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The manager at my current workplace has kind of a way to handle the "finished task" conversation, which goes like this :

Me: Sir I just did big feature.

Manager: And I guess other big feature isn't done yet ?

Me: Well no since it's the next goal that has been fixed.

Manager: Better do it then.

And he will do the same for other big feature.

I'm not asking for applause or anything but a little more consideration than "What about the next task ? Go to work" would be nice.

It gives the impression that all my work is pointless.

How should I handle it with my manager?

Is telling him the most professional thing to do? If so how should I do that without burning bridges? Am I overthinking this and being whiny?

marked as duplicate by gnat, Joel Etherton, JasonJ, Michael Grubey, Mister Positive Jul 10 '17 at 11:41

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    @DavidK I think it goes a bit past that one. That one describes a boss who doesn't give praise, this one is one who is actually being dismissive, which IMO, requires a different approach. – Retired Codger Jul 7 '17 at 13:43
  • @JoeStrazzere Well no one can say that they "absolutely don't work for pay" but I still like feeling that what I code is useful and was a necessary task, that's part of the motivation in a developer's job to me, and I don't know what I could tell him at all, I've never been in this situation before. – sh5164 Jul 7 '17 at 14:01
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    Sadly, OP, you just have to "suck it up". There's very little you can do. If you have the right personality, you can joke about the matter with the Boss in question. one approach is just "ask for feedback". In the example conversation, say "Sure, I'm right on to task 67. Can you give me some feedback on task 66?" – Fattie Jul 7 '17 at 14:28
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    What is the context of this conversation? Are you walking up to your manager and saying "Hey, I finished Task A"? Is this in the context of some status meeting? Is your manager walking up to you asking what the status of Task A is? – Derek Elkins Jul 7 '17 at 17:38
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    Given that there is a large lack of context to this anecdote, it's really impossible to definitively provide a response to this. However, from how I read your description of the exchange my response to your question Am I overthinking this and being whiny? is yes. – Joel Etherton Jul 7 '17 at 19:47
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Usually, I'm the one who will say "You don't deserve praise for doing what is expected", but this is a bit different as the manager is not just saying "do your job" but actually being dismissive of your achievements. This manager is not going to change, I've come across the same type and they are morale destroyers. Very unhealthy for a company.

That said, the only thing you can do is limit your contact with him, document your own achievements and discuss them with others. This person is toxic, plain and simple.

You know that your work is not pointless, so do not get your sense of meaning from someone who obviously has no sense at all. Have rally sessions with your coworkers, talk to friends, update your resume and do anything else that will boost your morale without engaging this person.

When you must engage this person, don't do it as "I finished this", do it more like this.

Boss, here's the status report. Feature X has been completed and I am waiting for Y to be completed so that I can begin feature Z

Leave it at that. Don't scold him because telling a man how to do his job WILL get you a bad reputation as being petty, insubordinate, and yes, whiny too.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but I am saying that you need to ignore the behavior. It does not rise to the level of abuse, there's nothing you or anyone else can do but change your approach. Is it bad management style, yes, is it annoying, yes. Does it warrant any action? Not by you except for what I've described.

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Some people are just jerks, there's not a lot you can do.

I've been in your position and it's demoralizing, just remember that it's not personal, it's just how he is.

The easiest way for you to handle it is to beat him to the punch.

"I finished the widget bot and it's ready for implementation and I've started working on task 2 which is due on Tuesday."

He'll probably still throw in a comment, but you need to find your motivation in your work and not from your boss.

One last suggestion though, just in case he decides to make trouble for you. Document everything. When you finish, write down when you finished, where it was on the schedule (early, late, etc.) and other details. You never know when you might need them, in case he actually believes you're not pulling your weight (which I doubt is the case).

The sad thing is that your manager has learned somewhere that what he's doing actually IS motivational, that he's doing his job by keeping you focused on the next task. He'd probably say "I'm keeping you looking forward instead of back." He can't see the difference between pushing you ahead and being a point-haired boss (ala Dilbert).

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  • While this might be your manager being dismissive, as suggested in another answer, it's also possible that there's a miscommunication somewhere.

    Consider this slight variation of your conversation:

    Me: Sir I just did big feature, what should I do now?
    Manager: I guess other big feature isn't done yet?
    Me: Well no since it's the next goal that has been fixed.
    Manager: Better do it then.

    The main difference here is the intention of your first statement (moving from "just letting you know" presumably), and the response you've received is a pretty natural fit here.

    Of course your intention is not to ask what you should do next, but, depending on how you phrase it, it might be interpreted as such.

    An important question would be: how is your interaction during performance reviews or in other context? Whether or not he's dismissive of your achievements there would be more telling than how he reacts when you tell him the moment you finished a task (note: it can be hard to differentiate a lack of praise and being dismissive).

    You can try playing around with your phrasing a bit:

    I just did big feature and I'm about to start on other big feature. I thought I'd just let you know.

  • Another possibility is that this information is not useful to your manager. Do you need to share this information when and how you do? Is this information already communicated in another way?

    If you have weekly or daily meetings to communicate your progress, or your manager sees this anyway from an email he's cc'ed on or in some other way, you probably don't need to tell your manager whenever you finish a task.

    Perhaps he just trusts you to perform adequately and approach him only if you run into issues.

    If it's not something he needs to know, you could try not approaching him whenever you finish a task and instead either wait until he asks about it (if he does) or mention it in passing as part of another meeting.

  • Other reasons could be prioritisation, performance and mood - maybe the other task was more important and he's a bit disappointed that you focused on the task you did, perhaps your performance is not quite what he thinks it should be or perhaps he was just in a bad mood (or distracted) at that time. Your performance reviews should tell you whether this has anything to do with performance. For performance as well as the others, look at consistency - if he responds fundamentally different at certain times, it's probably one of these factors.

  • Another thing to consider is personality. It could be that the response you're looking for just doesn't fit with the manager's personality or they don't really know how to respond. This could be due to really high standards or simply not that great social skills. If this is the case, you may just have to accept that this is the way he is and try to not take it personally. You can try to make somewhat leading statements, like the one given in the first bullet point, where the obvious response is acknowledgement (or praise - those are not the same), but I wouldn't be surprised if you still get some variant of "get to it" as a way to avoid ending up with an awkward silence.


Most of this answer is based on the assumption that you approach him directly or soon after finishing a task to notify him of that instead of this happening during a scheduled meeting intended for such discussion.

  • While I suspect the manager is a bit of a wet blanket, I think this answer is on point. I've never worked in a context where I had "finished task" conversations with a manager. The only context I'd inform a manager that I've completed a task outside of a status meeting (even there I'd mostly be talking about what I planned to do next) is if I was out of work or if the manager explicitly asked to be notified when the task was completed. If I were a manager and an employee came up and just said the first sentence to me, this answer is how I would interpret it. – Derek Elkins Jul 7 '17 at 18:11
  • A reasonable answer. Another point is to ask what is it that excites the manager. Some are into the technology they manage, others are even more exited by, say, football. By engaging a little with the things that are viewed positively by the manager will allow an improvement in your interaction, and hopefully minimise misunderstandings. If you were a manager of your disparate team, could you exchange pleasantries with everyone? The expectations can also vary between and across countries. – Philip Oakley Jul 7 '17 at 21:28
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Another angle to this may be Expectation Management

When you are aware that you are going to be approached you about progress in a project, it is worth making sure that you ensure that everybody understands the reality of your time estimates and your expected delivery dates.

You should ensure that written records of those Estimates and expected delivery dates are kept, that they are also revisited regularly so that those involved with the project aren't working with outdated information, and that changes are communicated effectively to everybody involved.

Consider an alternative scenario where this information has been kept updated properly, and the manager has previously been informed about the time required and expected delivery date:

Developer: Sir I just did big feature.

Manager: And I guess other big feature isn't done yet ?

Developer: The estimated delivery date as we've previously discussed and recorded in the project schedule for that feature is {day} of {month}. I'm on track to meet that target and will let you know if we discover any new issues that could affect that estimate.

Of course, you can only make these kinds of statements if you have already been proactive in communicating when dates slip. That may lead to other uncomfortable discussions about why estimates or dates are wrong, but that's a different problem to solve.

Alternatively, if your team operates on the basis of priorities rather than concrete delivery dates:

Developer: Have the priorities changed? When we started the current sprint everybody agreed that the other feature would be completed at a lower priority than this one.

As others have mentioned, while the Manager's attitude may create a poisonous atmosphere, some of it may be that they simply have a poor understanding of software project management (Risks, Priorities, Sprints, Estimates, Expected Delivery Dates, etc.).

Your best course of action is to remain professional by focusing on these aspects about the project deliverables rather than allowing discussion to degenerate into a "blame game" type discussion where the conversation focuses on people rather than the product.

The manager is of course being unprofessional by steering the discussion in this direction, but if you have failed to set those expectations properly, which could include lack of communication when you realise that estimates are wrong or deadlines will be missed, then you're open to this kind of attack, which could look like a manager holding you to account.

If you can manage expectations then you can focus discussion on the deliverable itself and the estimated delivery date. By being pro-active with communication and managing expectations you are covering yourself against accusations of negligence/incompetence. Focusing any discussion on deliverables and expected delivery dates often helps in diffusing 'blame' tension by moving the focus away from anything which might be related to your personal competence.

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This answer was originally to be a comment on Richard U's excellent answer but it grew too long.


You could also tell him, purely in the interest of helping him to be a more effective manager, and totally separately from the discussion cited, that he will get along with people (subordinates and seniors and people in general) much better if he makes a conscious effort to specifically acknowledge things done for or said to him.

But the workability of this is dependent on how interested he is in self-improvement. (And don't expect an acknowledgement when you say it, since he's already shown he's not currently good at acknowledgement.)

Some people wonder why others consider them rude and honestly don't realize how important acknowledgements are to communication, so it could even be a revelation for him.

But, do this at your own risk.

Personally, I would do it, because if the manager can't accept a simple suggestion like that I wouldn't even want to be working there anyway.

So my logic would be:

  1. Either it will help make the work environment better (if he makes an effort to act on the suggestion), in which case I will win and he will win.
  2. Or, not much of anything will happen in which case I'm no worse off than before.
  3. Or, option three, he will take offense at the suggestion and my life at work will get worse, in which case I can with certainty conclude that I am in the wrong place, and seek elsewhere for a position with greater appreciation.

Of course I would make the suggestion factually with the intention to help, with no annoyance mixed up with it, and not even mention the specific behavior you describe in your question. Just give general advice/a suggestion as described in my first paragraph.


Aside: This question greatly reminds me of an apparently dissimilar question on Software QA that I also answered by describing how the communication itself could be handled better.

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I imagine it depends on the relationship with your boss, but if I was in the same situation, the conversation would be conducted something like this:

Me: Sir I just did big feature.

Manager: And I guess other big feature isn't done yet ?

Me: You're welcome

and then exit the boss's office.

  • 4
    Sounds potentially risky... – man_in_green_shirt Jul 8 '17 at 9:50
  • This is a good approach if your goal is to make your relationship with your boss worse, or if you're friends who often joke around with each other (in which case this non-motivational issue wouldn't be an issue in the first place). – Dukeling Jul 8 '17 at 9:56
  • This is appropriate if the OP is eight years old. – Andy Jul 8 '17 at 15:42
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You manage the situation with your manager.

Firstly, you need to be honest with yourself: Was the big feature really that much of an accomplishment? Was it significantly harder/more challenging that what your peers usually do?

Secondly, if the above is true, you need to understand that not everyone is an effusive and motivational person, and that doesn't really prevent them to be good managers: At least in my case, If I have a manager that values my work when it matters (annual reviews, work presentations to other teams, teams discussions...) then it is fine, I don't need the well done from him, I consider it implicit.

If that doesn't happen, and you are not happy with the situation, then you have a problem with your manager. The usual (and not exclusive) things to do here are:

  • Explain the problem to him.
  • Explain him that you don't feel motivated/valued in your current role.
  • Do nothing, and wait to see if it is a permanent thing.

If none of the above works, then the last resort would be simply to change your manager - by either requesting a change of team, or by switching companies. But still I would suggest you to discuss the issue with your manager first, as he may not be behaving like that on purpose.

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My advice would not be to confront him directly about his behavior.

Forgive me but you don't strike me as a man who is particularly comfortable calling your boss out and your job is obviously very important to you.

I suggest you pay a visit to the human resources department. There you can lay it all on the table with no fear of being reprimanded. You should receive solid, confidential advice on how to best deal with this manager who seems to make your work day much more stressful than it needs to be.

For years I've either managed sales teams or found myself performing for a similar individual to your boss. If HR doesn't provide any positive suggestions then personally I would take his demeanor as a challenge by working my tail off and minimizing my need for direct contact with him.

My goal would be to have him see that I am going to perform at a high level whether he is a jerk or not. I'd want him to know that his presence has no bearing on my performance therefore rendering him a suit collecting a check but not providing the company any contributions of any significance for the salary being collected.

If you can maintenance a certain level of confidence and maybe even a bit of a cocky mindset to motivate you to prove your worth even without needing any direct supervision that only serves to raise your anxiety level and causes you to doubt your ability to do the job that you can most likely do in your sleep.

Good luck to you my friend. Don't let this sad person control your emotions and dictate whether you have a good day or a bad day. You control those outcomes and I believe you will overcome this relatively minor road block, and you will come through it better for taking this problem and owning your own quality of work. You should have a more confident attitude about your value as a key player in the company's success. Stay positive and don't look etc him get you down. God bless and have a great day!

  • I appreciate the advice and it I will be more aware of these issues going forward. My tablet tends to lull me into simply stacking one sentence on top of another. I'm new but I'll get the hang of it eventually. Thank you again. – Rusty Dobbs Jul 8 '17 at 12:14

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