I go a new job in a startup company, where it has an investor, a CEO, a technical manager (Mr X) and a bunch of other team members. They are working on their first mobile application where the technical manager failed miserably in building it (and other side projects - hence why I got hired).

They like me and it was proven how good I am in what I do. I implemented almost half the requirements in two months, which took around 3 months for Mr X to implement them (and he failed).

I am afraid that I am getting Mr X jealous because the team likes me especially the CEO and the investor since the very beginning. Last Monday we presented to the investor, he liked our work a lot. There was a plan for part of the team to go with the investor and meet other investors, and it was CEO, Mr x and the investor, but after the presentation he replaced Mr X by me to go with him (and the CEO) and meet the other investors.

There were more than one occasion, where Mr X out of no where brings up that he is the boss, especially when it is only me and him. First week's meetings they mentioned that everyone reports to the CEO. But between me and him he keeps saying that I report to him.

One occasion was when we were working remotely, and he asks "mind me doing me a favor?" I replied "no", he said "well as your boss I am telling you to do this", I replied "You asked me mind doing a favor? I said no means I don't mind ..."

Another occasion was when he brought a friend to meet the team, and he was speaking that he worked on this part, I said "and he did an excellent job", he replied by telling that friend "he is just saying that because I am his boss"

Another occasion was today when there was a happy hour close by, from 4 to 6 (where it is open to all the team to join) and I left and joined. He showed up later and I was the only team member sitting with the crowd, and said "well I am waiting for updates from my workers, and they are here hanging out!?" - where there were 0 updates expected from me.

Do I bring it up with the CEO that I am being annoyed by the fact that Mr X keeps saying that he is my boss for no reason? Do I contact the investor directly? I did not ask Mr X "what the hell are those expected updates you are talking about!?", do I ask him tomorrow and be straight forward with him to get out of my way?

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    Who do you report to? What is the hierarchy? As a manager, he must manage someone. Is that you? – spender May 25 '17 at 2:16
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    They said we all report to CEO but since CEO has no idea about any technical stuff, he is the one around and giving CEO updates – Sandra K May 25 '17 at 2:21
  • To be honest, and overly blunt, I feel that many of the things you are listing here are things that most men in the workplace simply never think about. Chances are you spend more time in a day thinking about this than he will in his entire lifetime. Just do your work and don't waste mental energy on this nonsense. – pay May 26 '17 at 15:35


First, calm down. The investor 100% does not care about work issues - they've moved past politics, and anyway, it isn't their issue. It is the CEO's issue, and also Mr X's.

You might be in the wrong

I'm not really sure that you are necessarily in the right here. You were told you report to the CEO, but also you've presented that Mr X is the technical manager - sounds like this person should be managing something, and it isn't unlikely that it is you. Also, lots of startups have the culture that you report to the CEO - but given the number of people you indicate working here, it doesn't seem unlikely that there is some chain of command. Otherwise, the CEO is going to spend all their time managing people, which is a waste of a CEO's time.

What is bothering you?

The other thing is that the issues you've presented don't really appear particularly major. Mr X got confused with your response to their request for work? Mr X refers to you as reporting to him? There was a miscommunication issue, and Mr X was waiting for an update from you?

I'm sorry, but this isn't bullying. This might be poor management, it might be that you aren't a good team player, but it is definitely not bullying. Except... well, it sounds like you're bullying Mr X.

Manage upwards

You've referred to him as failing in his goals, and that you appear to be actively irritated at his inferences that you report to him. You need to learn to manage upwards - this isn't about Mr X "getting out of your way", or at least, nothing you've presented is about Mr X being in your way.

What this is about is that you need to work with this person. Look at it like this - they are possibly worried that they are going to lose their job to you. The investor/CEO seems to see that you are doing good work - I don't see the reason for you to antagonise this poor person.

From what you've presented, they're not causing you any issue aside from (perhaps, correctly) referring to themselves as managing you. I'm not even sure why you think you don't report to them, given that he brings up that he is the boss, especially when it is only me and him. This implies there are times when it is not him and you. Which implies that this isn't unknown in the company.

To Do

You might want to have a meeting with him tomorrow, apologise for not giving him the update requested, and then work with him to work out what went wrong. You should learn to use the word "process" when you manage upwards - managers love this. For example, ask what went wrong in the process, and then how to improve the process so that this issue doesn't occur again. Once you have a process in place, it is hard for someone to blame you - assuming you followed the process.

Also ask if there is anything you can do to help Mr X achieve their goals.

I'm sorry, but...

I think you're probably a young, eager-beaver type. That's fine, it is actually an asset. At the same time, there are lots of engineers in the world, many of them are very very good, but they're just engineers - not managers, or visionaries.

Unless you're good enough to build something completely brilliant, you will also need to learn to manage upwards and work with people. Don't feel that being capable in your job makes you untouchable, nor that it provides license to not be managed. This is not the case, there is much more to a successful startup than just engineering chops.

  • I agree with most of those. And I felt the situation but I still joined because the whole team is motivated and I like working for and with such a team. I am a team player, especially when "there is" a process. His interefing is always bad timing and bad context, I don't get why he does it. Every occasion I asked, and he replied "I am just teasing you". I will follow your recommendation and I ask him tomorrow, if he replies "I was just teasing you" What should I say? – Sandra K May 25 '17 at 4:08
  • @SandraK Just say that you like that teasing to stop, because you don't feel teased but commanded. – Thern May 25 '17 at 10:26
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    As written, I fundamentally disagree that the OP is bullying Mr X. Can you substantiate that claim better? – mfcrocker May 25 '17 at 13:34

It sounds like Mr X has somehow gotten it into his head that he needs to assert authority, perhaps because he's read that it's a good idea for managers to do so, perhaps because he's insecure or perhaps because he feels you're being insubordinate.

Unfortunately, this is one you're going to have to feel out. If you feel his behaviour is inappropriate, the correct move will be to follow the grievances procedure at your workplace (likely: speak to his immediate manager or to HR). I wouldn't involve the CEO unless they're his immediate manager and I absolutely wouldn't involve the investor under any circumstances.

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