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I have recently moved into a project manager position and am getting used to timelines and deadline talk. My boss who actually meets with clients before a project is greenlit has promised a client that something will be complete in the next few weeks.

I've told my boss on several occasions that it won't be complete. I've combed through all the commits our team has made over the past 4 months and gave him the data that clearly outlines how quickly the devs can work on any given sprint (barring anything going wrong) and stated for the remaining work we'll need 6-8 more weeks. He has flat out said no. I explained that without an extended timeline or more devs we would only be able to deliver a partial application. He also said that was unacceptable.

I can handle a less than agreeable boss, but he's now having me come to client meetings and telling them that everything is going smoothly and they have nothing to worry about. We've missed internal deadlines the client had that were supposed to happen prior to launch and they're getting worried. They've now asked twice if there was anything we believed would slow down the process.

My boss tells them everything is ok, while I mostly stay silent, but he'll often say something like "I defer to Kyle on this" all while making it clear to me beforehand that I'm not to say anything about missing deadlines or extensions.

Is this common behavior with client interactions or would it be best to not stay silent. For the most part I usually end up saying something like "I'll need to look into that".

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    Tough and all too real situation. These are the moments that define who you are. Good luck. – Jim Clay Aug 30 '18 at 21:36
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    I would recommend that you remove your pic (if that is you) just in case one of your clients sneak through here. – Isaiah3015 Aug 30 '18 at 22:57
  • Or your boss ... – Mawg says reinstate Monica Aug 31 '18 at 10:02
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    Polish your CV & start looking. This will NOT end well, and I have a sneaking suspicion that your boss will let you take the fall – Mawg says reinstate Monica Aug 31 '18 at 10:03
  • If you can't change the deadline, then your only choice is to drop features and suggest a "Release 2" to add those features later – Mawg says reinstate Monica Aug 31 '18 at 10:04
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So first, you have eight more weeks of work and the boss says no. You can reduce what you deliver, and the boss says no to that as well. Remember that just because your boss says no, that doesn't change reality. And you also remember that working more than 40 hours a week will make you less productive, just in case your boss wants you to work 16 hours a day, and possibly more hours in the night.

In discussions with the client, you can use platitudes like "we are working hard on your software", and "your satisfaction is very important to us", and "we will deliver at the earliest time possible". If the client wants to nail you down, you refer him to the boss. No outright lies. Your boss thinks the client should be lied to, and expects you to do the dirty work. That's cowardice. Not the lying, but leaving it to you. If he wants the client to hear lies, then he needs to do that himself.

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As described, there's a very strong vibe of you being set up to take the fall when promises aren't met. Not in the eyes of the client, but presumably so that his own boss doesn't blame him for the slipped timeline. Realistically, the client probably already knows that the timeline is slipping and is planning for it, taking into account that vendors often over-promise on timelines. That said, the lack of honesty/realism doesn't reflect well on your company in the long term, even if it has become accepted as status quo in many projects in business.

There's not a lot you can do here for the company, as your boss is making the call to continue the deception. You can choose to take a stand and pick a fight, hoping your boss backs down, but that probably won't fly, given what you've described. What you can do for yourself, here, is to start documenting your boss's request to withhold information from the client. One very useful approach here is to compose an email after a verbal discussion outlining what your boss asked you to do, then send it to your boss and ask him to respond if anything is incorrect. That way there's a paper trail in case things get ugly later.

As for what to tell the client when on the spot, you can use the same delaying language you've been using and a savvy client will understand perfectly what you mean. If they choose to pin you down for a more precise answer, pass the baton back to your boss.

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