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This situation is happening in Thailand and I and my team are also Thai (Chinese born here). I am a backend engineering manager. Under me is a frontend dev, Mr. FrontEnd, and a backend dev. For some reason Mr. FrontEnd is relocated to another business unit though I am still his direct manager.

Problem: The team performance is not impressive because Mr. Frontend's business unit does not issue proper direction. When we investigated why, we found Mr. BusinessGuy is the root cause. He is targeting Mr. FrontEnd and keeps blaming him. This situation happens repeatedly. I had raised this in a company conversation once, but it was not effective. He keeps coming this way.

HR is aware of the problem; they've received blamed for no reason, too. We can't do much since he has connections with the CEO.

Evidences:

  1. Mr. BusinessGuy used to blame finance for why he was late. After investigating that claim, which was a time consuming tasks, the company found that the root cause is him.
  2. He never pays attention to the company event training schedule and misses training. He then blames HR for no reason.
  3. He repeatedly blames Mr. FrontEnd although he knows that it is not his task at all.

Question:

How can I best protect Mr. FrontEnd from the actions of Mr. BusinessGuy?

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    Hi @Sam, I've given your question an edit to clean it up a bit and try and focus on what I believe to the be main question here - most of the multiple questions you listed seemed to be variations on that and generally here we look to have a single question per post. Hopefully I have managed to keep your original intent but if not feel free to rollback my edit. – motosubatsu Mar 9 at 10:56
  • Thank you for clean it up – Sam Mar 9 at 11:02
  • No problem, hope you get the help you need! – motosubatsu Mar 9 at 11:03
  • If you're told to discipline Mr. Frontend for screw-ups committed by other people, are you willing to put your own position on the line to protect him? – EvilSnack Mar 10 at 12:44
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Mr. Businessguy is already digging his own grave, and its entirely his own fault. Do not interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.

You need to realize that Mr. Businessguy is building a reputation of blaming others for his own problems. He is blaming HR for not going to training. He is blaming finance that he got late, and there is a paper trail saying he is lying. They are probably discontent as well.

And we all know; HR is not your friend. Consequently, you want them to view you in a positive light for the company. That you're a good asset. Not going to training doesn't put you in a positive light. Blaming the people who need to view you as a positive asset for the company for your own failure is even worse.

Don't go after him.

You can only shoot yourself in your own foot. Instead, ensure that him blaming you for his own failures will only make himself (once again) look like a fool.

Starting creating a paper trail

Record when he gives you tasks and directions, and exactly what those tasks and directions are. Record all that he wants from you and your colleague and when he asked for them. Then, if he starts blaming you again for this or that, you can point to earlier directions given by him.

Edit: get Mr. Frontend to do the same thing for his own sake. Back him against undue criticism, and make it clear to him if he did nothing wrong.

It will be his own responsibility though to properly document tasks and directions given by Mr. Businessguy.

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    Yes, just cover your back so you don't go in the grave with him – Kilisi Mar 9 at 11:12
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    While I don't disagree with the tactics described here, its possible that these tactics won't work if the business person has a strong enough relationship with the company leader. Some leaders just trust the wrong people for the wrong reasons and will back them forever. They may believe that they have a unique vision, or have been told by investors to follow their lead. – Mark Rogers Mar 10 at 0:16
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    It's a good answer but a little bit theorical IMO, and it doesn't protect Mr. FrontEnd at all. In the practical world, I've seen many times the good people harrassed to the point of leaving just to preserve affinities between bad people and X, or special clauses in contracts that bad people got because of X. The answer could gain just to have a warning about this. – Kaddath Mar 10 at 8:40
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    @Kaddath has a point, I think you do need to do some work to shield your FrontEnd guy. But you can be subtle about it. Emphasize what the FrontEnd guy is delivering. "Here is feature X, according to the specifications we received from you on date Y." Mr. Bussiness may have asked for it earlier but nothing could be done until he gave the specifications, so that's the date that you need to make visible. And then it becomes clear to any onlookers that your guy did his job in reasonable time once he finally got the specifications needed. – ObscureOwl Mar 10 at 9:54
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    You can also add that OP needs to let Mr. FrontEnd know that OP is on his side, HR knows, and nobody's going to fire him. People worry about their jobs and if Mr BusinessGuy is being this stupid, you can very quickly mitigate the damage by letting them know, without any details, that they're not alone. Mr BusinessGuy is basically a bully, and bullies lose a lot of their teeth when their victims have support. – Nelson Mar 10 at 11:55
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Lucas' answer has the correct basic idea: Mr. BusinessGuy is blaming everybody else for everything, and this pattern will be obvious to all involved.

However, being the target for that kind of abuse is not easy, so you should have a talk with Mr. FrontEnd about it. Something like this:

Lately Mr. BusinessGuy has been complaining about you. I want you to know that I don't believe him. I know that it is not your fault.

Let Mr. BusinessGuy rant and rave all he wants, just ignore him.

However, if anybody else starts repeating the accusations, tell me about it immediately and I will set them straight.

And you should of course follow up on that last point.

If Mr. FrontEnd needs to talk, listen to him. Agree that the situation is bad, say you are sorry and so on. Just getting sympathy will help him a lot.

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    Just knowing that someone else, especially your boss, knows what's going on, agrees with you, and has your back goes a really, really long way... at least with me. – JeffC Mar 10 at 18:55
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    But it still won't help Mr FrontEnd guy with respect to the big boss. Nothing will do that. – boatcoder Mar 11 at 16:58
  • Yes, the Mr. FrontEnd needs to know the OP has their back, but if the OP isn't doing something actively to counter the bad-mouthing, it's just allowing a bully to continue the problem. – computercarguy Mar 11 at 19:38
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I agree with everything that has been said by Stig and Lucas, but wanted to share a personal story. In one particular company I worked for, I was Mr. Front End guy. In order to protect myself, I kept a meticulous paper trail. I kept all my emails and communication, etc. Most of the company leadership was at a conference when Mr. BusinessGuy tried to assert himself with the worst accusations. I called my Mr. Manager to ask for advice. He asked me to forward my paper trail to him. My assumption is that he forwarded the information to company leadership. However, after that point, Mr BusinessGuy became very nice to me and I never had to worry again.

The point is, people cannot argue with data. If they think they can argue with data, then that's probably not a place you want to spend very much of your career at.

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  • People cannot argue with data, but if the owner is not someone that actually cares about data, then it won't matter then amount of data you present. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, can deliver 18+ months late, a product that does not work for the customer, and can still be a darling. If I ever get into a situation like this again, the door will not strike me on the way out. If Mr BusinessGuy is going to stay on, the best bet is for everyone else to abandon ship and let the owner take the loss. A big corp with a lot of management doesn't suffer the problems of a dictatorship. – boatcoder Mar 11 at 17:06
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As good advice as the other answers give, I'm going to go one step further by telling you to act on the problem, not just sit idly by and recording it as it happens. But it's risky and has to be done carefully, with plenty of willingness to stop doing this at any point where you get negative feedback. This all depends on what kind of person the CEO is, and what they project publicly might not be how they actually react to the situation.

With all the paper trail you are making and already have, you can go to your superiors and ask for advice on how to handle the situation. Don't act dumb or sarcastic, just ask them intelligent questions with intelligent suggestions on how you think it should be acted on. You don't want them to think you are incompetent, or insubordinate, you just want guidance for this particular situation. You also don't want to make it obvious that you are trying to put the blame on them, if things go wrong, but that's part of what you're trying to do.

If you get silence for a significant amount of time, say two weeks or whatever your culture would consider to be appropriate, then go on up the chain of command. If your boss won't tell you how to deal with it, go to their boss and explain the situation plus the silence you've already gotten. If you get silence again, do the same thing. You are essentially letting your bosses boss (and up the line) know that you aren't getting the help and guidance you need. Done correctly, this isn't exactly blame and you can get a good answer to the problem. If no one is willing to help you, it creates a paper trail for you if/when it gets to the "final solution".

If you end up at the CxO level and talking with their "connection", simply bringing up the issues might be all it takes. There's a couple of ways it could go from here, and to name a few:
- That connection might take care of the situation for you, so they don't lose respect due to Mr. BusinessGuy.
- You get fired and don't have to worry about it anymore.
- Mr. BusinessGuy starts making more problems because the CEO talked to them about it.

Of course, you getting fired isn't a good resolution, but if the management is that kind of toxic or has that bad of nepotism, you're likely to be better off in your next job. It can be difficult and scary to find another job, but it might be worth it to get away from that guy.

If Mr. BusinessGuy starts making more problems, keep recording the paper trails and after a short time (maybe less than a month if it's happening often), do the same thing again, but wait that little bit of time to establish this as a new pattern. By waiting, you also give the CEO time to hear about it on their own, since they may now be paying attention a little better.

The point here is to not complain about someone or sound like you are "ratting" Mr. BusinessGuy out. What you need to do is stay professional and simply bring up the problem to people who might have a good way to handle this situation, since his connection to the CEO is essentially leaving you without a good solution. Someone may have a good solution, simply because they have experienced a similar situation previously. Or someone might have a personal relationship with the CEO they can lean on. And someone might even have a way to leverage their own reputation or authority to fix the problem. You don't know until you ask.

Again, there's risk to doing this. You may end up getting help that takes care of the problem, or you might come up against issues right away. It's up to you whether you make a push all the way to the CEO to let them know what's going on, or whether you stop at the first sign of danger. As well as it depending on the CEO's personality, it also depends on your personality. Not everyone can do this, even if they don't get negative feedback.

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