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I work as a software developer (remote) for a small company. They are not an IT-company. They just have a piece of software that needs to be maintained modified regularly with different changes.

So, they have multiple people who email me to request for changes. Usually 2-3 people.

Now, owner of the company sent me an email yesterday saying something like:

PLEASE remove option N ASAP. We cannot have it. Who authorized this???? Please disable this new button because users are not using it correctly. We specifically discussed this a year ago that this shouldn't be an option

This email was sent to me + CC'd to the manager who requested me to make the change.

I didn't want to tell them something like: "Hey, it's fault of John because he asked me. So, instead I replied:

I removed this button. We had a conversation 1 month ago about this feature.

Their reply: (Again CC'd to the manager)

Thank you.

I remember we talked about this 1 year ago to not have this as an option. Who asked you to do this? Was it via email or phone call?

So, now I do not know how to reply. I have email with this request I can just forward this to both of them or just to the person who wrote it. Should I reply all saying:

Look at this email correspondence from last month with John: ...

PS. I understand that these issues can be resolved if there's only one person who approve requests + if we have a task management systems. But currently we do not have that.

Update: Thank you so much for all great responses and advice. Incredible community here.

  • 4
    If the manager has specifically asked who did it: Just say it. Be direct and straightforward. "It looks like Steve did that commit." Don't say anything else. Nothing. Say absolutely nothing else. There is nothing more annoying to owners than whiners. If asked a direct question, state the answer. (If you don't like the "style" of the company - leave.) – Fattie Feb 1 '18 at 23:18
  • So your manager asked you to make the change, the owner doesn't want it, and you don't want to throw your manager under the bus? – thursdaysgeek Feb 1 '18 at 23:22
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    It sounds there us an process issue here , specifically missing / unclear UAT signoff or unclear functional requirements definition before development even began. Will expand this into answer later when home – Anthony Feb 1 '18 at 23:32
  • Were you involved in that one year old discussion? – Masked Man Feb 3 '18 at 18:53
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I would just come out and say it. This isn't a case of "throwing anyone under the bus"; you aren't trying to cover up your own mistake or blame anyone else, because you could not have known about this.

I don't know why you would rather not tell people honestly what is going on in the company, but I'd assume everyone is trying to do what is best for the company and this is just another experience to learn from. Your company needs better processes, not cover ups. Cover ups never improve anything.

(Unless your manager told you this feature was specifically banned from being made, in which case you should have refused to implement it at all.)

  • 1
    Thank you so much. I went with this option. It seemed to work out well. – user194076 Feb 17 '18 at 22:51
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If your manager asked you to make the change, and the owner told you to take it out, you were right to take it out. Now it sounds like the owner wants to know why you made the change, and you don't want to just throw your manager under the bus.

So, go to your manager, and ask him how to reply to the owner. And if it's an option, talk in person. Ask your manager how you should respond. Your manager will either talk to the owner and you don't need to reply. Or you may work together on a response. In either case, you're following the lead of the manager and thus not just pointing fingers.

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    I may be paranoid, but once a blame game is in progress, I would not blindly trust my manager to represent facts accurately, lest he throw me under the bus. That is, I think it makes sense to coordinate a response with your manager, but I would want to remain in the loop lest absence of my reply be framed as admission of fault. – meriton - on strike Feb 2 '18 at 0:06
  • @meriton - very true. By making sure you aren't throwing your manager under the bus, you want to make sure you don't end up there yourself. My answer does require a certain level of trust in a decent manager. – thursdaysgeek Feb 2 '18 at 0:33
  • Even if the manager does respond truthfully to the owner, I wouldn't recommend not responding to that email. – さりげない告白 Feb 2 '18 at 1:41
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    @meriton True. Although, from the line, "Look at this email correspondence from last month," it sounds like he has proof of what actually happened if the manager decides to lie. So there's no downside to letting the manager decide how to respond. – Jaguar Wong Feb 2 '18 at 16:30
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    @AdamSmith - if you have a decent manager, figuring out with the manager how to triage this to avoid any bus underthrowing is the best option. The manager may know better how to handle this politically, and for a decent manager, should at least know this is coming. So I disagree on your assessment on the best that can happen. – thursdaysgeek Feb 2 '18 at 23:13
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Sounds like this is already handled. What is the issue? The new owner is waiting for your reply as how the feature already started. Give him a quick call and run him through the email chain that you received, how it's triaged in your dev environment, how it ended up on your plate and the deployment plan to include it.

Do you guys have software release notes that detailed this button? Let him know all the documentations that detailed the feature.

Your customers should know prior Production deployments what they are receiving. Was it something he missed?

EDIT: It's highly recommended and common in IT to have Release Notes or Development Scope documents. There should have been a scope of items to be shared within the company first then the customers under the Managers approval and which employee worked in which bug/feature.

This provides transparency to the work that is done to the software and questions like these gets answered right from the get go. If this is missing, I would recommend that OP talks to his manager and implement this practice.

  • The owner is specifically asking who made the commit. The owner wants to know, the owner owns the company - state who did it. – Fattie Feb 1 '18 at 23:18
  • On the other hand, you don't want to fall out with the manager. – gnasher729 Feb 1 '18 at 23:58
  • 1
    Owner can fire the author and the manager. Manager can’t fire anyone. – Donald Feb 2 '18 at 1:26
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    @Fattie the owner is asking who authorized the feature, not who wrote it. – Erik Feb 2 '18 at 6:29
  • The biggest issue here (IMO) is that there's a lack of communication between development group and the new owner. – Isaiah3015 Feb 2 '18 at 14:41
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The owner of the company is your big boss. He is clearly requesting for you to say/prove who authorized this. You have no other option than disclosing this information, if you want to keep your job.

If your manager is smart enough, he has already explained the situation to the owner. I would reply directly to the owner without any CCs, saying who authorized and the piece of e-mail you have.

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The way you described it, the boss (company owner) didn’t blame you at all - he just strongly disapproves of a feature, asks you to remove it, and asks you who told you to do it.

So what you do first is remove the feature, and record that you removed it on orders of the company owner - in case whoever told you to add it asks you to put it back. And then you tell the boss who ordered you. Which shouldn’t be a secret and which you should have written down. Next year the boss might order you to put the feature back, and when he asks who ordered you to remove it, you say “you did”.

Asking you if you were told by email or phone means the owner wants to be prepared when he discusses this with whoever told you to. If you say “by phone” then the boss knows this person could deny everything.

Usually you should take orders by the manager and everyone the manager told you to take orders from - for example, usually you wouldn’t take orders from your manager’s manager, that person should go through your immediate manager.

Company owner can be different. If you tells you to do things, and it is a mistake, it’s his money. Obviously if you know something the owner doesn’t know you tell them.

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I see this issue as being caused by weaknesses in your change management process. Specifically, the below issues:

  1. Lack of / inadequate process for UAT signoff
  2. Lack of / inadequate functional requirements approval

As to how the above issues ultimately culminates in what you are facing:

They have multiple people who email me to request for changes.

This is problematic. You said that your company is small and this may limit the available options, but before development begins, there should be clear functional requirements signoff. The fact that there was a row between the manager who requested you to implement this feature, and the owner of the company means that such process apparently is inadequate.

Please disable this new button because users are not using it correctly

If the above is what is actually happening, this suggests weaknesses in the UAT testing / user training phase of the development process. It appears that end users are not provided with an opportunity to validate that what was developed is what actually wanted. Again, this ties in to my first point in that there may not have been a clear definition of what is wanted due to lack of requirements sign off before development.

How do I reply to this?

You should reply honestly with who told you to implement such changes. However depending upon your standing in the company, you may also want to suggest changes to the owner / your manager as to best practices. Ultimately, this experience is a good lesson to improve upon the deficient processes that led to this situation in the first place. I assume your manager / company owner is rational and reasonable such that they realize that streamlining processes is in their best interests.

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