I was assigned a task of staging some code on our dev servers. Most times this is an easy task. However this time my boss only gave me the FTP credentials and IP address of a client's server. He also suggested using a WordPress plugin to help with the staging of the site. The plugin failed to work. My next approach was to copy the files via FTP. Client's host dropped the FTP connection several times and limited the download rate to 1-2 MB/s.

Boss expected this task to be complete in no more than an hour. I far exceeded the time limit due to not being briefed well about this project and the technical challenges.

He grabbed me in the hall way and essentially accused me of being incompetent and misrepresenting my skill level.

I've had a good track record of setting up staging environments. This one I worked on over the past two days was an edge case fraught with novel challenges.

He kept on upping the pressure on me to complete the task. For 20 minutes he just stood over my desk. "If you fail this task, we'll lose our biggest client." "I thought you knew your shit! You're failing."

He called me out on taking his feedback "personally". Well, yes. If you're going to call me out on my competency and skill level, it is going to get personal!

How do I respond to his serious accusations? I can do my job as long as the environment is not a pressure cooker cum reality series drama.

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    The only response to this behaviour is to go home, open a bottle of red, and update your resume.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 6:32
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    If you talk to your boss about this, schedule a private one-on-one and talk through it. Especially if you've had no problems with him up till now.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 8:37
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    While I'd personally prefer something stronger with ice, I'm with @HorusKol on this one. It's your manager who sounds incompetent here, not you. This is so far outside the realm of reasonable behaviour that I don't see how this job can be salvaged.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 14:00
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    you should find another job. in the long term if people stay working for him and accept his behaviour then there is no reason for him to change. if talented people leave the he will loose his clients that he does not deserve else he will have to alter his behaviour.
    – simbo1905
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 22:39
  • On one hand, I do not understand the technical complexity of uploading files. On the other hand, we all know the proverbial 5 minutes IT time that can extend for hours when things go wrong....so things have to planned and asked well ahead of time. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 12:03

4 Answers 4


Could you have reacted differently to the situation in a way that would have been more productive? Set aside all fault and whether this guy is a jerk (sounds like he is). Just answer that first question to your own satisfaction every time something like this happens. Also, do what you can to not lose clients. It's a more interesting problem to solve than doing what you can to appease jerks.

And try to stay calm. I'm at a fairly high pressure gig right now and am constantly having to remind myself not to spaz when everybody else is freaking out. It's the only way I can be useful. Stop drop and assess the fire before letting somebody else tell you how to put it out.

  • Appeasing jerks and not losing clients aren't exactly mutually exclusive activities.
    – Myles
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 20:06
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    You have to be careful about being too calm when everyone else is freaking out though, because the people freaking out assume you don't care much about whatever it is that they're allowing to shorten their lives. I've had better luck trying to get folks to calm down a little and then giving them something to do to help (even if it's a little bit make-work).
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 20:41
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    @ColleenV I suspect that's what's going on--he was trying to solve the problem rather than freak out about it and that was being seen as not caring. Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 20:49

If you're going to call me out on my competency and skill level, it is going to get personal!

Well it shouldn't. This is what it takes to call yourself a professional. If you fail at a task your skills in ability should come into question, but not in the sense of having some character flaw. If he calls you an idiot, that's personal.

What should really upset you is the accusation that you misrepresented your abilities. Now you're being accused of being a liar. Many people take that personally and they should.

My suggestion is to wait until you are both cooled off and ask for a private meeting. State that you have in fact performed these duties before, so you don't consider yourself a liar. He may or may not agree; not sure where you can go from there. As far as this situation, make it a learning experience. Ask your boss, what you should do when there are circumstances that prevent you from performing a task or there is a risk of it taking longer than normal. While you're sitting there watching a file transfer very slowly, you do have some time.

Some people like to get bad news early (If they're smart.) and shouldn't kill the messenger. You never know, he may have had a suggestion to speed up the process, but when he feels like a big client account is in jeopardy, it's difficult to stay in control. Some people react to pressure differently. You may also suggest that watching over your shoulder is the best way to hinder your performance. Many people can't even type when someone is watching let alone trouble-shoot complex problems.

  • It was the fact that he was accusing me of fraud earlier in the day followed by playing mind games with me that put me on edge.
    – dperry1973
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 15:49

There is nothing wrong with defending yourself when falsely accused of poor behaviour, however, think about the manner in which this can be done. Try to include a statement that acknowledges the perceived problem, such as "I understand that it appears it was my slow progress that held up xyz, but I honestly worked with the tight time frame in mind and I feel it was not due to a fault of my own that I was slower this time."

Also try to accept that somebody may just need a reason to blame you, or anyone else for that matter, and hat appearing modest and humble is better than just retaliating. For example you could agree with the guy, "Yes I understand that is how you feel, I shall definitely keep this in mind in the future."

Generally try to be non-reactive, even though you feel it is a personal attack. With time the other person might realise they were wrong and that other factors came in to play.


What he did is more like a taunt than an accusation. An accusation is when your boss goes to someone else and tells them you exaggerated your credentials.

Personally, I think bossing somebody around to do something they themselves are incapable of is kind of a loser move. If it's so important, why isn't HE taking care of it? Blaming shit on your underlings is what losers do.

If you want to try to smooth things over, tell him you are very sorry he got the wrong impression about your skills and focus on the details of the problem. Explain the 10 different things you need to do to fix the problem and what you are doing in each case.

The better he understands the details of the problem, the more relaxed he will become.

People get agitated and angry when they don't understand something. Right now he is angry because he does not understand why the problem is not getting solved fast enough. Help him understand why that is.

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