[background] I have been working on a game and I handed it in for 3rd-party certification. They came back with a couple of issues which I fixed all but one. We had a question about the final issue and it was taking them too long to get back to us so I packaged the game up for delivery in case they no longer required us to fix the issue. I did this because I don't like packaging up the games too much and I thought I'd get it out of the way. It had been tested but QA didn't take the time to do a detailed job so I did it myself.

There was no formal procedure for any of this at all. It is my duty to package up games. The company is very informal anyways.

[issue] I sent an email to my project manger and the QA just putting the idea out there that I packaged it up in anticipation of the client's response.

Both of them immediately sent emails going all over me saying never to send anything to a client that hasn't been tested. I thought their reaction was over the top, out of context, and hot-headed.

I didn't understand the severity of their reaction. I asked them if they thought I was stupid and if they don't trust me then ask someone else. (I thought I was just being frank and honest)

[now] He didn't like that too much.

He has a history of harassing me because of my family status and short mat leave so I am very on-edge with him.

I want this kind of thing to stop happening. I would like to have a consistent level-headed trusting manager who doesn't have strong reactions to nothing. How can I improve communications with him?

Should I tell him that I don't feel good about his communications because of the previous harassment?

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    There are quite a few confusing parts to your scenario. "I fixed all but one" - were your fixes approved by the certification company? "it was taking them too long" according to whom? you? the project manager? a contract? "QA didn't take the time to do a detailed job " of what? fixing the issue? testing and approving your fix? testing the updated package? "I did it myself" is packaging games not part of your normal job duty? Without concrete answers here it does sound like you are just choosing what and when to do things without following any formal procedure – ExactaBox May 19 '15 at 19:04
  • @ExactaBox - well there are no formal procedures. Since I have to manage my own projects anyways I do get to pick and chose what I do. – Kerry May 19 '15 at 22:50
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    Whether or not there are "formal procedures," there is a way things get done, and when you packaged a game early, you violated these rules -- and multiple people/depts immediately told you to stop. The primary issue for your manager is that you cannot be trusted not to bypass certain checks and double-checks. You may say you won't send the package out, but they don't trust you enough to be confident of that yet. Work on getting them to trust you. – ExactaBox May 19 '15 at 23:49
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    @Kerry "I thought their reaction was over the top, out of context, and hot-headed." I think we know you pretty well from previous posts. You've got to stop being self-righteous - "I am right and everyone else is wrong" - and reacting in knee-jerk fashion and getting yourself into fights! Try working WITH your colleagues and management for a change. – Vietnhi Phuvan May 20 '15 at 1:48
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    Since you never sent anything to the client, I would just ask the obvious question: "I'm not sure I understand. Who sent something to the client? - Thanks in advance...". It seems like a dumb question .. clearly they're blaming you for something you never did, but really you're just playing dumb, which is OK. In any case, you have to put the important question on the table: "Did Kerry send ____ to the client?". Since the answer is irrefutably "No", you would have succeeded in having them do a personal re-evaluation" of the circumstances, which is more tactful than doing it directly. – StartupGuy Oct 30 '15 at 18:10

Their reaction may have been over the top and hot-headed, but the important thing is that it was out of context. You have to pick one issue to respond to. I would probably go with something like:

Oh my goodness, I know never to send something to a client that hasn't been tested. That should go without saying. I'm not sending this now, I'm just packaging it now. If the testing fails I will have to make the fixes and send the package. I was letting you know that the package is ready, so if the testing passes we can send it to the client immediately without any more delays. I'm pleased to see we all agree on the importance of testing and I assure you there's no need to tell me about that.

There's plenty of agreeing in a response like this, you perhaps add a little humour or a light tone if you're generally getting long with these people, and you perhaps apologize for whatever made them think you were considering sending something untested. Your focus is on correcting their belief about you and assuring them you know what to do.

Your conversation as reported in the question appears to focus on the tone they are taking with you and telling them that you're not an idiot (but your quote isn't specific about what you feel accused of) and generally brings all your history of the way he's been treating you into the conversation. Will that help your manager be consistent and level headed?

You don't want "a strong reaction to nothing." Who would? Thing is, the strong reaction tells you it's not nothing. They wouldn't tell you "don't send untested things to a client" unless they were seriously worried you might send untested things to a client. You may think it goes without saying that you wouldn't do that -- their behaviour says otherwise. So

  • stay calm and polite and do not meet anger and rudeness with anger and rudeness
  • do not explicitly mention their tone or wording choices. Avoid any characterization of their response at all
  • make it clear that you agree with them on the best practices here
  • scrutinize your response (whether email or something you plan to say out loud) repeatedly for the words but, only, just and simply and remove them. Replace but with and or split into two sentences that are not connected with either and or but; omit the only/just/simply/merely entirely.
  • try to find something to praise, such as their commitment to great results for the client. Do not thank them for correcting you, because you didn't need correcting. Thank them for wanting to be sure you were doing the right thing, which you are.
  • remember that you all want the same thing. Say that out loud a few times, it helps.
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    Everyone needs to know this: "Thing is, the strong reaction tells you it's not nothing." – HLGEM May 22 '15 at 14:45

Based on what you've written, I can see these potential issues:

  • Your proactive testing of the package might be interpreted as you not trusting QA to do their job or overstepping your authority.
  • Your preparing the package might be perceived as you deviating from an established practice which was put in place based on some prior negative experience.
  • Your reaction to their concern might be perceived as you not taking the current process seriously.

A good approach to improve the situation is to first take a hard look at your own actions and your own communications. If possible, get a trusted friend or your partner to take an unbiased look. Make sure that your e-mail actually conveys the message you intended it to convey and that your actions cannot be misinterpreted.

A second step is to have an open dialog with your project manager. Explain your thought process behind your actions to him. Try to get him to explain what his concerns were in response to your actions. I think you will discover that you are not both on the same page in terms of both understanding your motivations and understanding his reaction.

A third step is to try to put yourself in the other person's shoes before communicating and make sure you give them enough background or context in order to properly understand your message and intentions. For example, "Hey XXX, we've been waiting for some time for the client to get back to us on this issue. I think there's a good chance they won't want us to resolve it. I had some free time and I saw that QA seems overloaded right now so I went ahead and did the final testing and prepared a package so we're ready to go if the client doesn't need us to resolve that issue. I put it in a secure place so no one will accidentally send it through without client confirmation as that's the last thing we'd want."

A fourth step is when you get unexpected responses to close the loop and make sure you understand why you are getting that reaction. For example, "You seem pretty concerned about this getting out to the customers. Has that happened before? Do we have safeguards to prevent it from happening accidentally? I certainly don't want something untested going out the door either."

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