here is the situation I'm in :

I've been tasked by upper manager "B" to work on a specific project. To help me and manage me more directly I'm supposed to work under manager "A" (B being the manager of A). As A and B are in remote offices, I've starting working by myself on this project, since I needed almost no guidance and everything was clear to me. About every week, manager A was asking me to update him on the project, and I was updating him on my progress (which he was fine with). As of the last time we had a chat, I told him that I had finished everything I intended to do, and that the remaining tasks were things I could not do / decide on my own, and mostly details that needed to be ironed out during a real meeting.

We had another meeting a bit after with manager A and B, the purpose of which was to update B on my progress. What happened was that A told him he was satisfied and what I did was production-ready, now obviously B is asking us to put the project in production.

So I'm in the spot were I'm still missing the technical details / informations / authorisation for completing everything on my own, and my manager A is never able to help me (either too occupied, or give me vague answers, etc), but yet he is assuring his own manager that everything is fine and will soon be shipped. Also there is the issue that it's uncomfortable for me to have no feedback at all on what I did.

(As a example for scale, I've committed something like 5000 lines of codes that my manager is saying are "ready for production" that have never been reviewed )

I feel like there is something bad that is going to happen soon due to deadline closing, and that I will be accountable for it somehow

What to do in this situation?

tldr : what to do when direct manager is not managing anything / not helping, but is assuring is own management that everything is fine?

  • What country is this for? There may be cultural elements at play here too.
    – enderland
    Apr 30, 2015 at 19:00
  • @enderland France
    – lezebulon
    Apr 30, 2015 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


I told him that I had finished everything I intended to do

Sounds like classic communications with a PM to me.

You 've probably said

This is mostly done, but I need...

The PM ear hears

This is done

Instead of telling him how far you've progressed you need to focus on what's still outstanding

I need resource allocated to code review, I cannot complete this task until it happens

You'll get resource quickly if they can't call it anything but a blocker.

As regards what you do now, you need to do a list of what is stopping you (in the style of the blocker text above "we cannot go live until the following is done"), send to A. If he doesn't react, cc to B and make take cover for the flak hitting.

  • 2
    Have to agree here, can't tell you how many times I've said something like "I'm almost done with this, as soon as I can dedicate a good 2-3 hours to this task it'll be done" that afternoon he'll say "I thought you said it was done?" ... No... I said I need two - three hours on that task of which I've been able to put zero hours on it since I'm working on a item you said was higher priority. Just normal PM stuff, they juggle so much your words will blur if you don't make them as simple as "I'm done" or "I'm not done". "Almost" tends to be put in the done pile. Apr 30, 2015 at 19:12
  • @RualStorge - Absolutely so you should be saying something more like "I've still got at least half a day left on this task, but I can't continue until task X is done, so I'll let you know when I get back onto it" - you said 2-3 hrs so with contingency we'll say 1/2 day. Apr 30, 2015 at 19:24
  • Yeah, I've had to change the conversation in that manner. It used to be blindly "How long do you have left on this?" Now I've changed that to "When can I expect this?" I find that way more effective. (As it also helps prevent my boss from constantly reshuffling priorities mid sprint day to day) Apr 30, 2015 at 19:28

I agree totally with @TheWanderingDevMana with what has to happen soonest and for any future projects.

However, I want to point out that in the meeting you should have spoken up and confronted the issue right then. By not speaking up, you agreed the code was production ready. You should have said, "I guess i was unclear, but this, this, and this still need to be done." It is critical to say it like this. You need to take responsiblity for the miscommunciation (even if you knew you communicated properly) so as to avoid embarassing your boss or confronting him with his incorrect interpretation.

What you need to know is that bad news doesn't usually improve over time. You have to have the courage to bring it up as soon as you know about it.

Right now the person who looks bad when this comes to light is you. Had you brought it up earlier, you are the one who saved two managers from embarrasment even if they aren't thrilled with the issue(s) themselves.

How much worse is it going to be if they say deploy on Monday and then you tell then there is a month's worth of work left? When something is misinterpreted or is deliberately interpreted incorrectly, you have to address that at the time it happens or you become complicit and the blame will attach to you.

Now that you have lost that moment, you need to follow up immediately with an email to both bosses stating your concerns about moving to prod and exactly what is holding you up. And by immediately, I mean it needs to be the very next thing you do at work. You are late communicating, you can't afford to be any later.

  • Absolutely that's why I was talking about flak. By not speaking up the buck is passed in the OP's direction and they need to lay it on the line now, PM A will just say he relayed what he was told. Apr 30, 2015 at 19:47
  • 1
    To doubly emphasise HLGEM's answer it's possible to go back to the client early and say that there's been an issue and there will be a delay. To do that a day before the project is due just doesn't wash. It's the person doing the work's responsibility to flag up that there is a problem. Your manager is accountable for ensuring you're up-to-date and will take the flak if you don't raise an issue but they don't necessarily have the time/knowledge to check everything themselves.
    – Ben
    Apr 30, 2015 at 22:25

Send an email to manager A, stating specifically what actions manager A must take on your behalf before the project can be considered ready. Send this email immediately.

If manager B comes back with a complaint, forward your email to manager B.

If feathers fly, stay well away from the affray :) Cooperate with whoever is dusting themselves off, is still standing and is giving clear instructions.

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