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I am working for an offshore services company but doing a role as an Onsite coordinator and Analyst for a 12 member team but being onsite. The offshore project manager was an ex-QA for the same project; and when he was onsite, he was either spending time going around the city or staying at his hotel-watching TV but passing on his work to offshore QA. The only thing he was doing is sending mails to team, related or unrelated just to pretend that he is working. Now the project went haywire, we lost about 50% of developers who did 99% of work and the senior management is closely monitoring the situation. Myself and the offshore project manager are both reporting to a senior person (read authoritarian) in the company.

The offshore project manager convinced this manager that he is doing all the work, and also when he was onsite, he did not even have 1-2 hours of onsite coordination work. Added that he did an excellent job doing a QA. (The fact is he was onsite at the best time, where he was actually survived because of the good developers that time) This perception is strongly carried over to me. The senior manager having this prejudice, everyday sends a mail asking for how I spent my time. I am really spending time testing for Acceptance testing, doing analysis and coordination work, mail clarifications - hardly having any time left over, often working overtime to avoid more people pointing fingers furthermore.

Moreover things unfortunately work against me - if there are any requirements related gap, the offshore team just points fingers to me that requirements aren't clear 'completely' and uses that as a scapegoat and slack. So now at this situation the senior manager with all these data behaves very rude at me, often sending direct slandering mails, micromanaging and asking how I spent every minute. Its also tough to explain him that a particular discussion took 30 minutes, as he is not here and imagining that that discussion at all did not happen. Even if I provide the details, he does not believe. When I send a mail to talk 1x1 he just says, "This is not an urgent thing and we will do later, work on getting requirements proper etc." kind of mails. Its very tough to keep defending on a daily basis, and my mind gets blocked; my morale gets down day-by-day. How do I handle this situation? I am not in a position to quit, though would be unfortunate if that would be your best suggestion.

closed as too localized by Telastyn, jcmeloni, Rhys, CincinnatiProgrammer, acolyte May 3 '13 at 15:24

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  • You don't say exactly where you are based. That's fine, but be aware that there are laws that cover hostile working environments (that's the term used in the UK) and they differ from region to region. Check what the laws are in your region to see what actions you might take. Usually, this would end up with a chat with an HR rep where I live, if the issue was as bad as you describe – JohnL May 2 '13 at 22:00
  • When all the best developers leave in a very short time that is generally a warning sign that the environment is toxic and dysfunctional. I have been a similar situation before where the senior manager was in trouble for being negligent so no matter what kind of proof you show him, he won't care, he is probably just looking to pin the blame for failure on you. There is a saying, when you are on a sinking ship, follow the rats. – maple_shaft May 3 '13 at 11:33
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The offshore project manager [...] was either spending time going around the city or staying at his hotel-watching TV but passing on his work to offshore QA.

Focus on what you can control. Don't spend any time getting frustrated about the project manager misusing his time; even if you make the senior manager aware of it, you're unlikely to gain anything by it.

if there are any requirements related gap, the offshore team just points fingers to me that requirements aren't clear 'completely' and uses that as a scapegoat and slack

You can control the requirements you're sending to the offshore team - it sounds like there are gaps in the requirements, so spend some extra time to ensure that the documentation is correct and there's nothing missing before you send it, so there are less opportunities for them to slack off. If necessary, break things down into smaller pieces and send documents more frequently.

the senior manager [...] asking how I spent every minute

Keep a running log of what you're working on - my boss keeps Notepad open all day, and as soon as he switches tasks, he makes a note of what he just finished working on and what time it is. Send it to your senior manager every morning. If you know each morning what you'll be working on that day, include that so that he can compare each day's log to the previous day's task list and understand "okay, he did all the things he expected to do".

Its also tough to explain him that a particular discussion took 30 minutes, as he is not here and imagining that that discussion at all did not happen. Even if I provide the details, he does not believe.

If he has doubts about what you did for specific items, send him the results. Write documentation on each task so that you can refer back to it later. Include it in the morning email ("here's what I did yesterday, and here's the documentation on the meetings / analysis / testing").

When I send a mail to talk 1x1 he just says, "This is not an urgent thing and we will do later, work on getting requirements proper etc." kind of mails.

It's possible that he knows you're very busy, and doesn't want to take time away from your actual work to have the meeting. While it would be nice (on several fronts) to have some time, even just an hour or so once a month, to talk to him about what's going on, if you're really swamped, I can understand him wanting you to focus on the work.

I am not in a position to quit, though would be unfortunate if that would be your best suggestion.

It's possible the micromanaging is all a result of being behind and having a time crunch. If the team begins to deliver consistent results and hits some deadlines on time, the pressure may lessen.

It's also possible that, under the new manager, this will be the new normal. Only time will tell.

One last thing to keep in mind is that, while you don't want to quit, it's possible that the company could let you go. So starting a job search might be a good use of your free time anyway. (I have several colleagues who have remarked "I'm never not on the market; it's just a matter of how good the market has to be before I'd leave a given job".)

  • Just to clarify about the requirement - frankly even that is not in my control - I am just acting as a mediator in writing more single line description of the requirement. There are real Product Owners, Designers, Clients, Managers. The team is expecting 100% clear requirement, which seems to be unrealistic in a practice as it involves all the players to be 100% effective in explaining as well as understanding. – oneworld May 3 '13 at 11:51
  • As the mediator, you should either obtain clear requirements from the stakeholders providing them (this is often an iterative process). You can also include assumptions in the requirements, until they are clear, that you pass on to the offshore team, and document those assumptions locally (i.e.: offshore team doesn't need to know that they are assumptions), sending a copy of all assumptions to the stakeholders; this way, any stakeholder can correct your assumptions by providing actual clear requirements. – Matt May 3 '13 at 13:54
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Stop taking criticism of the project as a personal attack The manager are probably getting heat of their own from above and they do not have good answers. When a manager asks about specific tasks the most effective way I have found to deal with it is using the following format:

  1. Explain what is currently being actively worked on
  2. The plans for the future work
  3. Any blocks or potential blocks that will stop the work or prevent completion along with anything that is being done to mitigate the risk.

So for instance:

  • Manager: hey Chad how is the login page coming along?
  • ME: I will have it ready for testing by the end of the day. (active work) Todd will be testing it tomorrow and I should have feedback then. We hope to have it marked complete by the end of the week. (future work plans) There is an issue with the Database that we have a ticket into DBA's for.(potential block) I expect it will be fixed today but if it is not that will push back testing, though I should still be able to start working on my next development task. (mitigation)

I find that addressing issues in this manner reduces gets the manager the information that they need and increases their confidence in me that I am in control of the situation. Because I find that most often manager are not concerned about you being able to do the work or actually working but rather that the situation is out of control and that will prevent it from being completed on time.

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