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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

You Can Manage Your Boss


I often hear this excuse: “I don’t have power to change this.” Hell, I use it by myself way too often. It is a convenient excuse. Since you aren’t in position to do something the easy way you take a step back and do nothing.

And this is wrong.

Let’s take a typical situation: your boss sucks. If I got 10 bucks every time I heard that someone’s boss sucks I would be crazy rich. But let’s face it, I have poor opinion about managers in general and I think most managers suck anyway so I’m going to agree willingly.

So what do you do when your manager sucks? Wait, let me guess… You do nothing. Hey, you don’t have the power, do you? You just can’t change the situation so it’s better just to accept it, right?


People are simple beasts. We all have our goals, private agendas, drivers and motivators. We also have tools which helps us to achieve these goals. Some of us have power. (And yes, I’m lucky enough I have power long enough to get used to it.) Some of us have skills. And some of us have instinct or cleverness.

It’s not always the guy with power who wins. Actually if that was so, most of companies would work perfectly well, since every reasonable rule would be enforced and widely accepted. But somehow we see organizations which are completely sick and filled with frustration even though their leaders have mouths full of wise advices.

It’s just they’re losing the battle with those who don’t have power but are more knowledgeable and smart.

The trick is, to some point, you can manage everyone around. It doesn’t matter if he is your subordinate, your colleague or your boss. You can. Yes, you can. Yes, you… If I know what is important for you, what drives you and how you act in different situations I can trick you or I can build incentives for you to act like I want. Even if I’m your subordinate.

A couple of examples. Megan had a boss who was pretty much frustrated with surrounding situation. Things were going bad. But he, as a manager, was supposed to play devils’ advocate. Megan, who knew the boss for quite a long time, felt that frustration hidden behind the mask of official optimism and decided to break it talking with the boss privately. She could do nothing, since she had no power to change boss’ attitude and then a new cool business wouldn’t emerge when they both left the company to start it.

John had a manager who loved bells and whistles. He knew most of project decisions were made basing on what the manager personally likes, not on reasonable business analysis. When recession came and every team looked for projects John brought a bunch of cool, but basically useless, ideas to the manager. John expected the manager would personally like a couple of them and he was right. The team got the budget for these projects. Business-wise projects were useless but John played his agenda and got what he wanted.

We all base on a lot of assumptions. Especially managers. We just can’t know every fact so we do what our gut feelings say. And finally we are biased. This means we make our decisions basing on a set of arguments which is far from being complete or even reasonable. That’s why it is not the power which is the most important since almost every power bearer can be blinded easily.

So don’t give me excuses you just can’t change anything since you have no power. At least try. Then try again. Unless you fail a couple of times I don’t believe you can’t do it.

in: team management

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