I have a manager who doesn't like when I bring problems to him and he wants me to bring solutions. That is fine, but I have one IT architectural issue and I want to inform him about possible risks. The last time we had a chat, he told me "are you telling me this now and that is news to you?". I really don't like this conversation but how can I achieve the goal: let him know about the risk?

Well he's kinda got a point, it's always much better to take at least a proposed solution to a problem when reporting it. At the very least I'd be providing some examples of solution ideas you investigated if you can't find one that fits.

  • And if not a proposed solution, at least some kind of idea of how to look for a resolution, or where to ask. – Snow Nov 8 at 13:45
  • @Snow yep, basically at least something showing a bit of effort into addressing it. – motosubatsu Nov 8 at 13:47
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    @motosubatsu My manager likes to be in the loop, so I often say something like "X issue is coming up, just so you know, but I'm already taking a look into it" – Alexander Nov 8 at 14:16
  • @Alexander which is fine imo - if that's what the manager wants some do some don't, and "I'm already looking at it" would count as showing some effort is at least in progress, there you are just FYI-ing them rather than "bringing them a problem" – motosubatsu Nov 8 at 15:30
  • This is in line with what I do. My policy is to avoid bringing problems for my boss to fix, but instead to deliver status reports on where I am in my assigned tasks. – Upper_Case Nov 8 at 19:15

This reminds me of a thing my dad was telling me about management styles not long ago. He was having to make some of it up based on imperfect recollection and now I'm having to do the same. It related to the fact that I was being hired as a "lead developer" and would have my own minions for the first time.

There are levels of delegation (your manager had delegated a task to you and expects...):

  • Do research and come back with options
  • Do research, come back with options, and an opinion
  • Do research, come back with a plan, which I (the manager) will approve
  • Do research, come up with a plan, begin working on it and let me know what your doing
  • Make this problem go away, I never want to hear about it again

There's probably one or two more I'm forgetting. As you move down the table you're putting more and more responsibly (and less oversight) on the person being delegated to. Different managers have different preferred styles and different workers work best under different styles.

Your boss sounds like he wants you to do the last one ("make this problem go away, I never want to hear about it again") while you want to operate under the one above that, "come up with a plan and start working, report back."

I would suggest talking to your manager about his expectations of your work (not the project!) and find our where exactly on this sliding scale of delegation he wants you at. If he wants to never hear about the problem ever again, that's fine, just tell him, "ok, I'll do that, but just remember that you gave me authority to do what I thought was best."

  • Sounds a bit like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_leadership_theory – autonomy Nov 8 at 17:39
  • @autonomy The words (verbage, general structure) look familiar, but exact titles (names, book titles, specific structure, etc) do not. So its possible that that is it, but as I didn't read the book(s) myself, it's hard to say. – Draco18s Nov 8 at 17:49

You are supposed to bring possible solutions with your problems. Risk is a problem. Be prepared with some risk mitigation strategies. Those are solutions.

The fact that your manager wants you to bring in solutions is promising. It's getting you ready for greater responsibility.

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