I feel like my manager has been bullying me at work and I’m preparing to take action. He said something to me today I very much don’t understand. He told me to look at someone else’s code (who no longer works here) for an example, and when I asked if he knew which file in particular he told me to “act mature”. Why would asking which file an example is in be immature? I realize the reason probably is idiotic but I’m legitimately curious.

UPDATE: the manager meant a specific piece of code was the example. He wanted to launch a new process in a certain way and he knew another person had done this and told me to look at his code. Since this is one function in several files of code I thought I would ask if he knew which file it was in.

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    If your boss has a staff member who he perceives to be disrespectful towards him, he could very well interpret an angry tone as, "I don't want to do this, so I'm going to make this as difficult as possible for you." An angry tone could easily reinforce that perception.
    – Jane S
    Jul 25, 2015 at 10:00
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    @VietnhiPhuvan "Is he a non-technical type? " this is unclear to me. He says he's not a programmer and often tells me "that's your job" when I ask him questions or make suggestions. HOWEVER he also tells me which libraries to use and telling me how one script must use a system call to open a new one, that's technical in nature. Some of the technical requirements don't make sense or aren't possible but when I try to discuss with him he gets mad as "he's not technical". Jul 25, 2015 at 11:04
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    If the tech requirements don't make sense or aren't possible, don't discuss. SAY that they don't make sense and why they don't make sense. Let him tell you why they make sense and how they make sense. What is it that he is a non-technical type that you don't get? What is it about being a total waste of time to ask technical questions to a non-technical type that you don't understand, unless that non-technical type can refer you to a technical type? Jul 25, 2015 at 11:33
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    You look at what the other person did and you come back and say that the other person didn't do a damn thing. Even better, you say that you went over the functions in the library one more time and that there is no function that support what he is trying to get you to do and that the only alternative is for you to write your own function. If the library is a commercial or Open Source library, start haunting the forums and ask questions. Jul 25, 2015 at 11:48
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    @MaskedMan he says less than nothing meaningful, he's telling me to use the wrong tools for the job. Jul 26, 2015 at 8:45

4 Answers 4


In isolation, "Do you happen to know which file it is in?" would seem to be a harmless question. If he knows, it would save you some time. If not, no harm done.

However, there seems to be some surrounding history in which you and your manager have not yet reached a meeting of minds on how to divide technical decision making between you. If he already felt you were leaning on him too much for technical ideas, asking about the file may have been the last straw.

One approach is to make sure you already have at least one option worked out before you discuss any technical issue with him.

Never ask "How can I do X?". Instead, present options analyzed in terms managers should care about, such as implementation time and implications for future development. He may be less likely to make his own proposals if you already have a plan, or are asking him to choose between plans based on their business consequences.

If, despite that, he adds another approach, tell him you will analyze it. Look into it. If it is not feasible tell him so, with reasons if he asks for them. If it is feasible, compare it to the approaches you are already considering, and see if it is at least as good.

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    To add a bit to Patricia's fine answer: always have at least two solutions available with a clear understanding of the trade offs - then when your manager (or co-worker) suggests something else you already have figured out for yourself which elements may or may not be important, and then solutions are argued based on developing common agreement of prioritizing the performance tradeoffs.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 25, 2015 at 16:09
  • Why do you say "never ask how can I do x?" Oct 20, 2016 at 7:09

I would use the phrase "act more self-confident" if I were your boss.

He told you to look at someone else’s code (who no longer works here) for an example. So, any code that was written by that person would qualify as an example. He did not mean any particular code file.

Your question that if he knew which file in particular made him feel that you don't have self confidence and cannot work independently. That's probably why he said "act mature".

Your English sounds better than mine. I do not believe there was a language barrier. There could be some generation gap, though.


My answer would remain the same after the update of the question.

Since this is one function in several files of code I thought I would ask if he knew which file it was in.

As far as I can tell, you are a technical employee (developer) and he is a manager. Finding which file is part of your job, not his. Again, I would do it myself without asking him first unless it takes me more than hours with no result. Then I would ask him. In other words, I would work more confidently and independently if I were you.

  • No no, he did mean a specific piece of code. I'll update the question. Jul 25, 2015 at 9:47
  • @SomeCallMeSam I added my response to your update. My advice remains the same. Work more confidently and independently.
    – Nobody
    Jul 25, 2015 at 10:01
  • It seems you agree with my manager's action so maybe you can explain. Does it seem disrespectful to ask a manager which file he's talking about? He's from a different country so it could be a cultural thing. Why try to figure out what he's talking about instead of just asking? Jul 25, 2015 at 10:07
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    Asking if someone knows something isn't the same as asking them to do your job, especially when it's them who brought up the subject. It may be worth mentioning he's the only person I work with. Jul 25, 2015 at 11:05
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    Actually the way you act is the same. "End of advice and end of discussion" that's the purpose of this site. I don't think you get it; if a question annoys someone it's not constructive to say "act mature", it would be constructive to say "I don't know the code base so I can't answer those types of questions". Jul 25, 2015 at 11:23

I have to agree with both prior responses. They are very good responses. What I will add is you must really think and act independently. Software/Web development in less than large development teams is a team/solo profession. Its a team because there are organizational chains of command and expectations. At the same time it's a solo profession because we as developers are afforded a lot of flexibility and leeway in how we get things done.

Working with non-developer managers can have its drawbacks at times but it also affords us technical creativity as long as what we produce meets the business parameters set forth and works with the existing systems its meant to integrate with. Take advantage of that flexibility and use your initiative to learn. The best that can come out of it is you find the file or code you need on your own. The worse case is it took you a little digging but in the process you learned more about the inner workings of the application.

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    Tip: "do you happen to know offhand...? It'd save us some time if I don't have to go hunting" is a safer formulation; it emphasizes that you don't object to tracking it down, you're just looking to expedite the solution.
    – keshlam
    Jul 25, 2015 at 18:04

One thing I noticed , and the hard way, is that generally when your boss tells you to do XYZ then you should "let it sink in" before coming back for clarifications.

He told me to look at someone else’s code (who no longer works here) for an example, and when I asked if he knew which file in particular he told me to “act mature”

When he told you to look at Bob's code, he was giving you an assignment. Now, surely you have questions and you will have follow-up questions. But at the current moment your boss is just giving you the general work-task. If you had to look through three of Bob's files rather than the exact one-file is that a terrible punishment?

It is good to attempt to figure things out solo, for an hour, before coming back and asking questions. That way it's more of a "I'm stuck here , can you help?"

Context is everything though, not sure where you're coming from exactly .

Finally, it's not a big deal. His "act mature" is not a huge insult really. We've seen far worse here.

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