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I am a software developer at a large company. I was recently moved from the project I was hired on to to another project. Part of this was because the development work on my old project was drying up. I basically had my choice of project to move on to because I was very successful on my old project. I got special recognition awards and had a very positive performance review. I picked this project because the managers came highly recommended and the work seemed interesting.

Fast forward 5 months: Apparently, upper management was not satisfied with the progress that was made on the most recent build of a product I was not involved in producing and that is having a trickle down effect, mostly on me, because I'm the "new" guy. I am pretty incessantly being called into status meetings, on top of sending weekly status emails. I keep being told that I need to ask questions when I need help (I do) and every time I say "I need to talk to X person about this" they interpret that as "I am not getting the help that I need". I honestly know my stuff. I don't constantly need help but it feels like they seem to think I do. Because of the nature of the work that I am doing, my boss's boss doesn't sit with us in our area. She has a stake in this development work but it feels like she is projecting her insecurities on to me, even though I assure her that I am on schedule, adequately tasked, etc. This is really negatively affecting my morale and causing me a lot of stress.

How can I convince my boss's boss that she can trust me to do the job she hired me for?

Update: I figured I would give an update post to this. I feel I didn't explain this very well (I was writing emotionally), but the criticism of the work I was receiving was based on work that had been delivered three months before my hiring. But either way, I realized via several performance meetings that there was a culture and expectation clash in that group and that I wasn't doing work that I wanted to be doing. So with the blessings of my former supervisor, I swapped groups and I am enjoying it.

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    Stop telling them you need to talk to X person. Instead, arrange a meeting with X person then tell management you have that meeting. This will show them you are getting the help you need. – Stephen Sep 15 '16 at 15:33
  • @Stephen The problem is that I am usually put on the spot with "how long will Y take?" To which I respond "I think it will take this many days but I need to ask X because he is the expert." – Jake Sep 15 '16 at 15:38
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    If it's 5 months since you took over I can see why your boss is holding you responsible for the most recent build. Did you communicate the issues to her in plenty of time? – Laconic Droid Sep 15 '16 at 16:24
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    @Jake I understand you weren't hands on, but I can see why the boss would hold you responsible once you are 5 months into the role. And by responsible, I don't mean it was your fault, but rather it's your job to understand the problems and facilitate solutions. The "last persons' fault" grace period is pretty short. – Laconic Droid Sep 15 '16 at 20:59
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    When giving estimates that are fuzzy, for instance those relying on other people, always double what you have in mind. People tend to underestimate when dealing with areas they cannot control. – Acumen Simulator Sep 16 '16 at 12:38
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It's been five months, by now you should be on top of things, you should be able to produce rough timeframes, you should stop thinking it's other people's responsibility to produce everything because they've been there longer.

So get a grip on your job, on the code base, on what is satisfactory and what needs work and become more self-reliant. And stop walking in to meetings looking like you need help, because that is the impression you're giving. Don't assume they don't trust you because of what happened 5 months ago. They're being careful and you're not allaying their paranoia.

  • Unless OP is in an environment where "the expert" will make crap rain on everything and try to throw people under the bus unless he/she has been consulted. I've had at least one co-worker like this before, who was not really an expert and was actually quite ignorant of the subject matter, but still made a fuzz about things. Some people just want control, and while I don't think we can assume one way or the other, it could be a possibility. – code_dredd Sep 16 '16 at 6:59
  • @ray after 5 months 'I' am the expert at my job, not anyone else. except for rare cases I have all the information about my projects up to date and at my fingertips, not lost for answers at every meeting. – Kilisi Sep 16 '16 at 7:11
  • I think you might be using the term "expert" a bit more loosely than I would. By that reasoning, even a college student would be an "expert" after a single semester. What I'm really trying to say is that there's another possibility, namely that I've also seen cases where people who are or have been involved in the(ir pet) project longer than you have want to act as some kind of "filter" and "approve" of what you're about to do, and so on, before you do it. That can easily lead to the "I need to talk to X first" issue. Not saying it's happening; just that we shouldn't outright dismiss it. – code_dredd Sep 16 '16 at 9:13
  • @ray I already dismissed it, nothing in the question even vaguely hints at it, and I'm just answering the question. I do understand your point (I think) – Kilisi Sep 16 '16 at 9:15
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    Feel free to dismiss it, and you're probably right to do so, but the opposite is also true of the question, it doesn't say it's not happening. I guess having had to work with that kind of person made me consider that as one possibility. – code_dredd Sep 16 '16 at 9:21
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You need to get all of this out in the open.

I would try to set up a meeting with your boss and your boss' boss, the person who's having the problem with you. I would also pull in a coworker who has an understanding of your role in the specific problematic build.

In that meeting you need to discuss specifics.

  • Your concern about perception by the senior manager and why.
  • Ask what her concerns are and discuss them frankly. That's why you bring the coworker in who can back you up as to what you do on a day-to-day basis.
  • Assure her that you're not behind and that you do all the things you said in your question.
  • Ask her what specifically you can do to allay her concerns

The old saying "perception is reality" is unfortunately true, at least in the minds of those perceiving. You need to focus on changing that perception. I know you are (or you wouldn't be asking). But I think that it also needs to be addressed directly and she can be frank with you. It might not be pleasant and you may not hear what you want to hear but at least you'll know. Most good managers appreciate someone who sees a problem and addresses it head-on. Perhaps she'll recognize that's what you're trying to do.

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First off, move forward... do not focus on the past and try to defend yourself but treat this as a learning experience and figure out what lessons you've learned. A failure, or perception of failure is often prime opportunity to impress people. You must learn, adapt, and move forward.

Second, it sounds like your expectations are either not well-defined or have not been communicated very effectively. You seem to be capable and have a since of urgency; so I'd suggest talking to your boss about how you are doing and what is expected of you right now.

Lastly, when giving time estimates always double what you have in mind. Events rarely go as planned, especially when relying on input from others and giving yourself this extra time will allow for you to compensate for hiccups.

Also don't communicate your problems unless they are actually problems. Your management most likely is more interested that you have a plan and path to achieve your goal.

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When sharing your status instead of saying "I need to talk to X person about this" say "This afternoon I am meeting with PersonX about this. I expect after that meeting I will be able to complete the task." This identifies that you know where your gap is, have a plan in place to resolve it, and have a realistic timeframe to complete.

When you have the next meeting you should be able to report that you met with Person X and have either completed the task, have a timeframe for completing the task, or have found a new block. If you have new blocking issue that you have already planned to address that block then communicate that as well, if you have not solved the block then share the issue.

When you just say I need to talk with this person but do not communicate that you have already set something up, then the assumption is you need help getting that person to work with you. These things happen sometimes that person is working on something that is a high priority to them and they are unwilling to break to help with a non-priority issue. That is where your PM's can help by making that a priority appropriately. I even had one job where everyone dumped tasks on me because I was willing to just do them. My manager found out and said that unless the priority came from them I was not to take on any tasks from others.

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