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Being unfairly blamed

Being unfairly blamed

Being unfairly blamed

A couple of months ago one of the developers on my project complained about me to upper management.

My boss and the PM manager thought he was nuts.

I never did get any facts about what it was I was supposedly doing or not doing that he didn't like.

I left on vacation and I come back and now the seed has spread and the PM and other developers also think there is something wrong with the quality of my work. Once again, they will not say what that is.

My boss tells me about this and tells me he is staying out of it and staying neutral waiting until he end of the project then he would give them a survey to fill out. I think he is wussing out big time.

When this first went down my boss told me not to confront the developer and I didn't. Well he kept picking at me and finally I did confront him and asked him if he had a problem with my work and he says no, of course not.

The real problem with this project is poor planning and poorly defined requirements. There is an accounting system that nobody has looked at seriously for a decade.

I brought these things up early in the project. I was ignored.

Now there are moronic email exchanges over how values should be defined and we are a month out of going live and they are talking about things that should have been discussed last year during the planning.

Since they won't tell me what their beef is with me, what should I do?

If I have done such a terrible job then why is this program working so well! (Except for the accounting part which just came to testing)

Should I just ignore this and keep my head down and do my job or should I speak up about it and what should I say and to whom should I say it?

I do have hundreds of emails to document things.

RE: Being unfairly blamed

If you are sure that things are being said about your work level find out what they are.  They may simply be that things are being seen incorrectly by others.

If they won't give you an answer, and your boss won't, go up the food chain (just don't piss off your boss in the process).  If this is hurting the chances of finishing the project in a timely manor then fixing the "problems" may help speed things along.

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RE: Being unfairly blamed

You may need to go to the developers manager and say "I've been hearing rumors that people aren't happy with my work.  I want to correct this, but no one will tell me the problem.  Is there one?  If so what is it?"

If they say nothing is wrong, then you are pretty much in the dark.  Is they actually give you an answer you've got something to work with.

MCSA (2003) / MCDBA (SQL 2000)
MCTS (SQL 2005 / SQL 2005 BI / SQL 2008 DBA / SQL 2008 DBD / SQL 2008 BI / MWSS 3.0: Configuration / MOSS 2007: Configuration)
MCITP (SQL 2005 DBA / SQL 2008 DBA / SQL 2005 DBD / SQL 2008 DBD / SQL 2005 BI / SQL 2008 BI)

My Blog

RE: Being unfairly blamed

I can say it from my own experience:
The situation on most project is so bad, because on one or two developers parasites a bunch of managers. The analyses that come from managers are worthless for developers, because the managers have no idea about the work which should be done.
Most of the project managers on the software project had no experience with software development before, therefore this system is sick. And therefore the software projects are so expensive. In the 20th century there was other system - the most experienced developer was the project leader. When the developer asked the project leader about a problem he got from him a tip a he was mostly right, because of his enormous experience. Then in 21th century this sick system (probably from USA) was spreaded worldwide: There are project manager in informatics which have no idea about informatics. IMHO this is the reason why so much software projects fail and why they are so expensive.

Quote (msplants):

If I have done such a terrible job then why is this program working so well! (Except for the accounting part which just came to testing)
Because this program was written by the developers and not by you.

Maybe this is not your case and I was too rude, but this is my point of view.

RE: Being unfairly blamed

It is doing well after months of testing it, I need to add.

It was a buggy POS when it was first released to me.

RE: Being unfairly blamed

Well, I look at it this way:  either there is a problem with your work or there isn't.  If there is, any reasonable manager would want to rectify the problem, and if you went to them saying that you're hearing rumors that there are problems with your work then they would likely be open enough to tell you.  I think that the most reasonable approach is to ask if there are issues with your work and see what they say.  If you can't get people to tell you what's going on, your next step is to ask it in a more open-ended manner.  In other words, instead of saying:

"I hear that someone has an issue with my work.  I want to resolve this, what is it?"

Try saying:

"I really want to do the best job possible on this project.  Is there anything that I am working on that you think can be improved or is there something that I can do different to make this project even more successful."

It's less accusatory when you phrase it like that.  It may not get you any better answers, but at least it opens the door.  It would be especially important to get records of these sorts of conversations either via email or otherwise.  If management decides to wait until the project is completed before addressing the issue (either via HR or termination) it's going to look very bad on them if you have records of repeatedly going to them asking for ways to improve your performance, especially if their response was always "no, everything's fine."

From my perspective the key is in giving management (or whoever else has the issue) the opportunity to tell you about it or suggest improvements.  If they tell you that you're doing a great job and don't need to improve anything, then they can't very well justify firing you for your job performance.  That may not stop them, but it may make them think twice.  If they tell you that there is an issue then you can make a serious effort to correct it.

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RE: Being unfairly blamed


...now the seed has spread and the PM and other developers also think there is something wrong with the quality of my work.

Do you have a friendly relationship with any of your co-workers?  Maybe one of them can tell you what is being said about your work.  

I agree with the others.  Try to use a different approach with your boss and see if that will get you anywhere.  Just make sure you don't let this interfere with your work or attitude at work (no one likes a cranky co-worker!)

RE: Being unfairly blamed

I tried the direct and non-direct approach and he says they won't tell him specifically what it is.

I will tell you how I resolved the problem though.(at least for now)

First I took my project back in a very bold and aggressive way.

The more I think about it my boss enjoys drama and he might have been mind bleeping with me.

While I was gone on vacation he pretty much gave MY project away to these 2 marginally skilled brown nosers and he was supporting this.

I could see what was going down. These 2 step in and flit around making drama and then they get all the credit for my project that I have invested a year into.

Then I began to micromanage and get meticulous.

There was a new build due today and these developers who seem to enjoy nitpicking my work fail to provide any communication or release notes or anything when they put something out.

I called them on it in writing cc the PM and my boss.

I asked them for detailed release notes. Then I asked them if there were any areas they thought I should focus on.

This snooty developer comes over and I took a stance saying thank goodness I am back. It is clear that nothing happened on this project while I was gone. :)

So then later on, the PM comes to my desk and we have a serious meeting and she states she is certain the testing has been thorough.

I created a daily status report to detail everything in writing.

So anyway through bold and aggressive tactics, I have saved my own neck. I put it back on them in writing to either say what their beef is or shut up.

Lesson learned - stomp things like this out right away. Don't be nice or wimpy. I tried ignoring the rumors, being nice about things and that didn't work.

RE: Being unfairly blamed

My read is that you definitely need to start thinking about office politics. The other developer thinks the project is going to fail and he's making sure someone other than him will get the blame. He may also just dislike you.

It's really hard to fight this perception thing once it gets started. It doesn't matter who did what part of the bad code, if folks think you are the weak link, that's who will get the blame.

The fact that your own boss won't address it until after the project is done tells me that you had better get your resume out as everyone has decided you are the problem. He may just want to get that last few weeks of the project out of you before you are let go. You definitely need to start protecting yourself at this point.

As others have stated, you need to ask your boss what you can do to improve and you need it documented. And then you need to actually make whatever change he suggests whether you agree with it or not. You need to show an attitude of listening to others and being helpful. If there is someone who thinks you have done well on some task, get them to say so in writing to your boss. If you have any past emails where someone has said, "good job." you might want to make sure they have been forwarded to your boss. It may be too late for this job though depending on how well the other person has destroyed your reputation. Since no one seems to be willing to talk to you at all about what was said, that's a bad sign.

"NOTHING is more important in a database than integrity." ESquared

RE: Being unfairly blamed

I have been looking for work for a few months now as I am a contractor and my contract is over somewhat soon.

I thought things were better. I have been documenting everything I can to protect myself.

Apparently the PM is going behind my back undermining my authority. My boss is cowardly and won't do anything. It seems clear that the only time when they think I am in charge is when they need a scapegoat.

I thought this project would be over with in a few weeks but they decided to add something else to it and now it will extend to January.

Maybe I should ask to be removed from the project?

I haven't discussed any of this with co-workers for obvious reasons but I guess some see what is going on and approached me saying they were also unhappy with the way things are there and are looking for work elsewhere.


RE: Being unfairly blamed

The fact that you are a contractor might be the actual issue.  The ones who 'took over' your proj. are they contractors also or are they normal employees of the company?  I've seen times when towards the end of a project managers tend to try and shift their people onto then so they become familiar.  They might also be trying to get unwarranted credit for your project since you're either done with them or may be up for a renewal dependent on this project.  Basically if the PM's normal, salaried employees can get credit then they won't need a contractor and can cut budget and possibly get a bonus for unload a needless 3rd person (in their minds, I'm not making a judgment call on contractors/consultants/etc)...

That's just 'mi dos pesos', good luck either way!

RE: Being unfairly blamed

Would that be "dos centavos"? peace pipe

Being a contractor would change things in my mind. The project is not yours; it is theirs and they can do anything they want with it. I've been on both sides of the contracting issue and have seen it go bad when a contractor is the only one on a project without any staff involvement. The contractor ends up being isolated and is out of the communicaitons loop regarding office politics and such.

Do you really have any authority as a contractor? I don't think so.

RE: Being unfairly blamed

Dealing with people is all about managing their feelings.

If people feel good about you, they will assume that you have done everything right and will go out of their way to make up excuses for you. You will get praise and gratitude even though you may have done nothing to deserve it.

If people feel bad about you, they will perceive problems that aren't actually there and will create things in their irrational, whim-worshipping minds. You will be accused of having done all kinds of terrible things that you have not done.

Learn how to manage people's feelings. Conversational hypnosis is probably your best strategy here.

RE: Being unfairly blamed

Quote (hinesward):

Dealing with people is all about managing their feelings.

Wow! Very insightful!

I once had a meeting with a room full of disgruntled users and my boss. Instead of trying to calm them and make excuses, I encouraged them to let us have it, tell us what was wrong, and just complain. Everything was fair game. I took heavy notes. I commented on what they were saying and agreed with point after point. I didn't try to deflect, defend, or refute anything they were saying, I was trying to get them to give me more. Once the flood gates were opened, they got very "candid" with us. I took copious notes. When it seemed like they were losing steam, I started restating their points to make sure I had them (they grouped nicely into three broad categories; technical issues, communication issues, and planning/scheduling issues). I asked them what we could all do to make the situation better. The meeting then turned into one of the most productive solution finding meetings I have ever been in. They went from being adversaries to being team members with great communication and a desire to work together.

My boss later commented about how the meeting started out bad, but really got good. I told him they were p*ssed off and needed to vent. Then once they knew they were being heard, and we wanted to do something about it, they were all over themselves being cooperative and wanting to work with us.

I never put it in these terms, but I was managing their feelings.

The most important part of this approach is, you have to follow up on the solutions and communication. You have to follow through. Otherwise you will lose all respect and confidence from this group. They will never believe you again. If you do follow through, you will have staunch supporters and backers the rest of your career there.


RE: Being unfairly blamed

Thanks for all the replies. It is a good discussion!

To answer the questions and clarify.

Most of us are long term contractors. So that isn't it.

As for feelings and relationships, I am quite good at that. I think that is why I avoided the wrath until I went on vacation. This disgruntled programmer was told to stop his complaining about me.

Then, when I went on vacation I suppose he was able to plant more negative seeds about me and for some reason they started to believe him.

I think I have managed to win the PM back over as well as the developers.

I don't think so much with my boss.

The 2 people that have been assigned to work on this with me are causing problems. They do work very well together but they don't think think they have to tell anyone else what they are doing or take direction from me.

I flat out asked my boss if I was still in charge of this project or not and he told me I was.

One of the others sent out this email with a schedule and basically telling me what to do.

My boss told them that they should run these thing by me before doing anything. I then asked the one not do do a certain thing and to provide me with plans and she wanted to keep arguing with me in the email.

I have asked this person to provide me a plan and updates and she refuses. My boss won't back me up on it because those 2 are his pets.

I am at a loss.

I feel that they only time I am in charge is when they think something is wrong. I feel I am being undermined.

I feel I have no real authority on this project.

I am at a loss at what to do other than carefully document everything and keep working.

I am actively interviewing at other places.


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