The Manager is an Investor is Always a Red Flag
I've seen this problem several times, both in companies I've worked for and in many of our client's companies. Investors, in general, are the worst possible people to put in management positions:
- They often do not understand the job being done.
- They often do not not have experience managing others in a context where thier own performance is under review.
- They only get paid if the company is profitable.
- Unlike owners, they do not feel the personal connection to the company that comes with building something up out of thier own interests and passion.
A manager hired to do a job gets paid to do "management". This means writing schedules, allocating resources, maintaining a productive work environment, enforcing quality controls, managing both employee and client relationships, knowing what laws and regulations apply, and understanding the work well enough to make realistic predictions about the scope of work being done so that attainable goals can be set. These are the things that actually matter when you are a manager, and a normal manager who does these things gets paid whether the company reports a profit or a loss any given payroll. Getting paid either way keeps a manager focused on doing HIS job right which is good for both the long term wellness of the company and the staff.
Investors on the other hand have thier paychecks tied up in the the profit/lose of a company. Getting yelled at by Manager Investors is almost inevitable because every setback costs them thier money, and money is the whole reason they are there. If you say something should take about 200 hours, and it takes 250 hours, he does not see that as "about right", but as 50 hours of labor you you stole from his bank account. Even if the project was still profitable, this can feel like a lose to an investor if his profits do not meet his projections. If you put yourself in his shoes, it's like if I told you I will pay you 2000$ for something, but then only give you 1000$ for. Following up by saying, "Well you still made a profit" will not make you feel less cheated.
The problem, is that Manager Investors get emotionally invested in the profits instead of the work. This makes investors very unstable people to put into positions of power in the company because it makes them reactionary. They feel the pinch of every missed dead-line, every sale that falls through, and every minor setback. It makes them very quick to implement experimental policies, or drop successful policies on a dime to because they panic about the 1 time something did not go well. It makes them the people most likely fire thier senior staff because they are "over-paid" without understanding that they have irreplaceable skills. It makes them the most likely ones to institute illegal business practices (like asking hourly workers to do unpaid work). It makes them the ones most likely to push for windfalls over the long-term survival of the company ... the list of problems goes on and on, but it all boils down to human nature. You can't do a job well if you are only interested in the end result.
How to Address Manager Investors in the Work Environment
Believe it or not, most Manager Investors actually are good people, thier circumstances just make them difficult people to work with. Below are some tips for how to better manage this relationship if you choose to continue working there:
Before you do anything else, you should clarify what he means by free time. This whole problem could be blown out of proportion if he just means your free-time during normal working hours that you don't have anything else to do. My boss frequently tells me to do things in my free time meaning next time I don't have anything important to work on.
If he does mean after hours, remember that investors don't need any formal background to get "hired", your boss is probably just ignorant of what he can/should ask of you. So, when he asks you to work in your spare time, and you are hourly, just cite labor law. Most countries do not allow hourly employers to ask you to do this. For example, if you live in the USA, you could say something like, "I can not do that for you. Under The Fair Labor Standards Act you'd still have to pay me for any work you permit me to do outside of normal working hours." Note how this is different than saying "You can not ask me to do that." When you say "I can not do that for you" it comes off as less confrontational and more like you are doing him a service by letting him know that you can not fulfill his request. If you are salary, you should look at the paperwork you signed when you were hired. There is a decent chance that it says something about your scope of employment like what your job entails, regular business hours, OT policies, etc. that you can cite.
As for the relationship part of the problem, is sounds like you are a developer, and he is not. Development is not a production line, but he wants it to be. Your work is never A+B=C but rather A+B±C=D. When developers talk to each other we tend to say "This will take about 200 hours" and we understand that your really mean, "this could take 100 hours... or 300.. I'll know when I get there". You can not tell a non-developer such a vague range because they don't understand how much uncertainty there is when working with other people's code. But, you are also in control because only you know how long a thing will take. There are two things you need to learn when quoting development. You should never give an estimate until you've had a chance to write down and review the scope 1 item at a time, and 2 you should always give normal people the maximum time a thing should take, not the average. Whenever I write a quote, I tend to write out each step in exact detail for myself, and estimate each part INCLUDING TIME TO REVIEW EXISTING CODE. Then I add up all the steps and add 50% to the total to cover unexpected setbacks. For smaller projects I may even add 100% since a single curveball can dramatically change the scope. So when your boss asks you in person how long a thing should take, unless your kneejerk though is less than 10 hours, the right answer is "I will let you know once I've had a chance to work it out". Then when you do work it out, tell him "It should take no more than 300 hours". Using the phrase "no more than" is important. He does not need to know that it might be a 100 hour job. The important thing is that it gives him a productions line answer of what to budget for: that is what he needs to feel comfortable with. Either he feels comfortable moving forward with that number or he does not, it's not your job to worry about how much he is willing to spend.
When he asks "Why will it take so long?", you have been answering wrong. This is true of all manager types, not just Manager Investors. When he asks this, it is because he is trying to figure out his budget, not your level of competence per say. The mistake you've made so far is making it sound like it SHOULD take less time... just not when you do it. Instead your answers to this question should be about the features that are being requested, not your ability to make it happen. So, if he asks for 3 features, the right answer would sound more like "Feature #2 is more complex than it sounds." In your head, Feature #2 may be the part of the code that you believe will take the most research, but that does not matter. Code review is part of the development process. In the end, all your manager needs to do is decide if it's worth it to him to invest in how long it will take. What you don't want him wondering about is if YOU are worth investing in.