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Recently a colleague told me that the project she is working is going to end and that she must choose another team/project to work next, so she is trying to understand where she might fit better (both from the technical and management style).

She is considering working in a project within the department I work for. This department has several teams and a few managers. As I have worked several years in this department with virtually all managers (direct report and others), I know how they work.

I did not have time to provide any meaningful piece of the advice yet, but from my perspective (both first hand experience and confirmed by many other colleagues) there are only two managers that I would recommend to work for in this department.

Of course, it is easy to recommend these managers and provide an explanation, but what about the others? There are many reasons I can use to explain why not them, but this is badmouthing and this is a no-no.

Question: How to convey to a coworker the explanation for avoiding working for some managers without badmouthing them?

  • I am really unhappy with the tags I found for this question. Any help with these is highly appreciated. – Alexei Jan 19 at 13:55
  • Telling someone that they shouldn't work with a particular manager is pretty inherently badmouthing that manager. Either you want to avoid that and focus on recommending managers you think highly of or you badmouth the others and tell your colleague to avoid them. Which you choose depends a lot on what your objections are (i.e. "Bob sexually harasses all his female subordinates" is a very different thing than "Bob is never punctual to meetings which always drove me up a wall"). – Justin Cave Jan 19 at 15:24
  • @JustinCave - if I understood correctly, I should basically focus on just recommending some avoiding to talk about the "bad apples", right? – Alexei Jan 19 at 15:35
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Saying

"Steve is a bad manager"

would, as you already point out, be both utterly unprofessional, and also: simply wrong

Saying

"Steve wants quality X and you definitely do not have quality X"

is totally and completely normal and professional. You'd normally and ordinarily say that in front of both Steve and the Person with no problem. Just simple business talk.

Really it's that simple.

Note that the X can be one of two things. Either simply a technical quality, or,a workstyle quality. Here is an example of each:

Specific technical

"Steve needs people who write Pascal, not Fortran, so that team is completely useless for you."

or work-style

"Steve needs people who can quickly fill in broad strokes. You are completely useless at that, you're a detail programmer. So that team is useless for you."

Simple.

Again the answer is .. it would be meaningless/whacky to "badmouth" Manager Steve.

Simply state in 3 words that Friend would not fit with Steve.

If they "would not fit" there are two (2) possibilities: either

  • Technical Reason or

  • Work-style Reason.

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Of course, it is easy to recommend these managers and provide an explanation, but what about the others?

If you recommend these, and only these, managers then your coworker will get the hint. There should be no reason to bad mouth the others.

Something like "I would strongly recommend trying to work with X or Y." should suffice.

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