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I do freelance computer work (hardware, network, database development) for a small company since years. Until about a year ago I worked for the owner. The owner does not know much about computer and he knows that. He trusts me, I made suggestions, the owner approved them, and everything worked fine for years.

Now the company is growing and the owner employed a friend to manage part of the company. He seems to be competent in some areas but he has no idea about computer. That wouldn't be a problem if he would acknowledge that fact and ask for advise. But he is not asking. He just makes bad decisions and he treats me like a "worker". Do this, do that, but don't make any smart suggestions.

I get paid for my time and if he makes a bad decision and I have to work double the time that shouldn't be my concern. But it's no fun to work like that. I prefer to work with competent people or at least with people who listen.

I guess the manager will stay in that job for the foreseeable future because the busy boss needs someone he can trust. So likely I will be stuck to follow the orders of that guy. What I would like is that the manager asks and listens to make better decisions. Then we would pull in the same direction to get things done. But in the moment he makes a bad decisions (i.e. he buy unsuitable hardware) and then I make the best out of the situation. He would have saved money and time if he would have asked me first. But he didn't ask. And after I told him that his decision was not really good (in a nice way) he still ignores my advice. And this happened a couple of times.

I tried to talk to him in private a few time but he does not change. He tells me something like: "I understand but this is what I decided and that's it". I talked to the boss and explained the situation. And the boss understands it and does not like it. But I guess the boss does not want to reprimand the friend who does a good job in other areas. This situation is still in development and maybe the boss will do something.

My question here is: How can I convince the manager to make better decisions so that we pull in the same direction together?

Just for clarification: There is no doubt that the manager makes bad decisions. I know the difference between different opinions and bad decisions. I am not in competition with him about his job. I don't want his job and he should know that. It is also unlikely that the manager wants to get rid of me. Because I developed the main database for the company and if I would stop working with them they would have a major problem (maybe not right away but in the long run).

Edit - This questions is different to other questions in at least two ways:

  • I worked for the boss for years without problem. He knows I do a good job. The new manager is his friend and not just any employee. But because the boss is extreme busy he is in a bad position to solve this problem.
  • I am pretty sure the manager knows he makes wrong decisions. And he knows if he would ask me first then he would make better decisions. He even acknowledges that he makes not so good decisions. But he does not change his behavior.
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    I had almost an identical situation happen to me about 15 years ago. Unless the owner is willing to find a better manager, I don't see much hope. I'd try to find another contract. Sorry, wish I had a better approach to offer. – Wesley Long May 5 '18 at 3:14
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  • @gnat: Thanks for the link. It's similar but different in the way that I was working for the smart boss for a long time and the new manager is a friend of the boss. I think that is a significant difference. – Edgar May 5 '18 at 6:30
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    You're a freelancer; remember you have the power to fire your clients. – Erik May 5 '18 at 10:41
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    @Erik: Yes, I can do that. And it's good to remember that I can walk away if I want to. But first I try to do the right thing and sort this out. – Edgar May 5 '18 at 11:34
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Remember that you are the expert. He is paying you to be the expert. You are supposed to know more than him about some things. Sometimes he's going to make sub-optimal decisions. If it's a hardware purchase, it can't always be returned, and it very often can't be returned without the manager declaring that he made a mistake (and looking stupid). Don't force people to confront their own stupidity. Especially people with power over you.

The issue here is that he isn't delegating any decision making to you. As a consequence, he's paying you hourly to do twice the work, when he could pay you less if he had delegated the decision.

If you bring this up, and get the boss man to delegate decision making, you are going to have to show him that you can work less hours (get less money).

You need to get him to trust in your ability to make decisions. This can be hard and you certainly don't want to argue with him. If he won't delegate the decision making to you, he's going to keep paying a premium for that.

I would suggest that you cry into your piles of money.

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It doesn't matter if he makes good decisions or not. It only matters that you don't have confidence in those decisions. If its been a year and your option of how he is doing hasn't improved you should drop this client. You need to be able to communicate with the client even if you don't always agree with every decision they make. One goal you should have as a freelancer is that you only work for clients you like working with.

The only case in which it makes sense to appeal to the owner is if you are sure that the owner will remove the manager based on what you say. Otherwise, you will only hurt your relationship with the manager in the long run.

When you drop them, it is best not to say why, come up with a nice white lie. Leave on good terms with everyone. If the manager is truly bad the owner will figure it out without you, unless the owner is even worse.

  • Almost a year later I can confirm this is more or less what happened. Except I didn't drop them but they dropped me for certain work. And then that incompetent manager left the company and now they ask me more again. But it's still not back to the level which it was before. Let's see... – Edgar Apr 17 at 0:46

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