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I've been a software developper at an IT company for the last 3.5 years now and I've pretty much enjoyed it so far. About 9 months ago, I've asked to work on another project as my former attributions were getting a bit redundant. Although my wish's been granted, I've been struggling with a few elements of my new environment since then. Those include communication and getting along with my new project manager.

There are several things I want to mention first :

  • Communication is both essential and inevitable as the "team" involves only the two of us
  • I'm guided by my principles and try to be as assertive as I can
  • I've regularly been told that I'm hard to read by various people (family, friends, girlfriends...)

With that in mind, what bothers me most is :

1. Conciseness

Above many things, I value my time, which is why I mentally sum up everything I want to say before I actually speak. This way, I only ask straight and very precise questions (yes/no questions most of the time) so that time is not wasted either listening to undesired explanations or trying to understand what I want to know.

It works very well with many people but not him as he never answers a question directly (even yes/no questions) and often gives so much explanations that I end up either forgetting what I asked in the first place or simply more confused.

I've tried a few things to make him understand I'm in the middle of something and I just need a short answer to go on doing what I do but these don't seem to do the trick :

  • Ask the most precise questions possible
  • Explicitely start with "yes or no, do you think blablabla..."
  • Sum up his explanations when he's done giving them ("so the answer to the original question is yes/no, right ?" at which point he rarely confirms/deny what I just said)

Moreover, the covid outbreak imposed remote work on us so we agreed on a "short" daily meeting each morning which inevitably lasts for an entire hour though everything he says could be summed up in at most 15 minutes. The fact that he repeats himself a lot and does not expose information in an organized manner gives me the impression that he never comes prepared for those meetings which I strongly resent as it wastes a lot of my time (my former project was agile/scrum so daily meeting concision was not only appreciated by everyone but also constructively imposed between us) and he even regularly refers to upcoming deadlines, ironically pointing out the fact that we need to be faster than we are. I've tried to implicitely point out (but it doesn't work) :

  • Redundance ("yes, as you said earlier blablabla...")
  • The fact that what he says is clear to me (basically answering "OK" to everything he says)
  • What we can't know before another step is taken ("we need to ask the client as only him knows that...")

2. Cognitive abilities

I'm an introvert and as such, I need to be able to focus to work efficiently. I can be interrupted and will gladly be when someone needs help that I can provide or has a critical information that they need to convey but I can't stand to be bothered repeatedly as it makes me restart my mental process from scratch each time, this is simply the way my brain works. Also, I work in an organized manner, writing down each task I have to carry out as a one liner that is meaningful to me in my notebook as they come up. I've come to understand that my project manager does not handle things this way as he :

  • Does not focus on one task but rather 3/4 simultaneously (I don't think that works very well as he rarely finishes as initially planned)
  • Brings up many unrelated topics one after the other, often right after I asked a yes/no question (meaning I don't get my answer but get flooded with info instead)
  • Does not gather important informations as a list (even though I feel his project manager status should make him)
  • Does not care to use our internal issue tracker thus enabling me to access information in a clear, well organized manner
  • Starts talking to me when I walk out the door at the end of the day as if I'm still focused on work and able to efficiently remember information at that time (plus it makes me angry to have to stay out of politeness)

To sum it up, he has this mental "cloud" of info that I can't handle and what he does is (I don't think it's intentionnal) implicitely impose this mental representation on me which is very uncomfortable given the (different) way my brain works.

3. Principles

As a person, I like nicely done things and as a professional, I feel like it's my responsibility to produce well designed, efficient, robust software ("I care"). This is why my employer pays me and also more than probably why I've obtained significant raises each year compared to others in my company. However I also get that overquality is a threat to any IT company as quality is time and time is money and I accept that but my project manager :

  • Imposes obsolete (>30yo) technologies on me because "it works" although it's a pain to maintain over time and newer technologies are readily available for nearly no additional cost (a day's work at most which will save us so much more in the future)
  • Produces low quality code/tests that I later have to refactor/rewrite to ease readability, maintenance, performance, etc... and then blames me for taking the time to do it as "it worked"
  • Rarely/never checks his work, introducing bugs and generating code warnings because "I did it quickly, we'll fix it later" (meaning I'll fix it because I need to in order to carry on)
  • Won't listen to my technical opinions as he just seems to see the deadline (but I'm the one who will have to maintain the software and I don't intend on being bored refactoring/rewriting shitty code for the rest of my career)

Edit : even more details

  • I sought for a new assignment as soon as I understood I'd probably not be able to defuse that situation by myself
  • I'm not trying to make a friend here. I made very good friends during my former assignment but that came after we found a good work dynamic as I feel this should be preoccupation #1 at work.
  • I do not ask yes/no questions all the time but only when I feel the need to restrict people's options (when I suspect/know they'll talk "too much" although I know there is a short answer). I wouldn't ask a question if I didn't trust the answer (thus, the skills of the person I'm asking), I'm just trying not to have to hear the whole reasonning (as it interrupts my mental process). If I want/need to, I'll ask "why ?" when given the answer.
  • It might sound like it but I did not intend to "list all my virtues", only to describe why I do what I do how I do it. Likewise, my manager does not "do everything wrong" (else he would probably not be in his current position and I wouldn't even ask him questions, let alone rely on his answers) but given the size of this post, I needed to focus on the actual problem(s).
  • I do not expect/need my manager to trust me personally or even to like me (though it would obviously be way more enjoyable that way), again, we're not friends (yet ?). Still, I'd rather not resort to explicit confrontation as people might get uncomfortable or even hurt, but so far, implicit suggestion have not yielded any positive results, thus my posting here.

Conclusion

What I'm asking for is an elegant way to not have to resort to explicit confrontation. How do I make my manager realize our differences are OK as long as we both understand we need to adapt to each other ?

Thanks a lot for reading.

  • 3
    Welcome to StackExchange IPS. Please take the tour and have a look at the help center. Your post is very detailed and thorough, but it lacks one concrete question with a reasonable scope, as specified in What types of questions should I avoid asking?. Please edit your post and concentrate on one specific problem you'd like us to help with. You can ask several questions in several posts. Here on IPS we concentrate on communicating with people, but asking "what should I do?" or "please share your ideas" is not allowed. – Elmy May 18 at 9:12
  • Will do, It'll take me some time though, please be tolerant. – Fointard May 19 at 6:38
  • Hello @Elmy. I finally had the time to edit my question. I hope this new version is more appropriate. Thanks for your interest + giving me time to edit.. – Fointard May 24 at 11:46
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My Experience

Two different managers live in memory as perfectly dreadful. They barked orders at me. If I did something good, they took credit for it. Mostly, they complained about me, constantly. I didn't trust them. The working relationship was a train wreck.

My attempts to change their behavior failed miserably.

  • Threatened to leave if communication continued to be insulting (ignored)
  • Requested, in a formal meeting, that they treat me with respect (ignored)

Eventually, they moved on or I did. It's not unusual. People change when they are ready to change. These two bosses had no reason to change.

The short answer: Partnership is missing between you and your project manager. I named your undynamic duo, the Odd Couple. I suggest you complete this rotation and seek a new assignment.

In Your Corner

As I read through your well-written post, I thought I'd take on your question as a cornerman -- because fighters (in combat sports or conversations) reveal their weakness and areas of vulnerability to the people in their corner.

  • a mentor offers advice and encouragement. You may or may not feel comfortable lowering your guard to show your weak spot.
  • a cornerman offers advice, encouragement and prepares you for your fight, knowing what you do well and where you need to practice more.

This deep level of trust allows the person who's in your corner to get to the source of the problem quickly and to allow you to solve the real problem once it is revealed. It's quick and to the point, but only if you trust and respect your cornerman.

"If you want to influence other people’s behavior, then you need to develop trust...Thus, you have to see yourself as others see you. What do people perceive your motivations to be? Behavior change is hard enough to accomplish when people are willing to engage in the process. When they have reason to shy away from it because they are concerned about your motives, then you have made things even more challenging for yourself." Six Ways to Help People Change, GreaterGoodMagazine, UCBerkeley

The Hole in Your Game Analysis:

The following is quoted from your question. I focused on something you have the power to change.

  • "Above many things, I value my time, which is why I mentally sum up everything I want to say, before I actually speak. This way, I only ask straight and very precise questions (yes/no questions most of the time) so that time is not wasted either listening to undesired explanations or trying to understand what I want to know." [part 1, first paragraph]
  • "I've regularly been told that I'm hard to read by various people (family, friends, girlfriends...)" [introduction, 3rd bullet point]

First off, if you only allow yes or no answers, your project manager (family, friends, girlfriends), will feel dominated. Then, they'll describe you as "hard to read" which is girl-code for "impossible to please".

That is not a badge of honor or a compliment.

An example of a closed-ended question is, "How long do your relationships last?".

It is specific and asks for no additional information.

If you talk that way, with the yes or no questions, to your co-workers or superiors, you're likely to antagonize them. I get salty when people attempt to control the conversation with directive questions.

"Asking a question that assumes a particular answer is easy to do when you already think you're right and just want people to say you're right." 5 Ways to Ask the Perfect Question, Inc.com

In order to get along with you, I'd find a way to inject humor.

You might get my sense of humor. I can be very engaging. But then you'd have to spend more time talking to me. And, as you stated in your question, you don't have time or any interest in listening.

"As we all know, we can’t control anyone else’s behavior, and we can’t make another person want to or be able to change. But we can always make the choice to shift our attention inward, to focus the lens of curiosity onto ourselves." You Can't Change Someone Else. But You Can Do This, PsychologyToday

As you described, you are an excellent person to have on a work team. Reliable, hard-working, resourceful, competent, etc.

But your complaints reveal a person being aloof, sitting in the audience, judging and assessing people in your life. Your post listed all of your virtues. By contrast, your project manager does everything wrong.

It's impossible to trust people who are overly critical and never approve of you. If we were working together, and you created a list of complaints about me, I wouldn't trust you.

That's not to say that we wouldn't produce perfect results.

A good team has a mix of people on it. If your questions only allow for yes or no answers, you are squashing creativity.

If you don't have time to listen -- and perhaps, help flush out some new insight, you'll always be uncomfortable working with other people. And you will continue to have communication issues with your project manager, girlfriends, family, and friends, etc.

ellen boeder emotional safety cornerman quote

| improve this answer | |
  • Hello, welcome to Interpersonal Skills @thatgirlisfunny! I'm not sure why part of your answer is talking about girlfriends, can you clarify the cornerman bit too? Also, answers on subjective sites are supposed to share experience or relevant sources. Could you take a look at our citation expectations and edit your answer to either include how this has worked for you, how it helped you deal with a person like the boss in this question and meet OPs goals? Thanks! – Tinkeringbell May 19 at 8:49
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    Hello @Tinkeringbell Okay. I hope this version meets the guidelines better. Thank you for your attention to my first answer. – thatgirlisfunny May 20 at 4:54

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