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Am part of the software engineering team reporting to the VP of engineering. There's a customer team that assesses customer requirements and pitches the product to the customer.

Background:
The product team officially documented and gave us a few features to implement, and although I was short of time, I worked on weekends and implemented it. When my VP saw it, he said he had some simpler feature of his own which he wanted me to implement. I implemented that (working on weekends). Due to frequent changes, it started taking time to deliver the final product and the deadline approached, my VP started blaming me and gave snide remarks of me being fired. I assume he blamed me for the delay, because for many days he was pointing out tiny, silly mistakes whenever the CEO was around.

The surprise:
When completed, the product team were were shocked the features were not already implemented. The VP had been hiding this fact from them all along.

After-effects:
Soon, the product team started asking me questions about whether certain features were implemented. They didn't ask the VP, knowing he'd give them evasive answers.

Now, the VP deliberately slowed down the delivery time. He explicitly asked me to not bother implementing too many features. When the product head asked him when the software would be delivered, he gave them a very far-away date (normally he'd say 2 weeks).

Questions:
1. What does one do in such a situation? Simply follow what the VP says? What if he is trying to prevent the product team from controlling him and uses us as an excuse to save himself, by blaming us for slow delivery?
2. Is such politics common in companies? Is it ok to remain in such a company? They are very good in all other aspects of management and product development (other companies are wary of taking employees who leave quickly)
3. The VP knows he is needed since nobody can replace him and that he can play his game.

  • 6
    Who's your boss and who can fire you? – user48138 May 14 '16 at 13:53
  • @AlexandreVaillancourt. The VP. But the CEO's opinion also counts. – John David May 14 '16 at 14:05
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    Tuff spot and you have some good answers. I don't think this is a battle you can win as VP is too high up to challenge. But it is a battle you might survive so do what you can. – paparazzo May 14 '16 at 18:25
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  1. What does one do in such a situation? Simply follow what the VP says?

Your boss is the VP. You do what he tells you. If someone else comes and ask you to do something else, redirect them to him. If someone comes and asks you what the status is on something you're working on, redirect them to him.

What if he is trying to prevent the product team from controlling him and uses us as an excuse to save himself, by blaming us for slow delivery?

That's his game. At one point, he'll have to take responsibility for not being able to plan and give appropriate estimates to the other parts of the company.

  1. Is such politics common in companies?

I'd say it is. It does not look like a company that would stand the test of time though.

Is it ok to remain in such a company?

Do you like it? You look like you're at the beginning of your career. If you feel you'd be more comfortable somewhere else, and the risk for you is low, polish your CV and find another place.

  1. The VP had earlier left the company when the financial future of the company was uncertain, but was brought back by the CEO when certain employees started quitting because of a lack of leadership. So the VP knows he is needed and that he can play his game.

If the VP's leadership has worsened since he got back, even if he feels his role is important, employees will leave because of him.


One tip not related to your questions. As I have stated earlier, you seem to be at the beginning of your career. Working overtime (the weekends) seems for you a way to show your boss that you're dedicated and you're ready to help when there is a need. And you see it as a way to compensate your lack of experience. We've all been there, don't worry.

In this case, however, the overtime you're doing is caused by the fact that upper management (i.e. the VP) is not able to get their estimation and planning right together.

You'll have to learn to say no.

Planning should be done in a way that takes the velocity of the employee, the needs of the customer and the needs of the company.

Having a single person that gives you orders helps, but you'll have to learn to manage that person. It's not a trivial thing to do, but it's a great skill to have.

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    Perfect. I'd just add DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Whatever anyone is asking you, ask them to document that on an email. If you think they are uncomfortable doing it, tell them that you use your inbox to track your to-dos and organize your work. If anyone someday tries to blame you of not delivering on time, or doing something their never asked, you show them the email showing your boss told you to do differently. – fsenna May 14 '16 at 18:17
  • @fsenna: If that someone telling you what to do by word of mouth is your boss, would you tell him to email you instead? I wouldn't feel comfortable even with the reason you hgave. – Mehrdad May 14 '16 at 23:48
  • @Mehrdad I would. Probably would dress it as "Could you email this to me? You know, we are working fast and there is a lot to do, I'm under pressure and I don't want to mess things up, it would help me to have them written." – Mołot May 15 '16 at 0:39
  • @Molot: Maybe it's just me, but the mere fact that you try so hard to explain the rationale makes it an awkward conversation for me were I to be in your shoes... – Mehrdad May 15 '16 at 2:07
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    @fsenna I meant to add something like this but I forgot, hehe good point. Alternatively, you can send your boss an email "As per our discussion this morning, I'll start working on XXX instead of YYY". – user48138 May 15 '16 at 12:30
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There are a few things you should do right now. One is play nice, do as the VP says as he's your boss. Direct questions to him. It's not your responsibility to tell the product team when features will be implemented. If he's not upfront or honest, they need to raise their concerns to the CEO, not to you.

Second, you should polish your resume and prepare yourself to get out of there. While some level of politics are found at every company, I feel there are way too many red flags here. The VP giving you snide comments and trying to blame you for his mistakes? That is a bad manager, and while there are bad managers everywhere, you should try and limit your contact with them. They will drain you and cause you to burn out, or worse cause you to start working in a way that wouldn't be acceptable at other companies (IE hiding when something hasn't worked, finger pointing, not questioning something that's wrong for fear of getting in trouble).

The fact that the VP knows he can get away with this, that he has the power here, means this won't change. If you're bold, you could go the CEO and let him know what's going on, but that will most likely get back the VP and if he's power tripping he will take it out on you.

If I was in your shoes, I'd leave. Then in the exit interview maybe let the CEO know then.

  • 4
    Good answer - but missing an obvious point: make sure every instruction from your boss is documented (email or signed paper requests). And make sure every completed task is documented, too – HorusKol May 14 '16 at 15:43
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    +1 for "too many red flags". The most important thing that a good manager does is defend his/her team from the rest of the organization (even when they are at fault), not attack them for his/her own personal benefit. After all, it's the team that actually does the work, not the manager. If the VP wants to start a war with another team over the math methods used in the app then so be it, but he/she shouldn't be using new recruits as hostages or human shields. – alephzero May 14 '16 at 17:55
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I would question what the VP is asking in business terms.

Is it in the original, approved project design? If not, the design would need to be modified with appropriate approvals (business and project team) and an updated traceability matrix.

Did you provide an updated estimate of what the additional features would cost in money, complexity and time? If not then provide an estimate and make sure you CC the product team on any changes.

The best thing you can do is to document everything you've been asked to do. A paper-trail (even if electronic) can be your friend here.

  • While I agree that would work in a well established company, it doesn't here. It's been some time since I've asked this question, and have seen how things work here. The VP decides everything. Every goddamn thing that his team works on. He shunts out those who don't agree with him. Paper trails don't really help here, but they are being created anyway. – John David Jan 31 '17 at 14:07

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