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I have been working on a project for several months. For the last several weeks, I have constantly been feeling as if I were about one bug away from having it finished. Each fix reveals one new issue I hadn't thought of.

I am not stuck; I have plenty of new ideas that I can try to get things working. I just do not believe that I will be able to complete it in a reasonable time (indeed, that I have already spent an unreasonable amount of time working at it). There is no deadline (or any other sort of management, really), but I believe it would be better for the company if someone smarter or better than me would take over.

How do I have a productive conversation with my manager about this? I'd like to come to the table with ideas for how to prevent this situation in the future (e.g. "I think we should timebox the next project up front, and check in at least weekly after the deadline," "I'll give you an initial design overview so we can verify I have the right idea about where to go."), but I definitely don't want to turn it into "I failed because you didn't manage me well."

  • @JoeStrazzere We do not have meetings. The only communication is when I submit a pull request. – JETM Nov 5 '18 at 21:18
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    If you are having trouble completing the project after living in it for months, why do you think an outsider with no experience with the project will be able to do it any faster? – Seth R Nov 5 '18 at 22:26
  • Oh I just solved it! – JETM Nov 8 '18 at 19:21
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Do NOT ask for someone else to take over.

That's pretty much the worst thing you can do.

Of course everyone needs some help occasionally, but simply giving up on the entire project would be an extreme option.

You've already spent months on it, so any new person will probably take quite a while to get up to speed (quite possibly longer than you'd take to finish it). This is also assuming there's even someone at the company with the capacity and knowledge to take over - otherwise you can add a few weeks to months of going through the hiring process to this as well, for someone the company might not need beyond this project (or at least they might not need both of you).

A good manager will probably just give you a pep talk to motivate you. And that will be all that happens, or they might suggest some other solution (which may some guidance), if required.

A bad manager will lose a lot of confidence in you and might just say "ok" and you'll find yourself looking for another job.

Overall, you don't have much to gain by saying this.


What you can do is:

Discuss the state of the project with your manager.

You need to ask them:

  • How they think the project is going
  • What they think of your performance so far

If they say everything is good, you shouldn't worry.

If they express some concerns, or they ask why you're asking, you can tell them you feel the project is taking a bit longer than it should and you wanted to get their thoughts on the matter. From there you can possibly also ask whether there is perhaps someone available to provide some "guidance" or "help".

Although it sounds like you're fairly close to finishing the project, so I'd be surprised if they're provide someone to help you (unless it's just a question here or there for which they don't require knowledge specific to the project, but it doesn't sound like you need that).


For what it's worth, "each fix reveals one new issue I hadn't thought of" sounds like software development in a nutshell. You might be worrying for no reason, but it's still a good idea to check in with your manager.

Also, have you heard of imposter syndrome? If your manager is giving you positive feedback, it's possible that the only issue is with your own mindset.

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How? Quickly, thats how. Don't delay any longer - raise the issue ASAP.

The problem isnt going to fix itself, and the sooner it comes to light the sooner it can be addressed.

The best way explain is that you're not going to have enough time and the project is in danger of failing. You need a more experienced person to advise you - I suspect they will be able to break it down into smaller steps for you so perhaps you won't need to hand over the entire project, but this still wont happen until you get some help.

Politely state that you will need more time or some help and don't engage with arguments about whether you are mistaken.

Some management styles work with their heads in the clouds and imagine that anything is possible with enough determination etc. etc. but you don't want to get into this trap.

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