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Ask HN: How do you deal with overconfident and mediocre individuals?
63 points by kevintb 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments
I have a high bar for expressing absolute confidence for something (ie knowledge in a field or proficiency in a language) and am continuously surprised by people who claim mastery of something/that they are a natural at something, but in reality are quite mediocre, or above average at best. Furthermore, the same individuals tend to put down others who are more humble/less confident in their skills, directly or subtly.

It infuriates me when these individuals subtly bring down others, but I am unsure how to approach it - directly, indirectly, or just ignore it and focus on my own work and goals.

I also anticipate that I’ll be told the only way is for me to be more vocally confident in myself, but that is not my natures and I have little appetite in continuing the status quo.




There are two issues here. Firstly is your perception that they are 'quite mediocre, or above average at best' - this is your problem. Looking down on people for being less than yourself is not an admirable trait, something you seem to share with them.

The second issue is the other person 'tend to put down others who are more humble/less confident in their skills'. This is a what you would call a jerk (or arsehole in UK parlance). This is the issue that needs fixing. Are you in a position to call them out on this? Not necessarily official manager type position but pull them up each time they do it.

Someone like this could be seen as a bully and making the workplace unpleasant for the quieter / more humble members.

Their skills are irrelevant, if they were the most brilliant programmer in the world this would not excuse such behaviour.


Firstly is your perception that they are 'quite mediocre, or above average at best' - this is your problem. Looking down on people for being less than yourself is not an admirable trait, something you seem to share with them.

Why are you assuming the comparison is with oneself?


It may be a reasonable assumption, since the author lead with the "I".


> Looking down on people for being less than yourself is not an admirable trait, something you seem to share with them.

I'm having difficulty understanding where the idea that kevintb is looking down on those that kevintb considers to be mediocre. I don't believe kevintb believes that he is better or more knowledgeable about a topic. However, there might be some hubris (over confidence) involved in the assessment though.

I think kevintb is merely observing others make overly confident claims (aka spewing BS).

I am certainly not an expert on most things. Hell, I don't even know what, if anything, I'd claim to be an expert on. But, from my personal observation, experience, and not so humble opinion, I have above average google foo powers. This enables me to find answers to things faster, more efficiently, and even somethings most people struggle to find, including evaluating someone's claims. I can relate to kevintb.


Please read the description

> Furthermore, the same individuals tend to put down others who are more humble/less confident in their skills, directly or subtly.

> It infuriates me when these individuals subtly bring down others, but I am unsure how to approach it - directly, indirectly, or just ignore it and focus on my own work and goals.

Thought it was obvious I don’t look down on their lack of knowledge only. Then the question would have been “How do you deal with mediocre individuals?”


Didn't you, yourself, just look down on OP?


Well, would you consider constructive criticism to be looking down on someone?


I like when people practice what they preach, and I don't like when people practice what they accuse others of doing. You know, leadership by example?

But that's me, and we live in the "Do as I say not as I do" times.


It's natural. It's Dunning Kruger effect. People become very confident when they first learn a little and consider themselves experts.

It is rather hypocritical to put someone down for lacking knowledge; doing so implies that you are judging them as lacking knowledge. You end up doing the exact same thing. I have never seen this done in a way that doesn't backfire.

I just treat people like that as children or teenagers. You don't have to be mean. You just entertain and enjoy their illusion. They might grow out of it and realize what fools they were.

Be tolerant, similar to religious tolerance. They believe what they do. If you have enough evidence to convince them, you can do so.

You might end up in a closed circle of smarter people, but that's fine. The competent ones tend to float to the top.


> It is rather hypocritical to put someone down for lacking knowledge; doing so implies that you are judging them as lacking knowledge. You end up doing the exact same thing. I have never seen this done in a way that doesn't backfire.

No, it's not. OP doesn't put anyone down because he doesn't communicate his attitude towards the other person. When someone tells you "Wow, you really don't know what AABB stands for? How did you pass the interview? It's like DUUH, basic knowledge." with a smug or contempt face, he's putting you down. I've met people like this and they were very very hard to work with. Other remarks I've heard are "How the fk should I know, ask the idiot who implemented that piece of shit, I would've made it so it didn't have <random bug>", or "A bunch of losers who can't code without memory leaks decided smart pointers were a good idea, so now everything is slow". I can safely say, without a doubt, these people had the worst effect on me. I avoid them at any cost. It's not my place, nor my responsibility to suffer their attitudes or help them grow out of it. I'm not their manager and I'm not their parent. They're toxic and they consume my energy and self confidence.

On the other hand, when someone counters someone else's bold claims of confidence or idiotic remarks with a puzzled look like "I'm wondering if you really know what you're talking about", he's not putting the other person down.


I worked with a guy who thought all my code was shite.

Now. I'm pretty tolerant. So I did what anyone in my situation would do. I installed a debugger and stepped through his code until I found some pretty glaring security flaws (escaping POST input should be pretty high on your priority list) and fixed them for him. Quietly. I explained what the problem was and why I fixed it.

So I thought we were on the same team... but no. He insisted that I was incompetent.

It took me a couple of days to think of something and then to implement it. I took some of his code, renamed a couple of variables and then pretended it was mine and asked him for his opinion. He emailed me back telling me exactly how shit it was and how I was beyond help as a coder.

I took this evidence to his manager.

The three of us sat down and I showed the code I wrote. My boss explained how it was wrong, the bugs, the mistakes. He went to town. Then I did my pathetic grand reveal. Yeah. It's your code, cut and paste from the codebase. I changed these variable names (HeLovedCamelCase i_prefer_underscores) could you accept that you have a problem with me, not with my code. This is simply a vendetta against me ... respond now please. The look on his face.

He didn't work there the next day. Although there was a big hole in the wall where his fist entered and exited.

The business didn't exist the next month. Turns out that someone who would employ someone like that isn't the best person to run a business.

Life is full of surprises. Or lessons. Or something.

If you haven't watched the detectorists. You should. It's the most beautiful nerdy show about something that isn't coding.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgN7z0SD8v8 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwWv6UphTWM


Newcomers to the show will not only be treated to the finest, most beautifully understated sitcom of recent years, but also to the best depiction of male friendship anywhere in contemporary popular culture.


> It's natural. It's Dunning Kruger effect. People become very confident when they first learn a little and consider themselves experts.

The Dunning Kruger effect doesn't support what you claimed [0][1]. (Provided that I read your comment correctly).

[0] https://danluu.com/dunning-kruger/

[1] http://www.talyarkoni.org/blog/2010/07/07/what-the-dunning-k...


> Furthermore, the same individuals tend to put down others who are more humble/less confident in their skills, directly or subtly.

> It infuriates me when these individuals subtly bring down others, but I am unsure how to approach it - directly, indirectly, or just ignore it and focus on my own work and goals.


Well, you're not going to be able to change the status quo that confidence is largely admired and taken at face value. That's the world you live in and have to deal with.

But if your specific goal is to prevent overconfident people from "bringing down" those who are less confident (presumably mainly you), your best bet is to move the discussion concrete, measurable past successes and failures, and resist attempts to change the topic away from those.

If the discussion is inherently about plans for the future and there is no past record of achievements (how do you know they're overconfident then?), insist on a process that produces concrete, meaningful process in reasonably short increments so that unrealistic promises will be exposed early on.


> insist on a process that produces concrete, meaningful process in reasonably short increments so that unrealistic promises will be exposed early on

This is gold. Might print it and frame it :)


I feel a bit stupid, but I don't understand what it means. "insist on a process that produces concrete, meaningful process" is it insisting on a process that produces another process?


Oops. Replace the second "process" with "progress".


You like it because it allows you to not change yourself, you are going to change the processes (or at least, people in general like this). It's a way, true, but will it work everywhere? What if you could change yourself to handle these situations better, regardless of the processes? That's the hard way.


I'm not a fan of working "in reasonably short increments". I actually find it painful since I tend to think/work in "leap. then sleep" cycles. But I prefer to weed-out "frauds" fast, even at the expense of inconveniencing people more like myself. Also, communication gets easier - much simpler to explain 1 day or one week of work than 1 month. Even if at times people like me must find creative ways to say "not much happened this week" when you know that the whole work allotted for the following three months will probably happen in one intense week, though you have no idea when the stars will align for that week to happen, and you have to keep pushing rocks with little outside visible progress until the magic happens :)


I think the "reasonably short increments" is a way to get acquainted and build shared trust. You may not be at your most productive but you substantially lessen the risk of working with someone who is bullshitting you if you start by taking small steps. You may feel that you cannot promise as much in a short increment as a mighty leap but if both of you deliver on short increment promises then you can take longer steps and then leaps together with much higher shared confidence.


>>How to deal with 'overconfident' and 'mediocre' individuals?

Realise that the source of your problem is your own hubris.

"Overconfident" just means "un-tested and un-proven".

"Mediocre" just means "un-developed".

No man is an island, if you feel that your social perspective is coming from a place of moral authority, it is incumbent on you to place that altitude in perspective - push these people forward. The "overconfident" need testing - real application. The "mediocre" need training - you have an opportunity to push these key members of your team forward.

And, you should. Anything less would be a manifestation of your own 'overconfidence' - and the fact you're asking, means you are, actually, also 'mediocre'.

Thus, hubris is your real bug. Fix it.


> "Overconfident" just means "un-tested and un-proven".

That's not what it means. It means excessive, over the top, confidence. You're focusing on the object of confidence, instead of the attitude. It's the bad attitude that's the real problem.

> Realise that the source of your problem is your own hubris.

Bullshit. You're completely missing the issue OP is having: "It infuriates me when these individuals subtly bring down others". Toxic people are toxic irrelevant of the OP's hubris.


Thank you. It’s interesting some people are ignoring the heart of the issue completely.


I don't doubt toxic people bring others down - but I do doubt that toxicity is one-way. I think this person is really the toxic one, with their prejudice against others.


Ignoring the semantics, it would be naive to believe they there are no people in tech who concretely claim more knowledge and skills than they possess, and attempt to exert undue influence. As such, there is still value in the question at hand.

Anecdotally, there is a common thread among people like this that I have met: their experience in the field is very narrow, in the sense that they believe in a "one true way". That might be the only way that they've ever worked, or they bought into some cargo-cult style culture.

I'm loath to prescribe means of "dealing" with such people, because with all things in life, it depends on the situation, though a good starting point is the same for all contention:

Find common ground, acknowledge common goals, identify ways to work together as a team. Don't settle for harassment, though be charitable in interpretation when possible.


> Furthermore, the same individuals tend to put down others who are more humble/less confident in their skills, directly or subtly.

> It infuriates me when these individuals subtly bring down others, but I am unsure how to approach it - directly, indirectly, or just ignore it and focus on my own work and goals.

If you read the description, the issue is an attitude problem, not a training problem.


Remember, we're ALL learning all the time, always progressing in knowledge and ability. Or at least we SHOULD be.

So lets take something simple. tying your shoelaces. when a 5 year old does it while singing the bunny song, they feel they have it down pat. SO when a 3 year old sees it, the 5 year old MUST be a master, right? the 5 year old thinks they're awesome at tying their shoes when the bunny goes around the tree and through the hole, etc.... so it must be true, until they see the NBA ballers do it without missing a step or 3 seconds off the clock.

The point is that being a "master" actually depends on the viewpoint of the person(s) they're interacting with. In this case, you or the person you feel they are subtly bringing down. IMO, the best way to handle these situations is to humbly remind everyone that we're all still learning. There is always someone better out there, there is always a better or more efficient way to do things. Correcting someone while teaching them (and without insults) is optimal (especially if you're not the expert you thought you were, either). Doing it this way brings both the braggadocios and the meek to the same plane and does it without bruising egos. It works even better when these two personalities are on the same team - But this is just my experience.


+1. That seems to be my general way of thinking as well. When you are going to work in a team, it's best to leave your ego at the door and realise that we all suck at something.

What does the NBA ballers thing refer to? They tie their shoelaces whilst walking? Is that actually a thing? (I'm European and Basketball is not as big here, I've never actually watched a game.)


comparing it to a 5 year old, Basketball players have to good and fast at tying shoe laces. that's all. maybe a lame comparison...


There was an article posted here a while ago that described how people from elite schools always talk with confidence even if they have no clue and how this is a recipe for success.

If you are soft spoken I think the only way to get peace is to get in a position where you can control your part and can ignore louder people. I have done this at previous companies and in the long run you get noticed by your results. If you can't find that place it's probably better to look for another job.


The famous educator John Taylor Gatto thinks one of the keys of elite education is the ability to speak extemporaneously and intelligently for a few minutes on topics you know nothing about.


I see this a lot in a lot of middle management types. They can join any meeting and contribute with "insightful" comments and only after a while you realize that they just repeat platitudes or steal someone else's ideas.

The problem is it's really hard to deal with them without looking confrontational or defensive. That's why I said you have to find a place where you can control your work and get credit for what you did. There are plenty of places where results count and not smooth talk.


> to speak [...] intelligently for a few minutes on topics you know nothing about.

Is this even possible? Or is it just an appearance?


It's an appearance but most people never notice. My favorite enemy at work is a guy from corporate who can speak eloquently at any meeting but never delivers anything. He sits in meetings, attaches himself to other people's ideas and makes them his. Very smooth and it works for him perfectly. Because he speaks so well it took me a long time to convince myself that he is just full of shit and can be ignored.


Do you have a link for the article? It sounds interesting.


> Talk is cheap. Show me the code. - https://lkml.org/lkml/2000/8/25/132

Insist on implementation to back theory.


One way is to ask questions.

The first way that most of us think to confront someone is to make statements: "You're wrong." Even impersonal facts, like "Solar is now cheaper per watt than coal" is unlikely to persuade your opponent, partially because they can tune you out as you ramble on.

But if you ask a question, they have to listen closely, to avoid looking foolish when it's their turn to talk. A direct question is also more likely to lead them to think. Furthermore, a question is more polite.

A question can still be devastating, "If you think x is better than y, then how do you account for (insert hard fact here)."


> A question can still be devastating, "If you think x is better than y, then how do you account for (insert hard fact here)."

I've met people who can't be devastated by anything. They always have an answer, and it's always someone else's fault. They can invent "hard facts" out of thin air or dismiss real facts just as easily.

They're actually really easy to find. One such person is president now.


Interesting - like the Socratic method.


Maybe tell them that it can be hurtful, even when said with humor, or tell them it's not really funny.

If they are that much overconfident, just remind them of what they did wrong to make them realize they are not so perfect.

Also just try to tell them without being judgemental. Try to use the "maybe" word or "I might be wrong but", try to make the person doubt a little so that he/she can take a step back.

You can also try to joke about that person's overconfidence.


This is useful. It is hard to interact with someone so persistent in reminding you how superior they consider themselves to be.


Humility is a hard thing to learn. I really think we should teach children to admit they re wrong.


I believe that most anyone who has been in a managerial position has experienced some of what you have described, some people handle it better than others.

I don't know the specifics of your situation but I will attempt to point you toward some resources that might help.

The fundamentals lay within the issue of Dominance hierarchy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_hierarchy) whereas if you are placed in a position of Dominance, these people will at least challenge, if not wanting to replace you.

They might be insecure about their capabilities/knowledge so with time they have developed a "fake it till you make it" survival techniques.

One of the solutions is for you to become more assertive and therefore have more/better skills to maintain your deserved Dominance within the hierarchy.

It might have to do with your Personality Traits (https://www.verywell.com/the-big-five-personality-dimensions...), scoring too high in Agreeableness (higher than the people you're talking about).

Prog. Jordan B Peterson talks often about this issues, you might want to go on YouTube and search "big 5 personality traits Jordan Peterson" and watch some of his videos for some highly interesting material on the matter.


I've met such people, and they were very hard to work with. Fortunately, I don't work there anymore and my current team is comprised of very good people (both technically and socially). This is due to the fact that the team leader simply doesn't hire people with toxic attitudes, no matter their skill level. And personally, I would simply refuse to work with someone toxic either by filing a complaint with the team leader, requesting a transfer or leaving the company.

I see no problem with filing a complaint because the most likely results are fine by me:

* Either he has a talk with the manager and hopefully tones down

* or he accumulates enough complaints that he's removed from the team

* or the management doesn't respond well to complaints, which signals it's not a team / company I would want to work with.


There may be a place for those people — i.e. where a fast confident decision is actually better than a thoroughly discussed ‘correct’ decision.

Those people, in my experience, are usually pretty comfortable taking big risks (on their spotty information), which can be useful.

But if you’re the second kind of person, working with the first kind would be infuriating. So if long term happiness was your goal you’d probably want to work for organisations that encourage careful collaborative decision making.

Basically, if you’ve recognised in yourself that you don’t like these people, avoid them (and places they’d be drawn to).

I can’t think of any way you could ‘bring them down to size’, etc, that wouldn’t just bring more pain.


> I can’t think of any way you could ‘bring them down to size’, etc, that wouldn’t just bring more pain.

That's horrible advice. OP should be encourage to be on the offensive regardless of position. Fighting for what you believe is true is the good fight, and it's ok to even fight it with more subversive/undeground tactics if you're not the extroverted type. And "more pain" can be a good thing regardless who experiences it. Just remember to fight back harder if things turn against you, and keep fighting until something/someone breaks (and if it's you that breaks, that's ok too, it means you needed the breaking and re-building). Pain helps people and organizations grow healthy.

It's the person who's leading the discussion and asking people about their skills who should adequately select for people either 'fast and confident' or 'deep and thorough' or 'collaborative and thorough'".

Also "careful collaborative decision making"... you can have "careful decision making" or "collaborative decision making" as very very separate kinds of doing things. One is the introvert loading up ideas and facts into his/her mind and letting them brew for a while until a solution is ready to be distilled and shared. The other is a group of amiable people thoroughly talking through the possibilities. If you prefer the former process, you might make better team with "fast and confident" people by completing their "lack of depth", than with the "never ending chatter" of a team of amiable group-thinkers.


> I also anticipate that I’ll be told the only way is for me to be more vocally confident in myself

If you know better you should be more vocally confident in yourself.

The world is full of people who bullshit. You should not hide from it, and you should not deny it.

>the same individuals tend to put down others who are more humble/less confident in their skills, directly or subtly.

They also need to learn that the world is full of these kind of people. If you wan't to help build their confidence , you can explain how the 'master' is overestimating his/her skills.


In which context ? In personal life I would simply avoid them.

In any case trying to confront them and get them to "change" is bound to lead to disastrous results.

Just focus on yourself unless it personally affect you.


If it's any consolation, I'm in the same boat as you. I suspect the solution if any, would be group up with similar minded people and run an profit making enterprise. But I speculate that this is unlikely to happen as most profit making enterprises tend to overstate what they will deliver in their marketing of products or services. But if the enterprise is made of individuals who do not oversell their services or product often their business never really takes off.


Easiest way to raise the level of discussion in a team is to model the behavior you would like others to adopt. In the situation you describe you could do the following: when you express your opinion briefly summarize the basis for it and when you see others doing good work or providing useful insights praise them both privately and in front of the team.


If you are managing them, give them a solvable but challenging task. When they succeed, remove them from your mediocre individual pool. When they fail, repeat once. When they fail again, you have 2 examples in your favor when arguing with them. Use wisely.


Imho the entire problem is -and should be- yours. If you feel that such people take jobs/fame/complements away from you, you should work on your expression of confidence. Because logically, these what you call "over confident" people get stuff done and get praise (or you wouldn't be jealous of them!) Yes, you are jealous of the success which you think is undeserved. But that is an opinion. Nobody needs a smart person that never opens their mouth at the right time or that doesn't offer their services or is unclear about what they can do.

You are obviously an introvert, so this will be hard for you, at first. But you are going to have to grow a pair and either offer your skills to people looking for them and prove you are better than the other person or learn to not feel annoyed by it. As you say, you ignore the situation and you focus on your work, ask yourself: Why? What will this behavior bring you? How could you alter that behavior to feel less frustration in such situations?

You want change. You are going to have to deeply realize that the only factor you can change in this world, is yourself. Change your behaviour and you change the status quo. Keep being frustrated and you end up with the status quo: frustration... until it breaks you.

Start by seeing (and naming, writing down even!) the merits of the behaviors that you seem to hate so much. It is also (mainly?) your metal connection between this behavior and the value you give it (you call it negative, it is not negative, it is nothing but a behaviour). You are going to have to unlearn this connection before you can start to apply it yourself (and receive the merits that come with the behaviour). This takes time and requires energy and constant awareness and honest reflection.

What works for me is mantras. Short things I tell myself before entering a situation. For me it's things like: "Everybody here makes money, I'm not here for fun, be clear on the fact that you are going to want your hours paid if this negotiation turns into a set of tasks that you can pick up." Because I feel like the things I do are not worth a lot of money because I convince myself they are easy. But they usually are not, I'm just good at them (and I have to tell myself that as it doesn't come naturally to me.) And man, it took me 35 years to realize this ;). Don't underestimate these processes.

Yes you are going to have to learn the subtle art of not giving a F (which -if you read the book- translates to giving a F* about only the right/useful things). I think that book is very valuable to people like you and me.


Read the description please

> Furthermore, the same individuals tend to put down others who are more humble/less confident in their skills, directly or subtly.

> It infuriates me when these individuals subtly bring down others, but I am unsure how to approach it - directly, indirectly, or just ignore it and focus on my own work and goals.


"Subtly bringing down others" is also an opinion (it's probably not how they see it or how the person they communicate with sees it). But I don't care, blame it on others, try to change others, try to change the system. See how far you get, maybe it works for you. It doesn't work in my experience.

Telling me to "read the description please" and focusing on the blaming part tells me you are only looking for solutions that suit you and your current feelings and current behaviour. Good luck with that. My words to you remain: You'll fail and you'll feel worse after trying. Look inside yourself.

You use a lots of descriptive words and present them as truth, humble: maybe someone else would call it introverted, silent, diminished, weak? Why judge? Why put an emotional value on these behaviors at all? See them, think about them, adapt to them, learn, develop, overcome.

Edit: I never care so much but I do wonder now who is voting me down while I'm taking the time to share insights I've gathered over the course of my life. If I'm wrong I would really like to know. The subject is very close and important to me.


> "Subtly bringing down others" is also an opinion (it's probably not how they see it or how the person they communicate with sees it).

You're telling the OP you understand his situation better than he does and that everything is just his opinion. That's some blatant hypocrisy.

To quote your original comment:

> Because logically, these what you call "over confident" people get stuff done and get praise (or you wouldn't be jealous of them!) Yes, you are jealous of the success which you think is undeserved.

There's nothing that supports that fact. How do you know they get stuff done? How do you know they get praise? And how in the world did you come to the conclusion that he's jealous of their success? You're simply masquerading false assumptions as psychological advice.

At best you're attacking a straw man. You've build this fictive world in which the real, toxic, people are actually successful and worthy, but it's the OP who is too petty to acknowledge their true worth. But you're not talking about the reality. Worse, you're blaming the OP for not seeing the reality how your fiction is.

At worst, you might be so absorbed in your fiction where everything wrong is just someone's opinion or useless emotion, that you might be toxic yourself.

Just to be clear why I'm so aggressive with you, I have met toxic people, and I have felt being drained and put down by them. If you think these people do not exist, or don't mean harm, you're sorely mistaken. I can agree that they're being defensive, that they're actually afraid of being attacked so they attack first, but I can't agree with the fact that they don't exist or that it's my jealousness that hinders me from appreciating their worth.


Thank you for your response, it is highly appreciated. Ok, perhaps I'm extrapolating from the situations I've been in too much. I admit I have never worked with truly toxic people before. I have worked with very confident, boastful people however. But such behavior I have always seen as "Ok this person takes my intelligence seriously and sees me as someone who can take on this attitude." I have often enjoyed resulting, hard, conversations but indeed heard more introverted colleagues label such persons as toxic or indeed draining.

I am assuming (yes you are right) that these people get praise of some sort, otherwise why would you ever be annoyed? I mean if such people were ignored, demoted etc why would you be annoyed by that? The problem would solve itself. This is also where my assumption of success comes from. Why be annoyed by self-destructive people without success? Is this too much assumption? If they were truly unworthy of their own confidence, wouldn't they be exposed immediately? How do these people manage? How can they keep faking if results are required? It's not sustainable, there must be something there, they would be to easy to expose otherwise. On the other hand, if they'd fake it till they made it, they have a valid strategy and the confidence was not "over confidence", but justified.

So, if you ask me how to speed up said exposure? Ask them questions in public, don't help them on subjects they claim mastery in, ask them for help on the subject they claim mastery in? Assign them difficult tasks in the area they claim mastery in, tell your pl that a task is better suited for person X, who is a master in Y. I wonder why this does not seem to happen. (Again, because if this did happen, the toxics would be exposed immediately.) What kind of environment is OP in? I find this environment very hard to imagine, unless OP is misinterpreting (which can be entirely on me and my lack of imagination of course).


People don't need to be very skilled in order to talk BS and pick fights with others. And not all companies have a proper hierarchical structure where managers give a fk. Sometimes even "mediocre" knowledge of something is enough to keep the person employed because it's a niche technology or there aren't enough people applying. I've met a toxic person who never explained anything he did (always responding to "how did you fix it" with "dunno, just did some shit"), and I was too busy to check his commits. There was no code review. That same person used to answer people who asked him about X or Y with "dunno, don't care, it's not my problem". He bashed the people who used C++ smart pointers for being idiots who can't code without memory leaks.

We were working on legacy code mostly fixing bugs. There were no tests and a team of ~100 QAs (it was a gamedev company). There was almost no way to tell if the bugs he fixed didn't introduce additional bugs that nobody knew about. And everyone was working overtime to get the damn game shipped. This was the sort of company where the number of fixed bugs was an evaluation metric. Didn't matter that someone solved 20 bugs by adding a missing texture, while someone else fixed a very hard AI bug or a race condition. Team leads were not involved in employee evaluations and managers only looked at the numbers. They fired people on a whim to "teach a lesson". They shut down an entire office with no prior notice and asked the employees to sign a letter saying they were leaving instead of being fired.

Granted, the problem was mostly with the company, which is why the solution was to leave.


When you work as a team, being right is important but so is getting along with others. Try to turn your fury and intolerance into a constructive experience by developing an important skill of diplomacy.



Bitch about them to friends who don't work there.


"Hell is other people"


Follow up question: How do you deal with this when it is your boss?


The age-old adage:

1 delete Facebook 2 hit the gym 3 ???? 4 profit.

Who cares what others do. Focus on what you do.

People still think I don't know how to code for example lol.

I don't give a flying f. :)


I shave one every morning. Works well.


Fire them


It's easy if you're the one putting forward the task for which mastery of X is needed: (1) add clear bad consequences for failure; make it sure that the job is "so easy" for "someone master at X"; make it obvious that failing can only occur through their fault; add that "this is a crucial task" and its bad execution could threaten the future of all; hint at ways of future public shaming in case of failure, preferably in a humorous way :), (2) add an expected performance quotation "someone knowing X should be able to do it in N days easily" and (3) add some VERY desirable reward for task completion, that includes social status increases, but it's also conditioned on a performance metric like time/budget spent, not just 'task completion'".

The above will discourage anyone faking competence. The high reward that includes peer recognition will attract the truly competent ones.

Also it may help if you try to understand the problem better. Try and figure out what are the motives of the persons over-selling themselves.

There are on one side desperate extroverts who really need/want a job/project that requires them to have mastery of X, or they really want the client for whose projects mastery of X is required. So they play the "fake it till you make it". Of course, this is the optimistic perspective, some "just fake it", some become blocked in ever making it because they've faked it. I'm an introvert but I've played this game once myself - never again! (The insane amount of work that I had to do while also learning something I claimed to know, in a "jump straight in" way that slowed my learning paradoxically because I did not have the time to sit and learn the fundamentals was horrible and nerve wrecking.) -- There's noting to do about these people than avoid them, they'll learn their lesson and move on!

Then there are the "chronic deceivers". They cannot be dishonest in one aspect alone. -- So to deal with them just prove to the _others_ that they are untrustworthy. You can toy them into saying contradictory things if you're clever and have the time to waste. Or maybe ask them for help on something in front of other people in a way that if they say "no" they are either _assholes_ or they don't really have knowledge of X - both outcomes help.

Then the ones that also falsely believe themselves to have mastery of something. -- Just make it obvious to others that they are clueless and stupid in general.




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