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Recently, I was shifted from one project to another. The project was developed by a small team of a small company, who could not continue the project because of resource crunch, and hence the project was sold to our company. I had no experience or knowledge on this new skill. However, I took 2-3 days to get a brief idea about it, and joined the new team.

When I asked other team members about the flow of the project, I found out that nobody knew anything about the project, despite working on it for over 22 days prior to me. As some of the members mentioned, the only thing they ever did was uncomment some code, that too the ones which were told by the client himself (apparently, the client has some knowledge about the coding skill used). According to the team, the project only dragged on for so long was because of a single person in the team (not the team lead), who knew how to convince the client to retain the project.

So, I was completely blank, because neither had I learned anything about the new skill, nor did anyone in the team know anything about it. Upon further investigation, I found out that the team lead who was assigned to get the knowledge of the project did not do his work. When the other dev team asked whether any documentation (or KT) of the project was required, the team lead denied. Now, no one has a clue on anything going on in the project for 20+ days.

Also, the team lead has a bad habit of unloading all the blame game to the team members when the manager questions. So, before that happened, and since I was new and the manager had high hopes from me, I honestly told him about the project and the problems faced by the team, without the team lead's knowledge. The manager has asked for documentation from the previous development team, and hopes that everything will go well from now on.

However, I am afraid about the team lead's bad habit of putting the blame game, and that he would find my smallest mistakes and report it to the manager.

Did I do the right thing? Or should I apologize to the team lead?

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    Any team lead who blames their team for everything won't be a team lead for very long
    – numenor
    Jan 26 at 10:56
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    "Is it wrong to be honest" It's never wrong to be honest. Sometimes, you need to be careful in how you approach telling the truth (don't point fingers and be accusing, be kind in how you do it), but it's never wrong. There may be short term consequences, but in the long-term it'll work out OK.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 26 at 14:29
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    One must tread very carefully, even when telling the truth. That said, try to go on, and be positive. Jan 26 at 14:47

6 Answers 6

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Did I do the right thing

There is nothing ethically wrong with your actions, but you potentially made an enemy who is higher up the hierarchy than you. Only time will tell if this works against you.

should I apologize to the team lead?

No, what's done is done, you need to stand by your actions now, and you have nothing to apologise for. An apology achieves nothing except confirming what you did. You may not be the only one who said something.

Generally you do not get into potential conflicts unless you have a clear goal in mind that benefits you. It's not your company or project. In this particular case I don't know all the details but would probably have referred the manager to the team lead.

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    "but would probably have referred the manager to the team lead" - Can you explain it a bit ?
    – Asish
    Jan 25 at 11:54
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    If asked about projects overview or anything not directly part of my role and responsibility I would normally not comment but refer them politely to the team lead. Particularly if I don't have anything positive to say. You just never know a persons agenda who is asking especially if you're new and don't know the group dynamics.
    – Kilisi
    Jan 25 at 12:11
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    I normally do that, but in this case, I had worked with the same team lead before, and he did throw me under the bus a few times. So, I took precaution this time. Anyhow, I had no intention for myself, rather I wanted to get the work done, without getting into trouble because of the team lead.
    – Asish
    Jan 25 at 12:21
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    Then why would you even want to apologise to him? If he's stood on you more than once, by all means give him something back.
    – Kilisi
    Jan 25 at 12:26
  • I think my honesty backfired. After the manager intervened, the client offered to provide documentation, but now the team lead has warned me that I must work according to the client, irrespective of whether it is Saturday or Sunday or any holiday
    – Asish
    Jan 27 at 9:02
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I would like to to reiterate that what you did is completely right.

However, whether the outcome of your honesty will be beneficial to you or not is unclear. It is unfortunately out of your control, since it will depend a lot on the reactions of your manager, team lead and the approach they are going to take to solve the situation of the messed up project.

So, if you are only looking for justification for your honesty, you are right. Every good manager would appreciate this even if you might be wrong. In your case it seems rather unclear how this situation is going to play out.

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Your role on this project is not clear from your question. You were asked to give a report to your manager, bypassing the team lead. Is that because you are senior to the team lead, or just because the manager thought he'd (finally) get an honest answer from someone who is not invested in the status quo? Often, managers already know what's going on, but they want to know who else is honest enough to tell them (and provide a different viewpoint at times)

In either case, you did nothing wrong; you were asked a question by a superior, and you answered it. If you are a junior on the team, make sure that you are able to back up all your assertions - you may be asked to defend them at some point. If you are in a lead role, then you need to follow up your report to the manager with a strong list of recommendations which will either bring the project back on track, or which will kill the project before more money is spent on it. Bring solutions, not problems.

Whatever the case may be, there is no reason for you to give an apology. The people on the project are the ones who more need to apologize, for wasting time and money.

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    "Your role on this project is not clear from your question" - I am not a team lead, but a senior developer, below the team lead. I was told to understand the project and work on it. However, I found out that the project is messed up, and no development has been made in the past 20+ days. So, when the manager (whom I am in good terms with), asked me to join this team, the client wanted many things done asap. Continued below ....
    – Asish
    Jan 25 at 14:12
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    Being a startup, we also report to the manager directly. But, when I found out that the project is a total mess, with no work done, and my manager asked me to ask the team lead about the project details (which the team lead had no idea about), I finally updated the manager about the situation, so that proper documentation is made available to us so that we can continue with the work. Also, the skill required is new to me, so I wouldn't be able to continue working on it immediately- I needed a few days time. That's what I told him as well.
    – Asish
    Jan 25 at 14:16
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    Honestly, I don't like the company. Because, the pay is delayed, even when the company always recruits new people (and even experienced ones), and out of 3-4 team leads only 1-2 of them are known to do their work properly. The one that I work with right now, and another one, that I had worked with, some months back, are way too political. They will unload all of the blame to the development team, even when they are at fault. But, I love my job. And I totally dont like to waste time.
    – Asish
    Jan 25 at 14:18
  • @Asish: When you asked the team about the flow of the project - did that include the team lead? Were you able to report not just that the project got to the state it was in, but how it ended up getting to that state? You've mentioned the client has some knowledge of the coding skill used - is it clear when that became part of the process? Jan 27 at 0:48
  • It sounds like you did the right thing in general, but those are questions that I think are worth answering regarding if you could have been more diplomatic about discussing that the project was a "mess". It may be useful to know what steps led to the project ending up like that. Jan 27 at 0:51
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Your manager asked you a question and you gave the response which you thought best describes the situation. If this is indeed how you feel, then there is nothing wrong with what you did. Whether your understanding of the root cause (your team lead) is right or not, will be seen later but you did what you were asked to do and hopefully it was your genuine understanding.

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I also think that there is nothing wrong with what you did. You were asked - you gave the response. I think I'd have done the same.

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Did I do the right thing

It's not clear what exactly you have said to your manager, and whether it was right or not depends on what you have said exactly.

I think you should not have blamed specific people (such as team leader), and you should not say something along the lines that "the project is a mess" etc. After all, you don't know all the story, maybe the team lead spent those 20 days sorting out some debts from their past project or whatever, or maybe they are having a similar communication problems with someone else. So there may be perfectly valid reasons for them not having studied the code.

You should have stuck to the facts and to specific problems you are facing, and provide suggestions and solutions to them. E.g. you should say "I was assigned tasks A and B, but for this I need documentation for C and D. I've asked the team lead for this, but he does not have the documentation either. Should I ask somebody else, or should I spend X days working out everything by myself?"

If the manager asks you to evaluate the project state, you may say something like "Apparently, very little has been done. I've asked the team lead to give me basic introduction to the code, but he would not do it. I also see that the project repository has only two new commits in past three weeks". Support every evidence with facts (e.g. don't say "no code has been touched", say "only two commits in past three weeks in the repository").

should I apologize to the team lead ?

No, you should not in any case. If you have based your speech on the facts, then there is nothing to apologize for as long as the facts are valid. If you did not follow facts, then think for yourself whether you can backup your speech with the facts and be ready to provide them should you be asked (by the team lead or by the manager). Be ready to stand your ground; if the team lead comes blaming you for your speech, tell him the facts and explain that these facts slowdown your work and you manager should be aware of them.

If anything, you may owe a apology/correction to your manager. If on your second thought you realize that you have painted the project too black, or that you were too heated and overblamed the team lead or whoever, you may come to your manager and provide them with update. Maybe this would not warrant a special meeting with your manager, but you may mention it on a regular meeting with the manager or in informal talk if you have such, etc.

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  • "maybe the team lead spent those 20 days sorting out some debts from their past project" - Nope. The client confirmed in the meeting (after I was honest with my manager) that even when KT (or documentation from past dev teams) were offered, the team lead said that there was no need of such a thing. The project was in such a state that if the manager had not intervened, the project might have been returned to the client, and our company would have lost a big client.
    – Asish
    Jan 26 at 17:06
  • What you said in your answer, is something I would have definitely followed, if the team lead were responsible, or would take the blame equally. But, not in this case and as I said in one of my comments, I have worked with this team lead, and he did throw me under the bus a few times.
    – Asish
    Jan 26 at 17:08
  • I have worked under some other team leads in the company, and I never had to even talk to the manager, because other that two team leads in our company, the rest are really absolutely excellent. not only do they know how to handle a team, they also know how to get work done. I didn't want to face a backlash from my manager, because of the team lead (this comes from my past experience with this lead)
    – Asish
    Jan 26 at 17:09

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