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I have a project manager that's been very relaxed on actually managing a project. His main style of management is to pick a laundry list of things that need to be accomplished in 1 week and tell the dev team to figure out a way among ourselves to complete everything. No prioritization, no assurance that everything's being completed, and this leaves more experienced devs directing junior devs ourselves because they don't know enough to self prioritize.

A meeting was scheduled over the weekend with the client to hammer out a pretty key part of a project, how a 3rd party api being built by another team would interact with our own. My manager has access to my calendar and accepted this meeting but I can see his and he plans on being else where. The other devs are also not going to the meeting. While I am very happy I'm trusted to go solo I don't think it's a good idea for me career wise.

More so, this other team is an in house dev team for the client while we are an outside contractor so it's almost a given that if they want to go in a certain direction the client is going to lean in that direction.

I simply don't have the authority to tell the client to back down on a feature request or how long something might take. I can tell them how long a feature would take, but given that I can't say if we'll even do it, I can't give an answer on time. More importantly, without the manager there I am left constantly telling the client "I'll need to discuss that with my boss" which can't be something they're going to want to hear. I know if I were them I'd wonder why I was there without someone who could actually make decisions, so I feel like I'm being setup to leave a very poor taste in this clients mouth and look like a glorified note taker.

How do I tell my manager I shouldn't be going to the meeting without him or in other words I'm not going to do his job for him?

  • 2
    Clearly state that everything discussed is provisional; after the meeting, send out agenda to client and your boss, also including the provisional status. You seem to feel useless in this role, but you're not and this is a very, very common situation. – pmf Nov 19 '18 at 10:59
  • Have you talked to your manager to confirm that they won't be at the meeting, or are you basing this just on their calendar? – David K Nov 19 '18 at 14:38
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I would try to talk your boss out of this idea. Are you sure he's not going to come? Ask him about that first. If he's indeed planning on skipping out, you need to talk him out of it.

Stress that this meeting will require someone with executive power since a lot of decisions will be made. Point out that the client might be displeased if the decision-making is delayed because no-one with authority is there to make the decisions on the spot. Any reasonable manager would accompany you, but this one doesn't sound reasonable.

If he insists on you going to the meeting alone, you might not have a choice but do so. Then you need to enter CYA (cover your ass) mode.

1) If he says that you may make the decisions yourself, refuse as politely as you can and say you do not have the necessary training (or list reasons as appropriate) to make time and money budgeting decisions. This is the main point I would push back with all my might - it can harm your career if you accidentally commit to something that blows the budget.

2) During the meeting with the client, take a lot of notes, say "I'll need to discuss that with my boss" where appropriate. Yes, this will annoy your client, but that's on your manager, not you. (Do this even if your boss had insisted on point 1)

3) After the meeting with the client, send the client an email with the meeting's summary, CC your boss. Ask the client if there were any points you missed or that they would like to add. This way, you have a clear record of the meeting and no one can claim that you failed to deliver all information to your boss and/or to your client.

Good luck.

  • I have to go with the answer that first and foremost answers how to prevent the solo meeting from happening in the first place. I will make sure to 'cover my ass' and not make any actual decisions but I detest the idea of spending 3 hours in a room pretending things are getting accomplished when all I'm doing is taking notes and forwarding it to someone else. It's not like developers have more important things to do with their time. – KAT Nov 19 '18 at 11:19
  • @KAT You are not going to pretend anything is going to get accomplished as only your manager is legit to commit on a deadline. Other than that, you are lucky to face developers as you will speak a common language for this integration. Be happy that won't have to explain them with keys and a lock OAUTH2... To avoid spending 3 hours in the meeting, timebox it and prepare the integration requirements (OAUTH2 ? SOAP or REST? JSON Format ? [...]). You can review all the inbound webservice requirements with a senior developer of your team before the meeting as well in 30 minutes. – Answers_Seeker Nov 19 '18 at 12:51
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    @KAT note that "cover your ass" does not mean "make no decision" at all. It means you have to make sure (and get proof in writing) you have permission to take the decision before the meeting, and make sure you transmitted (and get proof in writing) the relevant information after the meeting – Aserre Nov 19 '18 at 13:08
  • saying I won't make any decisions was a poor choice of words. I meant I'm committing to nothing. I'll gladly layout what's possible. – KAT Nov 19 '18 at 16:13
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You don't need your manager to go with you. You need him to tell you how much power you have. Let him outline what are the "yes and no's" and if he put in you the authority to do so. Simply ask

Based on my knowledge can I make the decisions they ask me to make?

You don't need to tell client "I'll need to discuss that with my boss". If you don't know you could just say

I need to check that and see how our timetable looks like and I'll be back with an answer in 2-3 days

And this would be exactly the same as your boss restraining form giving a final answer on topics he don't have knowledge about.

Personal note form my experience - sometimes I was asked by my manager to act as "acting boss" in meetings my manager knew they don't need to go (as he would only be transferring questions and answers back and forth) or that he don't have enough knowledge to be valuable part of that meeting. It saves times for both sides and only requirement is that manager should respect all decisions made as his own.

  • I agree with this example because even from the manager's side nobody expects him to have all the answers all the time. Sometimes timetables or resources do need to be checked before an answer can be given. – Summer Nov 19 '18 at 10:26
  • i can provide input on what technical details need to be completed but have no authority over monetary concerns. Basically I have as much power as I can get away with. Me and this manager have often disagreed with the direction this project should take. Also, how does this simply not push the actual meeting down the road. If all I'm doing is acting as a relay, something an email could accomplish, then what is actually being accomplished? – KAT Nov 19 '18 at 10:36
  • @Kyle then this is a topic you need to talk about with your boss. That you can talk about technical but not monetary issues. And if he insist you should attend the meeting you would open with "I'm here to discuss technical details but any money related topic will be handled by my manager in later date". Also by "talk" I mean "e-mail" to CYA – SZCZERZO KŁY Nov 19 '18 at 10:41
  • @KAT if the meeting is to work out technical details, then you are much more than a relay. You are requirements gathering and, presumably, scoping out potential solutions. You can then present those to your manager and work out timescales/budgets. That's not necessarily a bad thing as it's easier to define budgets etc. once you know the requirements. – Laconic Droid Nov 19 '18 at 12:58
-5

How do I tell my manager I shouldn't be going to the meeting without him or in other words I'm not going to do his job for him?

Answer,

"Hi Steve. I won't be going to that meeting. Dealing with the client is outside my domain.

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