How to tell my boss his work sucks

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#1 Slice  Icon User is offline

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How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 06:33 AM

In a nutshell, i've been working for this company for almost a year. While my boss used to be a programmer, he's been more of a CEO and handling the business side for around 8 years.

The past couple of months he took on a project to do himself as we were all swamped with other stuff. Today he sent me over what'd he had done and asked me to finish it off as it's "about 50% there".. It's not. I'd say 15-20% at most.

So I'm not shifting through some awful code that has zero comments trying to get up to speed and I genuinly think that by the time i sort out this mess, I could have re-written the whole thing from scratch.

How do I tell my boss that I want to scrap what he's done and start fresh without insulting his work?

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Replies To: How to tell my boss his work sucks

#2 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 06:40 AM

Quote

So I'm not shifting through some awful

I think you mean "sifting through"

Everyone knows I'm a direct arse. I would just say "Would you prefer I create this in a modern way? It would take less time." That way you aren't saying its crap, just based on out-of-date ways of doing things. Make it an offer to give him something he might learn from instead of criticism.
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#3 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 06:46 AM

I would just do it & not ask. Unless he asks specifically, no reason to rock the boat. If he did ask, I'd be upfront about the time-spending. If he get upset about it, I'd remind him that arguing just wastes more time, & that's what spawned the situation.

Best of luck.
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#4 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 06:54 AM

The problem with the "just do it" approach is that the boss may want to do more with the project after one of his PAID EMPLOYEES does what he's told by cleaning it up. If he doesn't understand crap that's in the new version he's going to be pissed and you run the risk of looking like a smart ass that went out of his way to show off how superior your skills are, and out of his way to write something the boss wouldn't understand.
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#5 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 07:19 AM

I'm in a similar situation. I'm TAing a theory class right now and typesetting the professor's MS-Word solutions into LaTeX. In homework 1, she botched a proof. It wasn't even remotely correct. So I emailed her about it focusing on where her proof failed, not that she did it wrong. She was quite receptive and sent me a sketch of a revision via email, but it was clear she didn't get it. So I told her I'd rework the proof. Now, in the next two homeworks, I had to scrap three more of her proofs. I just did it and sent her the final solutions I prepared. If she has a problem with it, she can let me know. Otherwise, I'm just taking the approach of doing things correctly. So far, no complaints.

If you do address this with your boss, focus on how the poor practices introduce security issues and design issues. Make it about the code and be polite. I agree with no2pencil about just redoing it if possible and moving forward. If he asks, you saw opportunities for design improvements and wanted to make the best product possible and you greatly appreciate his help in getting the momentum going. We've all written bad code in our lives. As a programmer, your boss should in theory understand and has likely been on both sides of a code review before. If not, he's the boss.
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#6 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 07:20 AM

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 05 March 2015 - 08:54 AM, said:

The problem with the "just do it" approach is that ...

I didn't say it was a flawless plan. It's just what I would do.
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#7 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 07:30 AM

We've all been there. One of my employers still preferred assembly language, no database and writing his own memory management. WinForms was a revaluation. Keeping my mouth shut held me (and the product line) back for a couple years. When I had the opportunity to write a new product from the group-up (as apposed to early maintenance work), I did it in a completely modern way. Everyone loved it. The boss finally had to admit (mostly to himself) that it was time to get up to speed.

What I'm saying is: Pick your battles and your timing. Is this your 'tipping point moment'? Its a small project, not part of the normal product line, not something the rest of the team sees, so its not something that would embarrass the boss in front of others. If approached right it could do good things for you. But if you're not in a secure place, liked by the time and the boss, or approach it in the wrong way, you could do more harm than good to your status.

Maybe its not an case of one way or the other. Maybe you clean up his code as best you can AND you make a modernized version of it, giving him a side-by-side that he can study. Putting in a Saturday off the clock to do something nice for him can be worth a lot.
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#8 Slice  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 07:33 AM

View PosttlhIn`toq, on 05 March 2015 - 01:54 PM, said:

The problem with the "just do it" approach is that the boss may want to do more with the project after one of his PAID EMPLOYEES does what he's told by cleaning it up.


I see what you're saying, but the issue is that I've not been asked to clean up the code. My main job is to finish the project and deliver a working application. It just seems counter-productive to continue a project built on a bad foundation, which will probably cause more problems down the line.

I'm just starting fresh now, thanks for the advice guys.
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#9 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 07:39 AM

OH - This is production code? That really throws this in to a whole new light. Its not your place to just decide to start over and completely re-write something your company is going to sell - is it? Is that in your job description?

I thought we were talking about some piddly little side project. But this is sounding like something that needs to have deeper discussion with the product manager and the boss. You can't take the company's revenue generating product line and just do what you like with it.

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#10 macosxnerd101  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 08:09 AM

It might be worth going through the boss then, but the product does something. Clients are generally less concerned with the internal workings as long as it works. If it's not presently in production, then fixing a bad design can save headaches down the road.
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#11 tlhIn`toq  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 08:24 AM

View Postmacosxnerd101, on 05 March 2015 - 09:09 AM, said:

If it's not presently in production, then fixing a bad design can save headaches down the road.


I agree 1,000% - Just saying its not his place to make that call and completely replace the entire product with his code without saying anything to anyone, let alone without getting approval.

Bringing it up might also give the opportunity to shine and maybe introduce some additional features the boss didn't think would be easy under his crappy design.
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#12 no2pencil  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 08:25 AM

Your opinion (of code 'sucks') could be putting your job on the line. I would execute the open-door policy with your boss before making any move. If it comes to a 'do it because I said so', get some sort of a digital paper trail started via email or something similar. So if/when it blows up, you have something backing up your suggestion.

Let the decision makers makes decisions.
Do your work you are paid to do.
Remind when necessary, you're just doing what you are a paid for/responsible for.
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#13 baavgai  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 08:58 AM

You will be asked not just about your progress, but also how valuable the contribution of your boss was. The real trick is to make your boss feel they've contributed. So...

Quote

Boss: How's the project going? Was my code helpful? I thought I did really good for not touching a computer since that Commodore 64.

You: Your code really got things moving. It gave me a number of ideas I hadn't considered before ( undoubtedly true .) I ended up going in slightly different direction, using your code as a jump point. Thanks so much for all the help.


You know your boss, we don't. You can either just do the thing and save that conversation for when they ask. Or, you can approach them and explain that you're really inspired by their use of X, but you think you'll be done faster if you go Y, using X as a guide.

The goal here is to make them feel that they didn't waste their time. If you do that, then they shouldn't care if you chuck the mess, as long as they feel their contribution mattered.

Note, this is also how you deal with junior programmers. Never make anyone feel bad. Point out places that you wanted to change and why. Always emphasize the positive. There is nothing ever to be gained by making someone else feel like an idiot, no matter how easy it may seem. Much better to make everyone feel appreciated, as much as you can.
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#14 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 03:00 PM

Telling them their work sucks is not useful and it's not the issue. Do a code review, tell him where you think the problems are. If he insists on doing it his way, start looking for another job. And tell him "I'm happy to stick around and keep you running while you look for my replacement, but I think this is going to be something I don't want to support, going forward, so it's best that we get you someone who wants to work on this as soon as possible."
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#15 Martyr2  Icon User is offline

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Re: How to tell my boss his work sucks

Posted 05 March 2015 - 11:54 PM

I always find questions like this intriguing. It really says more about the DIC crew, and programmers in general, than the original poster. I always find it surprising how many people are willing to compromise and lay down than just say "Hey, this isn't going to work. It doesn't meet goals 1, 2, 3 and is going to cause problems later for when we do 4, 5 and 6. We need to rework some of this."

I mean, don't be an ass but also don't beat around the bush. Even if you are dead sure you are in the right. I am actually in the middle of this now. I see sub par stuff all the time and I just have to call it out otherwise no one will notice and things just get worse for everyone. If you stay quiet, you go to sell the product, it breaks or creates a security nightmare, who do you think they are going to go after? The guy who last touched it.... yeah that would be you finishing it up. Your name is going to go on it if it goes down in flames, not your boss who started it. As far as he says he "gave you an outstanding base built on strong code and perfect logic". You were the one that ruined it.

If it goes over well, he will go down as the hero because he was the one who set it all into motion. Don't play the game, just call it for what it is.

:)

This post has been edited by Martyr2: 05 March 2015 - 11:56 PM

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