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I am a developer working directly under Boss (hereafter B) but so communicate fairly frequently with Boss's Boss (hereafter BB). B and BB have differing philosophies when it comes to code, to the point where it is very difficult to write code that pleases both of them.

BB is ultimately the one to sign off on code, but it must also get the go-ahead from B. However, if I write code that B likes, BB typically hates it, and vice versa. What can I do to facilitate a common understanding between my bosses?

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    Have you talked directly to your boss B and explain to him this?
    – Isaiah3015
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 22:52
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    What are the aspects that one likes and one hates? And very important, what do B and BB know about programming? Not all bosses are programmers but they often think it's their business to judge software by quite stupid criteria. If your code has to pass both bosses, THEY definitely should agree on one way, why do YOU have to arrange that? The whole thing smells...
    – puck
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 3:39
  • B and BB should care more about deliverables with adequate coding quality than code aesthetics.
    – OnoSendai
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 20:32

3 Answers 3

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Create coding standard guidelines and ask them to provide input and sign off on it. Expand and nuance the standard as you meet new issues in the same category.

This wastes minimal time of your superiors (as opposed to arranging a meeting, or handing the problem over to them, or continue as now) and it also creates a document that you can refer to when you have code reviews, or even inline comments.

Now you have a document telling you how to navigate the treacherous waters, and your successor will thank you for it. The power of written standards will also make your B and BB accept more solutions than they previously did. It also helps with the deflection of the blame game, should it appear. (It won't be anything wrong with your code, the error will be in the standard)

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  • -1. Didn't mention documentation often enough...
    – user53718
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 5:54
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    @Nij hah =D Well, if you have witnessed the power of bureaucracy when it is working in your favor, it is hard not to be a disciple.
    – Stian
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 6:07
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    This only works if the problem is purely one of style, not of substance.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 15:07
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    @Erik how so? If both provide input and agree on it, there should be no problem with either style or substance?
    – Stian
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 15:10
  • You might want to expand on everything you should put in the document, then. The coding standard guidelines I've seen are all about how to layout code and sometimes a bit about naming things, not about how to solve the actual technical problems.
    – Erik
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 15:12
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You should request a meeting with both of them at the same time.

Let them know that you like your job but there is a problem you need a solution for. Show them a specific instance of code that one likes but the other doesn't. Ask them which "philosophy" you should follow.

They'll hash it out and give you an answer. It shouldn't be a problem after that.

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    If you take this path, have at least 10 examples of code that one approved but the other rejected. 5 on each "side of the fence." Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 1:50
  • @WesleyLong: absolutely, the more you have the better your case.
    – NotMe
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 17:43
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In a management perspective this is more of a power struggle. You are under manager B and therefore, you are responsible to deliver to his standards. If the manager of B; which is BB doesn't like it, BB should directly talk to B and not to you. Simply put, BB shouldn't manage you but he should manage your boss. The fact that BB is going directly to you and managing your work is the issue.

The best way to approach this IMO is to handle it politically. Talk to your boss B and let him know that your code is will be created per his standard since he is your direct manager. If B's boss (BB) have an issue with it, let them both deal with it. If BB comes directly to you and ask you to change your code, defer him back to B and let him know this is what he wanted.

If this can't work, I am afraid you'll need both of their higher ups, come in and mediate.

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