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I'm a junior developer. In my first week back after time off due to some issues, my new manager reprimanded me because a senior dev team member complained to him that I was asking him questions about the application he built (I was asking where to find a piece of information because I don't know that application well and he's the expert on it). He says I should have been able to find this information myself (I also wasn't sure what exactly it looked like) and that I should not have asked both him and the senior dev because I was taking up both their time (the senior dev wasn't replying and it was urgent so I asked my new manager). I'm starting to feel like I get punished for asking questions. I was also reprimanded for asking a former team mate in another team for help on the last bit of a task I was stuck on, since he was knowledgeable about the app the task was for. I was told I was taking up his time that he could be spending on his own work, and that I should only ask questions or look for help within the team.

My previous manager voiced displeasure at me taking longer on some tasks. He told me that instead of spending hours stuck on a problem I should ask a team mate because "they can solve it in 5 minutes what takes me hours".

My new manager also reprimanded me for asking about a career plan this far into my employment (> 6 months). He says I need to gain respect from the team. He tells me that he doesn't see a willingness from me to grow past a junior developer and questioned my desire to continue developing and reach the next level (mid level dev). He says that I need to spend time outside of my work hours programming and learning by doing side projects etc. And that he will come up with a plan.

I complete my tasks. I didn't push back when being told all this. I only replied to him that his feeling that I wanted to stay as a junior developer was not the case.

From this point on, how should I respond to my new manager's feedback and put an end to his concerns?

I want to exceed his expectations.

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    For what it's worth, your manager just sounds like a bad manager. "He says that I need to spend time outside of my work hours programming and learning by doing side projects etc." in particular is a red flag to me. I appreciate this doesn't solve any of your issues dealing with your manager, but be aware there are better managers out there. May 21, 2022 at 11:55
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    This is his first role as a manager. Before he was just a developer on the same team as me.
    – Duzii2
    May 21, 2022 at 12:25
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    "I need to gain respect from the team" - something is very wrong here. Was the " time off due to some issues" relevant to your work, and would it benefit if you provided more detail? May 21, 2022 at 13:47
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    It sounds like you need a mentor and the organization has failed you utterly as this hasn’t happened yet. This might not be a good place to work. May 21, 2022 at 15:17
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    This answer seems relevant.
    – gidds
    May 21, 2022 at 23:47

4 Answers 4

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The way I see it: asking questions is not the problem in most of the cases, however asking questions for which the answers could be obtained by common sense, google or checking existing documentation is problem - because that is seen as wasting others' time.

First, do some retrospect: are you asking the questions in right way?

To elaborate: consider every other person is busy and their calendar is full, and if you interrupt them for your questions, they might miss their timeline / deliverables. Now, re-evaluate your questions, ensure you have done enough background research, provide them context / detail on what you tried actually and how it did not work, and then request them for help. This way it's easier for them to understand your actual ask, and they'll be able to help you quickly and get back to their own tasks.

An example: Instead of asking

"How does this API work?"

try asking

"Hey, I was looking for the documentation for this API, I checked the code for comments, I searched the so-and-so wiki for any details or that shared folder for any documentation, but did not find anything useful. I also tried asking person X, but unfortunately they're also not able to help here. Can you please point me to the source where I should look for the info?"

Chances are, you'll get much better reception and a prompt response.

That said, coming to the response from your manager: they look grossly incompetent. Instead of needing to post a question here, they should have explained you the things I wrote in the paragraph above.

If I were you, I'd search for a better manager.

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  • That's some good advice. What about the part about about me needing to gain respect from the team and him thinking I am lazy and don't want to improve my skills as a software developer?
    – Duzii2
    May 21, 2022 at 17:30
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    @Duzii2, Some developers are just slow to learn. It doesn't mean they're "lazy". May 21, 2022 at 19:31
  • @Duzii2, speaking from experience, a manager saying you are lazy can be an indication that they are ignoring what you are doing or have unrealistic expectations. I had a manager say I was lazy in learning C#, yet I was continually learning more about it for business use and writing better code than "senior" devs. The same manager said I was excellent in VB6, yet the only thing I did was to convert it to C#. Bad managers will simply lie to you for their own purpose, and from what you say about this manager, they do seem to be a bad one. May 23, 2022 at 16:07
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    as someone who has experience managing someone who would ask "how does this API work, I don't get it" and then do nothing to try and help themselves understand it but just wait until someone could help. The second approach is exactly what I was wanting them to do.
    – R Davies
    May 24, 2022 at 11:42
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I'm an engineering manager and reading between the lines of your question, you may have a performance problem. (of course can't be 100% sure)

My previous manager voiced displeasure at me taking longer on some tasks

Your previous manager was concerned about your performance. You're not coding as fast/well as expected. You're a "low performer" in danger of being fired.

instead of spending hours stuck on a problem I should ask a team mate

This is the #1 performance issue of juniors. They think "I'm so close" then 5h pass but "just 1 more hour, I'm so close" and you wasted a day. That's why you must ask for help after no more than 1h. It seems you didn't do that and took too much time on some tasks, which may be a partial reason for your bad performance.

a senior dev team member complained to him that I was asking him questions (...) He says I should have been able to find this information myself

It seems the senior devs are no longer investing in you, because they don't see a good return on investment in helping you. They may feel you're not progressing fast enough an maybe are guessing that you're about to be fired.

reprimanded me for asking about a career plan this far into my employment (> 6 months). He says I need to gain respect from the team

Another huge red flag. Your manager is angry because it seems you're not getting the message that you're not good enough and that the rest of the team is not trusting you / no longer want to invest in you. If you realised your performance problem you wouldn't dare bring up your future career in the company.

He says that I need to spend time outside of my work hours programming and learning by doing side projects etc.

Your manager is telling you that you need to improve and improve fast. You need to work on your own time to try to urgently improve your skills and get back on track.

And that he will come up with a plan

Another huge red flag. That's a performance plan, that's legally required before firing someone for low performance.

If my understanding is correct, you should worry a lot about being fired soon. Without the specifics, I can't give you an improvement plan, but I'd suggest immediately starting to code a project on your own using your company's tech stack to learn it as fast as you can. As suggested in other answers, learn to find answers online and only ask reasonable questions. Be humble.

Generic learning resources for junior:

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    If what you stated is correct interpretation, the OP needs to spend his time sending out his resume. Lost cause.
    – paulj
    Sep 12, 2023 at 14:12
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He says that I need to spend time outside of my work hours programming and learning by doing side projects etc. And that he will come up with a plan.

He might be preparing you to work in your free time.

Maybe I am just spoiled by living in a country that has some employee - rights (EU), but it sounds like a red flag to me. If he approaches you with extra work to do in your free time, my advice would be to leave the company.

There are many free jobs in IT at the moment, no need to be exploited by your manager.

Please bear in mind that this only applies if my assumption that he wants you to work in your free time is correct.

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  • They may also just suggest some interesting related open source projects on github. In the end it‘s still the choice of the OP to actually do the work Jul 3, 2022 at 9:56
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    In my reading that sounds a lot more like "look, your skills are weak, and you need to fix that. This requires doing some homework, or you aren't going to catch up fast enough to be useful. Here's what I think you need to learn." That would an extremely productive, helpful, and patient response, not an abusive one... and choosing not to take those suggestions may be a decision to continue underperforming and be fired. In this profession you need to have a commitment to continuous learning, some if it in your own time, or you aren't going to survive. Luckily, most engineers like learning..
    – keshlam
    Feb 20, 2023 at 13:17
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Hi I'm a developer in America, I'm also a management minor.

I'm a junior developer. In my first week back after time off due to some issues, my new manager reprimanded me because a senior dev team member complained to him that I was asking him questions about the application he built (I was asking where to find a piece of information because I don't know that application well and he's the expert on it). He says I should have been able to find this information myself (I also wasn't sure what exactly it looked like)

IMO this is is a bad manager. Most good managers want to develop a junior programmer and keep them. It takes time and money to fire then hire someone else, and train the new person. But there are quite a few managers that only think short term, not long term. Lacking long-term thinking among management is a common theme among companies that fail.

and that I should not have asked both him and the senior dev because I was taking up both their time (the senior dev wasn't replying and it was urgent so I asked my new manager). I'm starting to feel like I get punished for asking questions.

  • Since your question was urgent it was appropriate to ask both people. But generally I give it a day (24 hours) while I wait for an answer. You should not be blamed for someone else being too busy to answer.
  • You were on vacation and can be expected to forget a few things.
  • Sounds like the app you were asking about was unfamiliar to you.
  • Asking questions is how you learn. If management is in a rush for you to do work then doing your own research does not involve other busy people, but it will take much longer. Management discouraging questions is not "team work", it's anti-teamwork. That's a big red flag. We do not work in a vacuum, we need to work together because there is generally not one person who can know all things in a typical company.
  • Time for training is important to a person's professional development. Deadlines for a customer program are real, there can be a whole lot of other preparations waiting for software to be done, and delay can cost the customer a lot of money. But internal deadlines can be more flexible. While deadlines are real this does not mean all professional development time should be ignored.

Regarding the lack of long-term thinking in management, there is a whole book about why companies fail called "The Oz principle" which we were all required to read and discuss in small groups. Even in Lee Iococca's book from the mid-1990s he complained about the lack of good managers, so this has been going on a long time.

None of my points will matter though, if the culture of your employer is to rush towards deadlines without any thought to long-term consequences.

I have seen some good managers, and a lot more bad managers. My manager right now is one of the better ones.

EDIT: Should a manager want to ship something out the door? Yes of course, but not at the expense of personnel, who need time to get trained properly on the tools the company uses. Personnel in the trenches of the company are key to a company's success.

Without good personnel, especially customer-facing personnel who will go the extra mile to help the customer, the company faces more and more problems.

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  • "Lacking long-term thinking among management is a common theme among companies that fail." Hmm... which way is the causality? If a company is having trouble performing, then it is natural that the manager wants to get something tangible out the door. So is lack of long term thinking a sign that the company is already sliding into failing
    – joojaa
    Sep 10, 2023 at 14:21

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