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Scenario: A team of engineers has been divided into smaller "jobs" with 2-4 people working on each with the purpose of combining the sub-projects into the one larger project.

Issue: My manager and I have similar personality types where we naturally want to manage what we are doing. This does not inherently present an issue, however, as the project moved forward, it became necessary for me to take charge with my "job" (or sub-project). Due to this development, my interactions between the manager and I have become more confrontational and far more direct. When starting the project, he was receptive to my ideas and methods, however, after I had finished research, prototype testing and presented a prototype to investigate further, the manager wanted to overhaul the testing from scratch to suit the overall project (and its final presentation). I reasoned that the research supported the existing tests and that we should continue in order to meet the design deadline/schedule (making it clear the tests would be done soon after). It became clear they saw this as contempt for what they needed me to do and from then on tensions rose. Within a week, a major constraint had been put on the design which was not formally justified, after remarking that I would need such justification before I could scrap the existing prototypes (carrying on from the good presentation ideal from earlier), it was only natural that constructive communication broke down even further. I have also discovered that the manager is under stress due to issues arising in the other sub-projects that require their immediate attention and effort (i.e. some are moving rapidly others have barely started and require extensive intervention from the project manager), so this is not a direct consequence of previous events.

My Question: How should I (as a subordinate) be communicating and working with the project manager to avoid them perceiving my decisions as contemptuous but actually trying to get to the same goal, and allow us to communicate and work effectively throughout the project?

  • I think in general your question sounds interesting but it would be good if you could provide a sample or two to make it easier to understand. – Edgar Apr 7 '18 at 4:26
  • You realize he is your boss? You worry about your project, His worry is not only your sub-project but also other sub-projects as well. I think your issue is called "insubordinate". – scaaahu Apr 7 '18 at 6:53
  • @Nick Bosse Are you talking about the project manager, your line manager, or both? The usual advice here in such situations is “document everything, and get written confirmation”. That said, you will most likely end up having to do things your manager’s way, but you can at least cover yourself if the project falls to pieces. – Joe Stevens Apr 8 '18 at 10:47
  • @JoeStevens How can you cover your ass in a project of 4 people especially in a conflict you are 50% responsible for? Covering your ass should just be in regard to illegal activity not getting on with the job. Developers are paid to get the job done full stop. – Snickers3192 Apr 9 '18 at 1:30
  • @Snickers3192 The subproject (for which OP is responsible) is 2-4 people, the project overall is, I assume larger. The OP is, at the end of the day, paid by the company, as is his manager. If the project fails, it could well take the manager with it (I have often seen this), but the OP can protect his future with the company. – Joe Stevens Apr 9 '18 at 2:27
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IMO I don't think it's reasonable to not compromise on certain a aspect of the project when working in a team, especially testing. I hold testing myself in extremely high regard, but lets face it if you have a limited time and budget which is every single project ever, if the project starts running behind schedule because of issues such as the conflict you are asking here, testing will be the first thing to go.

Just imagine how silly it will be if the reason you start having an irreparable conflict with this person is over a task in the project which becomes de-scoped because of the timeline. I can't remember this exact quote I believe I first heard from Venkat Subramaniam, is that

We should not be passionate about our solutions but rather be passionate about solving problems.

It really remains to be seen what the best approach will be you should consider whatever you do now could be changed in the future. If I were you I would extend an olive branch to this person so to speak and say something like:

Hey I am sorry that I can be a bit stubborn sometimes, I am just passionate about my job, I can sometimes be too set on a particular solution or way of doing things, can we start over?

If you are really unwilling to compromise on the project, you should either be finding yourself a position where you can make all the decisions either being a manager or working solo. There is no way to ensure you can get things your way all time (even if they are the best I've found meritocracy don't exist in the real-world) when you are a member of a team. Even if you go to your boss/manager you will only win if your way aligns with their way, but I stress at the end of the day it will really be in fact their way.

  • So it has been resolved, how it ended up happening is I said I would redo all the testing as long as there was proper leeway on the (unjustified) constraint on the project, it turned out the testing method was so much more important to them so they really didnt mind making that sacrifice. The relationship is back to professional working order after making those allowances for each other. – NBoss Apr 12 '18 at 2:20

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