7

I have been working in a team with 3 other developers, reporting to a tech lead who departed as of very recently. Afterwards, we started reporting to the most senior teammate who was promoted to fill his role.

Within a couple weeks, I was pulled into a one-on-one about my low performance for a couple of recent items, and I have been target of what I am seeing as hostile behavior ever since i.e. frequently getting nitpicked on our public chats for day-to-day conflicts in development like breakages in the dev environment or code style issues in a way out of ordinary and singling me out, mentions of slow work during daily stand-ups, withholding information about configuration for deploying new components and forcing me to seek help publicly before doing it personally etc.

In response, I started automating my role by developing some tooling to replace a lot of the time-consuming work with some promising results, in an attempt to have a bargaining chip with the next level of management who had been voicing complaints about the slow pace of development in the organization. Meanwhile I was put in charge of a whole feature with promises of no interference by the said manager, although likely as a set-up, giving me a good opportunity to put this to test.

After disclosing what I was doing, maybe mistakenly, the hostility I was facing immediately intensified with the manager telling me to "not work on it", and nitpicking me on even smaller minute details (breaking the older 'no-interference' promises) like code styling during stand-ups framed in an extremely negative way as opposed to keeping it contained to text chats. In the end this may work out further in my favor assuming I am not too heavily impacted by these hinderances and keeping them documented, but I am lost on how to respond to overt hostility (especially in a team it is completely out of ordinary) to prevent the negative sentiment from spreading or putting myself under even more stress.

What are some good ways I can at least speak out when incidents like this happen, especially when they are mostly based on small technicalities or differences in opinion?

7
  • 1
    Who is telling you "not to work on it"? Do your other teammates also are pointed about their mistakes like you are? What have you done about actually not doing those faults and errors regarding style and breaks in the environment, do you keep making them? Is there some sort of ticketing system or logs to prove that you are actually developing "slowly" or are these unjustified claims? – DarkCygnus Sep 20 '20 at 4:25
  • I edited the part about who is telling me that, and no, not publicly at least. Style divergence is more complicated than the way I worded it, it is actually the pattern design, although similarly inconsequential and actually following precedent. As for breaks in the environment, it is more of a consequence of a recent platform migration and with information about required config held from me, I do keep causing them. So they are unfortunately all very much justified claims when framed in a way to put the blame on me – Layman Sep 20 '20 at 4:32
  • As for the ticketing system (based on Scrum with 2-5 days per item), not really, besides a couple of items that took a couple days longer than assigned – Layman Sep 20 '20 at 4:38
  • 1
    Then you should focus on removing anything and any "external" factor that could lead this to be framed towards you... how is this information being held from you? Shouldn't it be in some repository or internal wiki, or even something you could google? Have you asked for such config? How have you asked for it? (emails? spoken?) – DarkCygnus Sep 20 '20 at 4:39
  • 2
    It is configuration for a famously broken internal framework, scattered across multiple places (config files, repos, some plain undocumented) and I have been outspoken about it not being easily accessible. Problem was getting all the information I needed being something akin to pulling teeth. Being more formal about the way I ask for it is good advice here – Layman Sep 20 '20 at 4:41
3

Before you "deal" with it, try to find out the "why".

Your former teammate might feel that your tone/habits towards him (which were acceptable earlier) undermine his authority.

Or perhaps somebody sees him as a threat now that he acquired his position, and tries sabotaging him by hinting him false accusations about you.

Perhaps the new lead has a specific psychological problem.

Or perhaps he made a wrong assumption about you in the last few weeks.

Thing is: you simply don't know (yet).

If you have anybody you might ask in the company, first ask if you are imagining things or if his style towards you changed. You might get helpful feedback.

Second (and more importantly) should be to ask him: Tell him that you can feel his style towards you changed, and ask him if you did unknowingly insult him or anything wrong. He might answer on a factual level about "faults" in your work. When he does that, do not get dragged in a knit-picking discussion about that, but try to focus on the big picture and emotions. Do not accuse him but focus on if you did something wrong in his eyes.

Good luck!

2
  • Thank you for the thoughtful answer. No reason I can't simply ask "hey do you think I should adjust my tone with the new dynamics we have" or something along those lines and that might be enough to de-escalate the whole thing, you are right – Layman Sep 22 '20 at 20:27
  • 1
    I think you are missing one likely possibility: The new lead genuinely thinks Layman is not performing well in their job (whether justified or not). – Helena Sep 23 '20 at 7:21
1

I don't think your new lead is showing hostility, but they are genuinely trying to do their job as a manager. Try to assume best intention since your new manager is new in their role, and try to work together to get a better work agreement.

frequently getting nitpicked on our public chats for day-to-day conflicts in development like breakages in the dev environment or code style issues in a way out of ordinary and singling me out,

All of these things seem pretty ok for me to be addressed by your manager, though maybe it would be better to do this in a 1-on-1 situation, rather than in the team standup, but it really depends on how things are addressed "This is taking a while. Are there any impediments?" is a whole different story than "Why are you working so slow?" Your previous manager might not have been very strict about these things, but your manager seems to be. This doesn't necessarily mean the manager is hostile.

In response, I started automating my role by developing some tooling to replace a lot of the time-consuming work with some promising results, in an attempt to have a bargaining chip with the next level of management

This sounds like you are acting in defiance and trying to politic against your new manager, this is a dangerous game and you will probably be on the losing side, since upper management just have demonstrated confidence in the new lead by promoting them, and by default managers will side with the other managers.

Meanwhile I was put in charge of a whole feature with promises of no interference by the said manager, although likely as a set-up, giving me a good opportunity to put this to test.

So let me get this right, you were tasked to work on feature F and your manager trusted you in working on it, and then you worked on automation task A instead. There is nothing wrong with writing tools to help with a task, and if task F is expected to take three days and you deliver in three days, nobody cares whether you wrote A first and automated F or you worked on F directly. But if you take five days and your managers asks you how far you are with F and all you did was working on A, then there is a problem.

After disclosing what I was doing, maybe mistakenly, the hostility I was facing immediately intensified with the manager telling me to "not work on it", and nitpicking me on even smaller minute details (breaking the older 'no-interference' promises) like code styling during stand-ups framed in an extremely negative way as opposed to keeping it contained to text chats.

I would be frustrated with that behaviour, if I was your manager and the performance review would be something like that:

"L. is very smart and has great ideas how we can optimize our workflow, but unfortunately is lacking the experience and struggles with the completion of simple workflow items and his code shows signs of sloppiness (breaking our dev environment, not following the coding guide). Even though L. has great potential, right now I need them to deliver on our backlog and they are not. I will have them get quality and velocity up, before working on any advanced projects."

So from what I can tell your manager could be completely right. Except that I don't think performance issues should be addressed publicly. You can tell your manager in a 1-on-1 how you think he should give feedback to you. Then you can agree on performance goals, and you need to make sure that your current work is impeccable before you work on bigger automation tasks.

3
  • I took the automation to be an attempt to address the productivity issues, not defiance. – Jim Clay Sep 23 '20 at 12:45
  • @JimClay but OP clearly writes that that happened in response to the lead's behaviour with the goal of having "bargaining chip with the next level of management". – Helena Sep 23 '20 at 13:52
  • @Helena you're right, my justification is preparing for the worst in case my livelihood is threatened but the same mindset might be setting me up for failure. Might serve me better to try levelheaded conversation instead of assuming hostility and going directly to war, which is the point you are trying to make I am assuming – Layman Sep 23 '20 at 17:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .