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I'm a project manager and working on a big project at the moment.

My boss keep bypassing me and talk directly to my team members, which causes a lot of confusion amongst them. Mainly Because the boss provides them with outdated information or assigns tasks to them which are already completed.
I'm not updating my boss on [edit] every tiny [/edit] progress we make on this project because there is no real need to (in my opinion).
If the boss would talk to me before he directly went and talked to the team members, I would be able to clarify all his questions and stuff. This will stop confusion amongst me and my team.

Though I'm not really sure if I'm in the position to ask my boss to follow my preferred way on how to handle things. I mean who I am to tell my boss what to do and what not to?

So the main question is, how (if at all) can I talk to my boss in a gentle and friendly way, telling him that he should talk with me first before confusing my team?

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    How often do you talk to your boss - also you say no progress he obviously thinks there has been. Assigning jobs already done does seem to implyu that you should have informed him as there has been progress – Mark Aug 24 '18 at 10:19
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    @Mark I inform my boss at least once a week or when we archived milestones or other important steps. – undefined Aug 24 '18 at 10:58
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    Has the boss been informed that the tasks have been finished before he assigns them? – Mark Aug 24 '18 at 12:32
  • @Mark no, because it were kinda small tasks and nothing unusual. Almost like daily tasks. I dont see sense in informing my boss about every small task we complete. But maybe I'm wrong – undefined Aug 24 '18 at 12:42
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    Actually a better question is could the boss know if the task has finished ie is this recorded anywhere that he can see – Mark Aug 24 '18 at 12:48
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You're already keeping your boss in the loop (which is essential). But, from comments you've made (like this one below) indicate that you're going to have to be more direct.

Normally I talk to my boss once a week at least. But for example yesterday I had a meeting with him, got him up to date and today (after I had a meeting with my team for the same reason) he approached them and talked with them about the same stuff. But everything was already cleared and new tasks were assigned. So my boss basically just confused everyone because my team thought there are new issues or new tasks. And then I had to resolve and clarify everything again. My team is also wondering why my boss talked to them and not to me, feels like undermining my authority

I think you can use this example when you go to your boss.

Hey boss, yesterday I got you up to date and also met with my team. Then you came in and talked to them and that really muddied up the waters - they thought there was something new that I hadn't assigned. This is a problem.

This makes me feel like you don't trust me to adequately communicate and assign tasks with my team. Is there something going on with my work that you have questions about? Can we talk about that, and find a way to resolve it that also allows me to clearly lead my team?

Then, be quiet and listen. It's possible that your boss does have a problem with something you're doing, and is awkwardly interfering instead of just talking to you about it. It's possible that your boss will realize that his meddling is causing problems and will apologize and let you do your job. Unfortunately, it's also possible that he'll say there is no problem, but he is simply a bad manager who micromanages and causes drama.

If it's the first option, then you can work with him and improve yourself.

If it's the second option, he may need some periodic reminders to get him to change. After the fact, go to him and say something like "Hey, this is an example of something we talked about. It caused confusion again." If he's a good boss, he'll apologize again, and hopefully get better.

If it's the third option (and it kind of sounds like it is), I doubt that talking to him will make much difference. It still might be worth trying.

  • thanks for your insightful answer. I'll try to talk to him and hope things getting better. I also had a short talk with my team last Friday and they said, I shouldn't worry and they like my way of leading them and that they will simply ignore the fuss the boss makes – undefined Aug 27 '18 at 6:45
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Talk to your boss regularily

I understand what you mean when you say "no real need to" but shit is hitting the fan, and you need to 1. Make sure your team has an environment that amplifies their abilities, not the opposite and 2. Make sure the right things get done at the right time.

The easiest solution right now seems to me to set up a once a week 1:1 with your boss to keep him appraised, inform of any changes, and who is doing what. Unnecessary - in a perfect world - but necessary in the imperfect one in order to be a good project manager in this case. Now, I am speculating: If the reason you are "stonewalling" your boss is because of micromanagement, you need to solve that differently - I'd ask that question (or look if it exists already, I'll be shocked if it doesn't)

  • thanks for your answer. my boss would love to micromanage everything but I'm not going to let that happen. I, for myself, love focussing on details too but my team is pretty free in their work. That's also a reason I dont want them to be bothered by my boss. Normally I talk to my boss once a week at least. But for example yesterday I had a meeting with him, got him up to date and today (after I had a meeting with my team for the same reason) he approached them and talked with them about the same stuff. But everything was already cleared and new tasks were assigned. So my boss basically just – undefined Aug 24 '18 at 11:14
  • confused everyone because my team thought there are new issues or new tasks. And then I had to resolve and clarify everything again. My team is also wondering why my boss talked to them and not to me, feels like undermining my authority – undefined Aug 24 '18 at 11:16
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    @undefined Slightly off-topic, but from experience, when a higher-up starts coming in with useless tasks and causing confusion - the team develops a specific opinion of that person, not of you as their manager. I wouldn't worry about how your team percieve you - they almost certaintly don't assign this mess to you. – Bilkokuya Aug 24 '18 at 11:23
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Keep your progress up to date

Although you may find it pointless (I agree in some cases), You need to keep your boss up to date to avoid the confusion. It's a simple yet tedious solution but even if you just keep a file on cloud storage that your boss has access to and can edit. This allows you to

  • Keep track of requests
  • Update your progress
  • Avoid wasting too much time in a 1:1
  • Written evidence of work load
  • Prioritise requirements
  • Avoid confusion

With this your boss can also contact you if he has any concerns or anything he wants to discuss that may be more complex.

If you find it easier to be face to face and just verbally keep updates, then do that. Although with this you have to find time you are both free to discuss which may be complicated on it's own (depending on schedules)

  • Do you think its really necessary to report to my boss that I just had a small team meeting and tell him what we discussed? That seems stressful to me. My Boss dont like/trust cloud based solutions. I think 1:1 or a short mail would be better. We had issues in the past that he forgot what I said to me and later asked why we implemented feature X – undefined Aug 24 '18 at 11:06
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    well even better, Use email. Not to necessarily mention the meetings but just to simply say what you plan to do and what has already been done – Twyxz Aug 24 '18 at 11:28
  • The online progress tracker solution is really nice and I will have to use it too. Although some complex tools are available for this, simple tools like an google excel sheet will be equally good. They can track work to do, work done and by whom and allow everyone on the team and even the bosses of the boss to be up to date. – SYN Aug 25 '18 at 16:17
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This sounds to me like a team issue. Inform your team that any new work has to go through you.

If anyone comes to a member of your team with work, then the response from them has to be "Thanks for that assignment, but I'm going to have to run it past my manager before I can start work on it."

This way you're aware of all the work that your team is doing. You'll be able to prioritise this work, and most importantly you'll know what's important to your boss and you'll be able to report back to him on team successes rather than have him contact members of your team.

You essentially make yourself the single point of contact and authority for your boss and the team.

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    This is coming from someone higher up in the organisation, You'd also be in danger if you ignore these requests. This is a problem for OP to solve with the boss. The problem is coming from the boss bypassing the project manager – Twyxz Aug 24 '18 at 10:37
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    I disagree with this. This just puts every team member on the spot - and will create a bad mood in the team. Nobody likes being caught in the crossfire between your boss and his boss. This needs to get solved where the problem is, not where the consequence is. – Stian Yttervik Aug 24 '18 at 10:39

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