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I'm currently managing a team of 3 software engineers. On the same level as me, there's a PO taking care of our organization and the work we have to do. On top of all of us, there's the CTO, who takes care of managing both me and the PO by suggesting new changes on the organization and participating on important management decisions. He also has his own assigned projects that he works on (involving coding).

Since a few months ago, the CTO has communicated to all of us that we're late on a couple of projects and that our deliverability rate is not looking good. He has expressed his worry on both personal and team-wide meetings, and has mentioned that the complaint is coming from the stakeholders.

We've implemented a lot of organizational changes and automation to give us more time to work on the missing features, but we're still not delivering as much as we should. From my side I've also defined objectives on our quarterly 1-on-1 meetings, but they're not being reached as expected. Note: the team members have the following YOE: 3 years, 2.5 years and 1 year.

The situation continued until a month ago, when the CTO contacted me about posting a job offer to on-board 1 or 2 new developers. The candidates we interviewed didn't match the CTO's requirements or our project's requirements, so he posted the offer in other European countries. He had much more success in other countries and found 3 new developers matching our requirements, with an average of 2 YOE, and matching our hiring budget. He has taken the decision to on-board the 3 of them next month and have them join the team, but fully remote (in the same time-zone).

Now, regarding my question, the CTO has given me the task to find out the best way to communicate to our current team the new hires. I thought it would be as simple as booking a meeting and talking about it, but I have worries about what effects this communication would have in the current team. More specifically:

  1. The new hires are going to work fully remote, while we have a hybrid work model (max 2 days of remote work a week), so I'm worried they'll complain about that. The hybrid work model is a company-wide policy so we can't really bypass it just for my team.
  2. The current team members could think that we're trying to replace the current software team by on-boarding 3 at once, since they know we've had a low performance. This would cause an exodus of the current team, which is something I personally want to avoid. So I don't know how to communicate effectively that this is NOT the case.

How can I communicate effectively the above to my teammates as a manager, while avoiding the above points?

Thanks.

Update after 1 month: After reading the responses to this post and thinking about it, I booked a meeting with the CTO to discuss my concerns. I started by acknowledging the current status of the team and how I could have done a better job in solving those problems and leading the team to better results. This caused a discussion regarding what he thinks I should improve and how to do it.

The second point of discussion were the concerns mentioned above. We discussed them one by one and he re-assured me regarding not wanting to replace the whole team. He also mentioned how he's not expecting instant results and is aware that the improvements in our speed will not be visible until 6 months after their on-boarding.

After our meeting, he decided to take the responsability of notifying the team regarding these changes, but of course still wants me to be involved on the on-boarding process.

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    Frankly, you've been screwed by your CTO. If he's making this decision, he should take accountability for it, not leave the dirty work to you. Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 17:56
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    "The hybrid work model is a company-wide policy" is demonstrably incorrect since the new hires will be fully remote. Using it as an argument will fall on deaf ears with your team.
    – Flater
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 23:53
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    "So I don't know how to communicate effectively that this is NOT the case." You can't make those assurances. You don't actually know yourself, one way or another. This wasn't your decision. You don't really know what's happening. Do not pretend that you do. Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 3:17
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    I take it your CTO has never read Fred Brooks's Mythical Man Month, particularly the part where he expresses Brooks's Law, which is still true, nearly 50 years since it was written.
    – shoover
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 4:17
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    @StephanBranczyk When the CTO took the decision, I expressed my worry regarding that point and specifically asked him if he wants to replace the current team, and he told me that he doesn't intend to and actually wants to expand the team. The current team members would help the new hires and get experience on mentoring, while our deliverability should improve in a few months with a bigger team.
    – newpcdw9
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 8:18

3 Answers 3

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Well to start with, you can't "avoid" these points. They're going to come up. Your team will have these worries, it is your job as manager to find a solution. As Philip Kendall said in his comment, your CTO is totally screwing you over by making you explain his decision, so you could start by going to him and asking him to explain why these two points aren't valid concerns for your team. Otherwise:

1) If you can circumvent the policy for these new developers (thus proving your team's job CAN be done fully remote), why can't you for your current team? I'd be pissed too. You need better reasoning why rules apply to me but not to thee, or you need to argue that your team deserves the option of going full remote.

2) Do you know for sure that this isn't the case? That the CTO won't decide that these developers are so much cheaper and he outsources the existing developer jobs in 6 months? If you can get some kind of promise to that effect in writing that you can show to your team, that is really the only way to convince them of that. If you can't, given how the CTO just made this decision and passed the buck onto you, you should have no confidence in assuming that your developers' jobs are 100% safe.

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    I see your point. Those worries are going to be raised by the team anyways, so I was trying to find the best way possible to present the situation. Regarding #1: I've discussed this point with the CTO and he told me the company's policy applies to anyone living in the same country as the company's offices, so that's the reason he's going to present to the team. He told me he has tried multiple times to change our department's WFH policy to be fully remote, but the stakeholders didn't budge, since they want to avoid office politics with other departments that have to come to the office.
    – newpcdw9
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 9:47
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    Regarding #2: When the CTO took the decision, I expressed my worry regarding that point and specifically asked him if he wants to replace the current team, and he told me that he doesn't intend to and actually wants to expand the team. The current team members would help the new hires and get experience on mentoring, while our deliverability should improve in a few months with a bigger team.
    – newpcdw9
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 9:49
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    ...and then, taking the explanations your CTO gives you, you answer your teams questions with "When I asked the CTO about this, he said...". It means the CTOs credibility is on the line, not yours. Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 19:07
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    @DJClayworth That seems like the most appropriate approach yeah.
    – newpcdw9
    Commented Jan 2 at 17:07
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The current team members could think that we're trying to replace the current software team by on-boarding 3 at once, since they know we've had a low performance.

Of course they would think that because in all likelihood that's exactly what it is.

From what you have described it seems obvious that the team is not hacking it and that all internal/incremental attempts to fix that have failed, so it's time for some more drastic measures.

This does NOT reflect good on you: the team's lack of performance is ultimately your responsibility and the CTO acting without consulting you first indicates that they don't trust your leadership skills.

I think it's time for an honest and open heart to heart conversation with your boss. Ask them what their plan for the future, what their confidence level in your leadership is and what your rule in the future organization may look like. Make sure you're not argumentative or defensive: you want to make the CTO comfortable to share what's really going even if that hurts your feelings. Talk little and listen much.

If the CTO actually has a compelling vision of what the new team will look like and if that vision credibly includes you and your current team, you can lead the communication with that. Things to talk about are:

  1. Here is where are today, here is where we'll be in the future
  2. Here is your role in the new future
  3. Here is what's changing for you and here is what will stay the way it is
  4. Talk to the concerns pro-actively: "we are not planning to reduce the team here". "WFH policy is the same for all local employees of the entire company, and we won't change that".

The more compelling you can make this story, the better it will accepted. Of course, you can only do this if you actually believe it yourself.

If the CTO's answer is negative, evasive or lacks any real detail, it's time to go into damage control mode, both for yourself and your team. That's a normal fact of work life: sometimes things don't work out or are just not a good fit. In this case it's best to be open about and professionally manage any transition that needs to happen.

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    If the CTO hiring additional staff that you will be managing that definitely doesn’t put you in the brightest light. However, WFH policies don’t have to be universally applied, if someone is truly remote then they cannot come into the office. How you manage these employees will be important.
    – Donald
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 18:02
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These 2 a both legitimate points of concern, they will come up.

And what ether you say, receipt depends on level of trust your team have with the company.

I would suggest to say something like this

Due to backlog of outstanding tickets / features, and you guys are working on "long term goal" (tasks, requiring presence at the workplace etc), management decided to hire a remote team addition for feature implementation (or anything that does not require presence)

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