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One of my peers is a product manager and he is very bad at his job. So bad that I had one of my developers switch projects just to get away from working with him.

I've tried coaching him, but he doesn't seem to learn anything.

I've tried pairing him with a developer that has product management experience, but after that developer got praises, he started circumventing her.

I've tried bulling him into doing the right things.

I've escalated him multiple times, but most of the time I got "he wears many hats" and "he has done so much for the project" and at some point I was told straight forward to stop complaining.

I'm out of ideas.

Can anyone suggest any other approach ?

Edit: I like my job, and my team is great, I wouldn't want to leave.

Edit2: By peer I mean we share a direct manager relative to this specific project we are collaborating. I'm the development lead and he is the product manager and for some reason he also maintains control over the cloud account used to host the product, and many of the tools we use (jira, git, etc.)

I was trying to avoid giving specific examples because I didn't want this to get a rant vibe, and because I thought they would be irrelevant , but after reading @jcm answer I changed my mind. Here it goes, last issues, in reverse chronological order:

  • he was supposed to get approval for a new slack app, I had to remind him several times about this, and the cutover is next Tuesday, he finally got the approval , but without several key rights, which mean basically that half of our features won't work, despite me explaining several times why each right is necessary - he now expects us to find a workaround
  • I got a slack message at 1 AM my time in the day of a release scheduled at 8:30 AM asking for mandatory changes, half of the changes documented in jira half in a slack channel where most of my team has no access, so I had to implement them myself.
  • the same changes included a announcement for the frontpage of the application full of misspellings and logical errors, but he wasn't available prior to the release to clarify stuff.
  • he complained to management that we had to delay the release 15 minutes to integrate his latest changes
  • he talked with a team that uses some parts of our API for a mobile product, he agreed for us to "add a new field named X" into the "API that shows the profile". this was several weeks ago, and it has to go out next week, but it was communicated to me this week, and they basically refuse to tell me what is the field for, what is it's purpose should it be searchable, should it change behavior. "Just add the field".
  • we have to periodically import data from some stakeholders. despite a claiming that he validates the CSV, it's never validated, most of the fields are filled with misspellings, columns are switched, data is missing or in wrong format.
  • his specifications make no sense - I pointed out an issue with the way the other team that uses our api and creates profiles that might result in login issues and asked him to file a jira ticket to track a fix - his ticket asks for "fixing the login flow"

These happened this week!

Generic:

  • he doesn't keep specifications in one single place, some he files jira tickets but then discusses them in slack or via mail, some he just mentions in calls, some he sends via mail etc.
  • he doesn't consolidate specifications - I've tried to explain to him that questions should be treated as hints on how to reformulate his specifications, and should not be answered separately, but he ignores that.
  • we took over the project after several teams worked on it, mostly without any documentation. When we have questions on how the inherited parts of product have to behave he sends us to the code, despite me explaining that I suspect that is a bug.
  • he is incapable of abstracting things
  • he doesn't learn anything - most of my requirement reviews begin with the same few questions - it's been a year and he has yet to start anticipating them
  • my team basically refuses to deal directly with him because he contradicts himself, he refuses to update tickets to clarify stuff and then he blames them for misunderstanding
  • he gives different explanations depending of the time of the day, who he talks with and the phases of the moon. he gets annoyed when we point out that he last time said a different thing.
  • he constantly lies about confirming with the client/stakeholders - which is clear when the stakeholders start complaining about missing features or clearly convoluted behavior that I specifically asked him to double check
  • he doesn't keep track of his pending items

The list can go on

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  • Go somewhere that will appreciate you. They don’t.
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 5 at 20:42
  • 3
    Explain to us what makes him so bad. List examples. Then, we can evaluate. Aug 5 at 21:16
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    I'm not clear what you mean by 'one of my peers' - in a we-share-a-line-manager sense? in an organisational-seniorityy sense? in a pay sense? Separately: what specific problem(s) does his incompetence cause you?
    – AakashM
    Aug 5 at 21:25
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    "I got a slack message at 1 AM my time in the day of a release scheduled at 8:30 AM asking for mandatory changes" Was saying "No" not a viable option for you here?
    – nick012000
    Aug 6 at 9:47
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    @mostafawornout That's when you release the "unfixed" version on time, then blame him for not passing the details to you in a timely fashion.
    – nick012000
    Aug 6 at 10:21
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You've already gotten suggestions to leave. I'll address what to do if you stay.

You need to shift your focus from getting rid of/trying to improve the product manager to protecting yourself and your team. I've fortunately not had to work with an incompetent one but I imagine this would cover some of what you're dealing with:

  • vague requirements
  • frequent changes in requirements without allowing re-estimation of the work
  • treating estimates as promises
  • forgetting to share/deliberately withholding information
  • stealing credit
  • etc.

What you and your team need to do is to politely but firmly cooperate with this person while getting as much in writing as you can.

Working on a feature or bug-fix? Get as much detail as is reasonable into the ticket. If requirements change, again document the details and revise the estimates. If estimates increase or are exceeded, have a clear reason. When things go well praise the team in public. When things don't go well do a post-mortem with clear action items and shield your team members from fallout.

Your goal is to present a picture to management of a competent team behaving professionally. Your team will appreciate your efforts and will emulate the behaviour. Hopefully, management does too.

It may be that things don't improve and you eventually decide to leave. Never mention the incompetence of the PM in a professional or semi-professional context, not at interviews with new companies, not at the exit interview, not even at drinks with your former teammates. Work as a professional, leave as a professional. That will also be a last act of protecting your team. If you've mentored them well they will either effect the change you couldn't or find a better place for themselves.

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  • 1
    Good answer, control yourself and remain firm and professional. Realize you can't control behavior of others
    – Anthony
    Aug 6 at 3:40
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    @jcm - great answer! I should probably start addressing the issues individually and try to protect the team. Aug 6 at 8:29
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    "What you and your team need to do is to politely but firmly cooperate with this person" Frankly, I would do the opposite, and politely and firmly refuse to cooperate with him on everything except the things that have been passed through official channels.
    – nick012000
    Aug 6 at 9:57
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    Good answer. You should probably mention the importance of procedures and that anyone interacting with your team must follow them or their requests will not be acted upon. Aug 6 at 14:02
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    +1 for process. To avoid last-minute changes, enforce feature freezes before each release : basically for 2 weeks / 1 week / whatever delay suits your environment, requirements are not allowed to change. Only bugfixes can be pushed to the release.
    – Siorki
    Aug 6 at 15:53
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Create a paper / email trail. He complained about a release being delayed by 15 minutes for his last minute changes to higher management, so do the same. And don’t fix his shoddy work, but let everyone run into the mess he creates at full steam.

An example is the slack app. It should have been ready on Tuesday. Send an email telling him it is needed on Tuesday asking him to confirm it will be ready on Tuesday. If he doesn’t reply, send an email to him and your common manager that it is needed and asking to confirm. If he doesn’t reply, send an email on Monday advising him and your common manager that this needs to be ready on Tuesday and asking him to confirm.

Then if it is not ready on Tuesday, and ready means working, another email with a copy. When he tells you to correct, an email pointing out it is his fault, he needs to fix it, and he has plenty of time, etc.

Don’t let him get away with things, and don’t fix things for him. As long as you fix things for him, your management can’t see what’s wrong with his work.

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What you have written in your question suggests he isn't a peer at all. He's your boss. He controls the tools, the requirements, the timescales, and so on.

Unless you can take back control of the things that matter, you're doomed. Most importantly, that includes the requirement management process. If the product manager can conceal requirements from the development team, the whole process is going to remain a shambles.

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Updated: I am glad the OP just commented below my answer that:" I regret the bully. It was a mistake..." I know the OP is a reasonable person. Thanks to the OP for his clarification. Best of luck to the OP in resolving this unpleasant work situation with the coworker. :-)


My original answer:

I would like to address this original text from the OP's question: "I've tried bulling him into doing the right things."

Bullying is always the totally wrong approach in all situations. You may get in serious troubles with HR, or even get fired if they find out that you truly bully anyone at work.

Maybe, you can try to do what user @Joe Strazzere has suggested: Be patient with this situation, try to handle your job with calmness and composure, and, in the long run, try to find a job elsewhere that is more beneficial to you.

If that product manager is really bad and always behaves in a very unprofessional manner like that, sooner or later, enough people will complain about it and managers will find out and handle him properly.

There is no need to take it personally when dealing with this coworker.

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    So after coaching and pairing and management ignoring... You think management are going to wake up? Really?
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 5 at 21:22
  • I regret te bullying, it was a mistake, but it was after his incompetence affected me and my sick mother in a very personal way and I got extremely angry. Aug 6 at 4:31
  • @mostafawornout, I am glad that you said that the bullying was a mistake. BTW, my message was not intended to criticize anyone in a personal way. I hope you mom is OK now, and you will find a way to resolve this situation with your coworker. Aug 6 at 6:39
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    @SolarMike It might be easy for management to dismiss complaints as more whingeing, or even evidence that OP is incompetent.  Harder for them to ignore problems if there's clear evidence that OP and the rest of the team are behaving professionally and diligently, and that the problems lie elsewhere…
    – gidds
    Aug 6 at 12:28
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    I think the answer is just being downvoted because it doesn't answer the question :)
    – Erik
    Aug 9 at 7:37

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