We have a boss who used to be a member of the team, and still (perhaps too much) enjoys getting his hands dirty with the technical aspects.

We're trying to move away from the old methods of doing everything by hand and automate and standardize the processes. However, the boss still likes to get in there and make changes and feels empowered to continue doing so since he is, in fact, the boss.

I don't feel this is good for the organization in the long term since it creates more work and confusion as our team continues to grow, but how can I dissuade the boss from making out of band changes?

  • Is what your boss is doing causing lost work? What is the problem that is arising from your boss making changes on the network other than he is not following process? This question as phrased borders on a rant posted as a question. While I am sure this is a common issue I am not sure what the problem you are trying to address is. Your solution seems to be we want to stop someone from doing something, but I am not convinced that is the correct solution to your problem based on what is posted here. Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 1:56
  • Loss of time, mostly. Development work on automated processes that had been working fine had to be stopped to determine why automated processes now failed and loss of opportunity for the junior staff to learn how to do it. The juniors are too inclined to cowboy manual changes anyway, which doesn't help team efficiency, which makes ME look bad.
    – Magellan
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 1:59
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    What do you mean by loss of time? Your time, that he is responsible for? Your problem as stated in the question is inaccurate based off of your response which makes me lean towards this is a rant as a question. Perhaps if you edited the question to include the problems this is causing that are measurable rather than perceived problems you could come to a more useful answer. Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 2:04
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    See the following SE Meta for tips on updating your question:meta.stackexchange.com/questions/66377/what-is-the-xy-problem Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 10:50

4 Answers 4


Does he breathe fire? Do people go to his office and never return? If not, tell him the team's trying to do something for big-win points and some of the changes he's been making have been undoing the stuff you're all working on. Now mind you, I can actually make fun of my boss's code and get away with it, so if you do work in an environment of terror and fear, do like all people do in such scenarios. Pass the buck. But you can probably talk to him without insulting him if you put some thought into it.

Hint: Avoid the use of words like "meddle"

  • Yeah, I'd definitely not be using the word 'meddle'. I do think he has some self-confidence issues that make this effort more fraught than they should be. And I've dealt with this same issue with good managers before to some success, but those never felt the need to whip our their title to justify their opinions either.
    – Magellan
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 23:45
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    Well then it's more of a personality problem. You might want to put more detail on that in your question. I tend to tell my bosses (respectfully) what I think, but getting a new job in my industry is pretty easy right now so that's a risk that's easier to take. A simple "I'm confused. Are we on the same page? We thought you wanted us to do this. But then you went and did this, which undid those..." ought to be non-threatening enough for most managers I would think. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 23:50

I like what Erik said in one of his comments starting with the "I'm confused...". One of the tricks I believe in dealing with bosses is making them feel like they make all the decisions, know everything and are the greatest bosses in the world (stroking their ego is what I like to think it is). One of the tricks I use to do this is sometimes make myself seem like I don't know what is happening when I notice something "I believe" is wrong (it may NOT be).

This is leading on from Eriks comments. Sometimes I'll say things like:

I'm struggling to grasp this code. Can you talk me through it. We have started implementing some processes that will help make our team more productive in the future. I'm not sure how this new code fits into that. Can you talk me through it. Is there any reasoning why you did this like this? We have some similiar setups that we are working on that might make this easier to implement in the future.

Sometimes we just have to put up with the "interesting things" that bosses do. Some bosses find it hard to step away completely and really enjoy getting in there. However they don't like to believe they are no longer required and sometimes don't want to show their inadequacies in case they feel the team might lose respect in their abilities.

Basically, try and make your boss feel like the changes he did was really helpful but you don't quite understand how they fit into the direction that the boss and your team is trying to follow.

If your boss has insecurities etc you may have to just be prepared to have to review all his code and try and fix/change them without his knowledge after he has made it.

In the end, you can make suggestions and talk to your boss, but you can't change his way of working. That is up to him and his bosses.


Sometimes you need to give people's ego a way out. Say something like, "How did you want to integrate your changes with the new automation?" Then hopefully he will initiate some questions about what problems it caused.

However, I want to point out that the only person's behavior you have complete control over is your own. Think about what you can do to mitigate the problem. If your boss isn't the only one making manual changes, you either have process or training issues to work out, or the ease of making changes to the automation needs to be improved. Maybe people were on board with the idea of automation, but not the implementation. You need to figure out what specifically is keeping them from being fully on board now. In the mean time, you can institute procedures like automatic audits to detect manual changes, and rollbacks to easily undo them.


We're trying to move away from the old methods of doing everything by hand and automate and standardize the processes.

But the boss still likes to get in there and make changes and feels empowered to continue doing so since he is, in fact, the boss.

From what you're said it sounds like your boss is not totally on board with the automation/standardization process.
If I'm right about that you absolutely must get your boss on board - have him in the loop and behind the drive toward automation/standardization, and hopefully he'll start doing things according to the appropriate processes.

If you can't get your boss on board you may need to consider going over their head -- Explain to the next level of management how much time is being wasted "cleaning up" after the boss makes manual/out-of-band changes. Preferably document negative effects (like a manual change that was wiped out during an automated push which caused an outage - totally avoidable if the new procedures were followed).
Note that doing this may cost both you and your boss substantial political capital, and if it backfires you'll probably be the one taking serious heat :-)

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