11

I am a Software Architect with decades of development and leadership experience. I have a new Manager since 6 months. Previously we both were colleagues as Architects, but when my previous manager quit, he was promoted.

When he got promoted, he made it very clear to everyone that he does not want to be playing Architect role anymore, also that he would not have managed it time wise anyway to fulfil both Manager and Architect roles.

We usually get along well and he seem to respect my experience. But since some weeks, he is interfering and micromanaging technical details in a way an Architect would do. Given his background, I took it lightly initially -- after all, it is good to have a manager who understands technology. But nowadays he attends meetings which are only meant for Architects (he has those meetings in his calendar from Architect days) where he is pushing his opinion. He attends architecture workshops which I conduct for the development teams and undermines the decisions I wanted to take. As they also report to him, they have stopped listening to me, though technically they seemed to agree with me.

I am quite disturbed by this - I do not want to give an impression to the teams that I am insecure or so by his presence, but how can I remind him that he has a new role now and him playing the old role creates a conflict of interest? I thought of contacting his boss by chat to mention this, but not sure whether this would damage the relationships

EDIT:

I'd like to clarify -- in my org., both developers and Architects report to a Head of Development. Several Head of Developments report to CIO/CTO. So we have several Architects working under different managers, with Architecture group (a virtual team, so to say) having the overall responsibility to make technical decisions to protect the interests of the company (e.g. data security, compliance etc.). Here the source of conflict is that my manager on couple of occasions exercised his authority in a way that compromised established architectural guidelines

  • 3
    "how can I remind him that he has a new role now and him playing the old role creates a conflict of interest" You do realise that as the manager he gets the make the call on how involved he is? And making decisions on architecture and the direction he wants you all to go is quite the opposite of micro-managing. As the manager of an architect team he's supposed to push his opinion as he gets to decide what direction to take his team in. Why are you surprised by any of this? – Lilienthal Mar 30 '18 at 6:59
  • As this person is the manager it is up to him to take the advice their Architects provides. If your boss does not trust you, and that appears to be the case, what you describe ends up happening. – Donald Mar 30 '18 at 14:26
  • @Lilienthal - he is NOT a manager of the architecture group. He is one of the several Head of Dev. in our company. Several developers and one or two architects report to him. We have many such departments. Architects are a lateral group whose task is to protect the interest of the overall enterprise by mitigating technical risk. In my previous job, inorder to avoid precisely these kind of conflict of interest, Architecture group formed a separate line of hierarchy – Sunil Mar 30 '18 at 18:01
  • @Ramhound - this does not seem to be the case. Lately, he is crashing into Architecture meetings, mentioning his "nostalgia" – Sunil Mar 30 '18 at 18:03
  • @Sunil You may want to edit your question then because it reads like he was promoted and is managing you and your fellow architects. If he's outside that management structure you should make that more explicit. And if that's the case, why haven't you looped your actual manager in yet? – Lilienthal Mar 30 '18 at 19:47
17

Don't talk to his boss.

Instead, schedule a one on one meeting with your new boss and talk this out. Remind him what he said earlier about not wanting to be playing the Architect role anymore.

Mention how it is impacting you.

It's likely that he's doing this out of habit. Being an Architect comes easily, but management skills are probably still a little weak.

One of the hardest skills a new manager has to learn is how to trust his team and stay out of their way.

  • 2
    my boss told me that "management is the art of achieving success through others". Goes perfectly with your excellent answer. – gazzz0x2z Mar 30 '18 at 12:22
  • I agree with this 100% in spirit but it's hard to test against the OP's situation, since many of the complaints could actually be taken as leadership activities (example: "pushing opinion" could mean he's simply setting direction, which is something I'd expect a leader to do). Basically, what @Lilienthal said in a comment above. – dwizum Mar 30 '18 at 13:01
4

I would talk to him but not just to remind him that he wanted to step out of the architect role. Instead I would let him know that it is frustrating to you to be second guessed in a meeting and could you meet with him first and go over the architectural plans and then go to the meeting on the same page. This gives him a chance to object your design privately, you a chance to try to convince him and then gives you a chance to change to his final decision (he is the final decision maker) and adapt your training or meeting plans to meet his expectations if necessary.

That way, in public, you look like he is supporting you and that makes the team more likely to listen to you. It also gives you a chance to understand his reasoning to be better able to meet his needs with your future designs. And in those private meetings, he is more likely to come to your view than in a public place where he would lose face for changing his mind if you disagree. I'd expect that in private, you would convince him sometimes, he would convince you sometimes, and he would overrule you sometimes. That is normal.

  • 1
    I like this answer as it give a good approach to working with that manager regardless of the outcome of that meeting. – JJohnston Mar 30 '18 at 18:47
2

You take the good with the bad, in some ways you're lucky you have a manager that understands your work intimately, on the other hand it means you can't get away with much.

If you don't like the management style you should have pushed for your promotion, as it stands there isn't a great deal you can do.

Eventually new managers settle into their roles, it sometimes takes longer for those who rose from the ranks, because they understand their old job better and therefore cling to that role a bit. You need to understand it from his side, he's in a new role, uncertain and nervous clutching at what he knows to some extent. In time his confidence will grow and this will probably change.

Your best option is to be supportive. People remember well the ones who supported them when they were struggling, they never forget the ones that tried to drag them down either. Don't contact the boss, nothing positive is in that for you.

  • 1
    "If you don't like the management style you should have pushed for your promotion" - this line of thinking has pushed many, many technical people into management roles who ought not to be there. – Joe Stevens Mar 31 '18 at 2:38
1

It sounds like he's having a little difficulty adjusting to his new role. Your colleague has to learn an entirely new set of skills, and perhaps he is underestimating the level of challenge that he has taken on. Furthermore, it's likely that he misses his previous role more than he thought that he would.

Management requires a lot better understanding of people and how they interact than software architecture does -- as you know, if you have a lot of leadership experience. So he has to learn how to get good at it, and you — all of you — can find ways to help teach him.

One of the things that he has to learn is that managers can't give jobs to people and then try to do them themselves. I'd say that he needs a bit of time to learn the ropes, and you all can try to help him understand that he has your support.

One thing that you might consider doing is looking up your old boss for a social visit, and asking his (her?) advice on how you can best help your new boss adjust to his new role. (If you thought he was a good boss, that is.) He knows both of you very well, and if he was a good manager, he will probably have some insights that you will find valuable.

Other than that, you can apply your leadership skills to "manage without authority." Find ways to smooth the road for your new boss, just as you would with a new employee who was reporting to you. And do your best not to get frustrated.

Give it another six months, and see if he starts getting more comfortable with his position.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.