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I'm on a small developer team that has huge problems.

The team leader is very aggressive and negative, and that has caused the effect that nobody communicates. For example, in meetings no one else speaks but the leader. If anyone else tries to speak, the leader dismisses his/her words saying it's annoying or waste of time or stupid question, or misunderstands the question and when noted about that, answers "no, I didn't misunderstood". Generally he doesn't have anything positive to say and he has several times threatened to get each of us fired.

Now I'm soon having a performance review, which has a section for team and management problems, where I can address this issues. However, due to team problems, I also have motivation problems that affect both my performance and future plans. I feel like I'm just a code monkey who doesn't have a right to speak to anybody, nothing I do matters because I will get bashed anyway, and I feel stupid answering questions about the future goals etc., because it doesn't feel likely my position has any possibilities to improve or get more responsibilities.

What I want to say, is obviously that the team problems cause me a lack of motivation. But of course it doesn't look too good to only accuse other people, and performance review is supposed to be about me mostly. How do I find the balance between addressing these issues and focusing my performance?

  • I assume you're also a newish developer also? How long have you been with the company and/or team? Is the company large enough that you can switch teams? Who is above your team leader in the hierarchy? – Tas Sep 20 '17 at 6:59
  • I'm a new developer, this is my first job and first annual review, I have been here a little less than a year. I'm not sure what you mean by question "who"? There is multiple teams but I don't know if it is appropriate to ask switch teams. – Boat Sep 20 '17 at 7:02
  • Will the PR be just with your team leader or will others from management attend? If so, this might be a good opportunity for each of your team members to describe your leader's unprofessional behaviour. When all or most team members tell the same, it will be undisputable and hopefully his manager will remind him of how professionals are supposed to work. – Juha Untinen Sep 20 '17 at 7:06
  • In the PR, team leader will not attend, only the person above him. I'm quite confident that other team members share the same view about the leader, but they are more experienced developers so I don't know if they have similar motivation problems. – Boat Sep 20 '17 at 7:14
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    Maybe you should communicate a little with the other, more experienced developers to see how they cope. – Daniel Sep 20 '17 at 7:34
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I want to answer in two parts, as you seem to have two challenges before you.

A Problem with the workplace, in this case the Team lead.

At every workplace on earth there will be something that does not sit right with you. You will always have to choose between three strategies to deal with that.

  • Ignore the problem. This can be a good strategy for really minor things that do not really affect you. Don´t get along with colleague in HR, which you see once in a quarter? - Smile and be nice. Don´t like the coffe? - Get used to tea etc...

  • Try to change things. This should be your first option for everything that has a lasting impact on your work or happiness. It is generally a good idea to react as soon as you realize such a problem as it will only get bigger and harder to tackle in time. Always look if you can solve that by yourself, first. If that does not work, escalate up the hierarchy as far as you must. Stay constructive an be prepared to be part of the solution. Be patient, organisations tend to move more slowly the bigger/older they are.

  • Walk away If you can´t ignore a problem and are not able to ultimately fix it, don´t shy away from resigning. Not every employer will be a good fit and years spend at the wrong workplace will be lost years in your life.

Your performance review coming up.

Your performance-review should be about you. The time to complain/escalate about your team lead is not now. First you should realize that you are the master of your fate and responsible for your actions. If you let your morale be dragged down and delivered a bad performance without doing something about it, you should take responsibility. The best thing you can do in this situation is, to be open and honest. Just state that you are not entirely satisfied with your performance and you have identified reasons for that. This is quite disarming towards your reviewer. You can then have a constructive talk about how to improve and what is dragging you down (not who!).

This is the place where you can criticise the processes and see if they have to change or if you can adjust you attitude towards them. Still, no name and individuals. For example, you can say the meetings are not currently helpful for you. Its more of a top down style and your feel the team could contribute better in a more open format and so on.

Let your superior figure out for themselves if this is the kind of work environment he wants, or if he´ll have to improve his team-leader. Try to get to specific outlooks on how specific problems could be solved that hindered your performance.

If, in the future, that change does not happen, you´ll have a good reference for further discussion why that might be.

  • This one is going to come down to either SR Management get's involved or people will leave. Nicely done. – Mister Positive Sep 20 '17 at 11:14
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A review is not always about honesty. Saying you lack motivation for any reason doesn't reflect well on you, nor does a relatively new hire complaining about his/her team lead.

Focus on what you have accomplished and anything positive you can think of. Ranting in a review will not do you any good at all. It just comes off as whining and evading responsibility for your shortcomings even if it is 100% true. And, if it gets back to your team lead, which may well happen it can make your future in that team pretty bleak.

So normally if you feel like ranting then it's best practice to do so when you have other plans and one foot out the door anyway.

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