I’m the second-in-command for a web dev team.

Lately I’ve been really struggling with a task at work. I kept being pushed back with issues I didn’t anticipate, despite asking for help. Because of this we - the team - missed several deadlines. I felt it made me look bad in front of my peers and my boss.

I expressed this to my boss who sidelined my task and gave me another piece of work. The exact same thing happened with this too. Delay after unanticipated delay and more missed deadlines. This was despite me staying back to work late and working over my lunch breaks. I was under an incredible amount of stress.

Today I just snapped. Over Slack I told my boss that I was not a “****ing” telepath and so couldn’t anticipate the problems and that the people responsible for setting up the requirements and guidelines for my work were being incredibly unfair.

I highlighted that I had run my processes past a bunch of my peers and that they had all agreed to my approach and that they too had missed the issues I had come up against. I said the system was unfair, documentation was nonexistent and information wasn’t distributed well enough and I wasn’t trained up enough for the tasks.

My boss took it well and was supportive, but I feel that being so emotional when I am meant to be calm and help to lead the team was a major set back for my bosses trust in me - a leader (even a second in command) can’t snap when things get tough. I feel this has been a big set back in my career and now that I’ve calmed down I feel foolish and regretful.

What’s the best way to rebuild trust with my boss and show that I can manage the leadership role?

  • 12
    @gnat This question is about the OP's relationship with their boss.
    – BSMP
    Mar 5, 2020 at 8:50
  • 1
    Who set the deadlines? Were they forced by the management or did you (and the team) provide the estimates?
    – Igor G
    Mar 5, 2020 at 9:10
  • 1
    @Igor G my boss set the deadlines but they were based on other requirements from other teams in the business
    – MeltingDog
    Mar 5, 2020 at 13:50
  • Are the **** how you actually responded over slack, or did you spell it out? Mar 6, 2020 at 0:28
  • 2
    "a leader (even a second in command) can’t snap when things get tough" I guess Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or dare I say DT never got this memo. People are people, whether they are "leaders" or not, and given enough frustration they will snap. Aren't you expecting the impossible of yourself?
    – Douwe
    Mar 6, 2020 at 14:16

8 Answers 8


What’s the best way to rebuild trust with my boss and show that I can manage the leadership role?

This isn't your fault, you were not given the tools needed to fulfill a leadership role, so you're not in one.

Your boss has failed your trust that they will do their role correctly and has now been given a heads up.

What to do? Apologise if necessary for your unprofessional outburst, but realistically it's better out than in and your boss should now realise they may lose people if they don't wake up. Many bosses may actually appreciate having the issue highlighted directly after they get over the shock.

  • 5
    I agree with this. On a side note, for the best way to rebuild trust, now that you are calm, you can think through it again and identify what you did wrong. Then learn from those mistakes and let the incident go. And make sure the lessons you learnt stays forever. That way, you will be ready to rebuild trust, when you get another chance.. Mar 5, 2020 at 10:30
  • 44
    This is a great answer - especially since OP said "My boss took it well and was supportive". Everyone has moments like this and it's better that it was at your boss instead of one of your team (in terms of company moral rather than professionally)
    – Gamora
    Mar 5, 2020 at 10:33
  • 2
    It will depend on the type of work environment, but there are a few different ways to communicate effectively. I would suggest swearing at your boss may not be wise in all circumstances. Also worth pointing out that failure is sometimes inevitable, and doesn't reflect poorly on anyone in particular. Mar 5, 2020 at 11:30
  • 1
    In addition to the apology, I'd add the suggestion to boss to figure out (together) how to avoid this in future and implement processes accordingly. Offering solutions is better than defending and apologizing alone.
    – Fildor
    Mar 6, 2020 at 7:20
  • 4
    Well, maybe he should apologise, but more importantly, he should learn to be assertive and communicate his anger (and other feelings) in clear language, before he snaps. Instead of just letting the pressure mount and taking it, he should early on say things like "Your demands/unwillingness to listen/whatever makes me angry, and I want you to change so and so; otherwise [dire, but realistic consequence]".
    – j4nd3r53n
    Mar 6, 2020 at 9:53

The answer to this depends how badly you snapped.

If your rant was generously laden with expletives and personal insults, you have a serious problem on your hands, and can expect some sort of negative response whatever you do.

If the rant was more-or-less what you wrote here, the problems you are going to be facing are minimal. Remember that tone-of-voice doesn't translate well over text-based communication, so unless you were #!?*ing swearing, SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS or using AlTeRnAtE CaSiNg SaRcAsM/mOcKeRy, you should be alright. Emotions also don't translate well to text communications without specific effort to convey it (although swearing certainly doesn't help)

I think the best thing you can do going forward would be to put some more buffer time in your estimates for completion to account for the fact that unpredictable things do go wrong.

  • 2
    Thanks. Yeah I didn’t use any personal insults. In terms of swearing I said, verbatim: “I can’t read <employees> mind because I’m not a ****ing mind reader” and “wtf is the deal with this project anyway?”
    – MeltingDog
    Mar 5, 2020 at 13:57
  • 12
    @MeltingDog you say "verbatim", were the "****" in what you posted or did you post the unredacted version of that word? Mar 5, 2020 at 19:51
  • 6
    @user56reinstatemonica8 - I used asterisks and in one case the acronym “wtf”
    – MeltingDog
    Mar 6, 2020 at 13:52
  • 6
    @MeltingDog yeah, better than the unredacted swears by far. Mar 6, 2020 at 13:57

It's difficult for us to give precise answers, since we don't know your boss or what your relationship is like with them.

I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt, so if you weren't scared to rant at them in the first place you had a relatively cordial relationship to begin with. And you say that your boss didn't get upset at you and took it well.

So while the outburst may have been excessive, your boss may understand where you're coming from. We're all human and sometimes we lose our cool.

What I suggest you do now is get back to work. Write a calm email explaining the problems you're having in technical terms, with suggestions for how your boss can help you and your team get back on track. Acknowledge that your rant was an outlier due to stress and you'll try not to let it happen again.

But your boss should realize that one cannot get blood from a stone, and your team can't succeed without the proper support from the rest of the organization.

  • 2
    I acknowledge that my rant was inappropriate, but I believe for me such outbursts are outliers, and in this case it was due to stress. I shall try my best not to let it happen again, but please understand if the situation doesn't change, that will become increasingly difficult. - say that. In person. Read it verbatim from your phone if you have to, but say it IN PERSON.
    – Mazura
    Mar 6, 2020 at 4:26
  • @maxathousand Thanks, I've replaced the remaining "him" with "them".
    – Barmar
    Mar 6, 2020 at 16:36
  • @Mazura i would phrase it slightly differently, because that statement sounds dangerously close to an ultimatum. It also gives excuses ("that was an outlier"). I would suggest: "I am sorry for my outburst. That was inappropriate and unprofessional of me. It does, however, bring to light several of the issues I've faced on this project, and I'd like to discuss how to constructively address these issues. A couple ideas I have are..." Gives an apology with no "buts", and you show that you are actively seeking solutions. Mar 8, 2020 at 3:25

This is a great question, many things come to my mind, so let me add them to the existing answers.

Snapping seems to be your main concern, let's come back to it later, and have a look at the whole situation first.

You say that you missed deadlines due to issues you have not anticipated. This happened with several tasks and it affected the entire team. Your boss leads the team and you are his right hand in leading the people.

It seems that your team does not work effectively; there are holes in your working process that affect quality and deadlines very seriously. I believe the best thing for everyone now is to focus on how you can become an effective team. You personally, your boss and all the people in the team get the greatest benefit and greatest learning if you work consciously to become better at your craft.

Requirements gathering and management, planning, estimation, functional and technical design documentation, work scheduling, issue and risk management, effective communications, testing, QA, peer reviews, automation, trainings are part of our craft. They all have an aspect to ensure and improve quality. Their main concern is delivery.

I would put it as my first priority to train myself and the team (including your boss) to be better at these things. Depict the current process on a blank sheet, find the weak points and learn how to improve them.

There are so many resources (maybe even too many), but the best sellers on Amazon are always a good starting point. Experiment with certain solutions to improve and find out how to do it.

Your boss will also be thankful (if he is a good leader) that you suggest new ways to improve the team's performance.

If you have a malfunctioning team, it's a great opportunity to learn how to fix it, because that builds you up for the future. That's the way to build a career, not just work in a job.

Once you get your focus right; focusing on the team's performance and joint improvement, the personal aspect will fall into place automatically.

You snapped, because you had enough and you felt that you cannot do anything about it. This is why it's probably easy to blame your boss.

The thing is that people get frustrated if they feel that they cannot do something about a situation. So focus on team improvement, and self improvement. You have control over these things and you can start right now. You can do something about it.

Most often there is something you can do, if you ask yourself how I can improve everyone's situation, instead of focusing on your own issues.

Sometimes you are in the wrong culture and you cannot improve, usually this happens under bossy bosses. Then it's better to find a place where you can grow.

I would suggest to fix your relationship with your boss along these terms. Suggest team performance improvement actions based on books and best practices and deliver on your ideas.

This will help regain the trust. Of course, simply apologise, saying you did not meant to be rude, you just did not see the way out.

You say that you are meant to be calm and I disagree with that. Calmness is not a goal, it's the result of good leadership. Set up the team, processes and build skills so that everyone can do their jobs and do it well. Then you all will be calm. :)

  • 1
    "find the week points" => "weak points"?
    – Korosia
    Mar 6, 2020 at 11:39
  • Thanks, fixed :)
    – takacsmark
    Mar 6, 2020 at 11:45
  • "Hi boss, I'm sorry I snapped last week. I had worked really hard and then got tripped up by the changing requirements. I've thought of some ways to make us better at requirements gathering so that that doesn't happen again.."
    – ObscureOwl
    Mar 6, 2020 at 13:14

Apologize for your outburst without making any excuses for yourself. It doesn't have to be anything long or flowery. It can be as simple as: "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you. It won't happen again."

The issues that led to your outburst are a separate issue. Don't use them as an excuse for unacceptable behavior. Don't run away from dealing with those other issues...but do it in a calm and professional manner.

Don't allow yourself to have similar outbursts in the future.

It may take a little time but you will gain trust when you show yourself to be sincere, responsible, and willing to acknowledge your mistakes.


All this talk about unacceptable behavior is truly unacceptable...

The problems you face have a simple but difficult solution not yet mentioned. Which is...

Gather your team, collectively resign, form a new entity with a democratic structure (such as a worker cooperative) and then follow the path set by the collectively made decisions in your new firm.

There is a lot more to this and your outburst wasn't business, it was personal. The reason why this is true is because we are people. It is true by definition and the reason this is important is based on a few simple observations...

The entity you are having an issue with exists to make profit.

Profit is generated from the surplus value found in the production process when labor uses their physical and mental abilities to produce things that are favored by society.

Duh, duh, duh, but...

What part of the profit does management produce?

Zero. At least in terms of the size of the portion directly attributable to them. In terms of net value added to society, I think it is incredibly easy to show that the value they create is a HUGE number (the problem is that their is a 'minus' sign in front of it - if i have to i'll demonstrate - climate, poverty, inequality, war, incarceration, healthcare, education, etc. etc.).

Your mild outburst was the least that should have happened to your manager as he parasitically sucks down large portions of the value generated by his workers while at the same time remaining completely ignorant of what it takes to generate those profits. Of course this would be bad enough but if your minor statement of truth still bothers people remind them...

The exploitative environment which increasingly ratcheted up production demands while simultaneously shrinking the pool of available resources for you and your team (deadlines, deadlines, deadlines!!! and, probably a whole slew of other ridiculous nonsense). And remind them the deterioration of your operating environment and its unpleasant aspects and conditions where attributable directly to the person for whom you accidentally shared a small blip of truth with, forcing that person, for ever the slightest of moments, to catch just a faintest of whiffs of reality.

Apparently, from some of the responses I have seen here, this interruption from total ignorance, no matter how short, no matter how slight, is "unacceptable"...

So is it enough to merely accept this exploitation? Nay. How about accepting it while also demonstrating that you are grateful for the opportunity to be scammed and stolen from? Surely that would be enough for our perpetrators right? Oh but you are mistaken again. For you to demonstrate appropriate behavior you must not only accept and show gratitude for your own exploitation, you must INCREASE that show of gratitude in step with the growth in the parasites and the amount they extract.

So, again, the solution is to quit or otherwise eliminate management and capital so that you have an acceptable share in deciding where the proceeds from your labor go and how they are generated...

  • Ah, I think you're making mountains out of molehills. I'm not going to start a new company or a communist revolution over a stressful project. I get where you're coming from, but I don't thinks this answer fits the question.
    – MeltingDog
    Mar 9, 2020 at 23:05

I don't always trust the boss; depends on the work environment. Hence, even after the outburst, if the boss took it well without retaliation, I would be careful. I think "next steps" to solution the problem from your side would redeem your spirit in the eyes of all, as there has to be a way for you to communicate with hard evidence of what knowledge is missing.


Apologize for the outcome (not for your actions, but for what transpired from the combined energies of all those who made an impact; the stakeholders), and suggest working together to achieve a better response.

This would show your maturity, accountability, leadership, and that you're not after a personal agenda, but are committed to the team/organization and are willing to work together for a common goal.

"Your worst enemies can become your best friends, because they know much more about you than your friends" - Nomben

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