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I am a developer in a big tech company. It is been 1.5 year since our Product Manager (PM) joined my team. Since then, he's been performing bad, and since then, my manager and myself have been giving him feedback. Sometimes I assume good intention and try to imagine a reason why he's not doing well, and other times I can't find a reason so I talk to him. My manager is aware of all of that and he also agrees with me. He's been pushing me to keep calm and hoping that the PM would perform better.

The problem with the PM is that he can't learn anything. He came to the team with one mindset, which is "We want to build a product", literally that is the requirements we would get. We hold his hand and had millions onboarding sessions, explaining sessions ... Nothing changed, he is not doing any better, though he's been with us 1.5 years. He has become extremely defensive.

Examples about his performance:

  • Just today he priorities tasks for a product that doesn't exist! We're planning to build a product later once we finish the current product, which is estimated to be ready in Dec this year.
  • After 1.5 years, he doesn't understand our users, where are they, their language, their preferences ...

The current situation: I hate myself, I feel I don't wanna go to work. I don't know what to do.

I could change teams, but I was about to be nominated to a senior position this month, and that is why I have not left the team yet, but because of Corona, the nomination process stopped, and will be kicked off back again January 2021, and I am not sure if I can hold it until then.

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    What is your manager actually doing to support you? If what you say is true, it should be obvious to him that there's a serious problem here. – Philip Kendall Jun 23 at 22:42
  • @PhilipKendall we're giving him feedbacks and escalating to his manager. Every Sprint planning we write action items from the previous Sprint. – anon Jun 23 at 23:04
  • "I hate myself" this is rather extreme. Why is a product manager on your team affecting you so much? Do you rely on his input? Does he report to you? Do you report to him? Where does your manager factor in? – Lilienthal Jun 24 at 8:59
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    @titfrheas Please re-read Philip's question "What is your manager actually doing to support you?" Sounds like so far, he's mostly listening to you; but, it's unclear if there are any actions. Without actions, you could be spilling your heart to a brick. So what you're doing to inform him is good to know, but it doesn't answer the original question. – Edwin Buck Jun 24 at 10:50
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It sounds like you're stuck with a dud of a product manager which is a rough spot to be in. Product Managers can have so much impact (good or bad) on their team so its important that this gets resolved quickly. As a product manager here is how I might address the issues you raised:

Unspecific requirements

"We want to build a product" is not a requirement. Within your development team you should create a "definition of ready". This article provides great guidance on what should be spelled out BY THE PRODUCT MANAGER before you, your manager, or any dev agrees to set eyes on the project. A definition of ready might include business logic, layout of various components, how the user works through the application and the new feature, how data should be processed, any security rules, and outlines of edge cases. Now the PM might not get everything on the first try but the important thing is that they have enough of this to be able to have a productive conversation with the dev team and refine the requirements further.

Priority Misalignment

The product manager should be the one owning the roadmap, assuming this is the case, the PM should be in attendance during status meetings to understand where current projects stand. If they see a project is taking up 100% capacity on the roadmap through December, then they should see that there is no room. Find out where the roadmap is and who is owning it, because it needs to be the Product Manager.

Understanding Users

Product Managers are the internal advocates for all users and customers. In conjunction with researchers and designers they conduct user interviews, analyze user behavior, and create user journeys to understand what and why users do what they do. Ask your product manager to put together a journey map, if they don't already understand how users work in your application(s) this exercise will be an eye opening experience.

Overall it sounds like your product manager may lack some basic understanding of how the products work and possibly be lacking some basic PM skills. If you manager is also the PM's manager perhaps suggest a product management course as well as some hands-on training with the software. When I'm just starting out I find it helpful to shadow people who work with customers everyday (call center, sales reps, customers themselves, or trying to use it myself for the first time).

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    You describe what a good PM is, but what can you do if you work for a bad one? – Dirk Horsten Jun 24 at 6:49
  • @DirkHorsten Well, it depends. If the company can't be bothered to improve the manager (that takes work, and is risky) and it can't be bothered to get rid of the manager (that takes work, and is risky) then the options are: live with it or move on. Too often managers blame their underlings or circumstance (both can be valid) and then get a free ride, while they mis-manage. Sounds like this one mis-manages both down and up. The OP is considering doing something about it, I hope he doesn't arrive at the popular "stop caring" – Edwin Buck Jun 24 at 10:55
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18 months is a long enought time. I would say two probations and one performance review. Which should be done by HIS manager based, partially, on feedback from your manager.

Based on my experience with very bad PM

So now PM made his problem yours and your manager. Because you need to go to your superior and blatantly tell him you cannot work like this. Not only in the progressing product meaning but also in general "work for this company" meaning.
This PM should no longer be considered "new" to the company or team and therefore should be given any "assumption of good intentions".

I would take what you wrote in first point and develop on that. List procedures that he omitted, explain how following his request would influence workload on current product and generate additional working hours (for example if doing tasks for non existing product would take 50 hours instead of 10 when product is at "test" stage).

From my expierence: listing error and mistakes (even major ones) might not work for some simply because it's not their task to do those things properly. Their task might be delivering product. Only if you show that they cannot do that one thing somebody will take interest.

Additional note: I would put my job on the line. Imagine that your nomination won't go through in January because you won't deliver the current product in December and won't be able to report anything on new product (because both will be in stalemate). His performance as a PM is directly influencing yours. Make your manager fully aware of that.

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