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#1 stackoverflow  Icon User is offline

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How to deal with a poor team leader and a tester manager from hell?

Posted 23 September 2012 - 07:52 AM

This may get long, sorry. :(

Let me begin by explaining my situation and give a little context to the situation. My company has around 15 developers but we're split up on two different areas. We have a fresh product team and the old product team. The old product team does mostly bug fixes/maintenance and a feature here and there. The fresh product had never been released and was new from the ground up.

I am on the fresh product team. The team consists of three developers (myself, another developer and a senior developer). The senior is also our team leader. Our roles are as follows:

Myself: building the administration client as well as build/release stuff
Other dev: building the primary client
Team lead: building the server

In addition to the dev team, we interact with the test manager often. By "we" I mean me since I do the build stuff and give him the builds to test.

Trial 1:

The other developer on my team and I have both tried to talk to our manager about our team leader. About two weeks before release we went in his office and had a closed door meeting before our team lead got to work. We expressed our concerns about the product, its release date and our team leader. We expressed our team leader had a "rosey" image of the product's state. Our manager seemed to listen to what we said and thanked us for taking the initiative to speak with him about it. He got us an extra two weeks before release.

The situation with the leader didn't change. In fact, it got a little worse. While we were using the two weeks to fix issues he was slacking off quite a bit. Just to name a few things, he installed Windows 8 on his dev machine during this time (claimed him machine was broke), he wrote a plugin for our office messenger that turned turned messages into speech, and one time when I went in his office he was making a 3D model in Blender (for "fun"). He felt the product was "pretty good" and ready for release.

During this time I dealt with the test manager on a daily basis. Every bug or issue that popped up he would pretty much attack me personally (regardless of which component the bug was in). The test manager would often push his "views" of what needed to be done with the product. He virtually ordered me to change text on our installer and to add features to the installer and administration client. I tried to express how his suggestions were "valid ideas" but it was too close to release to do those kinds of things and to make matters worse, our technical writer had already finished documentation and such a change would not only affect the dev team but would affect the technical writer and marketing as well. I expressed I wasn't going to make those changes without marketing's consent as well as the technical writer and my manager's. He pretty much said I don't care about the product and said I don't do my job. I would like to take a moment to say I take my job seriously and I do my best. I am the kind of person that goes to work 30-40 mins early and usually leaves 30 minutes later than everyone else. Saying I don't care or do my job is just insulting.

His "attacks" on me grew from day to day. Every bug that popped up he would usually comment on in some manner that jabbed me and the other developer. "Oh that bug! Yeah that should have been fixed by now, figures! If someone would do their job!" and other similar kinds of comments. Keep in mind 8 out of 10 bugs were in the server and had nothing to do with me and the other developer. That didn't seem to matter..

On one occasion they got pretty bad and we almost got into a yelling match so I decided to stop talking to him all together. I carried all communication through office email (with my manager cc'd). He never attacked me via email. He still attempted to get aggressive with me in person but I completely ignore him and my only response to any question is, "Ask my team leader." or "Ask a product manager."

The product launched after our two week extension.

Trial 2:

The day after the product launch our team leader went on vacation (thanks....). At this time we got a lot of questions from the tech support... major issues with the product. All of these issues were bugs marked "resolved" by our lovely team leader (a typical situation that often popped up).

This is where we currently are. The other developer has been with the company for about three years (I've been there only five months) and told me he was going to speak with our manager alone and hoped it would help get our concerns across a little better in a one-on-one.

He spoke with the manager and directly addressed all of our concerns regarding our team leader and the test manager giving us (mostly me) hell. Our manager basically said he understood how hard we work and said he noticed it and there's no doubt about it. He said he spoke with the test manager about his temper. Regarding the team leader, he didn't say a whole lot. He suggested we sit down with the team leader and address our concerns (isn't that the manager's job?).

We're still waiting to see if anything has changed but we doubt it. What can we do next?

1) Talk to the team leader (may stress relationship and make work awkward)

I admit the team leader is generally a nice guy. He is just a horrible leader and working closely with him is painful. I still don't believe bringing this directly to the team leader would help at all and may negatively impact the situation.

2) I could quit.

Other than this situation the job is pretty fantastic. I really like my other coworkers and we have quite a bit of freedom.

3) I could take the situation with the team leader to one of the owners.

I would then be throwing my manager under the bus.

4) I could take the situation with the test manager to HR.

Any suggestions? Comments?

Thanks-- sorry for the long post!

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Replies To: How to deal with a poor team leader and a tester manager from hell?

#2 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to deal with a poor team leader and a tester manager from hell?

Posted 23 September 2012 - 11:36 AM

Nice post and it seems like you are doing things, for the most part, right. I have had similar situations and there are a few things you have to realize.

1) If your team leader is signing off on things as being resolved, they are ultimately responsible (don't be afraid to point it out either... subtly of course). Part of the drawbacks of being a team leader. I think the test manager should actually be the one marking things as resolved or not. But either way, you have others above you who are taking responsibility. As a developer in a low level position you have the advantage of saying "I do my best, I fix what is assigned to me by my team leader and if something makes its way out the door, it is not because I didn't do my job... it is because they didn't do theirs of making sure it was ready."

2) Even though the environment is toxic, always stay true to your work and record everything you are doing. Show that you looked at a bug and document how it was fixed, version number of the build etc. I know it is a pain in the ass, but believe me, it saves your ass when the hammer falls! It will fall if things are making its way out the door unfinished.

3) Your test manager, there is always one of these types of people in every company. They complain and complain and look for whoever they can to argue with. Usually two things happen with these people... they either get so fed up they quit or they pick on someone else when they realize you don't react to their remarks. Again, best way to handle them is to say "If you are unhappy, please take it up with the team leader and I will happily look into the problem then when it is assigned to me." Don't try to appease them directly. Always route their complaints through the team leader. The end result is your test manager complains to your lazy team leader who then is forced to take action and quit being lazy.

4) If things continue to get worse with the test manager and they refuse to leave you alone, you along with your fellow developer, team leader, manager and test manager can meet together. Always better with numbers on your side. Obviously your manager knows that your test manager has a temper. So you should have you, your fellow developer and overall manager on your side.

5) Last case scenario is take it up with HR and file a formal complaint against the test manager. Your team leader is another story... HR won't take up issue with laziness if it means products still get out. Their fate lies in the quality and problems with the product. If support has issues all over the place, again, tell them to take it up with the team leader who "has officially approved the product for release and signed off on all issues".

Your job is to keep the nose to the grindstone, work with your fellow developer ally, record all the work you do and make sure that you do top quality work when it is assigned to you by your team leader. All other noise and such is to be met with "Sorry you feel that way, if you send that request through my team leader only then can I look into fixing that for you." and nothing more.

Welcome to the politics of the office. You have it no matter where you go. :)

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 23 September 2012 - 11:42 AM

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#3 stackoverflow  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to deal with a poor team leader and a tester manager from hell?

Posted 23 September 2012 - 02:06 PM

Thanks for the suggestions.

I have been working towards #1. When the tech support started coming in with issues our manager met with us (developer and I, the team leader was on vacation) a bit and I subtly said those "issues" were bugs that had been marked resolved. Our manager knows which area of the software those bugs were in (and thus who must have marked them as resolved). I tried to do it subtly, I hope that helped. I am still waiting to see if this week is any better.

I will certainly try documenting more to cover my ass and the other developers ass. I'm also going to make sure anything that I touch is rock solid. I'll keep routing things to my team leader as well--
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