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TL;DR What are your options with a manager with "passive" management style, very little teamwork, knowledge sharing, bad onboarding for new employees, very little meetings and no incentive to change anything - if you are someone who wants to learn and grow, work with others and loves change and challenges?


In my workplace the manager (of a department of about 20 people, most of them software developers) deals with things only when they are directly brought to their attention.

Specifically, there is the statement by the managers "talk to me if you have a problem / something to talk about". But the manager does not seek communication on his end and he does not create a space where employees come together (e.g. weekly meeting, daily standup or something like that). Also, whether the teams do this is up to the teams.

So, this is mostly a one-way conversation, where the employee is the active part, and the manager, the passive.

This means - as far as I can tell

  • there are no regular 1-on-1 meetings with manager / employee - only if this is requested by the employee.
  • there is no active management by objectives
  • there is no accountability - you get some tasks to do, but basically, no one cares if you effectively work 1 hour a day or 10
  • there are no code reviews
  • there are no scrum / kanban methods in place
  • there is no active plan for growth and development
  • there are no regular meetings in the department - this takes place about once a year, if at all.
  • several people are unhappy about similar things but there is no space to talk about and work on this together and change things.

Everyone is an island. There is no "we" in this place.

There is very little communication conveyed. In the department (about 20 people) there have been people hired months ago and I still don't know what they do and only by chance even noticed that new people have arrived. Before Corona, this was not ideal, but since Corona, most people still work at home most of the time.

For me, this is very unusual, it is hard for me to adapt to this and I see several problems in the workplace that seem to be due to this practice and culture. Also, I know how people in other companies work and the way we do this seems not ideal and even bizarre.

There is very little teamwork. In general this works well for people who are experienced and who can manage themselves well. In this case, this might even be beneficial, but a number of people have just been hired, I am afraid they will adapt to the general culture if left to fend to themselves and now would be a good time to change things.

In addition to this, there are a number of things I am unhappy about and I have already raised some issues with my manager and my manager's manager (who does not want to become involved and basically tells me to clarify things with my boss). I have already been able to make some changes and improvements - by just doing them. In one case, my boss was supportive. In the other case, I just made the change despite his objection.

I could leave this workplace (and already have a job offer), but there are a number of reasons I am reluctant - for one, the pay is very good here, I am afraid I am "not good enough" for this other company and I had far worse (afraid of "from frying pan into the fire"). Also, this management style gives you a lot of freedom, but it seems to have a demoralizing effect in the long run on me - and probably on others as well. It's like no one really cares what you do.

I cannot change much in my team since I am a team of 1 person in this department. There are a number of teams, most of them with 2 people and the people working in these tiny teams are isolated.

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    Why do you want to change things? It seems from your description that some people (most?) are happy with how things currently work, some are not. Management also seems to be fine with the amount and quality of work getting done. Why should they change?
    – quarague
    Jul 4, 2022 at 9:12
  • I have not talked with all colleagues - some do seem to be happy but some are not. In any case, the current practice has some evident problems. As always there are 2 sides - on the one side this gives you a good degree of freedom. On the other hand, the freedom is an illusion - you are only free to do what you can within the things you can effectively change yourself. As soon as there are things where several people are involved, or require general things to change, it becomes difficult.
    – kedavle
    Jul 5, 2022 at 15:31

2 Answers 2

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I'd go even further than suggested so far. Not only take the lead -- become the leader.

If the people you work with wants objectives, you can propose objectives for them and get buy-in. If the people you work with wants 1:1s, you can coordinate them between each other. If the people you work with wants processes like code review and scrum, you can help implement them. If the people you work with is unhappy with this situation in general, you can create a space to talk about it.

Essentially, you're seeing an important job not getting done. There's nothing wrong with just doing it. You don't have to get permission to do a good job.

Don't you need formal authority to do these things? No. In a way, it's better if you don't, because that means people are following you because they want to, not because they feel forced to.

What if the formal manager feels like you're stepping into their domain? I'm sure you're willing to let them take over the processes you instituted, if they suddenly feel like being more active. If not -- well, who do you think is doing more useful things for the team at that time? Get support from the people you support.

Will you be doing higher-responsibility work for the same pay this way? Yes.

But you're building incredibly valuable experience.

You're also building a lifelong reputation and respect from the others in the team. If it doesn't help you now, it might well in the future.

And if you're lucky, someone up the corporate hierarchy will notice and you might end up with pay corresponding to your responsibilities yet.

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  • I like this answer very much. It conveys a feeling of progress. One problem is - I am the only person in my team right now, but I think if I use this suggestion as a guideline - I will find a way to still achieve some of those things (or use this in another job next time I am in this situation). The only objection I have about this answer right now - you could have considered more the situation described in the question. This can lead to friction with the management - but at this point, I would be willing to take the risk.
    – kedavle
    Jul 4, 2022 at 6:19
  • Sorry, I misread your question: replace "your team" with "the people you work with". As isolated as you are, I assume you're not doing everything on your own. If you are, find some people who think like you and start teamworking with them. The formal team structures rarely coincide perfectly with the actual teamwork that happens. I'm not sure what other parts of the situation described you feel like I could have an opinion on. Please enlighten me!
    – kqr
    Jul 4, 2022 at 8:48
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How to deal with passive management style

You take the lead. Ask for a meeting when you want one, bring things to your manager's attention when necessary, etc, etc.

Basically, take things into your own hands rather than relying on others.

I could leave this workplace (and already have a job offer), but there are a number of reasons I am reluctant - for one, the pay is very good here, I am afraid I am "not good enough" for this other company and I had far worse (afraid of "from frying pan into the fire"). Also, this management style gives you a lot of freedom, but it seems to have a demoralizing effect in the long run on me - and probably on others as well. It's like no one really cares what you do.

We each get to decide our priorities.

If you value the pay and freedom more than you dislike your long list of complaints, then you stay. Otherwise you leave.

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    This is correct. You say you want to learn and grow, so go ahead and do that. Be the person who brings things (including suggestions for how to fix problems) to your boss, takes initiative, and grows. Jul 2, 2022 at 12:30
  • Of course, the muck-in-and-do-it-yourself attitude is more important in smaller companies, where there's less risk of treading on other people's toes. But there can still be opportunities for that sort of initiative and flexibility in big companies, especially where there's a clear need that no-one else will fill.
    – gidds
    Jul 2, 2022 at 14:14

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