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I work remotely at a small-sized startup as a team lead. This is my first time working as a team-lead (< 6months) but worked at the same company for 2y+. Recently, I posted a question in a Slack chat with my manager (Jim) and CTO (Bob, Jim reports to him) asking why some code that a different team Jim manages is being merged without reviews (This might impact our app's reliability later).

Hey, in <repo> there are no reviews for pull requests at all. For example, all these: <link to unreviewed PRs>. I understand we don't use this code now, but do we plan to review 30k+ lines of code later or just trust it to work?

Jim replied with an explanation, asked how I propose to change the process, I made some suggestions, we came to a conclusion in the same chat.

During a 1:1 session about a month later, Bob tells me that I am fighting a lot with Jim and and that I should back off since Jim had a tough time last quarter. When I ask for an example, he points me to the post in our chat and mentions that it felt like an attack on Jim since he made similar comments about me in a feedback session that happened couple of weeks before I wrote the post.

Looking back, perhaps the just trust it to work part was a bit harsh. While I agree that Bob might perceive it as an attack (because of the message's tone and that I'm complaining to Bob about Jim instead of DMing Jim privately about the issue), he never asked me why I posted it and concluded that I gave Jim tit-for-tat and ended the conversation saying that I shouldn't fight with Jim.

Now, I feel like I'm being perceived as unprofessional and not getting a chance to provide the reasons I had to post that message. I also want to ask Bob why he jumped to that conclusion. However, I also feel like maybe I'm overthinking this.

  • Would it sound too defensive to ask Bob this question when he ended conversation without looking for an answer?
  • Is it some sort of management style (in-general I feel Bob and Jim rarely ask any questions) that I fail to understand due to cultural reasons? I live in a different continental.

Edit:

Since a couple of answers/comments point it out, maybe it's worth mentioning the reasons I posted it in the group channel with Bob:

  • In the past, the other team's work has caused delays in delivery of work and issues due to the same problem. My team is also responsible for customer support.

  • With other topics, my experience with Jim is that he is open to feedback but doesn't act. Since the changes in question are huge (30k+ LOC), work spanning over 6 months or so, I wanted to bring some attention to it before it's too late.

  • Jim had also agreed in the past (> 3m ago) that the other team is not working transparently. He'd try to improve transparency about what is going on with our team. But that never happened. (this was before my feedback session)

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    Is Jim your manager ? Or do you only report to Bob ? Commented May 13, 2023 at 19:13
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    You should probably be careful about going over your manager, and complain to his boss about some work issues. It is a good idea to work out a solution with your manager first. Note: your manager will evaluate your performance and decide your career advancement or promotion in the long run. Commented May 13, 2023 at 19:18
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    Still the wrong way to do it.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 1:58
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    "'I told you so' messages" aren't particularly effective at getting people to change their behaviour (which I think is the goal) but are good at getting people defensive and making sure they hide their mistakes. Commented May 15, 2023 at 12:33
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    You may be focusing too much on the one event. Bob presented it as just one example of a pattern. Often things that individually are fine start to bother people when they happen repeatedly.
    – Lyrl
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 23:56

3 Answers 3

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"Praise in public, criticize in private"; you should have raised the question with your manager, or with the other team's manager, rather than with the CTO participating.

As far as the actual problems you were complaining about: focus on finding proposals that will move the group toward better practices, one nonthreatening incremental step at a time. Do it right and you'll get credit for productive criticism and leadership. Just complaining doesn't win points for either. If you want changes, they can be made to happen, but it will take patience and real (additional) work on your part. If it was easy it would already be done, if it wasn't difficult they wouldn't need engineers.

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  • as I mentioned in the question: I realize it might look like an attack. But my question is if i should clarify things with Bob or will that send a message that I'm being defensive. Commented May 14, 2023 at 4:00
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    You should say "Oops, sorry, that isn't what I intended; I won't do that again" and drop it. Trying to explain will indeed come across as trying to defend your mistake rather than learning from it.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 4:11
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    I wouldn't say "wont happen again". It will happen again. It's a team-relevant point and so should be in a team chat. Team relevant points WILL be raised again and they SHOULD be in team chats. Commented May 15, 2023 at 12:24
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    Bringing up the point WITHIN THE TEAM is fine. When folks from outside the team are present... See quoted phrase, and Don't Do That unless you are deliberately trying to cause trouble. The damage done almost always outweighs any possible gain. TAKE IT OFFLINE.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 17:33
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    @ThrowRArandomized: That is a VERY different question. If you ask us how to handle the specific issue, rather than how to handle your having spoken out of turn, we may be able to address that. In fact, there may already be answers to it on Stack Exchange. But this starts with your accepting that raising it in this meeting was NOT the way to start.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 14:48
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So first off with my tech professional hat on, not reviewing code is just a really bad habit for any team / org to get into. You are totally right to want to change this.

With my manager / corporate politics hat on what you did was quite brash and undiplomatic. In most companies, speaking in a positive way will get you further than negative. E.g. "Hey everyone, here's a new process (it's used by likes of Google) which I think will improve the reliability of our code!" Instead of "your current process is bad". This would have gotten the same result without having to actually say anything negative. If you must provide negative feedback, do so in private and as diplomatically as possible. A lot of people just cannot handle negative feedback well so when providing it to your manager make sure he is a person that can take it well.

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  • Also, changing processes for a team can be far more difficult than changing them for an individual, for many reasons. Be realistic about how much can be done how quickly. I once spent months working on a tool that could speed up a common task by an order of magnitude, as well as being more clearly self-documenting, easier to maintain, and less error-prone. It got zero traction, for various reasons that I was forced to recognize as legitimate business demands from the departments we had to interface with. Something similar was eventually adopted, but it took years and other changes to enable.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 14:54
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asking why some code that a different team Jim manages is being merged without reviews

Is this the exact wording you used? I understand some people are more direct in their wording of things but others can take offense to that. Words are powerful and it's not only about what you say but how you say it. Try changing your wording to something more gentle and understanding.

I know someone exactly like this. Listening is a skill she doesn't possess. It's like walking on eggshells and everything you say to her starts a war. She just wants to come back and get combative with you like it's always your problem or something you did. WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?!?! I'm not asking for an argument. I was just saying. I've had to learn to change my own behavior and to use more gentle language around her because she's so sensitive but nothing seems to work with her. She's just looking for somebody to pick a fight with. 😒

"I appreciate the updates but we should be reviewing these before merging to ensure reliability going forward..."

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