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I work with a junior colleague in a pair. The junior had no idea about something in the project and went ahead & discussed about it with client on his own.

Although my reputation was fine with the client, but the client has now escalated his concerns about the team. What should I do?

  • I assume these concerns were escalated to your boss? Ask for the cause of the concerns and point out you were not the cause. – paparazzo Sep 8 '15 at 18:06
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    Why are you looking to clear yourself? Did you have the senior role here? If so, assume responsibility. Make sure everyone is clear from now on what the lines of communication are, and communicate this to your client as well. – Bart Sep 8 '15 at 19:00
  • Hi Lakshay, I edited this to be tagged India since your profile indicates you are there. Feel free to edit to clarify if this is not the case! – enderland Sep 8 '15 at 20:09
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Since you are interested in protecting your reputation, it's important to ask yourself what will earn you the most respect from your colleagues and managers - placing blame on a junior team-member, or taking responsibility for your team's mistake? I can recall several instances where team respect went up significantly for a manager who took responsibility towards upper management for one of our own failings.

It's also important to remember that, realistically, a manager/senior is in some ways responsible for the actions of their team, or juniors. While ideally your junior would know what is acceptable to communicate to a client, you were aware that he is a junior and didn't clarify (presumably) what is acceptable to communicate, or if you did communicate this, it wasn't in a way that is clear to his learning style.

In either case, fault can be shared in this mistake, so I advise you to, while not taking total responsibility for the mistake, don't "throw your colleague under the bus," as it were. This won't win you points with him nor your managers. Your best bet would be to think hard on where the failure point was, what could have prevented the mistake from happening, how you can adjust going forward to ensure the mistake doesn't happen again, and what sort of damage control you've implemented/plant to implement.

If you're explaining why the client expressed concerns about the team, you could say something along the lines of "(colleague) and I are aware of the client's concerns. The issue came from a miscommunication between (colleague) and myself about the points of contact with the client. We've worked it out that I would be the sole point of contact going forward, and have already discussed this with the client, who seem happy with the solution."

  • it's important to note that people respect someone who takes a fall for a fellow employee as much or more than a run of the mill competent employee. This depends very, very, VERY greatly based on what region of the world you are in. If the OP is in India (as their profile suggests), this is absolutely not the case. – enderland Sep 8 '15 at 20:06
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    Are you sure? I've done a great deal of work with Indian companies. The culture is absolutely different, and I would describe it as more cut-throat, but I witnessed the above when engaging with an international team there and it seemed to be received well. Granted, I have no way of guaranteeing this will work for every culture, but I'm not aware of any culture that will actually laud him for selling short his colleague. At the very least he should take a neutral stance and blame a miscommunication. He is partially responsible for his teammate not knowing something about the project anyway. – Caleb Jay Sep 8 '15 at 20:09
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    I agree with @enderland here. In my experience with India I would think it more likely that an entry-level employee who went outside the established hierarchy would be summarily fired, apologies extended to the client and no one would bat an eye or find it harsh. Also note that Indian companies extensively coach their employees in how to interact with international companies and that experience will tell you very little about their internal workings. – Lilienthal Sep 9 '15 at 11:21
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    @komali_2 I asked my junior colleagues I work with (who are contract employees in India). They indicated that in many cases, if a junior makes a meaningful mistake infront of a client they are either warned or lose their job. Your suggestions might be a good way to make the client happy, but are not advisable for the employee/team making the mistake.. – enderland Sep 9 '15 at 14:28
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Involve yourself in the solution as much as possible. You are the senior member. Use it as a teachable moment for your partner. The problem with many people isn't that they don't know anything, it's that they know things that aren't true. This is the mistake your inexperienced partner made and you can benefit both of you if you help prevent this type of thing in the future.

The client and your boss will be much happier if you fix it instead of just avoiding the blame.

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You should act as a team and take collective responsibility.

Use it as a mechanism to learn. Who is to say that you did not make mistakes and could have prevented it happening?

Being a part of a team is sharing trumps and failures.

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The problem is not that your colleague discussed some aspect of the project with your client but that he had "no idea about something in the project". This should never happen, especially using Pair Programming methodologies.

Your next step, in my opinion, is to acknowledge your failure to provide adequate training to your junior colleague and, more importantly, demonstrating that you have taken steps to ensure that a similar problem does not arise in the future.

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    You're reading way too much into the question. If it was a larger project, junior staff not being more than vaguely aware of the functional details in some parts is normal. Even more so with planning/decisions that are in progress at the management level that won't trickle down to anything they're doing for some time. – Dan Neely Sep 8 '15 at 22:19

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