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I am currently working on a software project with myself and one other developer (we are at an equal level in the company), however, we've been stuck at more or less the same point in this project for about a week now with no sign of any progress.

Either the project is simply "too hard" for the both of us (we both at a medium pay bracket and skill level) or it is downright impossible. What makes it particularly difficult is that our manager is also a programmer and has mandated that many things be architected/implemented in a certain way, and working around these constraints only makes it harder to accomplish the task.

It doesn't seem reasonable to ask my manager to take me off this project since it's a relatively small company and there aren't any other projects which I can go on to. So the only thing I can do is ask my manager to relax some of the implementation constraints to make the project "easier" or it will never get done.

How can I go about this in a professional way, without embarrassing or devaluing myself as an employee?

6

When you're stuck, it's time to escalate. But escalate the correct problem, which is that you're stuck. The problem isn't (yet) that you shouldn't be on this project.

Make an appointment with your manager and explain where you are stuck and (important!) what you have already tried. Ask for help in solving the technical problem. Perhaps there is something your manager doesn't know you don't know, or perhaps there's a real issue with the manager's approach and you've now discovered it, or perhaps it's a mismatch between your skills and project needs. Go in with an attitude of "let's figure out how to solve this", not "get me off of this thing", and if your manager is reasonable, you'll be able to work together to get you unstuck, one way or another.

Showing the boss what you've already tried is important because it shows that you're not just lazy and dumping problems on him at first opportunity, and because it shows him how you're trying to solve the problem. I've been part of many conversations where, once that part was presented, light dawned -- that isn't a good approach and try this instead. I've been on both sides of that conversation.

6

Let your manager know. Make sure you have all the reasoning worked out and the avenues attempted. Then tell the manager you guys have hit a sticking point. Don't delay further. Then you can thrash through a solution with the manager.

If possible try and pinpoint exactly whats blocking you and some tentative resolutions, it's always best to have an idea of a solution than just crying about things.

2

So you accepted an assignment from your manager, but now you find yourself unable to fulfill this assignment. What you need to do is that you report this situation to your manager.

But before reporting to your manager you need to find a solution to a problem you mentioned in your question:

Either the project is simply "too hard" for the both of us (we both at a medium pay bracket and skill level) or it is downright impossible.

No manager wants to hear that something is impossible or too hard, so you and your colleague need to propose solutions on how to make the project viable. Some possibilities are:

  • Reduce the scope of the project
  • Recruit a more senior colleague, at least for consultation / training
  • Propose alternatives to the mandated design decisions
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Inform your superior immmediately.

Identifiy where you're stuck and if possible why.

Don't whine about the restrictions!

Ask your manager for guidance and priorities to aid in a step by step procsess breaking through the blockade you're facing currently.

ONLY if the restrictions truly are a / the reason why you can't continue, explain that the both of you didn't find a way to continue within the requested framework.
Clearly identify where and why these restrictions hinder your progress, present a working alternative outside of these restrictions to strengthen your argument.

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