc.

            Perhaps we have different perceptions of what the verb “to manage” means.

            1. fposte*

              But I think both these things can be true. You can fix a bad behavior and still have lost value to your manager because of it. A request for correction doesn’t mean everything before that has to get wiped clean.

              1. SignalLost*

                Well, I also was fired for a thing I categorically did not do, a thing someone else did and said I had done, a thing that isn’t even technically possible, and a creative misunderstanding of how my role works (as your web developer and graphic designer and database administrator, I will in fact be on many different websites most of your employees are not, but if I really wanted to waste time, I wouldn’t do it on Stack Overflow because I would rather have a root canal without anesthetic), and then other people were told other reasons, so I’m not assigning the role of honest operator to that manager. My point is that when a manager states there is a problem, they should be open to change from the employee. Otherwise they should just fire the employee.

                I said nowhere that the slate HAD to be wiped clean. I said in my case that my boss didn’t see the changes other current and former supervisors did at that time. I followed up by saying that he was out of the office a lot and we rarely worked together, with the implication that now, years later, I recognise that it wasn’t enough to quietly change, I needed to be explicit about having done so. I hope that helps the OP to decide what to do about her situation, since it is pretty similar as recounted to AnonEMoose’s anecdote, but they reported and were successful; I did not and was not.

                1. fposte*

                  Ah, I get what you’re saying. And it definitely sounds like you’ve faced some of the same issues as the OP, so it’s really helpful to have you discussing this here.

                2. sstabeler*

                  to be fair, it sounds like your manager was gunning for firing you anyway- that is, that even had you obviously changed, it wouldn’t be enough.

      4. OP*

        You are very on point. The first thing my therapist brought up is that I have a deficit in the area of empathy. We are working on me learning to take other people’s perspectives.

      1. Taylor Swift*

        I agree. I dealt with a Jerk-type once in a personal relationship who went on and on about how much he was changing and how much better his behavior was and he basically wanted excessive praise and gold stars for every time he met bare-minimum standards of decent behavior. That was almost more frustrating than the original behavior. (I’m not saying OP is like this at all, but it’s something to be aware of.)

    3. SystemsLady*


      However, I don’t think there’s any harm in apologizing for past mistakes, mentioning you’re working through it somehow, and reiterating the apology as a closer *on one occasion*, then being sure to apologize every time until the issue is resolved, from personal experience. As long as the instances you have to apologize for consistently go down over time and the person you’ve talked to didn’t keep a grudge (not unlikely, unfortunately), you’ll come to be believed.

  7. Kitkat*

    This is so fascinating. I always wondered what stuff like this looks like from the “jerk’s” perspective! It’s especially interesting to me that the rationale for changing is 100% about it not being professional and there’s no “I realized I have been putting people down and I feel bad about that.” I wonder if that will make it harder or easier to change.

    Best of luck to you OP! I would love an update on this letter:)

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      In my experience, the people who struggle with this type of behavior express a sentiment similar to what we’ve seen here: that the work is all that matters, and they do good – perhaps excellent – work, so the rest of it shouldn’t be relevant. A jerk in my life in fact expressed that they felt it was “unfair” to consider “that other stuff.” [Similarly, this was around a promotion – they truly didn’t understand that it would be impossible to manage people effectively if those people avoided them].

      1. the_scientist*

        I think I’ve written about this before here, but I was similar to this when I was younger- I really thought that as long as I did great quality work, it didn’t matter how arrogant or how much of a know-it-all I was because the quality of my work would speak for itself. Fortunately I did a LOT of growing up and realized that hey, there are a lot of smart people out there in the world and I’m rarely going to be the smartest person in the room, so there’s a lot of good quality work out there. I also realized just how much work in my field depends on interpersonal relationships. As an entry level employee, in particular, AT LEAST 60% (and likely more) of your performance is dependent on your so-called soft skills– being polite, helpful, kind, responsive, honouring promises– those things actually matter in how good your work is and how well you’re able to meet deadlines. Now that I’m involved in hiring decisions and in supervising junior employees, I’ve seen this from the other side. The reality is that in my field, we probably get 50 to 100 applications for every entry level position, so if you’re a jerk, I virtually guarantee that I can find someone else who is just as smart and good at the work as you are, but who’s a lot easier and more pleasant to work with. And guess which one I’m going to hire, and which one I’m going to mentor for leadership opportunities?

        The good news is that contrary to what people might want to believe, soft skills are skills, and can be learned/improved upon. By committing to this improvement, the OP has taken an awesome step in the right direction.

        1. Mb13*

          Somehing I was told by almost all my teachers to have a successful career you need to be professional, be good at your job, and be nice. However, its ok when you are starting out not to have a complete trifecta. It’s ok to have just two. But if you have only one you won’t get far. So far it seems like Op just has good at her job done

      2. MaddieB*

        Yes, those who cannot positively relate to people in general make terrible managers, no matter their “hard” skills.

    2. Temperance*

      I sort of struggle with jerkitude in some ways. I’m like an Erudite, if you’ve read “Divergent”. The problem for me is that I expect everyone to have the same thought processes that I do, and the same intellectual abilities that I do. I don’t consider myself superior, but I can get easily frustrated when other people can’t learn something as quickly, or can’t do something as well, or if they need hand-holding or have a lot of questions.

      (As an example, I’m a hobby couponer and I sometimes sell things on Craigslist. I taught myself couponing by reading blogs, and I just learned Craigslist by using it. My MIL wants to coupon, but she needs to be taught, by a person, and she is the same way with Craigslist. I find that endlessly frustrating.)

      1. MommaTRex*

        I struggle with teaching people how to teach themselves! Or teaching them how to troubleshoot problems that I have not yet seen. It pains me when someone wants explicit instructions on these things, and I always want to add a line “and then look for anything weird and solve any other problems that aren’t listed here.”

    3. MaddieB*

      I think the jerk sees the need to change when their job status is threatened. I hope in this case it’s truly a realization that she has been outright abusive and mean to people. I wish her luck. An attitude change will spill over positively into her personal life. The best brilliant minds are those who are humble.

      1. the gold digger*

        My husband admits he was a jerk when he got to college. Primo is brilliant and he learned how to be cutting, superior, and mocking from his father. But he realized that being a jerk was keeping him from making friends. He decided he did not want to be like his father, who chose being right over being loved, and that he would change. His 51 year old self is ashamed of some of the things that his 16 year old self said about other people.

    4. Observer*

      I think you are being a bit harsh here. The OP clearly realizes that this is a problem in her personal life, and that it’s a problem as a person. She just didn’t realize that who you are as a person is important at work. That’s a useful thing to realize. There are lots of people who are great in personal contexts, but think it’s ok to be “the brilliant jerk” at work, because it’s work.

    5. SignalLost*

      Well, the people you’ve been treating poorly are insufferable idiots anyway, and why should you have to put up with that crap?

      I’m lucky that my jerk tendencies are balanced with good soft skills overall; I’m unlucky in that a) I often am the smartest person in the room; b) I’m often the only SME in the room; c) I have trouble extending my good interpersonal skills to people who cannot understand this thing I am SME about. Like, I can do warm, empathic customer service all day long, but if I’ve just been teaching you about programming loops and you ask a stupid question, that warm empathy goes away. If I’m specifically in a place where I’m expecting dumb questions, it’s easier to not be a jerk.

      Mostly I feel bad about being unkind to other people when they respond to my jerk behaviour by metaphorically showing their bellies too much. To mix the metaphor, that first acts as a sign of weakness and then there’s blood in the water. It’s easier to say “I need to control my behaviour so I don’t destroy this relationship and I don’t like it when people give up in fear of me” than to say “I need to control this behaviour because I shouldn’t treat people badly.” I think there’s a lot going on, in my case, about reacting to overconfidence in non-SMEs and underconfidence in SMEs.

      The funny part is that if you tell people you’re a huge asshole, they don’t ever believe you. No, that’s my accurate self-assessment of my personality.

      1. fposte*

        I’m not sure what you’re hearing is disbelief that it’s true so much as confusion. When people say stuff like that to me, it’s a real head-scratcher–I don’t know what I’m expected to do with this information. Stop the behavior? Forgive the behavior in advance? Maybe you can clue me in–what’s your goal when you say that?

        1. SignalLost*

          It’s a case of presentation, I think, assuming you mean the part about saying “and by the way, I’m a jerk!” It comes off as a joke, and I slant it as a joke, but part of me, the part that doesn’t think it will ever get better about not being a jerk, wants you to know this.

          I’ve been thinking about this since I read the post last night, and I’m aware that for me, there is a divide between intentional and unintentional behaviour. I don’t INTEND to treat (most) dumb-questioners badly; it’s an instinctive reaction. And so far, even when I try giving myself time to have a second reaction – ie, a deliberate pause to pull my response around – it hasn’t worked well, because I’m frustrated.

          I think I’m trying to tell you, in a joking way, that I’m a jerk because I want you to remember that later in a serious way. I don’t know if that makes sense. I feel like it’s easier to warn people than to disappoint them.

          1. fposte*

            But what do you want me to do about it? That’s the part I don’t get. I’m if anything going to be more disappointed by somebody who knows they’re a jerk but doesn’t control the harmful behavior. To me it comes across as seeking points for honesty, but there aren’t honesty points about bad behavior, just mitigation points.

            If you’re going to bring it up, I’d go with the framing Alison suggests for the OP: you’ve struggled with this, you’re trying to be better, and you apologize. If you haven’t and you’re not and you don’t, though, I don’t see any point in raising it. If we treat people poorly, they’re entitled to be disappointed in us, and it’s just an extension of the original problem to try to control that.

            1. fposte*

              BTW, does it help illuminate what I’m saying if you think of somebody saying “Hey, looking forward to working with you. My work is really inaccurate/I drop the ball a lot/I need a lot of handholding”? They can all be truthful and significant statements about that person, but I don’t think that’s an approach that makes the listener any happier about the deficit.

              1. NonProfit Nancy*

                Agree – it makes it worse, because now you know they ADMIT they have this problem and they’re not going to do anything to address it. They’ve basically tried to make it your problem to manage for them?

                1. fposte*

                  There are definitely conversations where such information could have a place–a meeting with a new manager, for instance, who wants to know what the staffer has struggled with. But I don’t see its place in a conversation where it’s not actionable.

            2. Mookie*

              I’m also at a loss as to what the jerk gets out of a pre-emptive warning. It’s just an unwarranted, unprofessional vent before an even bigger one, so now the interlocutor has to deal with two awkward, unproductive, time-wasting conversations, both of which are created by the person who is frustrated at having to repeat themselves or at being inefficient at teaching someone something.

              1. Kateshellybo19*

                Maybe it is simply I am at a loss as to how to manage this but I don’t actively want to hurt you so please look out and don’t trust me.

          2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            “I feel like it’s easier to warn people than to disappoint them.”

            And both are easier than genuinely changing. “It’s just instinctive” is a justification, not reality. So is “and if I try not to, by that time, I’m helplessly in thrall of my frustration.”

            1. fposte*

              There were some good modulations discussed on the yelling at the intern thread from yesterday, in fact; the short one being to walk away if your temper started to exceed its bounds.

        2. LarsTheRealGirl*

          I think in a lot of situations when I’ve personally used this line, it’s at a time to give someone a chance to back out. The context is usually “look, I’m really good at painting teapots – one of the best you’ll find, and if you want this done quickly, efficiently and correctly, you’ll get it, but I’m not the easiest person to work with, so know what you’re getting.”

          I think even when people don’t have the chance to “back out,” it’s still worth noting, so that you’re not surprised by behavior. (And I think “asshole” is really just a shortcut word to “I can be difficult to work with and a lot of people are turned off by my bluntness/dismissiveness, etc”

          I also think there is a spectrum of “brilliant jerk” tendencies, and some of us have controlled the most extreme ones but either haven’t yet mastered/choose not to expend energy into mastering being sweet as pie. Especially as a woman, feedback of the “brilliant jerk” type can come from people just unused to assertive tendencies in a woman. And sometimes it’s hard to gauge where the line of “I’m softening my message because I’m being rude” and “I’m softening my message because this person will be put off by a woman being this direct”.

      2. the gold digger*

        I’m unlucky in that a) I often am the smartest person in the room

        My absolute most favorite thing about my current job (the marketing person for the R&D group of an engineering company) is that I am the stupidest person in the group. It is so much better than being the smartest person!

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          Also note, the person who THINKS they are the smartest person in the room … almost never is.

          1. Djuna*

            This is so true, I thought I was smart in college (20+ years ago) until I made friends with a guy who is (more than likely) the smartest guy in any room he walks into.

            I learned a few things pretty quickly:
            I’m probably not the smartest person in the room, even when he isn’t in the room.
            Being the smartest person in the room is often irrelevant – you need to know how to use those smarts in a way that benefits everyone.
            Everyone is better at something (or many things) than me.

            Sometimes I see people at work proclaiming that they are smarter than their managers (with no understanding of what the manager does all day) or that they could do someone else’s job (again, with no concept of what that job entails) and I want to tell them that they’re in a big building, full of smart, talented people, and all they’re doing is making themselves look like a dumbass. But I don’t think anyone can bring another person to the realization OP had, they have to get there on their own.

            Not everyone meets a bona fide genius at 17, after all.

            Kudos to OP, keep working on it, and when you slip up, own it and apologize. My friend (he’s still my friend) had a hard time as soon as he landed in a job where he was expected to temper his brilliance with things like patience and forbearance. He adapted and thrived, and you can too.

            1. OP*

              I agree that being smart is typically irrelevant, especially in one’s personal life. I learned while still in childhood that there’s no point in telling anyone that you’re smart, gifted, etc. If your intelligence is relevant to someone’s experience of you, they’ll figure it out pretty quick.

              1. Mookie*

                Eh. I agree that announcing one’s brilliance is ridiculous, but many technically smart or book-smart people have no capacity for recognizing a different form of intelligence in others, hence these situations.

              2. NonProfit Nancy*

                Also I really try to avoid the smart/not smart binary. It’s black and white thinking, something I struggle with. We are all good at some things and struggle with others. It is easy to minimize the things that you’re not good at – those things are stupid and “don’t count!” I try to remind myself EVERY DAY that I’m smart in someways and dumb in others – just like … everyone.

          2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Agreed. You might be the smartest in some small, particular way, but thinking you’re the smartest overall is hubris.

          3. Observer*

            But, there really are exceptions to that. My son has been in that position for a lot of his life, and now that he’s an adult he’s trying to get out of the habits that it engendered. He used to dismiss me when I talked to him about this, but it takes a certain amount of maturity and self awareness to accept that kind of criticism. Fortunately, he’s fundamentally a good guy, and he’s smart enough to realize that now that he’s in broader company he’s not going to be the smartest guy in the room as often – and even when he is, he’s still not necessarily going to be the SME or even all that knowledgeable compared to the real SMEs in the room. He also has developed the maturity and sense to realize that this just is not a good way to treat people. But, changing this is a work in progress.

        2. Simonthegreywarden*

          Oh, working with high school/college age kids is a joy. I had a kid write basically this on his reflective essay about how he was happy to finally go to college because he might finally meet someone at his intellectual level. I shook my head, swatted down the remembrance of past me, and in my comment told him that hopefully he will also learn to value the fact that people are intelligent in many different ways and that book-smarts isn’t the only, or even the best, way to measure it.

          1. Niccola M.*

            To be fair, I would imagine that being around other really, really intellectually gifted people his age would be good for him. There’s a fair chance he’ll get wacked on the head with the Humility Stick.

            1. Observer*


              This is one reason why having mixed capacity classrooms can be such a double edged sword, especially if the school doesn’t handle things well. I’ve seen this more than once – the intellectually gifted kid who breezed through all his (or her) classes and then had a huge adjustment when getting into an environment where there were lots of other intellectually gifted folks. In the best cases, these guys learned a lot from the experience, including to understand and value other ways of being smart.

              The Humility stick is not pleasant, but can be hugely educational.

        3. Candi*

          I’ve been the smartest reason in the room -book knowledge wise. I was not the smartest in social or ‘street’ knowledge.

          Plus, it was boring. Being around equally smart or smarter people is much more interesting; there’s a challenge there.

      3. NonProfit Nancy*

        “The people you’ve been treating poorly are insufferable idiots anyway” – hahaha, I hope OP doesn’t come out of therapy still thinking something along these lines, but I know there are people in the world who have this attitude! In a way, it’s just another form of overly-rigid thinking, isn’t it? Someone either is an “idiot” (100% of the time, and deserve to be kicked) or they’re Gifted like OP … but that’s not how it works in Soft Skills land. People have different strengths and weaknesses – everybody, even the OP.

      4. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

        I’m curious–have you ever thought of framing your teaching/coaching/meetings as customer service?

        You try to pull back because you don’t want people to give up in fear–would it help to assume they are the customer, and this is customer service?

        I say this to say that usually subject matter experts (SMEs) are invited because they DO know more (about the item/situation/whatever) than the other people in the meeting–that’s why they are SMEs. If that’s the case, then you are really doing customer service with internal customers–you are updating them with information they don’t know (even if they should) so that they can take actions based on that information.

        It’s really an area to sort of expect dumb questions in relation to your work–start small and scale up in complexity as your audience seems to understand.

        Now if you tell me this is a code review meeting and you’ve got people asking about loops, I’d ask you why that person was in the meeting. :)

    6. OP*

      It’s not that I don’t feel bad about putting people down; it’s just that I feel justified as well. I feel that I need to apologize and so forth, but I also feel I am completely correct to be annoyed, and my pride wins the battle. I think many jerks invent reasons to prioritize our own feelings first and others’ second, if at all. I normally prioritize others first when they are strangers and I have no expectations of them. It’s only when my expectations aren’t met that I turn into a jerk. And that’s unfortunately frequent.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Oh, OP, you are my 25-year-old self. The good news is that therapy can help you readjust what you (shouldn’t) expect from other people. The only person who you can truly change is yourself and your reactions to other people. Therapy will help you learn to reframe those reactions. If you commit to practicing those reactions and learning to extend patience to everyone. Best of luck to you.

      2. Mookie*

        Does it help to remind yourself that you are consistently not meeting your peers’s and your manager’s expectations? I find that self-consciously “brilliant” people have a mean competitive streak when it comes to themselves and achieving perfection. If you’re a jerk, by definition you lack perfection and you’re not doing your job very well. You know?

      3. Wanna-Alp*

        Say there’s a situation where you feel correct to be annoyed, and indeed your feelings are justified. That’s all very fine, you get to feel whatever feelings you want, justified or not.

        The issue comes with what you do with those feelings. Having justified annoyed feelings about someone or their behaviour does not mean that it in any way helps the situation to put them down. They feel awful about it, and you come off as a jerk. Also there is the risk that your perception isn’t the full picture and you’re wrong and it turns out that they were in the right, or had a very good reason for doing whatever-it-was. Then you look even worse.

        If your pride keeps getting involved, then set your pride to a different task: optimizing the result from the situation, with regards to good working professional relationships and constructive effects on future work product. Think of it as taking pride in your reputation amongst your work colleagues. Because in that department, you’ve got some way to go.

        However, you have self-awareness, which is a huge plus in your corner, and you’re trying to tackle the situation. It’s really good you’re doing this.

  8. The IT Manager*

    OP, it’s great that you’re working on this, but I think you still have work to do. Consider these two points when dealing with your new boss.

    #1 – You seem to think that punctuality is not important, and the fact the Wakeen is hung up on it silly. You’re being dismissive and arrogant.

    #2 – You told Grandboss privately about Wakeen’s dislike for you and that you thought your lack of punctuality is the reason. Do you not also think Wakeen might dislike you because you appear to be arrogant, condescending, argumentative, blunt and frequently appear to annoyed at him and others? Frankly someone being late a lot is annoying but someone displaying those other negative traits is someone I am not likely to like – at all.

    1. Julia*

      I don’t think that’s fair. I didn’t read the OP as being dismissive of Wakeen’s preference for punctuality at all, just an explanation that the OP isn’t a very punctual person and that she’s working on it.

      Similarly, I think the OP’s observation of the punctuality issue as the possible reason for the dislike stems from the numbers of comments Wakeen has made about punctuality, compared to the number of comments about the OP’s abrasiveness.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        I’ve seen this debate on this and other blogs, on how big a deal it is to be punctual. Some people think it’s a rather trivial thing to be worried about and that other people should just understand that “that’s how they are” and not take offense. I would guess AAM skews more towards the punctual side.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Not sure if you mean me personally or the commenters as a whole, but if it’s me personally — I think oftentimes a focus on punctuality is misplaced. If someone does great work and the job doesn’t really require being at their desk at 9 on the dot, a good manager won’t make a big deal of them coming in at 9:20 or even 9:30, as long as everything is being done with high quality and coworkers aren’t being inconvenienced. Obviously this is not every situation, but it’s enough of them that it’s always a flag for me when people talk about punctuality. (And I say this as someone who’s highly punctual myself.)

          1. Tableau Wizard*

            I also think there’s a difference between punctuality with arriving to work and with meetings. I don’t particularly care if you get to work late/early/on-time, but I do care if I’m getting a group of 10 people together and you’re late to EVERY meeting.

          2. NonProfit Nancy*

            Ah, sorry, that was actually just lazy shorthand for “the commenters and readers of this blog,” since it seems to skew towards people who value professional norms. I obviously do not know you personally :) And TBH I myself tend to be hard on people who are late to meet with me, especially if they don’t think it’s a big deal. It conveys disrespect even if they’re not intending to send that message.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      #1, But punctuality may not be important for her job. I’ve had bosses who were so unaware of what was going on that they could only judge based on attendance, even for a job that doesn’t require it. Especially if she’s a creative code-writing type.

      #2, The OP said she believed this because Wakeen made more comments about her punctuality than her arrogance.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Punctuality is important for meetings and other professional obligations, though. I couldn’t care less if people arrive at 8 or 8:30, but if you’ve got a 10am meeting with the team, I do expect you to be there and ready to go at 10am.

        1. the_scientist*

          Yeah, I’m not sure why people are getting so hung up on the punctuality thing here. Being punctual doesn’t just mean being at your desk at a certain time in the morning. It also means being on time and prepared for meetings, not waiting until the 11th hour to ask questions about work assignments, and meeting deliverable deadlines.

            1. the_scientist*

              I mean, I think the arrogance and rudeness towards co-workers are ultimately the bigger deal here anyway, but I just find myself getting irritated when people immediately jump in to argue that punctuality is irrelevant and isn’t something a manager should comment on generally, because they ALWAYS seem to focus on arrival time as the only possible measure of punctuality. I admit that chronic lateness is a personal pet peeve of mine, so I’m not without bias here, but there are lots of other things that fall under the umbrella of *punctuality* that are truly disruptive, regardless of whether or not you need to be at work at a particular time.

              1. sunny-dee*

                Especially since, combined with the OP’s other behaviors, a lack of punctuality may easily be interpreted as a sign of arrogance or a lack of care about other people’s time, when in someone else it may not be. (It may also seem like a “safe” way to criticize the OP’s overall behavior because it is objective.)

              2. J.B.*

                True, and when it comes to punctuality to meetings, that can be a method for expressing the arrogance. Highlighting your own importance, disregard for others, etc. So the specifics are relevant. And the patterns are something that OP should think about and should potentially discuss with Wakeen. To be informed as to what to do about it.

                I am not particularly punctual in the mornings because it doesn’t matter for my job. I am punctual to meetings because inconveniencing others does matter. A retired manager at my office (not over my group) made being on time in the morning the be all end all – in my opinion that was his BEC for his employees. I am glad I never worked for him, as it would not have gone well.

              3. SystemsLady*

                For me I would say it’s because I agree that being excessively late to team meetings is a problem, but for reasons other than the standard of being punctual in and of itself. Same for “be there at 7” mattering in doctor’s offices/retail work/etc. but not as much in a cube farm. It’s bad because you’re affecting the work of other people, not because you absolutely need to be to everything on the hour. Not to mention there are cases where it does make sense to let one meeting make you late for another one, as long as everybody is kept informed and you aren’t also a key figure for the entirety of the second meeting (in which case, you definitely have some scheduling problems).

          1. OP*

            I am typically late to one particular meeting that is scheduled at about the same time that I arrive every morning. However, I do call in to this meeting and listen to it over the conference call, so I don’t miss anything. Otherwise, I am on time and prepared for meetings, I meet my deadlines, and I got so impatient with my questions for my work assignments that I took over the job of writing my own work assignments (the project manager okays them, of course).

      2. CaliCali*

        I think it might be a case of fixing on punctuality as a quantifiable symptom of a larger problem. It’s hard to give a metric regarding arrogance or condescension, but you can say “you are perpetually five minutes late to every meeting.”

        Also: It’s like that article that was floating around a while back re: the divorced husband doing the dishes: it wasn’t that the dishes objectively HAD to be in the dishwasher rather than the countertop; it was something that his wife cared about, prioritized, asked her husband to comply with, and he didn’t care that it was a priority to her — which spoke to his entire attitude about the marriage and why it failed.

    3. Adam V*

      To be fair, for Wakeen to be passive-aggressive with a coworker is pretty rude too, especially if he was in line to be their future boss. He’s going to have to curtail that immediately, along with his multiple uses of sarcasm.

      Of course, now that he’s the boss, it can be straightforward – “when I schedule a meeting for X, I need you to arrive by X, not X:05”.

    4. Marisol*

      There is absolutely NOTHING in the OP’s letter to suggest she thinks Wakeen’s concern with punctuality is silly. Here is a direct quote: “I’m adding “punctuality” to the list of things I’m working on in counseling, but I’ve struggled with it my entire life, so I doubt the results will be immediate.” If she’s proactively working on the issue, how is that dismissive?

      Someone who has the self-awareness and humility to own up to their issues, work on them, and be transparent about them to the parties concerned deserves major kudos. I think it’s really out of line to attack the OP as being “dismissive and arrogant.”

      As to your second point, we can surmise from the letter that the OP thinks her overall behavior is a factor in her bad relationship to Wakeen. She focuses on the issue of punctuality because that is where his criticism of her focuses. You are not providing any new insight by regurgitating the very words the OP used to describe her behavior. It seems to me that you’re just kicking the OP when she’s down. This is a really mean comment.

    5. Kathleen Adams*

      I have a problem with punctuality, too – for me, its importance is context-dependent (thank you, Allison, for that nifty phrase). I am almost never late for meetings or other things where people are depending on me, but getting into work on time for no specific reason is, for some reason, just really hard for me. Hard, hard, hard. Naturally punctual people don’t understand this, and I can dimly understand why, but the plain fact is that getting to the office at 8:30 rather than 8:35 it is important to me *only* because it’s important to other people. Such as my current boss.

      But for my current boss, she genuinely considers showing up on time a sign of respect – for her, for one’s workplace and for one’s job. So I try, but it’s a battle each and every morning.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Naturally punctual people don’t understand this

        Because they’re not naturally punctual. It’s a skill, just like being polite and friendly even when you don’t feel like it is a skill.

        1. J.B.*

          Yes and no. It’s a skill, but we’re all starting from different places. Like keeping your desk organized. Some do it and take pride in it. I hate tidying up every day.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Sure. But it means you don’t get to say some people are naturally punctual and therefore it’s not work for them, just like you don’t get to say some people are naturally pianists. Some people pick it up more easily than others, but everyone has to pick it up.

            And why does this matter? Because it means no one gets to use the excuse of “it’s simply impossible for me to be punctual; some people are born that way but I wasn’t.” Not that Kathleen is saying that, but I’ve known others with that attitude.

            1. Marisol*

              The piano comparison really doesn’t hold up. Lots of people discontinue piano lessons when they realize they have no aptitude for it, and while some people no doubt do judge this decision as a character flaw, others recognize that there is merit in honestly assessing your gifts and inclinations and working with your strengths.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                You’re right, the piano isn’t a great analogy. Playing the piano is optional and, if you want to have a job or see a doctor or graduate from school or not annoy half the people you know, being punctual generally isn’t. So most people don’t have the option honestly assess themselves, decide it is not one of their gifts, and discontinue it.

                1. Marisol*

                  Yeah, but to an extent, they do have that option. There are all kinds of lifestyle and job choices. There are all kinds of professions where precise punctuality is not important. For example, I had more than one professor in college who would begin class late, and they still had tenure.

              2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                Well, if literally everyone had to play the piano to be successful in their personal and professional lives, you bet I’d know “Chopsticks.”

            2. Kathleen Adams*

              It is true that some people do have the “You can’t expect me to show up on time!” attitude. And it’s also true that *I’m* not saying that. Thanks for differentiating, Rusty. :-)

        2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          This. I don’t show up on time automatically. I plan the logistics of every appointment and destination.

          1. Observer*

            As others have noted, this is easier for some people than for others. Also, for some people this way of doing things is foreign. So, they not only need to learn how to do this, they need to change the way they approach things altogether.

        3. fposte*

          Yes, but it’s not a skill that comes with the same ease to everybody; that’s what sometimes gets overlooked. My version of that is tidiness–it hits me square in my likely ADD brain and takes a huge amount of mental energy to keep up. That doesn’t mean it’s not a reasonable expectation for me, but it means I have to approach it differently than people who’ve polished that skill and it has a higher cost.

          1. SystemsLady*

            My definitely ADD brain has problems with this, especially since the medication to treat it has to come with food in the morning.

            I have strategies to get places on time, but they generally only end up working if I know for a fact I definitely need to be somewhere “or else”. Short of adding something like Strattera, it may take a very, very long time for me to hack a strategy that works. Until then, I’ll stay a little late or skip part of my lunch whenever I’m late.

          2. Wanna-Alp*

            I have ADHD too and it’s not that I can’t be on time for things, but it requires a huge amount of mental energy to do so and the cost is very high for me; I wouldn’t suit a job where I absolutely had to be on time. I don’t think this is widely understood; it gets dismissed as needing a bit more effort, or just learning a skill. Keeping track of time within my brain (which is where things go wrong, my brain loses where time has progressed to) is down to its neurological features, it is not a skill!

            I think it would help OP to sift through the punctuality issue and figure out how much of it is biological and how much of it is lack of skill, and how much disregard for the timetables of others. Could be any combination, but understanding the problem may be more helpful in reaching a solution.

          3. Kateshellybo19*

            There are also issues of culture you were raised in. My grandfather grew up in South America and that combined with my mother’s ADD meant my raising was less than punctual.

            I was literally taught that being punctual all the time was neither possible nor something to strive for. We are not talking 5 or 10 minutes late either. My mother was often anywhere from 1 to 6 (yes 6) hours late, depending on how much priority she gave the event. My father literally had to give her the wrong time to almost everything (event starts at 6? Tell P it starts at 4). She was usually able to make it to work only 30 minutes or so late but it was hard for her.

            As an adult I had to relearn everything I had ever known about timeliness. Luckily it comes rather easily to me, my poor sister is still struggling.

        4. Kathleen Adams*

          Yes, it’s a skill, but like most skills, it comes easier to some that to others.

          And it does *not* come easily to me. On the other hand, I’m very good at “polite and friendly.” That doesn’t normally take very much effort.

        5. Marisol*

          Baloney. People have different kinds of brains, and different natural orientations to the way they manage time. Being polite and friendly when you don’t feel like it is a skill, but it definitely comes more naturally to some people than others. People are different, period.

    6. MaddieB*

      Nail on head. I also picked up on the “he doesn’t like me because I’m late” attempt to influence the boss versus coming clean about the core behavior.

    7. animaniactoo*

      But…. OP isn’t claiming to be all changed and better yet. They’re talking about the fact they have work to do and have barely started (as evidenced by “two weeks ago”).

      You made some valid other points that are worth taking a step back and thinking about in interactions with Wakeen, but imo you came across pretty condescending to the OP here yourself.

  9. memoryisram*

    +1 to Alison!

    I have found it best to address these sorts of behavior issues head on. As they say, “Know Thyself.”
    For example…
    I am also an “always late” type. It started to really become an issue and my boss really, really appreciated that I was up front with him about it. I said something to the effect of “I know we’re flexible but I’ve gotten the impression that I’ve taken advantage of it lately – I am working really hard to improve, and it might not be perfect, but I promise it will at least be better.” The trick is to actually improve!

  10. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    So you’re rude and unprofessional with colleagues, including the one recently promoted to be your boss, you have “loud conversations” (read: confrontations with yelling) with said boss, you’re late to everything, and when superiors call you out on either major performance issue, your reaction is to make self-deprecating jokes. And I suspect, given your repeated mentions of your high performance here, you’re not at all restrained reminding everyone else of whatever performance differential might exist between you and the rest of the team.

    And now, you’re expecting your colleagues, who you’ve disrespected for years, to get on your side now that you’re turning over a new leaf and getting counseling….when this personal epiphany happens to coincide with the timing decisions regarding your pay and title by some of those very colleagues. We’ll not impugn your motives here, but the optics are pretty bad.

    Good on you for realizing this is a problem, but don’t expect anybody to stop actively disliking you, let alone be on your side, until you have a good couple of years of basically flawless professionalism under your belt – with or without a promotion.

    1. Adam V*

      Note that if OP’s lack of punctuality was a “major performance issue”, Jane never said so to OP. Even Grandboss skipped an opportunity to say “yes, punctuality is quite important”.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          It could be that Wakeen does consider punctuality important. Or it could be that the OP just irritates Wakeen, and the punctuality is the thing he’s focused on, because it’s easy to quantify/define. I don’t know that it really matters, because in his mind, that seems to be a big chunk of the issue.

          On the other hand, if the OP addresses the punctuality issue, that might at least reduce whatever hostility Wakeen feels (please note, I’m in no way saying Wakeen’s hostility isn’t justified – just that reducing it would be a good idea if that can be done) and help open the door to repairing their working relationship.

        2. Adam V*

          And now that those priorities are different, she’s working on it. But I don’t judge her for *not* changing when she was never told by anyone that it was important that she do so.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            That’s fair. I think her abrasive/condescending treatment of colleagues is really the main issue anyway.

            1. Adam V*

              Note that Jane never said anything to her about *that* either.

              I give OP a lot of credit for realizing she was in a bad situation that’s largely due to her own actions and attitudes, and for looking for a way to improve herself.

              1. Adam V*

                (The more I think about this, the more I think Jane may have been, not just a “hands-off” manager, but one who actively avoided conflict and didn’t want to rock OP’s boat by saying “hey, I’ve had a few complaints about your tardiness and attitudes, please show up to meetings on time and find a way to stay calm when explaining things to your coworkers”.)

                1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                  That’s kind of the impression I get too. I’ve been in a lot of workplaces where the brilliant jerk gets treated with kid gloves.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        Yeah, the truth is that punctuality CAN BE a bit of a bugaboo for some people, whether or not the focus is merited. If OP is doing a coding job that does not have set hours, it may honestly not matter whether they arrive promptly at work by 9AM – but for many people, this can be a “pet peeve” that they read a LOT into, perhaps more than warranted. (Of course if you are making others wait for you and/or missing deadlines, that is actually a performance issue). Point is, if she knows it’s A Thing for Wakeen she will have to work on it either way.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Like I said above, even coders and creatives have meetings, appointments, and so on. It’s not a pet peeve to get annoyed when someone is perpetually barging into every meeting five minutes late and unprepared.

          1. the_scientist*

            ….and delaying the meeting even further because they didn’t review the materials in advance/can’t find them in their inbox/didn’t test the virtual meeting software ahead of time, etc.


            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*


              Seriously, there was one time my group had literally had to set up and run a virtual meeting for another team lead’s report because she hadn’t tested it or done any setup before a hundred people in six time zones called on.

                1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                  Yeah, used to be an academic, now am an environmental consultant – which is kind of the flower-smoocher equivalent of clinician. :D

            2. Lora*

              Ha, I read it the other way: Wakeen is fussed about punctuality because he’s in Bitch Eating Crackers mode and can’t complain about OP’s work, but doesn’t know how to manage the creatives.

              Have had a few bosses who got promoted due to tenure rather than intellectual property generation – the IP rainmakers were sort of given a lab to run loose in, while a few generic Managers Of Stuff were tasked with attempting to corral them and keep them focused on marketable things. To someone whose previous experience is managing a factory or a retail or service industry, attempting to wrangle scientists and design engineers was like asking a truck driver to break a mustang for dressage riding. Technically you are making a thing go in a direction by means of the human who directs it…but totally different in so many ways it’s not even funny. The Managers were able to point to the rainmakers’ crazy work hours happening any old time, their lack of dress code, their overly technical language, their stereotypical communication styles, their PowerPoint slide decks being full of graphs and light on text. “It’s all out of control! We need to be disciplined about how we do things! Everyone needs to follow this standard of work I’ve just made up! We need to consider our internal customers! Let’s have a Kaizen!” And the creatives just looked at them quizzically like, why are you pestering me with this nonsense? and went back to their usual mode.

              I may have encountered this a time or two…

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      That’s a little harsh. And you did impugn her motives. Which is something that discourages letter writers from writing in.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        No, I said the optics were bad. I believe she’s genuinely working to treat her coworkers better, but I think that’s got to be showed, not told, particularly when telling Wakeen this now is likely to be perceived as currying favor for a promotion.

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          I take your point. OP should be aware that Wakeen, especially if he already dislikes her, may view her change of heart as disingenuous due to the convenient timing.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            One possibility: why not phrase it as a simple apology, not just to Wakeen but to the others she’s been short with, like her older colleague? “Fergus, I have realized lately that my manner and treatment of you has been abrasive and condescending. I can’t undo that, but I wanted to say that I’m sorry, and that I regret how I’ve made you feel.”

            Then back it up with action.

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                Yeah, it’s just really, really hard to escape that perception given the timing, whether it’s valid or not.

            1. fposte*

              I wouldn’t get into how anybody felt; I’d just focus on the behavior and the plan to change in future. But otherwise I like that approach.

            2. Valancy*

              Agreed, I think if the OP is serious about changing their behaviour, an apology to the person they’ve actually been a jerk to is essential.

    3. Temperance*

      I had the same thoughts, which is why I felt so strongly that LW needs to show the change in behavior rather than just talk about going to therapy to fix it.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I originally was going to refrain from responding, but this comment is 20000% accurate.

      I get that you’re trying to do better and that you started therapy one week before this new management change but…

      Nothing is ever going to change the perception that you changed your tune once money and a title change were at stake. This is double for the people you regularly disrespected and burned bridges. There are only so many times people are going to give you the benefit of the doubt before an ironclad perception of you sets in.

      The best advice I can give you is to continue therapy and either miss out on the raise and title change or find a new job with a fresh start. Most importantly, resist the urge to find fault with the people who understandably are hesitant to change their view if you, including Wakeen. It’s not their fault and there are some things you can’t ever apologize for. The onus is on you. No one else.

      1. OP*

        Yes, I agree that it’s unfortunate timing. I also agree the onus is on me, or else I would have quit reading AAM in disgust the umpteenth time I read about how managers should handle “jerks” like me. Or, I suppose I could have made up some excuse as to why I was nothing like those other people who acted extremely similarly to me. When I realized that Alison would fire me if I worked for her because there’s no way I’d be able to correct my behavior even if my livelihood depended on it (because I don’t know how), that was the kick in my butt.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      even a few years might not be enough. I was a lot more brash and outspoken in my younger days and I still find people who remember me that way. It’s really hard to get a fresh start sometimes. But I think most people appreciate the effort to change. I’ve known people with serious tempers who started almost visibly taking deep breaths and calming down, and I definitely appreciated it.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Yeah, sometimes, a burnt bridge stays burnt. I’ve done it a few times, and regret them all.

      2. the_scientist*

        I don’t necessarily think OP needs to race for the exit, or anything, though. It is entirely possible that Wakeen is not at BEC stage with OP yet, or that he is willing to give her a chance to improve her behaviour because he recognizes the value of her technical skills. For all we know, his first act as manager might be to have a “come to Jesus” discussion with the OP! So, I don’t think OP needs to bail right this second, but it’s definitely possible that she’ll need to change jobs to free herself of her reputation and get a fresh start- better to start moving forward in good faith, make a genuine effort to improve, and then re-evaluate in a few months. Plus as someone else pointed out, you want to have made some improvements before starting a new gig, or you’ll just be repeating the same mistakes.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      And I suspect, given your repeated mentions of your high performance here, you’re not at all restrained reminding everyone else of whatever performance differential might exist between you and the rest of the team.

      I think that’s unfair. The OP provided it as context to flesh out her letter, but I wouldn’t assume she’s saying that to her coworkers.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Completely fair, and mea culpa. I went out on a limb there, and that was not fair. My point should have been restrained to the optics of doing all this as promotions came up.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I assumed she made some reference to it based on Wakeen’s sarcastic response to her about his brain being slower. It might not have been as evident in her response to Fergus (taking over and doing the work herself) but I wondered.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Eh, you can definitely tell from tone and body language what someone thinks of you sometimes. He easily could have gotten that impression without her saying it.

        2. OP*

          His comment came from the way in which I was explaining Feature X at the time. Because Feature X is brand-new intellectual property, it was difficult to explain; I couldn’t point to some competitor’s product and say, “It’s like that.” The more I tried to explain it, the more confused Wakeen got, and therefore the more frustrated I became with my inability to explain it. That frustration led to me saying (shouting?) things like, “No, not like Y! Like Z! With A and B! It’s really very simple and user-friendly!”

          1. halpful*

            Last time I found myself heading in that direction, I grabbed a whiteboard and started writing and drawing things. It helped a lot more than I was expecting. :) (but then, I also had ~5 years of practice in cbt/mindfulness/etc to draw on)

            the problem of turning a concept represented in my brain into the right squiggles to program someone else’s brain with the same (or close-enough) concept can be fascinating when I’m not too busy being frustrated by it ;)

      3. Adam V*

        Right, I was going to point that out too. A lot of times you like to say things along the lines of “if you’re a high performer, the company will jump through some extra hoops that they wouldn’t do if you were average”, so I just took it to mean that she wanted *you* to know she was a high performer so she didn’t get a response saying “I’d look for a new job post-haste, you’re likely an average employee and you don’t get along well with your new boss”.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Yeah, I stand totally corrected on that, I was out of line jumping to that conclusion.

    7. Dan*

      Yeah… I work with a lot of highly educated people in software engineering and data analytics, and abrasiveness tends to come with the territory. In my younger days, I was very much that abrasive person that people would complain about.

      The problem with abrasiveness is that when you are difficult to work with, people are going to limit their contact with you. And when that happens, you’re sunk, and also, your “awesome technical skills” don’t get the visibility that they should.

      I can also say that “nobody is that good”. Upthread, people talked about how good managers know the strengths (and weaknesses) of the people on their team. That’s very true. I bring necessarily skills to my team, and people who don’t recognize that do themselves a disservice. Their work is simply not as good as they think it is without having any sort of peer review. I know people who write excellent code but simply cannot deliver the business value they need to, without help, because they don’t understand the nuances of the domain we work in. (All I’m saying here is that the smart people need to ask for feedback. We all do.)

      Currently, there’s a person who I was asked to work with who I found EXTREMELY abrasive. I told my boss that I have never had more difficulty working with someone in my life, and if I have a choice in the matter, it’s not going to happen. You’re screwed when people avoid working with you.

      1. OP*

        I’m glad for your post. This is exactly what I figured my problem was going to be.

        I’m betting the guys I sit next to (not Fergus) are better coders than me. For example, one of them does test driven development, which I don’t understand how to do. They also have many more technical challenges to deal with than I do, in their part of the project, so they have to spend much more of their time dealing with roadblocks that simply don’t exist for me. This is the biggest reason why, on paper, I am “faster” and accomplish “more,” and am therefore the highest performer.

  11. MissGirl*

    Definitely talk to your boss so they can see the changes. I worked really hard to change some behavior of mine at work, however, when I had a review after several months this behavior was mentioned. I asked for some examples and my boss cited things that had happened more than a year ago. Sometimes once you get labeled with something, people don’t update their view of you. If they know you’re working on it, they may be more able to appreciate the changes and forgive your relapses.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      It is SO hard to have people in your life overcome their initial impressions of you. It’s really quite difficult even if you hardly EVER slip. They will always notice incidences that support their impression and few people register the absence of a behavior. Which, to be fair, is why Alison recommends explicitly telling Wakeen that OP is actively working to change.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        This. It’s called “confirmation bias,” and it’s really hard to overcome, because few people can see that bias operating – it’s such an unconscious thing.

  12. JMegan*

    Chiming in with the “good for you for identifying and working to address the issues.” I hope it goes really well for you, and I’d love to get an update when you have one!

  13. LSP*

    Right up until you mentioned you’re a woman, I couldn’t help but think this could have been written by my husband. He’s also a programmer and has a lot of the same personality conflicts that you do. A lot of it I attribute to his ADHD, which makes it difficult for him to remain patient when someone is just not getting what he is saying. He gets frustrated with himself, and it often comes across as being frustrated with other people. He is getting some practice in patience with our 3 year old son, but due to a bad experience in the past, doesn’t think much of therapy in general.

    I sincerely hope therapy helps you, OP, and that your working relationships improve as a result. I also hope you will update us with your progress.

    1. Marisol*

      I have adhd and I was going to mention that I have seen this type of thing in myself and in others, namely my father, and ironically my psychiatrist who also has adhd. According to my shrink, the “jerk” manifestation is more commonly, but not exclusively, male. I think it’s frustration plus impulsivity that causes the outbursts (a neurotypical person could probably reign their impulse in, despite feeling frustrated). Add being a high performer, which is also frequently the case with people with adhd as their unique brain styles afford them flashes of insight that inform and enhance job performance, and you have a recipe for a “brilliant jerk.”

  14. ExceptionToTheRule*

    OP, I have been you in the past & I currently work with you. Congrats on the self-realization and working to get help. I’m not going to soft-sell my comment here, though. It’s a very, very long row to hoe to rebuild your reputation. It’ll take a couple of years, depending on your company’s turnover rate before you’re not that arrogant jerk anymore. Just remember that nobody owes you an immediate reconsideration of how they feel about your past behavior.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      TBH, I wonder if it would be easier for OP to start fresh in a new environment – especially if they see that their efforts to change are not likely to be well received by Wakeen. OP has valuable skills so it may be a good time to start thinking of how to leverage those into a new opportunity, sorry to say.

      1. Kyrielle*

        That may be the case – but OP? If you decide to go this route, I’d recommend waiting until you feel like you’re getting a handle on the issues from therapy. If you move to another job to let go of the reputation, you want to be reliably in-control enough to not build the same reputation there.

  15. Grits McGee*

    As someone who has had to nom on some major humble pie at work, good on you for recognizing that 1) these behaviors are not cool and 2) they will probably prevent you from reaching your goals at work. Based on my own experience, the best thing you can do is to (briefly) say your piece and then sit back and listen to Wakeen has to say. Maybe he’ll be skeptical, maybe he’ll be receptive, maybe he’ll be condescending, but this’ll be your first chance to practice working on your work attitude and demonstrate to Wakeen and your colleagues that you’re willing to change.

  16. 123456789101112 do do do*

    Cynical Me wants people (Grandboss, other coworkers) to know that you are taking steps to work on your issues even before Wakeen becomes your manager. Cynical Me thinks that Wakeen will take credit for any improvements to your personality and punctuality as proof of his excellent management style.

    1. MaddieB*

      Wakeen is not the bad guy here. And LW is showing a desire to shape up because someone she has verbally abused is now partially in control of her professional destiny. So Wakeen is part of the reason she must improve.

      1. Tau*

        As far as I can see, Wakeen taking credit would actually be a good thing, seeing as that would involve him publicly acknowledging and telling others that OP has in fact changed!

    2. Temperance*

      I’m wondering, though, if Wakeen’s promotion is the impetus for the behavior change. I think Wakeen should get credit if he’s able to work with LW after what sounds like a truly difficult relationship for years.

      1. animaniactoo*

        I don’t think so given that OP started seeing a therapist two weeks ago and Wakeen got promoted last week.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes — and actually the OP sent me a version of this letter from before Wakeen’s promotion was announced, wondering if she should talk with her previous boss about it. So it’s genuinely not triggered by his promotion.

    3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Cynical You may want to consider that if OP is concerned with ensuring that Wakeen only gets the credit he’s due and not a bit more, that might throw a little shade on the sincerity of her determination not to be a jerk.

    4. MK*

      I don’t know about “excellent”, but I think it won’t be all that unfair if Wakeen’s management is credited with the positive change. It sounds to me that at least one of the factors motiving the OP’s decision to actively work on changing is that she knows Wakeen won’t be the hands-off manager that Jane was. Cynical Me wonders if the OP would be rushing to therapy if she was assured that her behavior would continue to be without consequences for a little while longer.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think this would come off very badly—it would make OP look like she’s an opportunist who’s “talking the talk” but who has not had an actual change of heart or realization that her prior behavior is absolutely unacceptable and toxic. It would make OP look manipulative/scheming, not mature and sincere.

      And whether Wakeen gets credit for any improvement OP makes in her professional demeanor/style is wholly irrelevant.

    6. Marisol*

      I’m similarly cynical in that I want the OP to maintain her connection to Grandboss to circumvent any plans Wakeen might have to thwart her efforts to get ahead. I don’t think it really matters whether or not Wakeen gets credit for her behavioral shift, however. Not only is that a tad absurd to think that only he would get recognition for that, but I don’t think the company is all that concerned with her behavior in the first place or Grandboss wouldn’t have said, “you creative types” when she tried to address her concerns. They get results from her I think; and that’s apparently all they care about. But yes, I do think keeping Grandboss in the loop would be smart.

  17. MaddieB*

    The vast majority of verbally abusive arrogant jerks are not self-aware enough to realize their bad behavior so kudos to you! I think it’s healthy to keep in mind that ANYONE can be replaced, even the top performer. I would politely address it without mentioning the therapy. Remember, there are things others know that you do not (including how to get along with others) so cut them some slack on not picking up on things immediately. And being on time shows you respect other people’s time and schedule. Chronic lateness is another form of arrogance. Good luck.

    1. MommaTRex*

      Chronic lateness is not always another form of arrogance. Some of us are just really poor planners. We mean well, but we don’t know how to do it right. Many of us tend to be optimists and forget that we need to plan ahead for the worst-case scenarios instead of the best-case or even average-case scenarios. Painting everyone who is chronically late as arrogant is not very conducive to promoting a change in someone. It gives no concrete or helpful advice. It only insults and might miss the mark.

      1. Tau*

        Yeah, I have executive function issues that cause issues with time, among others, and comments like that make me grit my teeth. Trust me, this isn’t fun, and if I could be more punctual I would!

        (FWIW, I do do my best to minimise the effect on others, but being on time frequently requires great expenditures of energy I can’t afford every day, mental trickery that stops working if I try it too often, me to be ludicrously early instead in a way that isn’t always feasible, or similar. Thankfully, I’m in a job where we have a flexible start time; since I like to be in early, the only one who knows that I’m consistently 5-10 and often 30+ minutes late with respect to the time I aimed for is me.)

      2. MaddieB*

        It is in this case. Running late with meetings is one thing. Showing up to late each day to work is a form of arrogance projecting a “I don’t care enough about this job yo get there on time”. Get up earlier, start planning earlier and get there on time. If most everyone else can do it, so can the late birds.

        1. MommaTRex*

          Except for those of who have a real problem. It’s kind of telling an ADHD person, “Just concentrate harder!” Which has the opposite effect on brains and makes things worse. “Just do it!” gives no help on HOW to do it.

          1. MommaTRex*

            “Which has the opposite effect on OUR brains (aka ADHD brains)…”
            I know I shouldn’t try to correct all my typos, but this one seemed confusing without.

        2. OP*

          It’s not very nice of you to decide that I and everyone else who shows up late to work is doing it because we are arrogant and don’t care enough about our jobs to get there on time. Let’s take a different example. On our team, everyone but me spends some time on Facebook during the work day. I could decide that being on Facebook is a form of arrogance projecting “I don’t care enough about this job not to goof off.” But, that would be unfair to them because they put in long hours and get their jobs done, so they clearly do care about their jobs. It’s additionally an incorrect assessment of their motives. And, finally, it’s none of my business, because I’m not their manager.

          In my case, Wakeen gets upset that I typically physically arrive in our room 5-10 minutes into our first meeting of the day. However, we don’t have a fixed start time so there’s no such thing as “late to work” here, and I call in to the meeting while driving/walking, so I am not actually late to the meeting, either. It simply frustrates him that I am incapable of just leaving 5-10 minutes earlier or something so that I will not have to call in. It also frustrates me, because I have spent my whole life being justbarelyontime or 2 minutes late to things and getting into trouble for it, and after half a lifetime of trying to fix it, I still haven’t even made a dent in the problem. So, clearly, the reason I’m late all the time is sheer incompetence. I could (and often do) wake up 5 hours before going to work, and I would still arrive 5 minutes after that meeting starts, because there’s always some (usually stupid) reason not to leave at the time I plan to leave. I am hoping that with professional help, I can root out whatever is causing me to be so incompetent at this.

          1. Wanna-Alp*

            It’s biological. I have it too and get exactly what you’re saying, it’s the same for me.

            Two suggestions:

            1) Listen to some of Russell Barkley’s lectures (search on YouTube), especially this one that talks about “time blindness”: Even if you don’t have some form of ADD (and I would be astonished, because so much of what you’ve said reminds me of it), it still might be useful to you. The information he gives is useful for adults too, not just children.

            2) One thing that has helped me is to use a mobile app that tells me the time out loud every 10 mins. It is a tool to keep track of time so that I can be aware of time passing, doing what my brain will not. It is very useful to keep me running not-late in the mornings.

          2. halpful*

            I think I just figured something out! …hope I can remember it long enough to write it. :P

            see, my brain also does the thing where the alarm is disregarded and “doesn’t count”, and it also does a thing that sounds like some of your frustration trouble, like “I feel X therefore I should get to do Y”. it’s rationalizing. rationalizing its way into really bad ideas, like “I’m angry at that person, so I should get to stay on the internet past midnight” – they’re not rooted in logic, but they sound logic-y enough to trick me when I kinda want the thing… and even when I don’t, if they can hijack my ability to choose (how’s that happening exactly? must investigate more)

            most of that happens subconsciously, and all I see is the end result. but I’ve been seeing more glimpses behind the scenes lately… and now I’m starting to be aware that it’s tricking me. awareness is only half the battle, though… the other part is something to do with how it *feels*. it tricks me by making it *feel* right, by getting my emotions on its side, so that I don’t really want to fight it, my heart isn’t in it. changing that… CBT is a tool for changing that. reminding myself that it’s a trick, and using mindfulness and compassion (and how they boost my dexedrine’s effectiveness) to sit with the feelings while choosing to disobey that lying voice and do the smart thing instead. it’ll fail a lot at first, but if it works the same way other things have in the past, it’ll slowly tilt the balance in my favour. :)

  18. Josie Prescott*

    I’d one one more thought. You can’t reform everything over night. You’ll need to pick a couple things to start with, with your therapist’s guidance, and focus on those. Unfortunately, people tend not to notice the things you aren’t doing wrong anymore, only the annoying behaviors that continue. To compensate, you’ll want to pass on to Wakeen the specific behaviors you’re focusing on first. If he can see that you are improving on those specific things – maybe you’re still late for work all the time, but you’ve been on time to 9 of 10 group meetings this month – he’ll start to build faith that you will eventually change more things.

    I’ll also give a book recommendation – Just Listen by Mark Goulston. One of the things I’ve learned through the school of hard knocks (and as a woman in a male dominated organization) is that being “right” and getting what you want are often mutually exclusive. Mark does a great job of helping you understand what other people are thinking and feeling, so that you can align your goals with theirs and get the end result you want. You’re probably thinking it’s corny, as I did at first. I’m a very direct, analytical person with little time for soft skills and I get something useful, actionable, each time I reread it.

    1. MaddieB*

      Some good advice but why should any manager put up with chronic lateness or hostility towards the rest of the team? I don’t think baby steps are indicated here. I think OP needs to be committed to a major attitude reformation and jump right in. Otherwise no matter how brilliant she is she may find herself justifiably in the unemployment line. It’s not that difficult to be on time.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Retraining yourself takes time. OP has had a lifetime to internalize those behaviors and will be fighting their own ingrained behavioral impulses. If she tries to do it all too quickly, she’ll fail at it all. In particular, OP is going to need to see some particular success quickly enough to help motivate her to continue as the ongoing slog remains hard to keep working on. Whatever OP works on first should be something that has an immediate and visible impact, but focusing on only a few things to start is absolutely the way to go.

        If you were picking up a skill like learning a language or cooking, would you attempt to tackle several languages at once or advanced recipes, or work on the basics of just one language, just a few basic recipes with not a lot of skill needed? What OP is doing is equivalent to that.

        In the meantime, the manager and other employees will likely to choose to put up with it because the quality of OPs work has been such that they haven’t been fired for it yet. Knowing that OP is working on it will likely earn them enough goodwill to put up with it for awhile longer even if the impulse is to cut the problem child immediately.

    2. Chalupa Batman*

      Good advice! While I see what MaddieB is saying here, these things do take time, and focusing on the things that actively impact your job first and spreading out can make the process easier for everyone. As you become more self aware, OP, don’t be afraid to acknowledge your bad behavior in the moment. If you catch yourself being condescending or using annoyed tone/wording, it’s ok to back up and say, “Wow, that didn’t come out like I meant it at all. Can I back up and rephrase?” You’re going to slip up, but you don’t have to commit to the jerkiness once it’s said.

    3. Taylor Swift*

      Well, of course people are going to be more aware of bad behaviors that continue instead of bad behaviors that stop. You don’t get a pat on the back for just not behaving badly. I do hope that OP’s coworkers notice an improvement and are pleased by it, but I don’t think it’s out of line for them to think, “Ok, great, you’ve improved your punctuality, now let’s move on to the arrogance [or whatever].”

  19. Katie the Fed*

    OP – I’ve managed someone like you. It exhausted me. I would have been thrilled to bits if she had acknowledged it.

    I think it might also help at lot to enlist Wakeen’s help. You can say something like “I’m working on these specific behaviors because I know they’ve been an issue, but I will also welcome any feedback from you with anything you’re concerned about. It helps me learn to be more sensitive to how other people perceive my actions.”

    Good luck. I’d be interested in an update on specifically how you address this and how well it works. My impression with people like you is that you’re really just focused on the work output and think other people are generally impediments, so it’s not coming from a bad place, just a different place.

    1. fposte*

      I really like that. One of the reasons this kind of behavior is a problem is that it positions you as unaccepting of input from other people; this statement makes it clear you realize that listening to other people is part of the job.

    2. Emac*

      I was going to suggest this. I wish we could up vote posts!

      I wonder, too, if giving Wakeen some examples of the behavior the OP is talking about and asking for his feedback on any other things that she should watch out for/talk to her therapist about (without mentioning the therapist).

    3. OP*

      I really like your suggestion about how to ask for Wakeen’s help. I am worried he will tell me to do something that I’m not (yet) capable of, though. And I’m also worried about doing this before I’ve gotten a handle on my defensiveness.

  20. Master Bean Counter*

    OP, I’m going to ask that you keep one thing in mind. While Wakeen may not have been a programmer up to your standards, being a manager is a whole different skill set. So give him a blank slate in your mind as well.
    Also you get my sympathy as well. I’ve been the arrogant know-it-all in the past. It’s hard to get past that. I’ve had to do it to be able to claim equal footing with my peers, or to even get noticed my management. Thankfully not every work place requires that. But the adjustment is hard. I’m glad you are getting help with it.

  21. F.*

    Just to throw this out there, OP, but do you think the fact that you are the only female on your team might have something to do with your behavior? Do you feel you need to be better than the males (and remind them that you are a top performer) in order to be perceived as an equal? I’m not in your industry, but am a female working as support staff in a predominately male industry, and I have seen this type of behavior in female professionals in our industry. Feel free to ignore this if I am off base here, but it might be something to address in your therapy. Major kudos to you for recognizing the need to make these changes in your life.

    1. Observer*

      The OP says that this happens in her personal life as well. Also, the things she describes (lateness, her impatience with and rudeness to Fergus) don’t really add up in your scenario.

  22. Amy H.*

    OP, I’d like to suggest that you do a Google search for “gifted adults” to see a list of common traits of gifted and talented people. Shortness and irritability with coworkers who are not pulling their weight is definitely a trait of gifted individuals. Given the description of your abilities, I strongly suspect that you are gifted and were maybe even in a gifted or advanced program in school. But giftedness doesn’t go away once we get out of school, and workplace problems are very common. Marylou Kelly Streznewski has a great book called “Gifted Grownups: The Mixed Blessings of Extraordinary Potential,” which I recommend to every gifted adult I know. As a psychotherapist who specializes in helping gifted adults, I know that your therapist would be happy to have this additional knowledge in order to help you navigate these issues.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      This may be helpful, but I’d also encourage OP not to invest a lot in her self-perception as “gifted.” I speak from experience here – I find it’s much more useful as you make your way in the world, to think of everybody as having a variety of strengths and weaknesses, including yourself, and put most of your focus into improving your own weaknesses, without comparing yourself to much to others. There are some good comments about the potential value of slower workers like that coworker the OP doesn’t respect – that person likely has skills that you don’t. It likely won’t help you realize them if you have assigned them into the “not gifted” category.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Ha, I just did a google search for “gifted adults” and it was pretty entertaining. But not in a good way.

    3. Taylor Swift*

      Hmm. This seems like a rebranding of problematic behaviors to me. There are lots of talented and gifted people out there who don’t have these issues.

    4. Amy H.*

      Actually, there is a difference between being highly intelligent and being gifted. The official definition of gifted includes these very quirky traits. Gifted is less about the level of intelligence and more about how their brain works differently – because of that, it can actually be very helpful for a highly gifted individual to understand this about themselves. They think differently. The best example I can give is Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.

      Most people don’t actually like the label “gifted,” because it implies special or elite, and it’s not that at all. It is simply different. I have had much more success in the workplace once I understood that my brain processes information differently from my coworkers. Self-knowledge is rarely a bad thing.

      1. fposte*

        At least in the U.S., there’s no official definition of giftedness. There are different research theories and different educational and school definitions, and some have a lot of overlap, but there’s no unanimity.

    5. Anon Accountant*

      Actually my dad is this way. He’s highly intelligent (IQ falls just a few points short of genius range), learns very quickly and performs well, attended a prestigious college on a full scholarship but doesn’t work well with others who aren’t performing as well.

      The best solution he found on a recommendation from several mental health professionals was to work in an independent role. He excels and his employer is happy. And coworkers don’t have a ton of conflicts with him. Win/win all around

    6. OP*

      Yes, I was in a gifted program at school. What it taught me was that I was inherently better than everyone else and that I didn’t need to worry about self-improvement because I was already the smartest student that my school had ever had, by a lot, and there wasn’t any higher for me to go on the perfection scale. They taught me that other kids were jealous of me all the time, rather than potentially correct in being offended by my assessment of them as lesser than me. I have had to work hard my entire adult life to learn humility and respect for other people because they did such a “good” job of “building my self-esteem” in that program, and they completely forgot to inform me that I did not, in fact, have a Get Out Of Trouble Free card with my IQ printed on it. I was the snottiest brat you ever met, but everyone just shrugged and said, “Well, geniuses are like that.” I have come a long way from that point, but I still have just as long to go ahead of me.

      My brother is also gifted, although he is additionally on the autistic spectrum. They decided the way to solve his issues with turning work in on time was to force teachers to accept his work no matter how late it was. Now he has just failed his first semester at college because he never turned in work on time. Yet another “win” for the program!

      The thing is, as evidenced by your comment, it’s really easy to tell when a person is gifted. There’s no need to point it out, or have a parade, or wrap oneself in self-congratulations. All that does is teach a person that they are correct and worthy of all the praise all the time, regardless of what they actually do and say. It teaches them to think that a person’s worth comes from inherent qualities that cannot be changed, that were decided by the gods or by genetics. And if you believe that everything good about you comes from something inherent, you will probably also believe that your flaws are also immutable, or maybe even necessary downsides to being a genius. From there, one might conclude that it’s clearly up to everyone else to just put up with this fated, destined state of being — in fact, people should even expect it, and if they complain, the genius has every right to feel offended by their complaint. Any book that pairs genius with any particular flaws, even if it is trying to address those flaws a bit, is just adding to the problem, by increasing our expectations that gifted people are naturally flawed.

      In short, the real cause of these flaws is that gifted children are often spoiled, and spoiled children usually grow up to be jerks. /End rant.

      1. Liz*

        I suffered the same fate as your brother – everyone at high school just accepted late work and nagged me to get work in with no penalty and so I failed my first attempt at uni. I am currently a maths phd student. Keep trying. Reframing people’s motives and reframing self talk does help (it did for me). It just takes time.

  23. MadGrad*

    Re: lateness, lots of people here are debating the importance of your being on time and why you’re getting more comments on that. I wonder if it’s not less of tardiness being more problematic and more of being the last straw. If I had a coworker who was arrogant and critical of others around them all the time (why are you examining Fergus so closely, you don’t even manage him?) but also had an obvious glaring fault of their own that they didn’t seem to acknowledge, that fault is going become a sticking point. It might not be the tardiness, it might the perceived hypocrisy.

    As others have said, great job on recognizing your faults and working on them. Keep in mind, you might have poisoned this well too much to get this promotion for a while. If you don’t get it, don’t give up on therapy. It will be better for you and your coworkers in the long run, and will pay off eventually.

    1. animaniactoo*

      In particular, lateness may be called out more because it is concrete and factual, not possible to argue with as a “perception” or “took it that way” kind of thing. Whereas the other behaviors are harder to defend as “absolutely that thing and yes it is that and nothing else and not justifiable”.

    2. OP*

      Thank you for making this point. I never thought about it that way. That gives me a reason to think Wakeen’s interest in my punctuality was more reasonable than I thought.

      By the way, I am critical of Fergus because he and I are both working on the same code, I am in charge of the design of this code (and he has to follow my design), and I’m de facto in charge of splitting our tasks between us. It’s impossible not to notice the things that bother me because they are in my face all the time, and because he’s forced by the needs of his job to ask me questions very frequently (which I doubt he enjoys doing, considering my response).

  24. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    Another thought for OP: yes, you’re a top performer at the technical aspects of your job. You get recognition, deservedly, for that. But don’t forget that being able to communicate effectively with your team and leadership, contributing to a respectful and supportive workplace environment, and generally being easy to work with and manage is a valid and important consideration of workplace performance. If you’re alienating colleagues, getting into shouting matches with them, and late to meetings and events, you’re NOT a top performer.

    And in my experience, it’s easier to replace technical expertise than it is to find someone who’s easy and pleasant to work with.

  25. Argh!*

    Until the mention of coding I thought this could be from someone I have supervised. This person told me about therapy and I was unimpressed. Self-involved people love to have someone listen only to them for an hour and also love to tell people about all of their virtuous actions. That was this person’s main problem, so I just nodded and let it go. Results are what matter.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I disagree. A coworker who’s a jerk can really derail team performance and cohesion.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think Argh! was meaning that being a jerk didn’t matter; I think the point was that she wanted to see the change from the therapy, not hear about the therapy.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Oh. Yeah, that makes sense. Disregard if I misinterpreted, Argh!.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      That’s really an unkind thing to say. We don’t know that this person is self-involved or what’s driving the behavior.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        It still may be useful to OP to know this perception exists. Others have said, accurately, that Wakeen is unlikely to be impressed until he see ACTIONS resulting from this change.

      2. MommaTRex*

        It also somewhat implies that people who go to therapy are doing it only because they like to talk about themselves. Which seems untrue for a significant number of people.

        1. Grr*

          No, it implies that someone who is self-involved would go to therapy because they like to talk about themselves. Please don’t be purposefully obtuse, it doesn’t help.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Hey, talking to a fellow commenter that way is not okay here. Please take a look at the commenting guidelines before you comment further. Thank you.

          2. MommaTRex*

            I apologize if my comment was blunt, dull, or stupid. I didn’t mean it on purpose.

            It also seems that my comment might have been confusing or misleading. Either way, I do see your point – Argh! was specifically speaking of someone they already knew to be self-involved.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              No no—Alison and fposte were responding to “Grrr.” Your comment was fine, MommaTRex!

              1. MommaTRex*


                But I should probably apologize for my last comment, as I was being abstrusely snarky about my wondering if Grr really meant “obtuse” or “abstruse”. And it’s not appropriate to complain about grammar in the comments. I know better than that. So that was bad, and if I could’ve deleted it two seconds later, I would have. I won’t do that again. Sorry.
                *hangs head in shame for annoying and abstruse grammar comment*

                1. MommaTRex*

                  Although, maybe Grr really did mean “obtuse”…which would be a little more off-putting to call someone.

                  P.S. I was sincere in that I did now understand Argh!’s point – and that they already knew the person was self-involved – and I am sorry if I derailed it all. And now I will stop because I’m running on too much…

    3. Anonaconda*

      You’re getting a lot of negative feedback on this comment, but I tend to agree with its message, which is that it’s unnecessary and may even be ineffective for OP to tell Wakeen about therapy specifically. There are some personality types who rarely benefit from therapy, because they’re manipulative, or seek out therapists who don’t challenge them. Not saying OP is one of them, but just the fact that someone is “in therapy” does not guarantee results. It would be better for OP to tell Wakeen she is working on herself in vague terms and then prove it with her actions.

    4. OP*

      Luckily, I am not quite so self-involved as that. :) I will keep the optics of this in mind if I’m ever tempted to over-share about my counseling sessions to other people.

  26. Cassandra*

    There’s a rather good first-hand account of change from another recovering jerk programmer at

    Money quote: “Being kind is fundamentally about taking responsibility for your impact on the people around you. It requires you be mindful of their feelings and considerate of the way your presence affects them.”

    As several folks have already said, it’s possible that you have damaged your workplace reputation beyond repair. (When I was in your shoes, I had.) It’s still worth doing what you’re doing, though, because if you have to leave, what you learn will be how you keep your reputation intact at your next job.

    Good luck. This variety of change is hard to pull together, but for many people it IS achievable.

  27. Cyril Figgis*

    I used to be very, very similar when I was younger. I’m not perfect now, but I’ve made progress. After being in my technical career for about 20 years, here are a few observations:

    1) Acknowledging your problem is huge. Good for you. A few years ago, you probably didn’t recognize that you had a problem. Always keep in mind that you may have other problems that you have yet to identify.

    2) Find someone to give you frank feedback. Ideally, this would be your manager. You need to know if your perceived changes are actually showing.

    3) Almost any team of more than 3-4 people will have someone that is noticeably less proficient than the rest. Learning to deal professionally with this person will help you in the long run.

    4) Punctuality doesn’t seem important now, but it really is. Having a team with a similar schedule allows for far better communication. If you show up hours after everyone else does, it has a noticeable impact.

    5) Technical skills are not everything. Unless you’re always able to complete the entire project on your own (doubtful for most programming projects), working with a team is also important. Management and coworkers will grow to resent you if your technical skills are the only reason you’re kept around. This will really hurt your chances for promotion.

    6) Five years of programming experience won’t seem like much in another 5-10 years. I promise that you will look back at some of your old code or architectural decisions and cringe.

    7) Find at least one social-skills mentor or role model. This doesn’t have to be a formal relationship; just find someone that you respect. Ideally, it will be someone older than you that has a similar rockstar background. It can be very useful to run things by them. “Bob’s idea/email/comment sounds crazy/mean/stupid to me. Can you give me a second opinion?” Or, “I know this email is going to be controversial. Can you read it before I send it?”

    8) I know that working with someone that seems to be a technical dinosaur (Fergus) can be frustrating. A good social exercise is to find something that you can learn from him. For example, Fergus may not be a great programmer, but he may have insight on your company’s internal organization or how your company sits in the industry.

    9) Silence is often a wonderful strategy. When I was younger, I would immediately say or email what came into my head. Waiting allows you to review your thoughts and calm down.

    10) Try to emotionally detach yourself from your work. Becoming emotionally attached to the project is often what turned me into a jerk. It’s probably not helping your personal life either. If you’re upset at work, it’s harder to calm down at home.

  28. Cucumberzucchini*

    Hey OP,

    I have struggled with some similar tendencies in my early career that did me a lot of damage. It’s a hard habit to break. One of the techniques I came up with to help change my mindset and to stop myself from getting frustrated was to first be glad that people didn’t always understand the work I did, because that if everyone could do what I do, I wouldn’t be in demand. That being unusually good at my work meant I had a bright future, it wasn’t something to get frustrated over when others weren’t on the same level, it was something to be glad for. That probably sounds a little rude and still condescending but internally thinking that helped a lot to calm me down. Because before I would get frustrated that people didn’t get *THE OBVIOUS THINGS* or the things that were obvious to me.

    The next step of changing my mindset was to try to put myself in the other persons’s shoes. I’m not a subject matter expert in plumbing or brain surgery or whatever. So if a brain surgeon was trying to explain a procedure to me and he started getting frustrated with me for not understanding that would make me extremely upset as his patient. And yet I was doing the exact same thing to other people.

    I also am wired to prefer to get to the work and would like to nix all pleasantries as they are somewhat artificial and cause delays in busy busy days. However that was causing me serious perception problems so instead I started thinking of those niceties as part of an ongoing sales pitch of myself. So, I try to think about constantly (but not overbearingly) selling “myself”. By putting a sales spin on it, it has made it easier to remain calm and be more pleasant/less inadvertently rude. I’m not saying be inauthentic or perform a constant used car pitch, but that sales pitch label has been helpful for me just for setting a mental tone.

    Hope you don’t mind the stream of consciousness. It took me a long time to realize I had issues and I’ve gotten a lot better over the years and wanted to share some things that have been helpful for me. Good for you on getting help and recognizing the issues :)

    1. J.B.*

      Also, off the wall, can you make any allies? I jump several steps ahead technically and can slow down to explain, but still go to fast. I do struggle to lay out expectations for someone who doesn’t skip those steps and knowing when to follow up with them. Someone else on my team has been a great translator in really patiently going through processes over and over again. It can also lead to better documentation – especially if you start from stream of consciousness and then get help to add detail.

  29. caseykay68*

    I just want to say your suggested language is so thoughtful here, some great options on how to have what might be a difficult discussion and really make it self aware.

    And to the OP I also agree that its great that you are realizing this and working on it. I think the counseling will be great. Also something to think about is looking/reading information about adult learning. Everyone has a different way of processing information. It doesnt make it bad or good, but a good communicator will consider some other options that might work for someone where your initial attempt at explaining a feature/product/etc. is not coming through.

  30. animaniactoo*

    OP, as someone who did significant work in therapy to change how I was interacting with other people (Because why didn’t the world get me? Why where they so focused on all those other things when I was focused on this thing?), a few thoughts based on my experience. I’m bullet pointing these rather than numbering them, because I don’t think that any is particularly more important than another.

    • Expect that you will backslide. More than once. This does not mean you should give up or are incapable of it when it happens. It means that a) you need to learn how to handle it in that situation too, and b) you need to pick up and move forward with trying harder again.

    • Not all therapists or kinds of therapy are created equal. Therapy is a super vulnerable place to be. You need to be able to be as open and honest with your therapist as you are with yourself. If you’re trying to impress the therapist or make them like you, you’re not getting the work done that you need to and you’re shortchanging yourself. If you’re feeling judgment coming from your therapist and you’re uncomfortable, you should first address that with your therapist and if you don’t see improvement (both in them and you) then you should look at switching therapists.

    • There will be people in your life who will resist your changes, because even if they are net positive, change is uncomfortable for some people and all they will see is that you are not acting according to their expectation of who you are – or their perception of “right”. Bring that back to the therapist as well for hashing out how to deal with when it happens.

    • Learn to apologize immediately for the things where you’re aware of the problem. Not self-deprecating (although it’s okay to do that sometimes – but try to do it a lot less while you’re working on fixing the rest of your stuff). Straight up ownership. “I’m sorry. I’m not frustrated with you, I’m frustrated with myself because I can’t figure out how to explain this to you.” Even if that’s a conversation that you have to have an hour later after you’ve calmed down some. “I’m sorry that I was so short with you earlier. I’m working on figuring out how to pull out of a loop when I can’t explain myself well and I didn’t manage to do it there.” “Yes, I have a tendency to talk like a know-it-all. I’m sorry that I did it just now/with you/earlier.”

    • As you change your approach, you will influence and likely change the response you receive back. The better results you get, the more reinforced it will be that this response works better and it will become the automatic thing that you reach for. So it is very hard upfront, but does get easier as you go along.

    • If you try something different and it doesn’t work, it may not be that the different thing will never work – just that it didn’t work with that particular person/in that particular situation. Figuring that out will be part of the work. Because while you will influence them, other people will almost never act “according to script”. They have their other own outside influencers, strong spots and flaws and those will play into their responses just as much as your approach does. Learning to read some of those and take note of them will help you greatly in tailoring your approach to the individual and let you be even better at the interaction thing.

    • Be patient with people. They’ve had a long time to form their impression of you, and it’s going to take awhile for them to see enough change to be able to feel they can rely on it sticking around.

    Best of luck to you, it’s really awesome that you’ve both recognized the issues you’re having and have acted to work on them.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I like your point that self-deprecating apologies and excuses backfire. They seem unserious and defensive.

      1. Althea*

        I don’t think I understand the distinction. Saying things like, “Yes, I have a tendency to talk like a know-it-all. I’m sorry that I did it just now/with you/earlier” is self-deprecation. You are being critical of yourself – that’s the definition. Am I missing something?

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          OP mentioned that she responds to comments about her lateness with self-deprecating jokes and laughter. “HAHA yeah I’m my own time zone!” “Haha yeah my universe is ten minutes behind yours!” doesn’t sound serious or genuinely apologetic.

        2. animaniactoo*

          Self-deprecating is often acknowledgement with a side dose of dismissiveness of the seriousness of it.

          Being self-deprecating is a subset of being critical of yourself, but there are other ways to acknowledge a flaw and be critical that are not self-deprecating.

          “Yeah, I’m really bad at that know-it-all thing. My mom never managed to make me stop.” or “Dammit, one of these days I really have to learn that “concise” thing!” (one of my frequent statements) is self-deprecating. But it doesn’t show ownership in the same way. It doesn’t show a commitment to change and/or an acknowledgment that it was wrong for somebody else to have to deal with. Where as “I’m sorry, I overexplained this and made it longer than it should have been” would.

    2. Taylor Swift*

      These are all excellent pieces of advice! They seem pretty applicable to most kinds of problems, too.

    3. OP*

      I really appreciate your advice. The immediate apologies are going to be the hardest thing for me, I think. Just thinking about apologizing makes me cringe. I have a ways to go.

  31. K. A.*

    Don’t mention therapy. Once said it cannot be unsaid. I’ve seen this sort of thing come back to haunt people.

      1. Serin*

        I cannot get over the number of people who will hear you say that you’re an introvert and then argue with you!

        I’ve never actually gotten any negative career consequences — and lord knows I want everyone involved in my career to know that I’m an introvert, so that they never ever even think of suggesting that I move into a more sales-oriented role — but I’ve been amazed at the number of times people have reacted to “I’m an introvert” as if it were “I’m stupid” or “I’m ugly.”

        This is a derail. Sorry. The rest of the comments are about things I find interesting, while this particular comment is about things I live every day.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Seriously. I’ve gotten this, too, to an extent. “But you don’t seem like an introvert…!” (So, how does an introvert “seem”?) It’s not that I’m especially awkward or don’t enjoy gatherings. It’s that I need to make sure I have time to recharge and soak up some quiet afterwards.

            1. vanBOOM*

              Yeah, I don’t want to derail the general discussion away from the OP’s issue much more than this, but I will say that you’ve exactly nailed why I feel cautious about using the “i word” at work.

              It seems that even the busiest of managers who overall don’t tend to remember much about you personally *always* remember that you’ve said you’re an introvert. Thankfully, nothing observably bad has ever come of it, but sometimes I wonder how that knowledge may indirectly impact people (i.e., “We have a Director position open! Fergus does great work and would be perfect were it not for his crippling fear of people and social situations!”)

            2. Brogrammer*

              I think it comes down to a fundamental lack of understanding of what an introvert actually is. People who are unfamiliar with the concept usually assume introvert = social anxiety, poor social skills, and/or disliking people. This doesn’t only come in the form of introverts being misunderstood like you and Serin (and me, for that matter). It cuts the other way too; I know someone who didn’t realize until she was in her thirties that she wasn’t an introvert at all, she was an extrovert with social anxiety.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I have a different perspective on this, and possibly because I’m in a leadership role, but I’m very open to mentioning that I saw a therapist in the past to help me work through some stuff. I want to be part of the solution of de-stigmatizing it (and the anxiety I was dealing with) and I’ve found that a lot of people have been to therapists too and feel more comfortable if I mention it.

      1. the_scientist*

        This is awesome (and kudos to you for doing it!) but I think it’s real know-your-workplace thing. I’m predicting this will change as more Gen Y-ers/Millenials take on upper-level leadership roles because there’s been a real cultural shift in the way therapy and mental health are discussed, but there are still a lot of old-school workplaces where “going to therapy means you’re weak/unstable” is the prevailing attitude.

      2. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I do this with my people as well. I’m open about it. I’m open about my anxiety issues. When I started medication for my anxiety problems & talked to a couple of people about how I didn’t know what the side effects would be, I learned that upwards 30% of the staff is dealing with anxiety in some way or another. It can be very common in highly creative fields.

  32. vanBOOM*

    I think all of us wish more people would come to a genuine realization of a problem and start taking steps to fix it. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt here, OP, because I know sometimes shifts in workplace characteristics do have a way of sparking genuine change. Nonetheless, it would be good to consider whether Wakeen’s approval of your plan would inadvertently lessen your motivation for change. I hope it doesn’t.

    I can somewhat sympathize with your struggle as well. I don’t have a reputation of being difficult to work with–and given that many of my co-workers genuinely mean well, I don’t have a problem when they aren’t grasping something quickly and need prolonged assistance from me. Nonetheless, my workplace environment is generally hostile (management is intimidated my subordinate bullies) and I do feel like I become easily frustrated sometimes when I receive a lengthy line of questioning from people who have a history of repeatedly unleashing unprovoked hostility towards me. I guess retraining my mind to frame the situation as neutral rather than a hostile attack is one strategy worth pursuing.

    In any case, best of luck to you and I’d be curious to know in your update how you and your psychologist plan on tackling your behavior.

    1. OP*

      I decided on this change a couple weeks before Wakeen’s promotion was announced, so it was never about his opinion, despite the unfortunate timing. As I said in my letter, the spark for change was reading AAM. I realized, based on her advice to other managers about brilliant jerts, that Alison would probably fire me. Because she clearly is a good manager who knows what she’s talking about, I decided to treat being fired over this problem as a strong future probability and take steps to avoid it while I am still in a safe situation. Wakeen’s promotion simply decreases the safety of my situation a bit.

  33. Siberian*

    I don’t know if this will help the OP, but I have been on both sides of the “person struggling to understand basic facts” side of the issue. My verbal and strategic skills are excellent, but then I have what feels like a black hole in my head when it comes to some aspects of working with numbers. My spouse can be very impatient about the latter and we’ve had some talks about it. So I’ve been impatient with others but also experienced someone being impatient with me and I’ve realized how humiliating and upsetting it can be to have someone treat you like you’re stupid. It also makes it harder to think straight and to do well in the moment. When I’m on the expert side, I find it helps to keep that non-expert experience in the forefront of my mind when dealing with someone who doesn’t do something as well as me. Channeling that empathy helps me be more patient.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      Yes, OP, is there something that you’re bad at? Not just soft skills, but something concrete like – swimming, or a certain video game, or something. I keep my weakness in the forefront of my mind when I start to get a snotty or condescending tone, and it helps me be more humble. Everybody struggles with different things, that’s all.

      1. LQ*

        I do a version of this, I try to keep the other person’s strength in my mind, it also helps me go, oh I should use this as an analogy or that as a basis for talking about it. And it reminds me that they are really great at…whatever it is. (And things like they know a lot about sports so I use a poor sports analogy but they clearly start to pick it up can really help them along and feel a lot of ownership in it.)

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          Hehehe I would agree although if I try to use a sports analogy as a non-sporter, I usually get it hilariously wrong. “This TPS report is just like when you kick the final snitch into the hoop and win the Superbowl!”

  34. Asima*

    Can you have a similar conversation with your current supervisor before the change?
    – gives you a chance to practice before the conversation with higher future impact with Wakeen
    – Jane’s response may give more insight into your context and you may learn about others, even higher up, that have expressed concerns (if she was hands off manager)
    -you can honestly say that you had started your self improvement with Jame not just currying favor with Wakeen

    1. Temperance*

      I don’t think that’s really honest, though, if she’s only having the convo with Jane because Wakeen is taking over and dislikes her.

  35. Althea*

    Something that may help to show Wakeen and others that you are sincere is to identify (with your therapist probably) something that is a “quick win” so to speak, and focus on fixing and doing that. For example, you could start using a particular self-deprecating phrase any time you start explaining something and worry that your tone might be disdainful. Or work on the punctuality thing first. Something that is reasonably easy for you to implement, but is pretty visible to coworkers.

    I have some of the tendencies you do. One trick I learned is to joke about how I come off to others. So, if I’m in a meeting and I start taking over a bit because I want to push along to action items, I’ll interrupt myself with, “Hey, Hermione’s over here thinking, ‘geez Althea, let someone get a word in edgewise!'” That usually makes people laugh, and gives them an opening to interject and say, “actually, I did want to add…” It helps a lot. The word people use about me is, “intimidating.” Finding a way to be a bit disarming can go a long way!

    Hopefully you can find something similar that you can use, that you can practice a lot to show your commitment.

  36. CDM*

    “you hope that the two of you can get a fresh start in your relationship, and that you’re looking forward to working with him.”

    I think I’d go with phrasing along the lines of “I believe we can work together so that we are both successful in our career paths here.” instead.

    Getting along with you professionally is going to be one component in whether Wakeen succeeds in his new position. If the two of you can’t get along, one of you will be out the door in the end. You both benefit from reframing the relationship to a team one.

    If you can get to that point where you are a genuine team, Wakeen should be able to give you quick, neutral reminders when your tardiness or impatience get a bit much rather than passive-aggressive or sarcastic comments, and you focus a little harder on those areas, and both of you never get to BEC stage with the other.

    Also, a PP mentioned looking for the strengths in the people you get impatient with – I’d go a step further, and look for organic opportunities to mention those to them. “Fergus, thanks for taking care of incredibly tedious task – I would have hated every minute of it!” “Joe, I appreciate the clear documentation you wrote for piece of code – it made it much easier for me to get those revisions done.” “Wakeen, thanks for letting me know you noticed my arrival time slipping again. I will work on that.”

    You will find your co-workers resent your impatience a lot less if you are equally recognizant of their accomplishments and strengths. (on top of reducing the impatient episodes, which you are working towards)

  37. Maya Elena*

    I wouldn’t address or level-set with Wakeen. Just fix it one interaction at a time, work on courtesy and patience, and otherwise just chug along and do your work. If Wakeen is an adult and a good manager, he will judge fairly, won’t hold the past against you after he sees you not pushing back against him/having a better attitude, etc.

    But I am not confident in Wakeen’s ability to do that. The snarky remarks? What is up with that? I suspect the punctuality issues are minor (are you actually 45 mins late to work every day, or just always 3 min late to meetings because you get caught up in a project?) And “my brain must be too slow”?? What?!?! Must be, buddy – or else you, the team lead, could at least try identifying *why* the explanation is so confusing (just like you’d try to figure out *what* a much lesser skilled employee doesn’t get, exactly).

    In short, I think your coworkers who aren’t Wakeen will forgive you as you work on being less rude, and as long as you apologize for any specific and particularly egregious interactions. No need for awkward Big Conversations about turning over a new leaf.

    And Wakeen won’t forgive you until he can comfortably superior to you in skill, which might not happen. But in a while, you – with your better attitude – will have the upper hand in that you will be the adult secure in your ability, and not feeling the need to prove it.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I disagree – part of changing your behavior is taking ownership of your side of it – regardless of what the other side does or has done. Addressing the behavior and the fact that you’re now aware of how problematic it is/has been is part of taking ownership of it.

      And it is often useful in helping other people to “see” the change because they’re on the lookout for it whereas otherwise they’ll be on the lookout (and still may be, but hey at least now they have a shot at something else, right?) in a way that will speak to a confirmation bias that they already hold.

  38. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    “What?!?! Must be, buddy – or else you, the team lead, could at least try identifying *why* the explanation is so confusing”

    Or it’s a pissed-off retort to being treated like a special ed kid by a colleague.

    1. Maya Elena*

      Anything could be.
      But the expectation of adult behavior on the lead and manager is a little higher than on the employee, and passive aggression isn’t an adult response – which is as much as Wakeen would hear if HE wrote in to AAM with this story.

      Almost any relationship goes both ways. You could assign fault at 80% to one, 20% to the other or whatever. But hardly is one side ever faultless; and I’d say Wakeen would be less likely to be quite *so* frustrated if he didn’t harbor some insecurities over his own abilities relative to OP’s, (whether well-founded or not, we can’t know).

      1. siobhan*

        I’m pretty sure it’s very common – totally normal, even – to find condescension insufferable, whether there’s insecurity in play or not. “You’re upset because you’re not as good as me” is unlikely to be a helpful attitude to take towards colleagues who are frustrated by awful interpersonal skills, and speculating about Wakeen’s psyche is not going to help OP commit to bettering her own behavior.

        1. OP*

          I agree. It doesn’t matter whether Wakeen has things to work on, too. My life isn’t going to be improved by pointing out all the ways in which I could spread the blame.

      2. Grr*

        It’s less likely insecurities than having to deal with someone who likely operates on the same level as everyone else, but who *thinks* they are much more clever and behaves condescendingly as a result.

        But I think it says something very telling about YOU that the first thing you jumped to was that, essentially, Wakeen must just be so jealous of the OP. Don’t you find that to be a bit junior-high of an assumption?

        1. NonProfit Nancy*

          Yes yes yes. The mostly truly brilliant people I have ever met, know enough that they realize how much there truly is to learn. The people who THINK they are the most brilliant people I will ever meet, on the other hand, are the ones who talk down to others, disrupt meetings, are disrespectful of people’s time and contributions, etc. I think it relates to the whole dunning-kruger effect:

      3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I really don’t think Wakeen’s insecurities have anything to do with it. Condescension and frustration from someone who acts as if they’re the one brilliant person in the room surrounded by dullards is infuriating no matter how self-confident you are.

        Also, sarcasm isn’t passive aggression.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Wakeen wasn’t the manager when he made those statements, and he was only the lead for part of the time that OP and he worked together (at least that’s how I’m reading OP’s letter). In light of that, his comments could be frustration that he’s made to feel stupid by someone he’s seeking help from, or it could be the kind of thing that happens when you’re stuck with a toxic coworker, are at your limit, and have a boss who refuses to manage the problem. Wakeen is not the problem, here.

  39. Marisol*

    OP I am so impressed by your self-awareness and your willingness to tackle your issues. Good on ya!

    Some thoughts I want to share–I don’t have hard conclusions, just ideas that might be worth considering.

    1) Since you are a woman, I have more hesitation in recommending that you do a lot of apologizing. It’s great to take responsibility for mistakes and apologize when you need to, but don’t overdue it. And not that you were thinking of doing this, but just in case you were–definitely don’t blab to all your coworkers about how you are going to do better, etc. Just change the behavior and clean up any specific issues as needed. This is not to countermand Alison’s advice in any way–I think one conversation with Wakeen would be great. But don’t mention therapy and don’t take one iota of blame more than necessary.

    2) Is it possible that Wakeen is jealous of you, and that he would try to sabotage you for that reason? If you are a difficult personality, but a high performer, then you may be getting special treatment, de facto, that others wouldn’t get. For example, your slowpoke coworker–if he worked at his speed, but had your behavior, would he still have a job? My guess is no. So by simply keeping you on staff, your company may be giving you special privileges. This is not the kind of thing that less talented coworkers won’t notice and resent. So you don’t want to give Wakeen any more ammo–this is another reason not to volunteer information about your therapy, but to just make one elegant apology and then behave professionally in the future.

    3) Consider how important punctuality is to your job. I am not convinced that this is behavior worth changing. If you’re holding up meetings, then yes, it’s a problem. If you’re meeting deliverables despite sauntering in after 9 am, and no one is affected, then I wonder if punctuality really matters. If it doesn’t matter, then instead of trying to conform, you might consider negotiating with Wakeen to change his expectations. Or you could temporarily change, and then six weeks from now once you’ve built some equity into the relationship with Wakeen, you could push back then. And going back to the “Wakeen is jealous” theory–could it be that his jealousy is motivating the complaints, that those complaints are not really being made in good faith?

    Basically, I would caution you against taking the political situation too much at face value. People who have a low emotional intelligence (I assume this describes you, given the nature of your behavior) are generally not good at interpreting social and political situations with nuance, but approach every social situation with the same bluntness. Now that you are turning over a new leaf, don’t make the mistake of applying that same “blunt” way of thinking by being overly transparent (treating everyone the same by telling everyone your business) or failing to read between the lines (thinking Wakeem means exactly what he says).

    Since you are already a high performer, once you get the social/behavioral problems addressed, you will be bulletproof! I congratulate you on your future success.

  40. Whats In A Name*

    I have to say I agree with a lot of what has already been said here but wanted to make my own separate comment to reinforce a few things…
    1) kudos for recognizing your behavior needs fixing; I don’t think it’s ever too late to work on relationships, whether personal or professional and to recognize your role in making them work. Hopefully your therapist can help you find some good techniques to manage your response to people/co-workers since your core behavior triggers may never actually evaporate. Same with the tardiness, I think it’s big that you are recognizing there while it’s not important to you, or even grandboss, it’s important to Wakeen and that’s why it’s important for you to manage.

    2) It will take time – and maybe a change of venue – for you to be seen in a different light. I didn’t have the same personality issues as you but some things I did in my personal life stopped me from getting ahead. I was a top performer, never called off unless sick (proven by the ridiculous amount of sick-time accrual when I left), never flaked on an obligation…but I was 22 and had the same “work is work, personal is personal” mindset without taking into consideration the small town I lived in.

    That was 15 years ago and when I run into people I used to work with they still bring up the personal stuff; it’s like they can’t believe I am a grown up now with better judgement.

  41. Jasmine*

    I had problems like this in my work and I went to therapy and was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, might be worth getting screened for because it affected my relationships with coworkers.

    If it is bpd, traditional therapy did not work for me, I tried it for a long time, I am now getting dialectical behavioral therapy and it is helping.

    I don’t take any medications, but the dbt teaches skills for me to manage my own emotions bc I was perceived as a “jerk” by many but it was a reaction of the bpd stemming from constantly feeling overwhelmed and doings lots of inappropriate behavior at work.

  42. MommaTRex*

    I just wanted to throw in some encouragement that you CAN make changes. I’m still working on the lateness myself, but one thing that has helped me a lot is to try to consciously remember all the “in-between” times. For example, I tend to think it will take 15 minutes to drive anywhere around town, but even if that were true, I forget the amount of time it takes to park, walk a block or two, ride the elevator, etc. I’m trying harder to remember those small tasks that I forget to plan for – and although each one is only a minute or 5, they really add up. I’m also trying to give myself rewards for arriving early – like being able to work on a crossword puzzle, read a funny article, catch-up facebook, or play a game.

    Good Luck! You can do it!

  43. AnonEMoose*

    Something that helped me, and might be helpful to the OP. I’m not in a technical field, but I still need to explain policy and/or process to people on occasion. And sometimes I do get really frustrated when they don’t “get it.” What I do, in order to buy myself some time to think and to get past the frustration, is to ask the other person some clarifying questions.

    Basically, what I try to do is to narrow down where, exactly, they lost the thread. Because sometimes that helps them answer their own questions, and sometimes it helps them realize they know or understood more than they thought. Something like “Ok, let’s back up a second. So this is the situation as I understand it – is that your understanding?” “So, here’s the policy…with me so far?” “Good. Ok, so given the situation and given the policy, our options are a, b, or c (or we need to do x, or here’s what’s going to happen) and here’s how that works.”

    If you can narrow down where it is, exactly, that they got lost, you can end up saving yourself some time in the long run. And it feels less frustrating, at least to me, to know that they understood some of it, just maybe not all of it, or maybe not how the details of Situation X are different from Situation Y, which is superficially similar, but not really the same.

    Maybe if you can train yourself to think of it as troubleshooting – figuring out exactly where they got lost – it can feel less frustrating and more like a challenge you’re solving together? With the added benefit that you’re helping increase their confidence, instead of damaging it.

  44. Nephron*

    Small side issue, but Jane seems to have done a bad job as manager. The OP has issues she needs to work through, but Jane let her team get to the point where arguments and shouting occurred? This kinda reminds me of the women that begged for food and money constantly and the manager wrote in about how it is still going on and now the team was mocking the women because they had no recourse left to them.
    Wakeen was basically left as team lead with a coworker that needed management that was never given. The OP is not completely off the hook, but someone should have gotten this into mediation long before arguments broke out and Wakeen became passive aggressive.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      I find this is often true of high performers in a highly skilled position, though. If what they do is valuable, they may be given a “pass” up to a point, as they would be difficult to replace. However, as OP has found, there can be a glass ceiling on their advancement if their soft skills are poor – often not a ceiling that is explained to them, either. Leaving them confused about the effects of their behavior just like OP.

  45. C in the Hood*

    One big thing jumped out at me: when you asked how to get Wakeen on your “side”. I think this may be part of the root of the problem. Are there really “sides” here?
    And if there must be “sides”, consider this: how do you get on Wakeen’s “side”? Or Fergus’ or your other coworkers’?

    I guess what I’m saying is: if you look at any problem from more than one angle, you will have a bigger and more accurate picture of what’s going on.

    1. fposte*

      I’m glad you addressed this–it caught at me a bit too, and you’re posing your response in a very helpful way.

      1. OP*

        Yes, sorry for the confusion. I was talking about when your boss “goes to bat for you,” if I’m using that phrase correctly, when it comes to raises and promotions.

  46. theletter*

    I’d like to throw in a suggestion that OP should state to Wakeen: “I respect your skillset, I understand why you were promoted, and I want you to succeed as my manager,” if any of that is sincere. “I’m actively learning how to better accept feedback, and if I’m not responding to your feedback in an appropriate way, go ahead and tell me” might help too.

    I used to have a lot of trouble with punctuality, but I was able to resolve some of it by restructuring my Sunday routines towards getting ready for the week. Along the way, I committed myself to a Sunday morning exercise routine and, well, church service volunteer position* that got me up at 8 AM every Sunday regardless of how sleepy I was. The rest of the day flows from there.

    *Church is not for everyone – just using this as an example of something that will get people dressed and out of bed by 9:30 AM on a Sunday.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Joining the church choir is what gets me to church consistently, instead of when “I feel like it” because when the alarm goes off, I almost never feel like it. :)

      The idea that other people are counting on you can be a really important key to learning to be on time.

      1. MommaTRex*

        “The idea that other people are counting on you can be a really important key to learning to be on time.”

        This does help me sometimes. For example, I was carpooling my daughter and nephew to school before work, sometimes just squeaking by on the time – but the squeaking by wasn’t enough for my SIL, so my brother suggested that I would be so much better off if I only had me and my daughter to worry about. Now I’m struggling with frequent lateness. *sigh*

        1. Candi*

          How about reframing it as your daughter depending on you to get to school on time? You can aim for getting back to ‘squeaking’, and work from there.

    2. OP*

      This is a great suggestion. I think that he’s going to do well as a manager because he did so well as team lead, so I will remember to bring it up with him.

      1. Candi*

        I recommend telling him what you just said.

        Although not necessarily in the same conversation as “I’m working with a coach to change my incredibly unprofessional behavior.”

  47. L*

    Time to start shifting some of your brain capacity from the problems of coding to the problems of humans.

    The people who do this naturally, it’s like magic, they don’t think about it, they just do it. For those of us who aren’t magic, it can be learned, and if you are smart, you can learn it. Saying you can’t is just a cop out. Humans, how to deal with them, how to manage your time better, all those things? They are all just problems of another kind. When I’m struggling I am for 50% of my brain capacity to dealing with the human problems, they are SO much harder for me than the nice hard, fun, reasonable, logical problems. I’ve gotten a lot better so when things aren’t changing I can go down to about 10% focused on the human problems.

    You’ve got the capacity, flex it in a different direction. I promise you can learn, you just have to work harder at learning it than you ever have with anything technical (at least that’s my guess based on me and based on what you’ve said). Think of it as a new challenge, a new problem, a new program to develop, you’re just developing it in your brain.

    That said, time is likely the easiest thing to show drastic and immediate improvement in and if that is something that matters a lot to your boss you can start to really demonstrate change with.

    Lots of good words of wisdom here, take them all, compile them, process them, and use them.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      It’s true (apologies for being off topic) but there are some fascinating websites I’ve read that are trying to explain social skills to people who for whatever reason don’t come by them naturally. As someone who doesn’t struggle so much with this, it was amazing to read the “rules” that I’ve come by intuitively but never put into words. Stuff like EXACTLY how long and how often to make eye contact in different conversations – or how many times you should invite someone to do something socially before deciding they have to make the next move – or on another blog (I believe it was Captain Awkward) the rules of “leveling up” a friendship from Acquaintance Status. Anyway, it can all be learned, with patience.

  48. Christine*

    I wouldn’t share the therapy info with Wakeen at all since he wasn’t happy with your performance as a co-worker. I would have the conversation that you are aware of your poor behavior and that you addressing that. If he asks how, something along the line of doing a lot of research regarding behavior modification and stress management.

    I’m against sharing anything regarding therapy with a boss that is walking in the door with a poor image of you. Your actions in this regard will speak for itself.

  49. A.Nonymou.S.*

    OP, I have also been this person that you are describing.

    One thing I can recommend, if you’re truly committed to this therapy thing, is to be on time for things once your new boss is in place. Consistently, for months on end, be committed to being on time.

    It may not be remarked upon, but it WILL be noticed, and it WILL make an impression on New Boss that you’ve gone out of your way to do this thing that you know is his pet peeve.

    1. OP*

      I’m afraid I’m not being late to things on purpose, because if that were the case, I could do what you’re suggesting. Because he has been my team lead the entire time I’ve been at this job and it has been causing friction since day one, I have been focused on being on time for literally the entire time I have worked here. I have literally tried every. single. trick. that I can find on the internet, and none of them work. As I said in my letter, I have to add punctuality to the things I’m in therapy for, and I really doubt there will be results soon.

      1. Candi*

        I trained my brain to think I have to anywhere half an hour before I get off at the bus stop at my destination. (I can’t drive.) It took a few years, though.

        I get so absorbed in a game or a book… but when I’m think 930 instead of 10 -reciting it over and over in my brain- I wind up fooling myself. (That includes putting every apppoint 15-30 minutes early into my phone.)

        Also, work on automatic responses whenever you can. Alarm noise goes off, push away from the computer or put it down. Practice with a timer set to the same tone.

        Somethings to talk about with your therapist.

  50. Marie*

    You could take two approaches
    1. You are correct in your approach and find a job where the standard of people is not below you. As a result you will not be dismissive of them ect. In this case you should not get coaching but see that the company is not a good fit for you.
    2. You are incorrect. People who are duller than you will blame you because it is your fault that they can’t understand. You are not explaining it properly. In this case, get coaching and spend the rest of you life being brought down by idiots.

    1. NW Mossy*

      This seems unnecessarily combative towards the OP’s colleagues. Even in the incredibly unlikely scenario that it could be objectively proven that these colleagues are irreparably incompetent at every aspect of their jobs, professionals treat all of their colleagues with respect and consideration, not derision.

      It’s a good lesson to learn early in one’s career that it pays to be considerate, because that consideration is the grease that keeps things moving at work. Just today, I had to reach out to a peer manager whose “brilliant jerk” sent over a terse, 2-sentence demand for a task to be done today when said task normally takes 10 days. I don’t accommodate boorish behavior towards my team, especially when it’s repeated and unjustified, as it often is with this particular individual. He doesn’t seem to quite see that his pattern of treating people poorly means that he has no favors to call when he really needs something, and that everything in his work life is harder than it needs to be because he wants to be right more than he wants to be effective.

    2. OP*

      Learning how to treat people considerately is in no way “being brought down” by them. If anything, all of us will be brought up by our mutual appreciation and good feelings. I think you need an attitude adjustment even more than I do.

      Also, just because I didn’t mention my non-idiot coworkers, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They are great at what they do, just not as productive as I am. Besides, their part of the work doesn’t give them a chance to create new intellectual property like mine does, so they get less recognition than I do. That doesn’t mean I’m the only one that’s good enough to get recognition, it just means that I’m naturally more visible up the chain.

      1. CM*

        Hi OP,
        When I read your letter this jumped out at me: “My typical reaction to this is to laugh and make additional self-derogatory comments, but one time when he was particularly passive-aggressive, I called him out on it, and we had a “loud discussion” in front of the whole team.”

        From your letter, I wondered if you were thinking it was just the frustration at people who you were having trouble communicating with that was the problem. In your comment above it sounds like you’re thinking about it more broadly, as “learning how to treat people considerately.” I think that’s great, and absolutely it’s a learnable skill. Especially with your manager, I think it’s important to keep in mind that your job isn’t always to be the smartest, fastest, and best; it’s just to give your manager what they’re looking for. So when your manager is annoyed that you’re late, laughing and making self-deprecatory comments doesn’t help. Apologizing and making a real effort to change the behavior does help. And calling someone out when they say something annoying, unless it’s a pretty extreme situation, doesn’t help. Having a private discussion with them later, where you say, “The comment you made during the meeting felt unfair because Reasons” could help.

        I think you could benefit from reading a book like “Getting to Yes,” which helps you balance asserting yourself with understanding the needs of others and cooperating with them.

      2. Observer*

        Learning how to treat people considerately is in no way “being brought down” by them. If anything, all of us will be brought up by our mutual appreciation and good feelings. I think you need an attitude adjustment even more than I do.

        Yes. The fact that you recognize this is a plus for you – you are MUCH more likely to succeed.

        Lots of luck to you!

    3. Observer*


      In most cases it IS the fault of the person explaining if the person they are talking does not understand. Yes, there are exceptions, but not that many in a reasonably functional workplace where people want to know what they need to do their work, which is pretty much what the OP is describing.

      Also, as a practical matter, there will never be workplace where everyone matches the OP’s (or any one person’s) particular level and type of brilliance. That’s because no matter how brilliant the OP is, she’s clearly missing one or two skills, some of which are actually important. And, no company that is composed all of ONE type of person is going to do all that well – especially if that “type” includes chronic lateness and poor soft skills. Fortunately, the OP seems to realize this.

  51. Green Tea Pot*

    OP, good for you!

    I have recognized myself many times, and seldom in a good example. I wish I’d had AAM as a guide 35 years ago.

    You have received much good advice here. Please let us know how it works out.

    I am cheering for you.

  52. Tuckered*

    As a fellow coding whiz we may have a similar brain. It takes me a long time to wake up and a long time to fall asleep. My tip for waking up early is to find gentle alarms that rev your mind to wake up 30 minutes before your goal time

  53. Bull Terrier in a Wig*

    I, too, had a genius level IQ. I came to see it this way: I have a brain like everybody else, but mine has a super-fast processor, that’s all. (And it’s still “garbage in, garbage out.”) It’s up to me to be patient with the people I work (and play) with.

    And, after a lifetime of being late, I finally began getting up 15 minutes earlier. It was a suggestion from my supervisor (well, a little more than a suggestion, actually) and I grumpily did so. After a couple of weeks, I realized I felt less stress in the morning.

    P.S. Has anyone else suggested that you sound like Alice, from Dilbert? “Must… control… fist of death!”

    1. OP*

      Yeah, if I had a nickel for every time I was given the “15 minutes earlier” suggestion…. Unfortunately, if something that simple worked on me, I’d have been on time starting as a teenager. In high school, I actually used to wake up at 4:00am, do homework, read a book after the homework was done, run to school just past the last minute, and arrive to my first class two minutes late. I’ve never figured out how to leave well before the last minute on more than an occasional basis.

  54. oldbiddy*

    I was in a situation similar to the OP, albeit not nearly as extreme (no yelling matches or lateness issues, for instance). It’s very difficult to get over the rough beginnings and have a fresh start, especially if you’re the only woman on the team. Sadly, men who are ‘genius jerks’ get a lot more leeway than women do, in my experience.
    I suggest working with the therapist to improve interpersonal skills and lateness, because these things will serve you well no matter what. Do the best you can to get along with new boss, and once you feel you’ve made some headway with therapy, find a new job or do a lateral move into a different group. I did this after several years but wish I’d done it much sooner.

  55. mousemom*

    With regard to punctuality: OP, can you self-motivate with rewards? For instance, each time you make it to work on time, a dollar goes into a jar. When you reach (insert number here), you take that money and buy yourself a treat – a facial or manicure, a book you’ve been wanting, the flibbertiwidgehoohah that will look perfect in your living room. Make it something that you would really enjoy but would not normally indulge. You can set a sliding scale, too – after you’ve been on time every day for 2 weeks, for instance, you start putting $2 in the jar. Having the jar labeled with what you’re working toward might help too.

    A friend did this with her daughter, who had NO concept of time – she could spell the word and use it in a sentence, but could not work with it. By identifying specific things to be on time to – band/choir practice, Girl Scouts, etc. – and a specific reward, she was able to make some progress. After about 3 years, she’s on time probably at least 75-80% of the time, which is a major improvement. This is a person who, if told they were to be shot at sunrise, would have been late for it.

    Good luck in your attempts to gain control of your brain and its workings. Keep in mind, however, that communication is a two-part process: there is not just what you say, but what the other person hears. I think increasing self-awareness will be your friend in this matter, especially if you can develop a more reliably working empathy state.

Comments are closed.