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My boss is a very nice person in general, but she has a problem with saying no. She accepts all tickets that have the name of our product as ours, no matter if they are really for us, or not.

It's a very big company with a very large software suite, but we're in charge of "Reports". Any ticket with "reports" in the name, MUST be handled by us. A lot of times it's actually not for us - for example, she will accept any error tickets, even if the attached error is clearly something like "Access denied - database credentials are wrong", which is a ticket for support (they handle configurations and permissions). So the ticket is derived to me (a developer) only to have to actually spend time convincing her that "no, I can't do anything about this ticket, it's really a permissions issue and I don't have the power to change permissions". She even tries desperate "but what if we...".

She is always trying to fix problems herself, and not rely on other teams at the company. Other teams are a hassle to deal with really. For example, I needed access to a server and for it to happen not only we had to create a ticket for Security, wait 2 days, try to chase them through email, SMS, even to upper management. It ended up taking one week to get access to a server. In the meantime, she logged into the server with her local admin account and gave me access to it.

In the end, this all comes down to her own actions. Hiding other teams incompetence or unwillingness to help, by taking care of things she is not supposed to, ends up doing more harm than good. Clients start asking her directly (because they know "she gets things done") instead of going through the official process. Sadly, no good deed ever goes unpunished and clients not only contact her for stuff, they also yell at her for unrelated reasons when things go bad (because she answers, while support tries to hide behind an email wall)

Our ticketing system is open for our clients. They can see the progress of a ticket, the subtickets, and how other teams responded - it's very transparent except when the "process" of some teams requires an email (which is not attached to the ticket).

I have tried many times to tell her this, but she seems to see my response as "the same as other teams": looking for excuses not to work. "I have the client on top of me and he's asked for this two months ago and we haven't given them a soution!" ("we" as in the company, "we" as a team have been just assigned this ticket and everything needs handling NOW because the client is tired of waiting). At the end of the day, she is extremely tired and stressed. My previous boss quit exactly because of this reason - she got tired of "other teams not responding" and quit after 12 years.

I have a very good relationship with our manager (above my boss and her boss). He's very accessible and I often go to him directly to show him progress and new technologies we can use, which my boss doesn't really care about (as she is too busy with the "now" to worry about the future). I thought of discussing this situation with him, and I know he will listen - but I think it would be completely out of line to do this.

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    How do the tickets that your team clearly cannot handle eventually get resolved?
    – sf02
    Jun 10 at 12:51
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    This is an aside. It scares me that you have a security team controlling access to a server, yet your boss can simply bypass them entirely when ever she wants to.
    – Peter M
    Jun 10 at 12:59
  • She is going to be CEO someday and there is nothing you can do about it.
    – Mandrill
    Jun 11 at 3:32

5 Answers 5

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How to convince my boss that we are not responsible for every issue at the company?

You probably can't. It seems that she wants your team to be the ones to "get things done". It seems you don't. But she runs the team, not you.

I have tried many times to tell her this, but she seems to see my response as "the same as other teams": looking for excuses not to work. "I have the client on top of me and he's asked for this two months ago and we haven't given them a soution!" ("we" as in the company, "we" as a team have been just assigned this ticket and everything needs handling NOW because the client is tired of waiting).

Your best bet is to probably ask for prioritization of the tasks assigned to you. Clearly not everything can be handled now. Ask which should be handled first, then focus on that.

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    But that's the thing, priorization, it's easy: EVERYTHING is urgent ALL clients are mad, and everything has to be done ASAP. "PS: No bugs please, we're already very late."
    – hjf
    Jun 10 at 13:57
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    BTW example of an URGENT ticket: color the columns of a report. This needs to be done URGENT, ASAP, the client DEMANDS IT (but we depend on the main codeowners to accept our PR and they're already 3 months behind schedule. Me hurrying to release this won't change their schedule). At the same time, another URGENT ticket ("promised by management 2 months ago") needs to be done, implemented, and put in production. Like I say, everything is URGENT.
    – hjf
    Jun 10 at 14:00
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    If everything is urgent, then you choose something and let her know that you're working on it. It's up to her to let you know if something else is urgent-er. Jun 10 at 15:55
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    @thursdaysgeek The way I read OP, everything is always urgent-er than everything else, which is the root cause of the problem.
    – Ertai87
    Jun 10 at 15:59
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    @hjf The classic response to "everything is urgent" is to ask "which is most urgent?". It's why good prioritization schemes always ORDER work, not just give it priority labels. Jun 12 at 2:33
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This isn't your problem. If your manager is incompetent it's her bosses problem. If you approach her boss saying she is incompetent I don't see anything positive coming out of it for you.

She will know you have no faith in her competence and her boss will wonder what your agenda is in telling them something they already know. In fact the implication is that you think they are incompetent as well.

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I assume you can't simply reassign the ticket to the correct department? You could try to reassign the ticket and if she complains just firmly crush her with logic. If the ticket is not your responsability for reason X, drill that down her head until she get it or as a last resort just refuse to fulfill her ticket.

How can she push you to do something that you don't have physically access to? Leave the ticket to rot. CYA by pinging who's responsible for that and wait.

It's not your responsability to deal with slow departments. Help her only if you can and you have time for it, but don't enable her too much or she will never leave you alone.

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This sounds like it calls for malicious compliance (outlink to Reddit, for those for whom that may be a problem). Here are some examples of things you can do:

  1. When you need access to a database that your boss has access to, get the credentials from her, not from support. Don't even engage support. Doesn't matter if you're not supposed to do it this way, just get it done. Eventually, someone at support will notice that this is happening and be like "wtf". Since the credentials are your manager's credentials, they are traceable back to her, and she will be the one who gets in shit for allowing her credentials to be used improperly. Since it's a security issue at a large firm, this is likely to cost her her job, if not a legal dispute on top. It's not your job to not ask; it's her job to say "no, go through the proper support channels and wait for approval", which she doesn't want to do.

  2. When she piles up work on your desk, immediately switch tasks, even if you're in the middle of something else. If you're in the middle of work for client A and your manager tells you "this work for client B needs to get done urgently, client B is fuming!", then just say ok and start working on that, even if you're in the middle of a line of code for client A (after checking with your boss that the new thing is actually a higher priority, which you say everything new is always a higher priority than everything old). Of course, in this case nothing will ever get actually done because you're constantly switching between tasks and never completing anything, but that's how it works when everything is priority #1. When your boss asks you "why is X project not done?", you say "because you asked me to do projects Y, Z, W, and P while I was in the middle of it; you need to prioritize better"; when your skip-level manager asks you what's wrong, you say your boss doesn't know how to prioritize and keeps saying everything is priority #1. In a functional company, prioritization is a core competency of a manager, and if your company is functional this will likely also cost your manager her job.

  3. The hardest thing to deal with is things that are not your responsibility. In this case, (again, before doing this, check with your boss to make sure that she actually thinks these things are your responsibility and you can't delegate to downstream, which she seems to always agree to even when she's wrong) you have a 3 step process: Step 1 is to refer to point 1 above and ask your manager if she has access keys to the codebase that this work would be done in. If she does, then use her access keys. Again, this is improper use of security clearance, and her name is on it, so it will cost her her job if she gets found out, but that's not your problem. If she doesn't have access but insists you build some sort of workaround, then build the workaround. Of course, it will make the code spaghetti, but this is not your problem (more on this in a moment). Failing both of those, email the downstream team who owns the code and ask for contributor permission since this needs to get done, RIGHT NOW(TM), and CC your boss. They will either sit on your request forever, or tell you (rightfully) to fuck off. Then your manager can at least see you're trying. Regarding the spaghetti code issue, when the code gets too spaghetti, find another job and let the next guy handle it. Eventually the code will get so spaghetti that it has to be taken apart and rebuilt, which will cost the company a lot of money and man-hours, but that's not your problem, you tried to solve the problem the right way.

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  • I hope illl never have to be that evil, but I’m looking forward to it :-)
    – gnasher729
    Jun 11 at 12:17
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    Ertai87 seems wholly correct but for one thing. When your skip-level manager asks what's wrong, leave out how your boss doesn't know how to prioritize and move right on to how the boss keeps saying everything is priority #1. Jun 12 at 16:54
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Sometimes it's just a matter of asking the right question at the right moment.

Maybe try "We're not looking for an excuse to punt work, we're letting the other teams do their job."

For the skip-level boss: "Boss has asked me to do work on another team's work, is there a good way for me to go about doing this?"

When the other team won't do their job: "Is anyone looking at fixing that bottleneck? Does the skip-level boss know how bad this is?"

to the skip-level boss: "Boss and I are extremely frustrated with the lack of urgency on these other teams. Is there a way to mediate?"

When client is upset: "Who's their account representative? Who's supposed to be handling this for the client? If we can't loop them in, why?"

to the skip-level boss: "Should we be including the account representatives and other client contacts when we get involved in this work?"

The malicious complience route that I would recommend is to orchestrate a situation between her and someone else at her level and reputation who guards their territory with paranoia. If you can find someway to communicate that she's trying to breach their walls against all company policy, (through a forwarded email chain or notes on a ticket) that person might bring this problem up the food chain without any of your prodding.

You might want to read 'The Phoenix Project' by Gene Kim. What you describe seems to come straight out of that book. Maybe you could assign the book to her in a ticket :D :D :D

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