We are implementing a new system at work. It's a huge change; changing over from an older system. It has been in the pipeline for 2 years. Three of us have been working on it now for about 6 months. One part of it involves introducing a whole new set of servers to host the system. This is a complex piece of work. The servers have to be available 24/7. We had described the architecture of the system on an internal website. We had discussed it over a period of several months with our manager. We described why we had made some decisions over others, trade offs we had made, etc. We had explained everything and documented it, and our manager was in agreement with the decisions we made.

In a broadcast e-mail, we shared this architecture with a wider audience. A recipient of this email discovered what he thought was an obvious flaw in what we were doing. This person is part of our group (we have the same manager), but not involved in the system migration. The supposed flaw was identified in our documentation, and we described in detail why we made that decision. The person then e-mailed us about it, but crucially copied our manager. This - in our estimation - was a cynical attempt to curry favour with our manager, while simultaneously trying to undermine our efforts. We had no problem with the problem being identified, but there was no need to copy our manager.

Our manager then, instead of saying 'Great thanks for that - I will discuss that with the team on Monday', invites them to redesign what we have come up with even though he already signed off on what we had done. We defended what he had done and the decisions we made in a reply email - he never engaged or bothered to replied to that. He now wants us to work with our erstwhile critic. We feel that our manager has undermined our efforts. He doesn't trust us to get the job done, and is willing to swap us out whenever necessary. There are going to be other more vocal critics later in this migration. We wonder if he will also assume that we made the mistake, and side with the person making the criticism.

He would probably say he has a job to do and he doesn't care who does it, but he is also managing a team and you can't replace one members efforts with another like changing parts on a car. A good manager should always defend the team no matter what, whether the criticism comes from within or without.

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    You need to ask a question, not just complain. A question like "how do we convince our manager that the "fault" that was found was actually known to us, with a lengthy documentation why it is not a problem, if he could only be bothered to read it", and "how do we convince our manager that by treating the team the way he does he is going to have three very unhappy team members, and possibly no team members at all soon after, and then he can eplain to his boss why this project is not happening".
    – gnasher729
    Jul 11, 2017 at 22:30
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    "... discovered what he thought was an obvious flaw" This has applied to every single piece of software engineering that has ever happened. It's a total non-event. Means nothing.
    – Fattie
    Jul 11, 2017 at 22:44
  • So some other guy identified a problem, which the three of you didnt. Your only issue is with the manager being notified of this. What is wrong with the manager trying to get the best guy for a solution ? Jul 12, 2017 at 0:30
  • Reply all to the email with the "Flaw" and why you decided to go with what you did. Showing all the reasons you did for something could allow this new person to either admit that the decision was correct or there might be a solution you never thought of or didn't know existed. If he keeps on even though he has no constructive reason to your manager should be able to pick up on this.
    – Snowlockk
    Jul 12, 2017 at 10:56

4 Answers 4


In tech, you are going to need to have very thick skin when it comes time for others to analyze your work. Everyone's going to have some sort of criticism (well-founded or otherwise.) For some reason, engineers' minds are trained for identifying problems and conceiving solutions. ;) Even if the engineer's criticism is not helpful, you can trust that the engineer will offer criticism anyway.

Be prepared to consider criticism in an impersonal manner. It's difficult to do so sometimes, especially when the criticism seems politically motivated. But at worst you'll have to waste some time considering the criticism, and at best you will be able to improve your designs by incorporating the feedback, even if it's from someone who's actually not trying to help you at all.

It really sucks to have your work criticized, much less attacked as it would seem your coworker is doing. But you are in a field where it's going to happen to you all the time. There will be genuinely helpful engineers, but there will also be naive commenters, smart alecks, golfers, and political backstabbers.

Without knowing your manager, I would guess that your manager simply saw the comment from your coworker as being a valid criticism and decided that if this employee, who wasn't involved until recently, had had the insight to make a valid criticism of your design, then perhaps this employee would be a positive contribution to your effort. You defended your design but perhaps your defense was not good enough. Your manager signed off on your original design, but new information caused him to change his mind on what he signed off on. It's perfectly reasonable to do that. Saying that your manager had signed off on your design is not good enough.

You should probably accept these changes and try to profit off them instead of fighting.

To the point about your communication with your manager–namely that he didn't engage with your defense–perhaps you should contact him privately and express concern about what you perceive is a communication breakdown. You should not try to fight your manager's decision, but you can improve further relations by establishing your communication needs. It's mutually beneficial for you and your manager to have an honest, transparent, respectful rapport.

  • "you are going to need to have very thick skin when it comes time for others to analyze your work" well said!
    – Fattie
    Jul 11, 2017 at 23:01

A good manager should always defend the team no matter what, whether the criticism comes from within or without.

This is a pretty strong statement. Your team needs to do a better job of accepting criticism and being open to other ideas. That doesn't mean you can't question and ask for an explanation from your manager on why the other idea is better. If the manager still thinks the other idea is better, your team should have agreed to implement it. If all you're going to do is complain because an outside source's idea was accepted, you lose trust with your manager to be willing to do the right thing. That's probably why he's relying on this outside resource to implement the idea instead of letting your group do it.

You could equally argue that the team should always go along with their manager. You can disagree or ask for clarification, but at some point a decision has to be made. However you derive the best solution, as long as that prevails, everyone is in a better position to have success.


Ok, your question is kind of missing, but it seems to be "How do we approach the manager and work through this situation in a professional manner?"

Based on that, you frankly need to tell him. Go into his office with closed doors and express that you feel he is showing favoritism towards x individual over the team that originally worked the trade study and recommendation. Ask him nicely why he made the decision to rework what was done and include x individual and if that was based solely on the 1 complaint in the email or if there is something else that you are unaware of.

This will result in the only truthful interaction with your boss. Based on your tone you already are losing respect for him which is bad for everyone involved. 1) You will either return your respect for him by him explaining to you why and how the solution is improved by the addition of the other person to the team, or 2) he will realize his mistake and find a way to apologize and encourage teamwork, or 3) he will stand his ground and reveal more than ever why he is a horrible manager and you don't really matter to him. Any way it goes, it brings about the truth for you to make a decision on. It is always best to make an informed decision rather than to make a decision based on assumption.

I would hope the manager would do option 1 and let you know that he agrees with the other person that the particular risk in question is something he doesn't want as well and included the person for the sole purpose of rounding out the team with a diverse opinion/perspective on the risk in question. That would indicate he is managing without favoritism and balancing team perspectives to create the best solution.


Embrace the criticism. If there are any good points talk it over with the person that made the critisim, and incorporate in your solution any valid alternatives offered by this individual. But at the same time the team must not loose the control of the project. Make sure your manager understands why you must behave this way.

Quality reviews by expered outsiders can be very helpfull and efficient, if done correctly.


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