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About 6 months ago I was hired at a startup software company as a Python developer. The company itself is great. I have learned a tremendous amount as I transitioned from academia to industry (I recently finished my M.Sc.) and am thankful for the company for providing me this opportunity.

The problem:

Morale on our QA team is very poor - in stark contrast to the other teams. This can be mostly attributed to our manager who is universally disliked on our team (it must be said...).

Recently he has started targeting me:

He has complained to his manager about me foot dragging and has scheduled me for daily meetings with himself and his manager. Here's the thing - we have a Jira Kanban Board in which all my progress is tracked (and I have made significant improvements in finishing tasks rapidly) and I am forced to regurgitate the progress that is tracked on the Kanban Board during the meeting which is honestly a huge waste of time. I am also starting to feel that this manager is purposely setting me up to fail. For example, he scheduled a meeting at 9:15 AM and then emailed me at 9:10 AM to push the meeting to 10:00 AM. When I didn't receive his email, he got mad at me for not checking my email frequently (note the 5 minute notice).

There are countless other incredibly silly examples I could give.

The question:

I don't want to bring up the constant micromanagement (lets be honest, this discussion never ends well) but I am simply at my wits end when it comes to these daily meetings. It's honestly getting infuriating. How do I bring up that I don't wish to attend these meetings anymore?

A few side notes:

Normally this behavior would be a red flag about impending termination. I am not really concerned about being terminated though: I continually receive important tasks and I am not the only person that has dealt with this (according to my co-workers). According to my co-workers, this manager may be behaving this way out of self-incompetence (which I have occasionally noticed).

UPDATE:

Some great feedback and suggestions thus far. I should note that these are not stand up meetings - we already have those biweekly.

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    BTW, my long answer on workplace.stackexchange.com/a/139861/72842 contains lots of advice which applies to you, and mentions ideas which are relevant here – Basile Starynkevitch Jul 8 at 2:36
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    From what you describe, Peter principle applies extremely well to your manager. You might jokingly speak of it at the coffee machine with your manager (or maybe at meetings). Maybe he'll hear your non-verbal message at such a place – Basile Starynkevitch Jul 8 at 2:38
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    How long are these meetings? – lucasgcb Jul 8 at 10:03
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    Can you refer to the Kanban board during the meetings? It might not help with your manager, but your manager's manager might start also wondering what the point of the meetings is if all the data is already available. – DaveG Jul 8 at 16:47
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    You've clarified that you think these meetings are unnecessary. There are two other people involved in the meetings. What do they think? – dwizum Jul 8 at 18:06
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You left a comment saying:

I don't know... he can see all my progress on our Kanban board. I have never been told why we're having these meetings.

So instead of jumping to conclusions about being targeted, ask.

This is a chance for you to show your competence and initiative by getting a better understanding of what your managers are trying to accomplish. Treat this the same as if you were receiving a feature request from an end user: understand their goals and their intended use case, then evaluate the best way to accomplish that and implement.

Be prepared for any number of possible answers:

  • You're working on critical tasks that they want to be closely informed about and having the meeting ensures they're keeping track.
  • They want to give you a daily stand up to discuss possible impediments, be available to help you resolve them, and bring risks to their attention.
  • They just want to keep a closer eye on your performance because you needed improvement in the past.

The meeting could very well be a reflection of their trust in your ability and your importance to the company rather than a punishment. So rather than assume ill intent, pose the question.

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    This answer makes a great point. If we give the boss the benefit of the doubt, he may actually have a purpose for the meetings. The OP not innately knowing that purpose doesn't mean it doesn't exist. – dwizum Jul 8 at 18:05
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    @dwizum Even not giving the OP's direct manager the benefit of the doubt, it's possible the higher up one called for it. If the OP doesn't even know why it's being held or anything about what's going on with it, there just isn't any way to know who did what or why. – jpmc26 Jul 8 at 18:08
  • If you want to put it all on the line: "Hey boss, I've got to be painfully honest, since all my status is on the Kanban board, I started taking these meetings a little personally. I got to thinking about it, though, and realized that's just some paranoia creeping in and I'm sure there's no reason for me to feel that way. Can you help me understand exactly what you're looking for here so I can best be prepared for tomorrow's meeting. That way we can make these as productive and as efficient as possible." – FreeMan Jul 9 at 15:49
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    @FreeMan I wouldn't bring my personal feelings into it. I'd just discuss it in terms of having thought about the purpose and being confused about the intended goal. – jpmc26 Jul 9 at 16:54
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    Add more direct questions: "what is missing on my board that makes these meetings necessary for you?" "how can I improve my record-keeping so that you feel like you're always up to date on the project's progress?" – George M Jul 9 at 23:12
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TLDR: Adjust your attitude, use the meetings to your benefit.

The meeting basically sounds similar to a daily standup. Those are commonly done in Agile development processes in addition to Jira boards, as personal information can be far more detailed, filtered and allow for better feedback/questions than a board could. So such a meeting can well make sense.

Now your meetings are not exactly agile daily standup meetings and they likely have at least a performance review component if that is not their sole purpose. Still, you come across as seeing no purpose in those meetings, although the purpose is likely similar to a standup, get information prioritized and directly from the source, with the option for feedback and questions. Sometimes such meetings do not have a direct benefit for everyone though. In this case the information flow is likely mainly from you to your managers and thus will mainly be directly valuable for them. However, it can still be valuable for you as well, if you use it wisely.

Your underlying problem seems not to be the meeting, but that you feel your manager is aiming for you. In that case, the meeting with someone higher-up is your chance to prove him wrong. Make sure you come prepared and give a good impression to the manager one level up. If you have your boss's boss on your side, it will be much harder for your manager to push you around in any way. Once you have the trust of the boss of your boss and your boss feels the meetings don't help him, he may decide on his own to stop doing them.

On the other hand if you go into the meetings with an attitude that they are just a waste of your precious time, this will show and it will likely be easy for your boss to paint you as a hard to manage, stubborn employee.

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    I've been part of quite a few agile processes, and I think stand up meetings are awesome. However, I'd be quite annoyed if this is what my organization tried to pass off a stand up. To me, this sounds like a daily performance review as a result of disciplinary probation. I'm honestly not even sure if it can be called a stand-up since it doesn't even involve the whole team. – Clay07g Jul 8 at 15:56
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    @Clay07g Also I'm not trying to call them a standup, but to me the description sounds quite like it on the abstract level. I bring them up, as OP seems totally averse in having such a daily meeting while at least team standups are pretty common. As here it is only OP+managers, sure the setting is slightly different as not the whole team is present, but the value of having them can be similar (in particular if OP has his separate project(s) anyway and thus is his own project team). – Frank Hopkins Jul 8 at 16:21
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    "He has complained to his manager about me foot dragging and has scheduled me for daily meetings with himself and his manager." This is not a team meeting, so it's not an Agile Scrum/Stand up. – computercarguy Jul 8 at 16:22
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    @computercarguy which I don't claim, I'm just saying it is very similar. daily standups have their value and being so similar it astonishes me that OP is so aversed to having a daily meeting with similar content. Also he might be a single-person team with respect to having his own independent projects, then it would actually fit (albeit still being a bit of a weird setup). – Frank Hopkins Jul 8 at 16:25
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    "I am not the only person that has dealt with this" means to me that it's not team involvement, but rather just individuals at a time. Also, a manager that gets mad at an employee for not looking at their email every < 5 minutes is likely a bad manager. I've had a CEO send out an email during lunch, and got mad at me for being late to that company meeting at exactly 1pm, even though I left late for lunch, but before his email. I left that company because of a severe downturn of the management this meeting started. – computercarguy Jul 8 at 16:36
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daily meetings with himself and his manager

This makes things a lot easier for you. Just be really complient about anything your manager asks, but at the same time point out that he should/could already know it without the meeting.

Bring your laptop to the meeting and project the kanban board. (Or if you don't have a laptop ask the manager if he can project the board). Explain it as follows:

Let me (/could you) project the kanban board to make sure I'm not missing anything important to inform you about.
As you can see here, I've done this (points to thing), this(points to next thing) and I'm assuming the other X things I've done can be seen here, so do we really need to read them aloud in this meeting?

In other words, be extremely complient about what they're asking of you, to the point where it becomes obvious that they're just wasting your time.

For you issue of rescheduling the meeting in the last minutes you first skip your direct manager and see if you can "run into" the higher manager for the meeting. If he asks if you didn't know about the rescheduling you kindly answer:

I've checked my inbox 10 minutes ago to make sure if anything has changed. I didn't see any rescheduling. When is the meeting scheduled now so I can make sure to get there at the correct time?

This makes it clear that you have no issue with the meeting rescheduling but weren't informed in a reasonable time.

You're always staying friendly, and most importantly, entirely complient with what is asked of you. At the same time you make it obvious to your manager's manager that you're being micromanaged. If you succeed in pointing it out and nothing changes, than at the end of another truly useless meeting of you saying "as can be seen here in jira, i've been productive" you can then directly ask:

Sorry manager, but there's something I don't understand. Why do I need to be in these meetings when all I'm doing is reading the jira aloud. Would it be ok that I no longer attend these meetings so that you can go over them instead?

Make sure the other manager is still there so that your manager has no choice but to let you skip these meetings from now on, or give you a good reason to be there.

If he does give a reason be sure to make this reason a big point in the next meeting. For example: if he requires you to be there to "clarify" what was in certain issues. Be sure to specificaly ask on EACH issue if there was anything to explain. Make it obvious that now you're not only waisting your own time in the meeting, but also that of the higher manager since all you're really doing is still just reading each finished jira ticket out loud.

After a while 2 things can happen: Your manager's manager can no longer ignore the micromanagement of your manager and does something about it (win for you). Or they don't do anything about it and allows you to be bullied.

In the last case you truly are in a toxic environment. Be sure your CV is up to date and you're already looking for another job because your mental health will only keep going down. When you're confident that you will be able to find another job (you might not have one lined up just yet), make an appointment with your manager's manager without your own manager. Explain that the way your manager handles things isn't working for you and ask if you can be placed into a different team.

  • +1 but I think using "I" statements to compose the request may come across as a bit too personal (which isn't the point 'cause OP is getting paid either way), what really needs to come across is the clarification of what is it that the Jira board doesn't cover that the meeting is supplementing; if they can't answer this they may cancel the meetings themselves or maybe OP can offer to fix whatever it is in order to save work hours for the company. – lucasgcb Jul 8 at 10:21
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    I am a bit torn by this answer. It almost feels like passive aggressive behavior towards the middle manager. On the other hand maybe the top manager needs to see that the middle manager is doing a bad job. – Thomas Jul 8 at 15:28
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    I'm not a native english speaker, but 'as you can see here' used while explaining the log sounds bad even when translated in my language. Putting myself in OP manager's shoes I cannot read it in a positive way. – Paolo Jul 8 at 18:26
  • Downvoted as a slimeball tactic. This really can paint the OP in a bad light rather than their manager. – ivan_pozdeev Jul 9 at 0:50
  • To handle things exactly as advised here will definitely give both managers the idea that you consider these meetings to be a pointless annoyance. Which, if the question is accurate to the situation, could be totally justified. But gauge the personalities involved. It might not go well with some people. – wberry Jul 9 at 2:26
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Take control of the meetings. If he can't lead these meetings in an efficient and productive manner, then you have to.

On the next Monday (or first meeting of the week), go through your Jira list as normal and as efficiently as possible. Then directly move into your workload for the rest of the week, telling him what work items you have and how long they will take. Propose your own priority for those items and explain why.

Doing this negates the need for these same meetings for the rest of the week (unless something meaningful changes), so hopefully you can get on with your week.

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And you're sure these aren't regular "stand up" meetings? (They don't sound like it, if it's just you and 2 managers).

Create a Jira task for "daily update meeting" and log work (time) against it. If it gets moved, log the additional time in between if its insufficient for you to get anything meaningful done. What you're looking to achieve is to document the wasted time in addition to the meeting itself.

After a couple of weeks when your progress is addressed during this meeting, you need to demonstrate using the Jira log what the effects of this have been.

Warning: This is quite a confrontational approach, and you will really annoy your boss if the first time he hears about this is in a meeting in front of his own boss ("oh sorry. I thought you knew what I was doing?" - innocent face).

UPDATE In response to comments about tainting Jira or being "snarky", I maybe miscommunicated. What I meant is to keep an accurate record of how time is being spent, for good or bad.

You might think its useless / wasted, but management may disagree and that's their prerogative. Just record that x mins was spent waiting for a meeting that didn't happen, or that no task could be usefully done in the time between then and rescheduled meeting. Unless there's some background admin.

You don't need to add sarcastic comments; just be honest about where the time has gone. @rkeet's comment about billable hours comes closest to my own experience in these matters.

It's academic now, as this question has better and more popular answers.

  • Nobody likes smart asses, a tainted Jira log even less so. If it gets to a point you feel you will be questioned about hours the managers themselves booked, then I'd say you are better off looking for a better job because that's awful management and the boat will sink at some point. – lucasgcb Jul 8 at 10:09
  • This is something, I'd do a write-up for. If I'm booking a meeting as a manager, I know its time-value. Getting a snarky Jira ticket for it would put an employee on my watch list. – Victor Procure Jul 8 at 15:47
  • @VictorProcure might actually be a thing to do though if you're performance is also based on Euro's earned per hour (e.g. billable hours), then it would be a smart way to keep track of such things (though, needn't limit it to just these meetings, log every meeting and properly accredit to what it was for, like customers, performance, wasted time due to moved meetings, etc.) – rkeet Jul 9 at 20:03
  • rkeet is right, the way to get around the smatass label is to log every meeting. As in "I feel I could be more productive if I didn't spend 15/week in meetings, but whatever, obviously I do what y'all want me to' – George M Jul 9 at 23:17
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If you think you're being productive but your manager doesn't, you probably don't understand his priorities, or are missing something he thinks is important. It's also possible that he's not noticing the things you have done if it wasn't the one thing he wanted done.

Use these meetings to find out what he expects you to do today. Then at the next meeting you can say "Yesterday you asked for A, B and C, which I did, and also E, D and F"

It's also a chance to ask if there's anything you could do better.

If he has to acknowledge that you've done everything he asked and did a good job on it, in front of his boss, he won't be able to complain about you. You will start to look like his best team member, and the meetings should soon stop.

Otherwise, the company is paying for your time and they can decide if they want you to spend it in pointless meetings.

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