Petr (or how to lose a great developer in under 3 months)


Once upon a time, in April this year, I was moving to a new company. It looked really good especially since they said that they have “Nordic (Danish) management”. All good until end on July when I had some well-deserved vacation.

In mid-July this new developer Petr Čaněk joined my project as developer. I knew nothing about him even though something was a bit off in the way he talked (choice of expressions, tone, attitude, frequency of words per minute, lack of article usage…), but hey! we are all unique and as long as the company decided to bring him in I was convinced that they made the best decision, so I welcomed him to the team, made sure that he had access everywhere he needed and then left for vacation.

After I came back, we had a meeting with the client and out project manager could not join but we (PM, team and client) had an agreement that I would be his stand-in (not only that one time but every time he would not be there). For some reason Petr felt the need to say – out loud – that this team had no project manager and because of that reason we are chaotic. I immediately responded that this statement is not true. We do have a project manager, but since he is not here, I am his stand-in, as agreed. I asked him if I could be of any help in this role, and when he said “no” I suggested we should continue the meeting. A few days later I receive a call from my line manager (in short: a person responsible with the relationship between me and the company) saying that Petr complained to him about me not doing my job – there were over 10 untouched tasks in my backlog. I cleared the problem (or at least  thought I did) as it was a misunderstanding that lead to so many tasks being created. My line manager also informed me that out PM would be changed (the reason was that the new PM already has the rest of this client’s projects).

After this things only went down.

Petr started to:

  1. have one-on-one meetings with the client (which is not necessarily bad, but it becomes bad when he is the only team member to know about these meetings). And this happened quite frequently. I kept asking him to at least inform the rest of the team about the existence of these meetings, but I was ignored. After about one month I moved up one level and took this to the project manager and after another month of asking, still nothing happened (except maybe for the promise that things will change). in the end he told me he talked with Petr and things are good.
  2. assume credit for all the front end work during client demo. He was not literally saying that he worked on ll the tasks, but would present all of the front end like “I will now demo what I have worked on this sprint”. And at the end of everything he would say “Oana would you care to demo your tasks ?” My only answer could then be “I would, if you hadn’t already done it. My tasks were [here I say their names]. Client, I am available for questions”

I thought that maybe I am not approaching Petr in the right way and I went to my line manager (who is Petr’s line manager also) and asked for advice. Imagine my surprise when the line manager said that he already talked with Petr. I am not sure what they talked about, but the conclusion was that all of this was either my fault or a misunderstanding. I even begun to believe it… But; a few days later I am screen sharing with Petr about solving a problem when he switches to a slack window – conversation between him and client. Here is the short version (I did not think of making a screen-shot…):

Client: what is going on with task xxx? Oana is on it for  a few days.
Petr: I do not know anything about Oana’s status. I will check on her and get back to you.

Never, to this day, have I heard from Petr about that issue, but it made me angry, because it sound like I was not able to work on tasks on my own and I needed supervision. (The task was with me for 3 days, because my priorities were changed during those days, but they never found out, because they never asked me…). So, in that angry moment I wrote the following message to my line manager (I am happy I did it, and I believe it was one of the best decisions I made the past):

“Hi, Jan. I am sorry to write so late. Earlier today I was screen-sharing with Petr in order to debug/fix an error. I accidentally saw part of a conversation between him and Jana (our client) from which I got the impression that he lead Jana to believe that I am a weak developer. For quite some time I felt that Jana’s attitude changed toward me, but I always thought it was only in my head and said nothing of it. Now I no longer think it is just in my head and no longer trust Petr as a teammate. I would like to be moved out of the team as soon as possible. Please take this request as serious as possible.”

The message was sent September 25th.

I talked with him about what happened he promised to talk to Petr about it and suggested that all 3 of us should sit and talk face to face. The two of them are in Prague, but they will come to my office (Bucharest) in about 2 weeks. I agreed to wait. Petr’s attitude continued during this time. In addition we had a lot of disagreements from what git flow we should follow to where it is best to declare variables in the code.

They finally came to Bucharest. We had “the talk”. Conclusions:

1. In order to stop the disagreements in the project Petr was declared front-end Architect of the project – so I am to accept his decision whenever some disagreement emerges
2. Petr said I was “aggressive” when talking to him. When Jan asked him to explain this Petr said: “She never let’s me think. Whenever someone asks a question Oana rushes to give the answer. Sometimes even before they finish their question”. To this the rule was: Oana you will give Petr time to think.

So… with the above rules in mind, tell me how am I supposed to bring new ideas (different form Petr’s) into the project and how can I answer the any questions other people have?

I honestly thought that this was not to be taken serious, but; some 2 weeks later (6-7th of November) when I was in Prague for a full team meeting (we used to do this once per month) there was this discussion about the Cookie Law, and since I knew that topic like the palm of my hand, I gave some answers and some suggestions. Can you guess what Petr said when I started to go into details? Well, surprise: he said “we should have another meeting at a later time so that I have time to think about it“. I did not say anything because the client was there and I did not want to start  and argument…

I left Prague and came back to Bucharest. The next week some more arguments (code-related) emerged and since I did not take Petr’s architect role seriously the PM decided to jump in and save the day:

PM: We agreed that Petr is the architect and thus you should follow his decision.
Me: What if I strongly disagree with his decision? Plus this disagreement is about naming functions and placement of the code, not architecture.
PM: Well, I am no JavaScript expert, but since he is a senior and an architect he makes the calls.
Me: I will not change the code because by doing so, I will only be a brainless monkey that is only typing, not writing code. But if Petr wants this code changed then he can change it himself and assume the responsibility if something breaks.
PM: ok

End of call. 15 minutes later Petr changes the code and pushes it for testing. Visual of the feature is broken. When this is observed by our tester he come to me to fix it. I tell him that I do not think it is fair that I fix things that other developers have broken (especially since he changed my code).

That was the day I decided to resign from this company – November 14th 2017.

Of course that there were more disagreements on the code and last week I was told that I should maybe stop implementing requirements and just move to help your tester in making sure that the tasks as implemented as per requirements. Imagine how that made me feel.

I did not have any other contract or agreement for another job, but I was confident in my abilities and experience that I would get it in under one week – which I did.

This was Petr’s story; or my story. And it has a happy ending. But it can be anyone’s story and not necessarily have a happy ending. Because stories do not have happy endings by default. You are the only one writing your story and you are the only one who can choose to give you a happy ending. Do not let other choose for you and do not let others write your story. Take control and look forward – there are only good things ahead.

Why am I writing this?
Because I am trying to add to the list of people leaving companies. I am not leaving this company because of Petr. I am leaving this company because of how the situation was managed. I am leaving because I do not want to be shut down. I worked so hard to get here and I am not willing to let anyone bring me down.

This story is here to teach others that we are free. And free [in my opinion] is to do and say everything you think of as long as you do not hurt anyone. This last part is important. Also it is important to never give up no matter how hard things become.

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