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For those unwilling to read the whole story: the manager is passing us his tasks because the boss forces him to use terrible tools, yet he doesn't want to talk with the boss. This makes us look less performant in our tasks, but he won't defend us.

Our manager is a good guy. However, he's the manager because nobody else in the team wanted such title at that time (before I even came to the company). He's not willing to do the management tasks along with his development tasks, and from what I know, he was fine with just coding. However, he has a higher salary, because he's managing.

This caused him to slowly move some of his development tasks to other people in the team, so that he had more time to manage (Over the last months, this flow of tasks has increased by 3 or 4 times). This should be okay, but I'm worried about his management will. The boss directly contacts us and gives tasks. The manager is apparently there to answer more technical questions than organising (something a tech lead would do), and instead, when something more in the organisational side happens, pointing the boss or let us do until something blows up.

I know that many of the decisions taken by the boss are not perfect, and he knows that too. Some of the procedures we follow are plain outdated, slow and are only done in such way because the boss "read it in a book", probably from 25 years ago, for a non-development company. We have few organisational tools, but most of the information comes and goes in spreadsheets, because "it's easy to create". Most of the time, using spreadsheets slows the manager down, especially for stuff that can be done automatically by the tools we already have.

This has made him pass onto us also the management tasks. Basically, we're now also dealing with deadlines, time management, scheduling and key performance indicators (of ourselves). These tasks are not hard per se. It's the way we have to do them, that's hard. The manager knows it, and he is so aware of this that we prefers to pass the problem around the developers instead of sitting down with the boss to talk about this.

To give numbers, over the months before this happened, only maybe 1 hour of every 40 was spent on management (on our own). Right now, it's raised to probably 1.5 hours. Per day.

We, as a team, have shown the manager our concern and offered him tools and support to confront the boss, but after these months, we're turning into a much harder situation to swallow, so everyone's more tense. The manager doesn't even reply to emails from us anymore, not even the task-related or friendly ones.

The boss doesn't see the situation as such, but after we've all (including the manager) "reduced our efficiency at work", he's raised some red flags about our commitment to the tasks and "our projects". From his point of view, the tools we use (spreadsheets) are perfect and the problem resides in our commitment. The manager won't say a thing to defend us or himself, not even to say he's dropped his tasks on us.

I've proven my boss in the past that by spending a day on preparing a tool to replace a spreadsheet, we save days of worktime. I've even spent my free time polishing this to demonstrate it works like a charm. But the boss is absolutely against using anything that's not a spreadsheet.

Nobody on our team can take any more of the manager's tasks on our side. This is causing the whole team to get grumpy, reluctant to manage ourselves and unmotivated. Our focus on the main tasks has decreased over these last months by a whole lot. The boss won't fire or demote the manager, as he's a "good man in the middle". Some of us are starting to check his work as well, because we suspect he's doing nothing but passing tasks (and his main role is development, in the end).

  • Is simply skipping my "management" tasks the only way to proceed?
  • What's the best way to tackle the "lack of commitment" without putting the manager in a situation?
  • Should I "betray" the manager and talk to the boss about our "new duties"? (I'm pretty sure he won't care as long as everything's done)
  • Since I'm now managing myself more than my manager, should I ask for a raise similar to what the manager got to do his job?
  • Is it time to update my resumé?

The last two questions are jokes, although they come every now and then to my head

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    Looks like your manager has shut down. He doesn't like the pressure, knows things aren't going to change and tried to fix it by delegating. It also looks like he's glad to be out of the way when the boss sidesteps him - thus, being unresponsive solves the problem for him. Of course I only know the guy through your description so I might be way off. What were the reasons no one wanted to step up as manager? – rath Nov 10 '17 at 11:42
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    Export your tool content to an excel sheet? Automatize it and auto-mail it to the boss weekly? – Wilbert Nov 10 '17 at 11:44
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If the manager is someone that is responsible for directing your work, then you do what your manager asks you to do. If the team is no longer able to perform tasks in a timely manner that the higher up wants done then that is a problem between the manager and his/her boss.

The boss directly contacts us and gives tasks.

That part is a problem. No one should be sidestepping your manager to assign tasks. Doing this says that they have no faith in your manager to perform their duties.

That said, it does open up a possible line of communication. You need to maintain your own timeline for task completion. You know that your manager is going to assign tasks, so account for it. When the big boss assigns you a job you can certainly tell them when it will be completed. If they ask why it might take longer than they expect, let them know what your workload is, including the tasks assigned by your manager.

The manager won't say a thing to defend us or himself, not even to say he's dropped his tasks on us.

S(he) doesn't need to. When the boss assigns a task to you, let them know the expected date of completion. If they bring up "commitment" then show them your task list and ask how they would like you to restructure it.

At some point someone is going to be assigned to be a real manager in this situation.

  • Thanks! Indeed, there were plans to hire a true manager for the whole team, but it seems all of the candidates are really willing to do their job, and this seems to make the boss uncomfortable. So, I'd need to make sure to register all the time I spend in management for further demonstration. Great! – Korcholis Nov 10 '17 at 9:06
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    Sometimes a higher-up will come in with an urgent task. The way I deal with this is by letting my manager know I've switched tasks and why. Usually a Hey, X wants me to do this [urgent thing]. Is it ok to switch? and let them fight it out between them if needed. Bottom line is, the manager can be overruled but he must always be informed. – rath Nov 10 '17 at 11:45
  • @rath: I agree. However, it shouldn't be standard operating procedure. – NotMe Nov 10 '17 at 19:06
  • @rath As I mention, whenever this happens and there's a priority discrepancy, the manager always points me to the boss' office. It's the powerlessness and the careless attitude of the manager that really drives me crazy. – Korcholis Nov 11 '17 at 21:23
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The boss should be loading tasks on the manager and not individual members of the team. I don't know where you get the idea that explicitly means the manager should do all of them. I guess if he told the manager to fire someone and then asked another team member to do it, that should be considered the manager's job.

I don't see how you expect the manager to do all this other work and then manage the team. Maybe he doesn't know how to manage, but that's a different issue. I want my manager to delegate tasks, so he's available when I need him. A manager should be spending the entire day making sure everyone is doing their job. This involves workload, having available resources (including time), and that everyone understands the connection between what they do and how the company makes money. Ultimately it leads to evaluating your performance and compensating everyone accordingly.

Talk to your boss. Ask what you're suppose to do when you're given too much work.

  • I see something got lost in translation. I'm fine with the manager giving us his tasks. He has always done it and is the only way he can manage, as you point out. The problem is that, even though he's doing management duties, he is still a developer. If he decides to completely move away from development, it's fine, he'll be able to manage us better. The problem is that he's also passing his management duties to us, but not really doing the job to stop the boss from directly assigning us tasks. Right now it feels like there's no manager at all and the whole team is made of contractors. – Korcholis Nov 10 '17 at 12:03
  • @Korcholis - can you give an example of a manager duty? – user8365 Nov 10 '17 at 21:53
  • My manager is acting as a manager and as a developer, so some tasks are either develop (which we all are paid for) or plan & organise the projects, deal with the boss, define priorities or check we are all on track and try to find a way back to the path. Honestly, I'm talking about my manager's tasks. – Korcholis Nov 11 '17 at 21:16
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This:

Should I "betray" the manager and talk to the boss about our "new duties"? (I'm pretty sure he won't care as long as everything's done)

...and this:

The manager won't say a thing to defend us or himself, not even to say he's dropped his tasks on us.

...don't go together well. Your manager isn't saying anything to defend you, and he's not telling his boss that he's given you extra tasks. The secrecy of these extra tasks needs to go more than the tasks themselves.

It shouldn't take much to do this - just assume that everyone knows exactly what tasks you're doing, including the boss. Your focus needs to be on being crystal clear over the timelines for delivering your tasks, and how those timelines will change when you're assigned new tasks. If the boss assigns you a new task and you can't do it because you've got x hours of management tasks, just tell him, and ask him how he wants you to prioritise going forward. When he's confirmed what he wants you to do, send a quick email confirmation to him so you have it in writing.

If you do this and you're not meant to have these management tasks, then the situation will quickly come to light. If you do this and the boss just starts getting angry, telling you to work longer hours or generally blaming you for the situation - then yes, time to update your resume.

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