I'm a software development professional for about 20 years now. I've had - although not currently - managing assignments like (technical) project management and team leading.

As a coworker and as a manager I always found it quite easy to convince others - even customers - but what I've very, very rarely been able to do, is to influence my own superior(s).

I have no doubt that many people who strive for - or at least accept being assigned to - a management role are convinced that their job is that they make decisions.

I, myself, don't like being micromanaged and highly controlled - in other words, (rudely) influenced - so actually I partly understand such a decision-maker attitude. Although when managing skilled personnel, I'm convinced that an authoritative management style is rather bad (in the long run).

But that's probably not the point. Any colleague and any coworker may, in principle, be just as unwilling to be influenced. To my surprise, it is by far not that common (in my experience). If it's a matter of cooperative professional behavior (or good working atmosphere), that would of course make sense. But again, I don't see the essential difference when it comes to superiors.

What is the key skill to convince superiors? Or is it futile anyway?

  • Base your desires in money. So, such and such will save the company money. In certain cases this will work. Socially, maybe try to have a light, almost humorous, self-effacing touch.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 13:37
  • @JoeStrazzere - actually the topic didn't ever make that much of a difference. If you like, see my comment at cardelling's answer.
    – SomeDev
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:05
  • @Fattie - good point, although in software engineering, we don't always have hard numbers at hand; leaving hardware or licensing costs aside, at best we can argue in the effort domain. If you like, see my comment at cardelling's answer.
    – SomeDev
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:06
  • It's definitely a difficult issue @SomeDev. Intriguingly, if you're an "elite specialist" as it were in some software niche, then indeed, you typically or we may as well say always find yourself with a nominal Boss (while you are on contract or the like), who is, in a word, much less experienced/good than you, at least in your niche. Because software is such an incredibly political field this is a ubiquitous social challenge in the field.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:10

1 Answer 1


The key skills (points) are actually the same as for any other human beings:

  • You need to be able to make them understand your ideas clearly.
  • Your ideas have to make sense to them, and have to be beneficial in their eyes.

You don't really need anything else in almost any situation - but of course, achieving both may be really hard depending on the situation, sadly (many times it is difficult to be clear in front of people that have no time to listen, or don't consider you worthy; and many times something good for the team/company/yourself may be really far from the aspirations of your superiors).

  • I fear, carrdelling, that your answer is more for a "rational world", you know? I too at first mentioned in a comment "show the boss the Value". However. 100.0% of Boss in the example are simply "protecting their turf". I don't think there's any industry as political as software. At best it becomes something like "show Boss how it will help him cement his turf". It's tough.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:15
  • That's why I said 'beneficial' (in italics); and that's why I also added my last sentence ;) Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:20
  • Thank you- and I really appreciate your closing statement; as I have mentioned in my above comments, I usually only proposed things that were quite obvious to my coworkers and me. Like, choosing modern (yet robust and of course ready-to-use) technology to better fulfil some of our customer's requirements. I was well aware that I needed to "defend" those positions against business concerns. Not least, as a project manager it was a direct part of my job to "make money". The puzzling part is that some of my superior's decisions seemed quite odd, sometimes even completely irrational, business-wise
    – SomeDev
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:21
  • @carrdelling - yes, you're quite right
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 14:23
  • 1
    Essentially what this answer boils down to is: learn how to speak to your audience. If they're your superior, they don't fill obligated to do what you want, but if what you want is good for them (personally or for their business or for whatever other motivation they have), it becomes what THEY want and then it gets done. Sounds really manipulative, but it is: find what makes them tick and use it. Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 16:50

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