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I work in a new company with a new team. My lead is inexperienced who does the following:

  • He won't formally assign tasks making it difficult to determine what he wants done,
  • While telling me my performance is fine, reports the opposite to management, and
  • When he gets frustrated, likes to take it out on me publicly and loudly.

Up until now his manager and I have been able to manage my technical lead's behavior. Unfortunately, this manager resigned recently and was replaced by someone who works off-site and isn't as available to handle these kinds of behavioral issues.

I feel my only options are to approach HR or to resign. If I resign the project will fail as I have the domain knowledge necessary to complete the project.

How do you handle a lead who is verbally abusive to you, and makes misleading statements about your performance?

  • 1
    If you're willing to consider resigning, why not have a meeting and let him know you want to clarify is evaluations and discuss any concerns he has in private and not in public? – user8365 Sep 4 '14 at 21:20
  • Well I tried to but all he ever did on my face was praise and thanked for hard work. But he gets these sudden mood swings near deadlines. Also he shouted upon other team lead yesterday. – rollo Sep 4 '14 at 21:28
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    Are you still keeping in touch with your former boss? You should, be cause your former boss could at least give you a reference. You should ask your former boss for advice and assistance, and have your boss mobilize their network inside the company to assist you, with a lateral transfer if necessary. – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 4 '14 at 22:01
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    There are many more questions about abuse behavior on Workplace.SE that may help you with your third point. – user8036 Sep 5 '14 at 6:51
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    @Awais Go for what you can get from him. It might be more than you expect. And he's been around 6 months longer than your new boss. Coming to the next question: does your new boss report to a manager? – Vietnhi Phuvan Sep 5 '14 at 10:06
7

Well, it seems to me like you have a few choices on how to deal with your team lead's behavior

  1. Ignore it.

    • This is certainly the easiest approach, but probably also the least advantageous.
      • Ignoring his behavior is sure to encourage it to continue, and will be damaging to how you are perceived within the company.
      • On the upside, it's probably the safest. Runs a minimal risk of being fired.
  2. Fight it.

    • Likely to be the most difficult path, and also sub-optimal.
      • The general way you fight someone who runs you down behind your back (while praising you to your face) is to make sure you establish the actual facts first, and louder.
        • There's a whole art to this, but it basically consists of a constant effort to talk up your accomplishments and work to anyone and everyone before the other guy gets the chance to undermine you... but you want to do it without looking like you're doing it (because no one likes the guy who's always talking about how great he is), and that's pretty tricky.
        • It's suboptimal because, now, in addition to your current job, you have to do the work or being your own self-promoter and marketer within the company, and do it in a way that doesn't alienate your bosses and peers.
      • The other way you fight someone would be to sabotage them, of course... ruin his reputation, get him fired, mess with his personal life so he implodes, etc. This can be done completely legally, but even so, I don't think it's something that merits going into any further detail on, for many reasons, including the obvious one.
    • Also, on the downside, if you "fight back," he might escalate the conflict even further, so there's that.
  3. Confront it.

    • Talk to your lead and/or his boss about this behavior.
      • You don't have to be confrontational to confront the issue... you can frame it as an inquiry, rather than an accusation. For example "why does management think I'm doing a bad job when all my performance reviews and feedback have been positive?"
      • Runs a risk of blowback. Your team lead, or even his boss may retaliate against you for bringing it up, and there's not a whole lot you can do about that if it happens.
    • Talking to HR might be an option, but the efficacy of getting into a he-said-she-said discussion with any third party is generally pretty questionable.
  4. Try to change the behavior.

    • Generally speaking, there's only two ways to get someone to change their behavior - you either "bribe" them with something they want ("if you stop stabbing me in the back like a two-faced snake, I'll give you this thing I know you want") or "threaten" them with something they don't want ("stop stabbing me in the back like a two-faced snake, or I'll quit and you'll be screwed").
      • People don't like to be accused of being backstabbing [expletives], and especially so when they actually are backstabbing [expletives], so about the only guarantee in this approach is that he'll like you a lot less than before.
      • In both bribery and extortion, there's no guarantee that the other party will live up to their end of the arrangement anyway. If he was an "honorable" type of guy, he wouldn't take a bribe, or be stabbing you in the back in the first place.
  5. Get away from the behavior

    • Get transferred, find a new job, find your team lead a new job, etc. Be somewhere where this behavior is not present, like another team, another company, or a completely different place altogether.
    • If it's a feasible option, this is usually the best one to take. Lowest risk, usually the lowest effort, and typically has the least downside (being a disruption to your life and routine resulting from making a change).

Without knowing more specifics about your situation, any declaration about what you should do is going to be guesswork, at best, but those are basically your options. Personally, I'm strongly inclined to option 5, if for no other reason than the fact that every other option requires additional work, exposes you to additional risk, and comes with basically no reward - you resolve the behavior one way or the other, and... get to go back to doing your job without having someone stab you in the back while you're doing it. But maybe your situation is different, and you're (for example) vastly overpaid, so the job is worth fighting for, or hard-pressed to get another job, or whatever.

  • thank you .Up here are quite a lot of options of which I never thought of. I too think the option 5 will work best but here is the deal that I've spent my last 4 months on this project and I really want to complete this and have it on my resume. For details can you please see the edit history of question. – rollo Sep 5 '14 at 9:14
  • @awais Sounds like you could always ignore the problem for now, and then find a new job once the project is complete. Or whatever combination of options you prefer... it's not like you're only allowed to pick one strategy for dealing with this guy. Of course, if it's just about having the project on your resume, you don't have to wait until the project's done to put your involvement on your resume. – HopelessN00b Sep 5 '14 at 12:27
5

You are in a position of power because you have less to lose than this misbehaving person does: you're willing to get another job.

Don't resign to punish him. Resign, if you must, to improve your quality of working life.

In the meantime, ask him for a change in behavior. Get a private meeting with this person (no hallways or break rooms for this one, please). Say something like this:

"I have something to say to you. Please let me say it completely before you respond.

"When you criticized my work to the project manager but told me that it was good, you made it hard for me to improve my work, and you damaged my personal reputation in an unfair way. In future, please speak to me honestly if you have trouble with my work so I can improve. I hope you'll think this over. Thanks for listening."

There's a three-part formula to this statement.

  1. Describe the offensive behavior as specifically and neutrally as you can.
  2. State the negative effect of the behavior on you personally.
  3. Ask for a specific change in behavior.

Please don't expect this person instantly to agree with you. It takes time for this kind of criticism to sink in. But it's respectful and honest.

You owe it to yourself to try this kind of thing before you put yourself through the trouble of finding another job.

5

I feel my only options are to approach HR or to resign.

I'll assume that your feelings are correct, and that these are truly the only alternatives. In this case, then clearly you should approach HR first.

Explain the situation from your point of view, but be aware that HR seldom likes to meddle in the affairs of departments themselves.

You can always resign later if you determine that the situation will remain intolerable from your point of view.

I would have offered other possibilities, but you are closest to the situation, and have decided that these are the only two.

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