This morning I was invited to a 9.30am meeting by my boss (I normally start work at 9am although I am perfectly permitted to start as late as 10am if I so decide on the day and I have no earlier meeting to attend as far as I know).

This meeting was to decide whether to move a system from a computer programme, for which I am author and caretaker, to Excel.

My boss is barely computer literate and this IS a horrible idea. (If relevant, think NASA moving flight path calculations to Excel. It is technically possible, but you would eat your own shoe before you actually did it).

I think scheduling the meeting for 9.30am was a ploy to put me on the backfoot (My boss starts at 7am most days). I would have perhaps 15 minutes to prepare after setting up for the morning and searching through emails to find this meeting. I, being at least adequate at my job and understanding my code, its programming language and MS Excel, can easily defend against the notion that moving the system is in any way good.

In this meeting, my boss was aggressive, belittling and willingly dismissive of anything I had to say, having previously made up his mind that his plan was entirely sound and without fault.

Setting a meeting like this is pretty much without precedent. Unless time differences are present, a meeting before 10am is almost unheard of and a meeting on such short notice for something so minor has never occured. He is well aware I am busy with other things for the coming weeks so the timing is bizarre at best and nefarious at worst.

What recourse do I have for this behaviour? I think the timing of the meeting was slimy and deliberate. I think his actions in this meeting were aggressive and unprofessional. I would like him to know that I won't be manipulated and that I feel his actions are non-managerial and that he should be doing better.

  • 4
    Why the downvote? Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 22:52
  • 1
    @stuartstevenson I didn't downvote, but it's probably because this seems very specific to a single event. You might try to edit this down to be more generally applicable to anyone in this type of situation. People are also voting to close because questions require a goal they can address.
    – mcknz
    Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 23:16
  • What exactly does "my boss" mean? Your manager? The CEO? The company owner?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 10:11
  • 5
    @stuartstevenson, where I work, such things aren't exceptional. I would be more worried about your boss being "aggressive, belittling and willingly dismissive"
    – BigMadAndy
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 5:40
  • 1
    For better or worse, this is the most normal thing in the world in software. Smile and take their pay while you find your next contract.
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 14:42

5 Answers 5


What recourse do I have for this behaviour?

Not much. You could escalate this to any other stakeholders that there are for this computer programme, and explain why this is a bad idea, but that would involve bypassing your boss, who would undoubtedly wratchet up his wrath against you as a result. This would have negative repercussions for your future at the company.

I think the timing of the meeting was slimy and deliberate. I think his actions in this meeting were aggressive and unprofessional.

I agree, but being a bad boss is unfortunately not against the law. And you, as a direct report, have little power in this relationship. Even if some or all bad actions of a boss are literally illegal, recourse in those cases is not as straighforward as one would think.

I would like him to know that I won't be manipulated and that I feel his actions are non-managerial and that he should be doing better.

Your boss is not a reasonable person, and it would seem that any appeal to reason here would fail.

I believe your best response is to be professional and leave emotion out of it. Don't sink to his level. You might consider drafting an email that restates his position (to make sure you have that correct) and explains clearly and objectively your position as to why his is not the best course of action.

I would also mention that you are committed to support whatever decision he makes. Your boss may be thinking you don't want to make the switch simply because you made the programme and are therefore biased.

It's possible that in working with your boss, you may help him discover the downsides to his choice, and perhaps even change his mind, making sure, of course, that he thinks everything was his own idea all along.

  • @stuartstevenson thanks -- usually people hold off marking an answer accepted, to see if others weigh in with a better answer. But you can always change your mind. :)
    – mcknz
    Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 23:19
  • 11
    "Being a bad boss is unfortunately not against the law" - this line should be in the obligatory README FAQ for workspace.SE. +100 Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 0:10
  • “being a bad boss is unfortunately not against the law” In this case it probably isn’t, but sometimes it can be (e.g. sexual harassment, discrimination, constructive dismissal, etc).
    – nick012000
    Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 1:15
  • @nick012000 Your examples would fall more into the "being a boss that does things that violate legal requirements" category than "bad boss" which just means that the boss does a bad job. Commented Oct 17, 2020 at 1:32
  • 3
    It's completely normal that the situation arises where 1 single programmer creates a system and thus holds an Ungodly amount of power in a company. This is completely normal and happens - say - once a year or so during the career of almost every programmer. In every case, once they realize their f'up, the client/company gets really pissed. Solution - You just act all "pro" about it and "work with them to find a solution". You explicitly say things like "Let's work towards a better solution in case I fall under a bus, hah hah!" Clients love this and everyone will be happy.
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 14:45

Ultimately, there's nothing much you can do. You can't fire your manager. So your options are:-

  • Resign immediately (bad idea),
  • Find another job and then resign (much more sensible), or
  • Live with it and carry on doing your job.

I suspect your employer realised they have a problem. There is an important calculation being done in the company, and it's being done by a bit of software that one person wrote, and only one person knows how to maintain. If you leave, or get run over by a bus, the company is in trouble.

So they had already decided what the solution was before the meeting was even called. Microsoft Excel may be a rather tacky and error-prone way to do calculations, but at least anyone who is a regular Excel user can look at a spreadsheet and make updates to it.


I'm going to address the issue of how to handle the meeting timing, which doesn't seem to have been directly addressed by any other answer.

Obviously the time of the meeting is not of itself a problem. Meetings where you aren't given a chance to prepare can a problem, but are also very common. Lot's of people actually prefer that the first time they present their ideas they do it in person, rather than by email. I've done it myself. They only become a problem if you are both not given a chance to prepare and also required to make a decision on the spot.

The simple answer is don't allow yourself to be pressured into giving a decision on the spot. When the boss presents an idea, even if it is crazy and obviously wrong, resist the temptation to start saying "that's crazy" or "that's obviously wrong". Instead say you need time to think about it.

Use the time to prepare a detailed and reasoned response. Put together the very specific problems that the idea has. Then send them to the boss and anybody else involved. For example (and I'm just making these up):

  • Excel won't perform fast enough to handle the amount of data we deal with;
  • Excel won't give us the error checking and validation of input we need;
  • An Excel application can't be tested
  • We don't have anyone with the necessary skills to program something this complex in Excel
  • Excel is hard to keep under source code control
  • A malicious person could modify the copy of Excel they use to make calculations and thus fake data

In this specific case, it is perhaps already too late, but I would suggest some pointers for the next time your boss has "The Greatest Architectural Idea Ever" (aka a bad architectural idea).

1. Stay Positive

Your boss has clear organisation authority here. If it comes down to a straight argument between you and them, you will lose. So you have to avoid it coming to this.

They have an idea for improving your product / process? Great!

You're both on the same team, with the same goals, after all...

2. Emphasise the Importance of the Product / Process

"It's good that we're talking about how to improve the product, because: so many stakeholders are using it / it makes such a significant contribution to the company's bottom line / the auditors rely on it / it prevents the company getting sued / etc. etc." (delete as appropriate)

You want to make clear here why it's in the boss's interest that the product doesn't fail.

3. Agree where possible - but state concerns

You want to reassure your boss you don't think his idea is crazy (even if you do), and that you're open to the idea it might work (even if you aren't).

So list all of the ways you can see your boss's idea might make some sort of sense, before you get into the reasons why it could cause problems.

"Excel has low barriers to entry, and lots of people in the company know how to work with it and support it, but I have some concerns about stability and change control".

4. Trial, Don't Just Implement

With all of the above in mind, the importance of the product, the desire to see if it can be improved, the potential benefits and the potential concerns, push to give the new approach a trial, rather than jumping straight into a full migration.

You are keen to see if it could work, but at the same time you want to control the risk.

There are a few things to keep in mind here:

  • Set clear success criteria. Try to shape these around your concerns. So, the stability of the process, ease of making changes, scalability, etc, etc. (basically, make all of the reasons you think this won't work the "success criteria")

  • Set a clear deadline when the project should be reviewed against the success criteria

  • As this is a "trial", the existing process will carry on. So, you legitimately have an argument to carry on working with the "old" technology. Suggest trying to find additional resource to work on the trial, which you will of course be happy to support when possible.

This limits the risk to the company, and your product.

It also means you aren't personally tasked with making the bad idea work.

5. Wait and Observe

You know it will be a disaster.

Wait and watch, review when appropriate, and hopefully, before too long the whole mistake will be quietly forgotten.


What recourse do I have for this behaviour?

Your boss is asking you to do something you know is a bad idea. It might hinder the success of the project and be harmful to the company. I can think of a few options:

Resign immediately

If your goal is to send a message, this would probably be the most effective way to do so. Your boss would be forced to reflect on his actions and, if you're a high performing employee, he might even face some repercussions. The down side is, you would be forced to job hunt while unemployed which can be considerably more difficult than finding a new job when you already have one, especially if you can't count on your previous employer to provide a reference.

Refuse without resigning

The outcome of this would likely depend on how valuable you're perceived to be. Most bosses wouldn't suffer a subordinate who doesn't follow instructions so unless you're perceived as particularly indispensable, there's a high likelihood you'll be fired either immediately or somewhere down the line.

Complete the request and then resign

This allows you time to search for a new job while continuing to receive a paycheck. Before beginning the work, send a followup email to your boss and any stakeholders involved in the project that summarizes what took place in the meeting, his request, and your objections. This way, he won't be able to blame you if the project fails as a result of his request. When you resign, whether it be weeks or months from now, you can make it clear that this was the reason.

Suck it up and do it

Pretty much the same as the previous option only without the resignation part. When the project fails, everyone will know that it wasn't your fault and you can hope that your boss will learn to trust your judgement going forward. This is probably what I would do.

You mentioned yourself that the request was minor so probably best not to make a big deal out of it. As far as the early morning meeting goes, I don't really see the issue. Are you saying if you'd had more time to prepare, you would've been able to put together an argument so persuasive that he would've had no choice but to listen to you? It doesn't seem likely that he thought that far ahead and if he had, it would also mean he knew ahead of time that his idea was bad and the only way to get people to go along with it is to catch them off guard.

Regardless, aside from resigning there's really nothing you can do to punish him or ensure that this type of behavior won't happen again. It's always frustrating to have a boss who's dismissive of your inputs. (I know the feeling all too well). If it remains a single incident, you should probably just let it go. If he makes a habit of it though, start looking for a new job.

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