The situation stands as follow: I am the only developer in this company and the degree of my boss has nothing to do with software development, consequently he has high/unrealistic expectations. He dreams about having the results of the competitors at no time or budget.

One of the things that frustrates me every day is that he keeps comparing me (a single developer) with other companies (5-20+ developers), making statements such as follows: "X company did the same job in 5 days and it took you 20” (It is also important to note that I work part-time which apparently he never thinks about it, 20 days is not 20x8 hours, it is more about 20x4). In my opinion, the comparison makes no sense at all, and I often tell him so, but that does not stop him from repeating it the next time we discuss about it.

Another point is that in terms of budgets he always wants unrealistic results with the lowest budget as possible. For example: “I want the site to load as fast as the company of my competitors (the one that had 5-20 developers working on the same project) using 1/8 of the hardware they are using. This usually keeps me doing the impossible to optimize the code and the server, yet, I am not a magician, and this is another point that we keep discussing: He wants it to be super-fast, but he does not want to get the servers that we need to accomplish that. Also , he makes me feel that I am not doing the job when it is simply not possible.

Lastly, another issue that I have with him is that he does not know what he is talking about. One funny episode that we had stands as follows : “Make the database connection using just plain HTML” or “Do not use PHP , use CSS”. What can you reply to that? . Also an additional example : “E-commerce has been in the market for more than 10 years, you should be able to implement it in less than an hour” or “Responsive design is not something new, I want it to be working on all devices fully responsive really quick” or "It does not matter that our internet connection is slow,the site should be fast , look for example how fast google loads"

For me , it is always a joke to be working for him , he simply can´t manage me appropriately if he can´t even tell the difference between PHP and CSS. He simply can´t as I could not manage a construction worker.

How do you deal with this kind of managers? I try to explain him when he is wrong , but he is the boss , he usually feels that I am wrong or that I am not doing my best.

  • Are you a contract employee or a freelancer? – Erik Nov 22 '15 at 19:22
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    If the description is accurate, you have a classic Dilbertian Pointy-Haired Boss, who not only doesnn;t have technical skills (which need not be a disaster) but doesn;t know or wamt to afmit knowing this.. You can't educate someone who isn't interested in learning; the Dunnung-Kruger Effect partly formalizes why not. I think the only way to deal with such a manager is to change deoartments... or jobs. – keshlam Nov 22 '15 at 19:43
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    Wow he really said those things? You can't even reason with most of that stuff. Just nod and say OK and do the best you can. This would be one of those jobs that becomes more tolerable the less you care. The good news is that he has no way to measure what he is saying so you can just do what you think is right. If it gets to the point he threatens to fire you then look for another job but if you learn to humor him things may be tolerable. If you are going up against teams of 5+ you also have to consider the company might not survive if it is not keeping up with the competition. – paparazzo Nov 22 '15 at 20:00
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    Would you consider emailing him the link to this question ? And also the article on Wikipedia on Dunning-Kruger effect. – Radu Murzea Nov 22 '15 at 20:05
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    Here's the easiest thing you could do: Email him a link to this question and say, "This reminds me of you." – Jim G. Nov 22 '15 at 20:27

Your employer obviously lacks the technical skills needed to give you realistic requirements, or lead you. However it is not clear whether or not he can respect your experience and skills, trust you and take your feedback. Have you tried explaining to him that his requirements are unrealistic, and elaborate with him, or are you just saying OK to everything and keeping all this to yourself?

In any kind of partnership where you are the one who has the technical skills, you are supposed to handle such incidents by e.g.:

  • Explaining why PHP is not an alternative to CSS, or that you can't make a database connection using HTML. You can give him some wiki links explaining the difference between a server-side language that outputs HTML code, and Cascading Style Sheets.
  • Explaining that your hardware will not do for your site, by estimating your computing/memory/space/bandwidth needs, and your system's limits. After all, if you are absolutely sure it will not work, you should be able to explain why.

Have in mind that if you are not capable of proving your point, it is possible you are not absolutely right. Experienced or clever bosses, managers and clients can see when you are not sure, and will not take you seriously.

If your boss is not stubborn and overconfident, he should accept a technically - convincing answer and you should earn his trust really quickly. If you think you did your best and it didn't work, you just have to find another job.

Handling people with low technical skills, is a personal skill you might need as a Developer, especially if you are working in a small dev team, or speaking with clients etc. Of course, if you just not OK having to explain basic IT concepts every now and then, you should just move on to another job that works with higher standards, better management, give you some quality training and offer you a more focused role. If you had a Software Lead to supervise you, you would not have all this trouble

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  • This is what happened : I told him that the hardware we had was unable to do what he wanted it to do and that I did all the possible optimizations. What he did? He invited to the office a "skilled friend" to explain me what to do to make it faster and to tell me what I was doing wrong. After the discussion with that friend we came to the exact conclusion : we need better hardware. At the end the friend suggested the upgrades , yet , he did not wanted to invest more. Three days later he told me again that the software is slow compared to the competitors. – user20202 Nov 23 '15 at 1:12
  • Oh,I also emailed him a full report about what we could do to make it faster.I bet he did not read it – user20202 Nov 23 '15 at 1:14
  • @Yei More likely he probably couldn't understand it. – Jane S Nov 23 '15 at 3:19
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    @Yei this sounds like a person who doesn't listen, you either need to live with the constant complaining, unreasonable requirements and being unable to meet his expectations, or find another job. Some people are "always right" and "know everything", to try and change him will take all your energies and you'll probably fail – Sigal Shaharabani Nov 23 '15 at 13:21
  • @Yei A bad manager will drag you down in so many ways. As I said, if you can't make up his mind, it's time to go for another role. While searching, stay professional with your current boss, explaining how things work, providing realistic goals and meeting them. In the end of the day, no one can blame you for not delivering something you said you can't do – yannicuLar Nov 23 '15 at 22:05

I went through a very similar situation a about a year ago.

From my experience, if the boss isn't technically savvy and explaining things to him hasn't changed anything so far, nothing you do will help it. In this particular case, I'd bid farewell and move on. No hard feelings.

But if you can't or don't want to quit, you have to prove your point. I noticed that most managers need you to show them why X is like that or why you can't do Y.

Showing some charts, tables and comparatives MIGHT (though I doubt it) make him go a little easier on you in the future. Don't just say you can't, prove you can't.

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In the lines of the answer from @Frisbee an alternative approach that might or might not be relevant to your situation:

Your boss might be treating development as an expense / necessary evil. This would result in a "squeeze as much as possible out of every developer" strategy. Following this a pattern of behaviour would be similar to: I am asking him to do the impossible, he stretches himself as much as possible, I get the extra value for my money, and if he leaves I hire someone else to repeat the circle.

We can understand that not everybody needs to be technical, or everyone to know everything, many technical people find it very difficult to do sales for example, but it is easy to correlate that if the competition has 20 person teams then one person cannot deliver similar result in the same time frame.

Summarizing my suggestion would be to try to see if you are in this category or if it is just ignorance as other answers suggest.

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What your boss is doing?

Since your Boss does not have enough technical skills he can not help in technical perspective and he can not understand more deeply even if you explain.

The only thing he can do is managing you and through that he can get the maximum output.For that he is following Negative motivation.Basically Negative motivation should not be taken without proper escapement channels.In your case he can not ask huge optimization in your code with out enough tools/hardware.

What do you can do?

  1. Get proper requirement.
  2. Get time to estimate the work.If he refuses to allot time tell him that it is necessary to quantify the work by both you and me.
  3. To estimate the work you can follow methods such as Agile and while estimate the work dont forget to consider this factors.
  4. Since you are the only person working in the project tell the importance of Code Review,Testing and Pair Programming.
  5. Since your boss comparing with other companies (of Team size 5 -20) tell the importance of parrell work.Since they have more resource they can parallise the work.But your work can not parallelised.If you try to do that you may become victim of Analysis_paralysis.
  6. Hope your boss will understand the situation.
  7. If your boss is still not understanding the problem then look for better place.
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Now you added no contract. This is what I call shady. Stop caring about feedback from this person. Treat it as a paycheck or however you are getting paid.

You can't even reason with most of that stuff. He has one part time developer going against teams of 5+ and thinks sending you off in multiple (mis)directions is going to help. When you are short staffed you should take a simple focused approach. The guy is not just technically challenged - he is delusional, conflicted, and abusive. Just nod and say OK and do the best you can. No good can come from attempting to engage him on a technical or even rational level.

The good news is that he has no way to measure what he is saying so you can just do what you think is right. Treat this as a learning experience.

If it gets to the point he threatens to fire you then look for another job but if you learn to humor him and not care about his criticism things may be tolerable. If you are going up against teams of 5+ you also have to consider the company might not survive if it is not keeping up with the competition.

Back when I did consulting work if I would meet with a potential client and they would tell me how incompetent the last consultants were I knew I would just be the next incompetent consultant they fired. Unless I really needed the money I would just politely listen and then just not ever send them a bid.

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  • Avoiding conflicts, tolerating unfair criticism and being a Yes-man with a unsatisfied employer, seems like a bad idea to me. OP will most likely end up with a bad portfolio, bad experience/training, and a bad (or no) reference when OP gets fired or quits. Bad management always leads to bad projects and poor skilled employees. I would only propose this option for extreme cases, i.e this was the only IT job available for now and OP is in great need for money. – yannicuLar Nov 23 '15 at 21:21
  • @yannicuLar This is part time with no contract while he is going to school. Pretty clear avoiding conflict is not in your skill set. – paparazzo Nov 23 '15 at 21:29
  • I didn't see he's going to school, but then again, even if he's a student why shouldn't he look for another opportunity? Working with no contract is one more reason he shouldn't stay there. Not quite following you here.. – yannicuLar Nov 23 '15 at 21:38
  • @yannicuLar The stated question is how to deal with this boss. Take the money get a degree and move on. – paparazzo Nov 23 '15 at 21:52
  • OK I got it. This is an extreme situation indeed. But then again, he still should not accept an unfair criticism and tolerate a negative feedback and unrealistic goals he will fail to deliver. Saying 'this is not possible' is better than taking an impossible task and failing it later. Even if he takes this task, he should at least say from the beginning it is unrealistic. – yannicuLar Nov 23 '15 at 21:58

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