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My boss is new. She's been promoted less than 3 months ago, after my previous boss quit the company. My old boss learned to trust me. She learned that, when I say "this is not our problem", it's not, and she has to go and stand her ground against the area that's actually responsible for the problem.

Just now we had one of those situations with our new boss. Our software wasn't working properly, and I told her to escalate the ticket to Support. We're Development. It's a known problem, and it's a known fix. The software was working, but from one day to another, it stopped working. Support said "nothing changed, we only moved the backend from one server to another". I knew right away they did that, because the problem is that MS DTC service isn't enabled by default, and they forget to turn it on.

The ticket spent a week going back and forth until my boss asked me to join a meeting with support. They said "uh, if it were X problem, then we will have the same problem in window Y". Someone at the meeting said "OK, let's see that". So they did, and indeed, the error popped up. The fix was easy, it was already documented, and it happens every time they change servers (third time so far).

The problem is, my boss had me involved in this, after I told her it was not our problem. We spent 1 hour with another team doing their job. My previous boss trusted me enough to go and say what I told her to say in front of management, because when I assure her I'm right, it's because I am. Most often I don't tell her that, because if I'm 99% sure, I'm not going to send her to do that. But if I'm 100% sure, it's because I tested it and I know.

This new boss doesn't have this level of trust in me.

Should I just wait for this "bond" of trust to grow, or should I approach her more explicity about this situation?


From a comment by OP: I should clarify: I didn't literally tell her "this isn't our problem", I actually told her what the problem was, how we solved it in the past, and who to escalate the ticket to. This was actually the person, in the meeting, that asked to see the problem exactly. And when she saw it, she knew what had to be done.

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    What you are saying is that a problem that you knew was likely caused by something specific, spent a week going back and forth between teams and only got solved when your boss called a meeting with both teams? It seems you are not aware of the organizational problem going on? Lets hope your new boss actually starts solving these issues, it likely involves many more cross functional meetings... – Stian Yttervik Dec 10 '19 at 16:49
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    How quickly did you point her to your documentation and earlier mails regarding the error you mention? When it happens every once in a while, you ought to be prepared. – Bernhard Döbler Dec 10 '19 at 17:21
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It seems like you allowed your old boss some time to begin to trust you:

My old boss learned to trust me

Hopefully, that process gave you some expectation in terms of how people react to you, in terms of building trust. Maybe you can try some of the same things that helped with your old boss, with your new boss.

That said, it seems perfectly normal that a new boss would take some time to develop trust. There may be many other factors involved that you're not seeing, as well:

  • The new boss may be trying to develop a positive relationship with the Support team, and hence she's willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to spending an hour of your time on an issue.
  • Your boss may actually trust you already, but she may have wanted to have the meeting as a way of displaying that you are correct in front of everyone. This may actually be helpful in the long run!
  • There may be other politics involved in why she's made these decisions. Sometimes - as an individual contributor - it's easy to miss things going on behind the scenes which influence decisions in a way that doesn't make sense. In a way, you need to learn to trust your new boss, as well as her trusting you.

Some things that may be helpful for you to move the trust process along:

  • Document and rely on existing documentation. If an issue keeps repeating itself, hopefully you have tickets, emails, or other documentation which shows the repetitive nature. This removes the question of trust, because you can just put the facts in front of your boss.
  • Show trust yourself. Trust is a two way street. Show your boss that you're willing and able to follow her guidance. Per the above bullets, there very well may be more to this than just her trust in you. She could be trying to build, or repair, a relationship between departments, or otherwise solve some organizational problem. Unless you have reason to behave otherwise, you should trust her judgement in handling this issue - if not just for the fact that trusting her will help her trust you.
  • Give your boss some context and background while she is in the learning curve of building trust. Rather than just telling her "this isn't our issue" perhaps you can explain why. Regardless of whether she decides to just take your word at face value or follow up with a meeting, explaining your position (instead of just saying "not our problem") will give her valuable information.

Ultimately, don't forget that a new boss is new. She is trying to find her footing and learn the ropes, in addition to having some degree of leadership over a team which she does not yet have tight relationships with. Showing that you are willing to play along and be supportive will go a long ways towards showing your value, and earning her trust.

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  • I should clarify: I didn't literally tell her "this isn't our problem", I actually told her what the problem was, how we solved it in the past, and who to escalate the ticket to. This was actually the person, in the meeting, that asked to see the problem exactly. And when she saw it, she knew what had to be done. – hjf Dec 10 '19 at 16:56
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    Sounds like you're on the right track! – dwizum Dec 10 '19 at 17:16
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    @hjf It would be good to edit that information into the question. I posted a comment (now deleted) asking for clarification on that exact point before reading this point, and the answer makes a difference. – Upper_Case Dec 10 '19 at 20:45
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    Nothing more that this. Give trust if you want trust, always assume good intentions. – bracco23 Dec 10 '19 at 22:48
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You seem to be focusing this on getting your boss to trust your technical judgement enough that she will defend you from, er, "failures of logical thinking" elsewhere in the company.

Success in that may be great for the two of you.

But for the company overall, it would be much better if you and your boss can, instead of stonewalling the rest of the company by directing them back to the knowledge base, figure out how to educate the other departments to understand how to find their answers in the existing knowledge base instead.

So instead of "hey boss, trust me, those idiots over in support are asking the same thing they did last month and the answer is the same as it was last month"

You might say

"This looks like a repeat of an issue we covered with support last month, and as such is part of a persistent problem we have been having with departments raising the same solved issues with us over and over. Let's spend an hour and walk them through this once again together, and then maybe we can talk between ourselves about how to prevent further recurrences in the future"

The key difference here is investing a small amount of time in giving your new boss a chance to experience for herself what the interdepartmental problem is. Additionally confronting that problem together will give the two of you some good experience for working together - experience likely to be the basis of future trust.

Don't think of it as an hour wasted on a problem the other department already has everything they need to solve themselves, think of it as an hour invested in building your relationship with your boss. If you need to be insistent about something, make that having your boss actually sit in on the interaction by explaining the need to solve the underlying interdepartmental problem, not the specific support issue.

A possible outcome may also be a realization that there should be clearer procedures in place, for example re-organizing documentation into a checklist of steps to spinning up a new server.

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Should I just wait for this "bond" of trust to grow, or should I approach her more explicitly about this situation?

Trust is earned. You've earned some trust with your new boss by being correct regarding the issue you described. Keep doing that. Over time her level of trust and confidence in you will grow.

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Should I just wait for this "bond" of trust to grow, or should I approach her more explicity about this situation?

You state multiple times that the previous boss had to learn to trust you. You should allow time for your new boss to learn as well. It's very easy to say "that's not our problem", but to your new boss you need to demonstrate ( probably a few times ) that it indeed is not your problem so that she can build that trust in you.

If after several incidents where you have demonstrated to be correct in your evaluation and your boss still does not trust you, you can then speak to her to see why she still does not trust you. But for now, your boss is new and will need time to adapt to you as well as the other teams and learn by experience which side is more trustworthy.

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Trust takes time to develop. You should emphasize to your boss that you are that type of person, that you don't say something unless you are 100% sure, and that might help, but realistically this will just take time. Keep doing the thing, keep being right about stuff, if you are spending a lot of time doing this type of thing then you should mention to your boss something like:

Hey Jane, you know, you keep calling me into these meetings of these problems that are really not our responsibility. As a result my productivity is declining. Is there some way we can resolve this issue so I can focus on my tasks?

Eventually your boss will learn to trust you and stop wasting your time (because once you have come to a conclusion that it's not your problem, have provable and actionable steps and reasons to back up that claim, and are still taking your time to resolve the issue, that is wasting your time). Or maybe she won't. But either way, a couple of months isn't long enough.

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Should I just wait for this "bond" of trust to grow, or should I approach her more explicity about this situation?

You have to keep patience since building trust takes time (and has a different approach by individuals).

Tips to speed up building trust:

  • You shall not dictate her on the direct ground to represent your response directly to management like your old boss. Let her decide her way after thorough checks on your response.

  • You shall discuss with her possible solutions or check-list process to be followed by the support team (to smooth coordination between support & development departments) in case if such server migration happens in future and so that they do not raise the same incidents again.

  • You shall also propose any permanent solution (like for your this case, setting service mode to automatic by some script or your software) so that either software takes care of it by self or does not operate/execute until required conditions are satisfied.

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Yes, trust needs to be earned. This goes both ways. You can´t expect your boss to trust you in the technical matters but don´t trust her in the Inter-team communication. Your post sounds a little bit like you don´t

It is also very well possible that she has a different communication and management style. Sometimes an hour of your time can maybe smooth communications on other topics or gain your team something elsewhere. Or the risk of the fallout, where you actually wrong, was deemed to high for her. To a lot of non-technical workers the matter-of-fact communication style engineers like to employ can seem rather harsh and unfriendly. It sounds like there is already some tension between development and support. Good Idea to step lightly in that case.

So the main thing is to give her time and support her while being a good example.

You can also approach her an explain yourself - and also listen to what she has to say. Be constructive an tell her you want to support her. You can offer give her exact descriptions on what´s technically the problem, so she can use them as citations. But I guess you appreciate the social wrapping she does to communicate this without upsetting the other team too much. You can also ask for feedback to your communication - I guess she has some thoughts about that too.

Be open, even if you are right, you can communicate very wrong. The trick is to let the one who messed up not loose face!

Be constructive. If this is the third time the problem occurs, then obviously there is something wrong in the procedures. Could the documentation be improved? Could the settings be altered automatically? If a program is hard to use, don´t blame the user!

New management is always a good chance, not to get to how things where, but to get to a better place than before!

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There's a possibility that you need to consider: That your new manager is more clever than you think.

So what happened is that some team asked you for help, for a matter that they could have easily done themselves, and you would have liked that request to be blocked. Which would have been completely right to do, but would have made your team look unhelpful.

Instead your manager invested one hour of your time. As a result, your team looked helpful, and the other team was shown to make requests to you that they have could done themselves. That builds up political capital. It will make it much easier for her to reject more time consuming requests if she can say "the last three times your requests were about something that you should have known yourself." And all that at relatively little cost for the team.

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