15

So there is this guy, who was working with me and recently was promoted to be a manager of our team.

I have never had any problems with management, because I just do my job as well as I can. I don't want to show off or anything, but I am the only person who has a solid understanding of how every detail of our system works. While that new guy ... well, instead of developing his technical skills, he spent a lot of time doing, you know, "social climbing".

Actually, I have no beef with that -- everyone has his own way. I like the job I'm doing, and being slightly asocial I wouldn't like to be a manager anyway. My previous manager understood that and was wise enough to let me handle all technicalities, while he just concentrated on all the management stuff. And now this new manager tries to kinda "control" me or something. He gives me and my colleagues instructions, which sometimes have blatant errors and inconsistencies. When I try to correct these, he starts an argument in front of all other people. Well, not really an argument -- he just pulls rank on me.

I'm not sure what is the reason behind that kind of behavior. Probably he feels insecure and sees threat in me. Or even thinks that I'm jealous about his recent promotion. Or had some old grievance with me. Again, I'm not sure about it.

I've tried to sidestep him, and deal with his superior or with our former manager. But he is now closer to all these people and his word has more weight. So I feel like he tries to predispose them against me.

The thing is that I'm not really good at these kind of games. I'm a technical person. I don't want to be part of any intrigues -- I always thought that this is the management people business -- let them cut each other's throats and climb even higher if they like it. Just leave us alone with our soft- and hard-ware.

So, I'm not sure what to do. Should I approach him? Or should I discuss his motivations with other managers? Should I ask my colleagues for support?

I would be grateful for any advice here.

28

your story sounds (suspiciously) similar to mine, if only for the choice of words; however, I am certain that apart from the possibility that someone fabricated this as a "counter-question" to mine (How to win over jealous subordinate who is mocking me after my promotion?), it cannot be the same as my situation because the subordinate I was talking about doesn't even speak English :), my "mistakes" were completely irrelevant to our actual work, and I also never reacted in any way described above yet, yet.

If this is not fabricated, but genuine, I guess it is sheer coincidence.

However, my advice, based on the fact that I experience something somewhat similar from the managers' perspective, would be to try the following:

  1. Be educated and well-mannered. Make sure you always speak with a constructive tone and show that you are someone who wants to collaborate, not undermine others.

  2. If you want to earn even more points, show that you are helping your manager. She or he will appreciate that.

  3. If you think you found mistakes, always bring them up privately with the person you think did them. Do not under any circumstance make everyone in the office hear it. It can make those criticized feel very uncomfortable, whether the mistake was true or not.

  4. In any case, if you really believe your manager has a problem with you, try clarifying with him before talking to anybody else about this. The reasons may be simpler than you thought.

  5. If he is truly trying to single you out, and you see that he doesn't behave in the same way with other subordinates, then make this clear to the manager and make it clear to her or him that your intentions are absolutely normal.

  6. Never meddle - One of my most important tasks as a manager is to filter and represent technical information in a way that our superiors understand them, and filter management decisions in a way that my team understands them. One of the worst things the guy from my situation was doing was to meddle whenever a senior manager/director came and asked for some simple questions which needed a simple answer - not a whole technical essay!

Example: if a director comes and asks if Project X is being completed on time, I would answer "Yes, we will finish on time although there was a small maintenance problem that slowed us down. At latest we will finish the morning after the deadline." There is absolutely no need for someone else to chip in and say: "We had to deal with plenty of trouble because the tech guys were busy doing some other random stuff. Also, the unexpected trainig meeting that our manager planned last-minute was such a total waste of time. So if anything goes wrong, it's not our fault" Or anything like that.

If other superiors come and ask for anything, direct everyone to your manager!

This is what I would advise you (and also to the subordinate from my story).

19

Whether you are technical or not is no excuse for poor behavior or an inabilty to deal with people. You need to fix that first. You never call out your boss publicly. You never go around your boss to someone higher. Your behavior is inexcusable.

No one - repeat no one - can afford to ignore office politics. It is silly to think you can and ulitmately will limit your career. You need to read up on this stuff and you need to learn how to behave like a team player.

There are ways to manage your boss effectively. But be aware that he determines your pay raises and even whether you stay employed. It is in your own self-interest to make sure he is happy with you not the other way around. You must adjust to the style of the new boss not expect him to adjust to you. That is the way a professional behaves. I've had bosses who dictated my every move and bosses that I barely ever heard from. I have made it my business to get along with all of them.

  • 23
    This reads a lot like "Shut up, keep your head down, and do what you're told," and I strongly disagree. – Aesin Oct 5 '13 at 0:39
  • 1
    @Aesin - as long as your boss agrees with you, it's fine to disagree. You play the game in the context of the rules otherwise, don't play. Unfortunately, your boss can make your life a lot harder than you can make his. – user8365 Mar 2 '15 at 20:26
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    I strongly disagree with this answer. Happiness and career success outweighs pleasing a boss. If your boss can't handle you wanting to do a good job and can't treat you with respect, either: work out your differences by talking 1:1 about developing mutual respect and working out your differences, or if the boss is resistant or unwilling to meet you half way, get the **** out. – brandonscript Aug 24 '17 at 21:25
  • You won't find career success making your boss mad. Yes you can vote with your feet and should if your boss is terrible. Yes you can privately approach the boss about an issue. No you should never publicly call out your boss or go over his head. As long as you are being paid, you owe your boss that. – HLGEM Aug 24 '17 at 21:29
  • This is a terrible answer. You never call out your boss publicly. Ok? In this case, OP is talking about their boss presenting incorrect information to the team. That's the perfect time to bring up any concerns OP has. That's not "calling out" the boss, it's asking for clarification. – Apologize and reinstate Monica Jan 29 at 21:48
12

Everything you mentioned you are doing is undermining your Bosses position. It can also be seen in a negative light which can later impact your career (eg. Going over your bosses head).

Your role is to action what your manager needs done. That said, it is not to follow blindly.

If there are issues in the direction the manager is going, bring them to the manager in private. Ask for clarification on actions.

Don't just say "This is wrong" if you feel something is going in the wrong direction. Managers prefer if you have explain the solution and how they can help you achieve it. If they disagree with you, roll with it and follow the required actions.

Again, do this in private.

If you want reading material on this I recommend "Lead your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up" by John Baldoni.

8

Quit trying to sidestep him. He's your manager now, and you need to learn how to work with him. It may not be the way you've worked before, it may not be the way you are most confortable working, and change can be hard. But the business has put him in this position, and you'll find it better for all involved if you try to make this work.

Go to him in private, and point out some of the places where you've seen conflict. Apologize for your part in that, and ask how he would like you to handle these situations. Then listen.

You can point out your preferences, but tell him you will think about what he has said, and will try to follow his direction. After time, when you gain his respect, you can then more easily suggest directions to him in ways that will help both of you.

Remember that what you see is not the entire picture, and some of his direction may just appear wrong to you, but really is better for the business. And he may be insecure and going about managing all wrong. But you still need to work with that. Give him respect (even if unearned), point him to AskAManager.org, and do your best to make him and you both successful in this.

  • Or point him to Workplace SE :D) – jmort253 Oct 5 '13 at 3:04
5

First, I'd be careful of pointing out errors or inconsistencies in public as that could be seen as starting a war. Rather, have a private discussion to clarify what is to be done as generally programming tasks may have some ambiguities or issues to be resolved in getting things done. While you may correct about how something is poorly presented, disrespecting your manager by publicly showing errors isn't likely to help you here.

Going over his head could also be seen as disrespectful and unless he is trying to tell you something like "1 = 0" in my world, you may need to learn how to pick your battles. This likely has damaged your relationship with your manager as he may question what he can trust you to do and what will you go to his superior to try to fix for you that could be seen as tattling.

It could help to have a private conversation about his errors in giving orders so that it may be better for him to give them with less detail so that they get worked out properly or however you want to resolve the issue here that he is giving mixed messages that impact your performance,

2

To add to the other answers (which mainly suggest ways of adapting to your new manager's style and possibly trying to "manage up" by supporting and guiding him to be a better manager), if you really feel that he's an intolerably and incorrigibly poor manager, or that you just can't stand working for him for personal reasons, the solution is simple: ask to be transferred to some other group, or (if that's not a practical option) start looking for a new job.

As noted, this really is the method of last resort, only to be undertaken if you really don't think other solutions will work. On the other hand, if you really think that's the case, it's better not to leave it too late. Sometimes, it's better to walk away from an unsolvable conflict before it turns into an open fight, and it may even sometimes turn out to be the best possible outcome for everyone involved.

By the way, if you do decide to talk to someone higher up in the organization about getting transferred, it pays to think a bit about how you present your reasons for it. Don't say "I want to move to another group because my current manager X sucks," even if that's what you think. Instead, say e.g. "I've found myself having some trouble fitting in with X's personality and management style, and I've been thinking of broadening my horizons a bit anyway. I've been interested in topic Y, do you think there might be an opening for me there?" The factual content of the two requests is identical, anyway (from the listener's viewpoint): you don't like manager X (which they almost surely know already anyway, if you've been going around his back to your shared supervisor) and would like to move away. The latter version, however, does suggest somewhat better introspective ability and awareness that the friction might not be entirely due to the manager (if it is, they'll know it when they get their third or fourth request to transfer out), and also a somewhat more proactive attitude and, importantly, a somewhat lower chance that the problem will just reoccur in whichever group you transfer to.

In any case, I'd say this is pretty much the only good reason to sidestep your manager. That's not to say that you should never talk to people higher up in the organization chain — just that you shouldn't cut your manager out of the communications loop if you want to keep a healthy working relationship with him.

(That is, of course, unless you seriously believe that following your manager's incorrect instructions is likely to break the law, get someone killed or cost the company millions, in which case you do have the right — and, arguably, the duty — to notify folks higher up the chain before irrepairable damage happens. But that's a really extreme case.)

  • Actually, given the damage the OP seems to have done to his relationship with his manager he may need to be transferred (or find another job) in order to even have a blank slate. – kleineg Mar 6 '14 at 20:50
1

You are a proven threat. Wow, someone just becomes a manager and automatically you question his decisions in front of other people and go behind his back because he doesn't follow your suggestions.

Being "right" is not enough. You may have more technical skill, but you have to understand that in some situations, it just doesn't matter. Managers have to make many decisions under constraints you may never know. It would be great if all decisions could be explained in detail (as if you would give him the chance), but there are time and availability restrictions. You make suggestions and the manager makes decisions. Show you can work with him and not object to every little decision made you don't like. He may not be 100% correct, but I doubt he is 100% wrong. Make an effort to do this in private. Show some tact.

Apologize - Yes, suck it up. Act like an adult who can admit to their mistakes. Let you boss know that you will not be going behind his back and if you have any questions of his decisions, you'll work with whatever constraints he decides. You may have to schedule a meeting, send an email, or just be quiet.

Bosses Can Get Better If your boss chooses to improve, he will realize how skilled you are and willing to work within his system. It may take a few bad decisions that cause some trouble before he realizes he doesn't know everything and should seek the advice of others. No one is perfect. He won't always get this right, but your situation is never going to get better until you learn to play well with others.

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