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How can I deal with a defensive manager?

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Mid-Level Software Engineer at Investment Banka year ago

Hello.

During our daily standup, whenever anyone on my team asks the lead/manager questions they don't know or calls them out on something the lead/manager understood incorrectly, the lead/manager always brings up old tasks.

For example:
Teammate: Did you mean x instead of y?
Lead: Oh, I'm not sure. It's been a long time since I've worked on that.
Lead: Btw, how is task x from 3 weeks ago doing?
Teammate: Some updates.
Lead: What about task y from 2 weeks ago?

It feels like a way to keep us in check i.e., I am more on top of things than you are, or a form of micromanaging, or a defense mechanism, but I can't pinpoint it.

The lead's reasoning behind bringing up old tasks is to "make sure they don't fall between the cracks."

Has anyone else experienced this? Am I reading into this too much? I tend to read into things too much...

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    Senior Software Engineer at Series C Startup
    a year ago

    This is a fun question.

    It's hard to tell exactly without being in the situation, but thinking from your leads' perspective, any feedback is good feedback. The fact that you are feeling this, means that whether you are right or not, the lead (or the two of you) should sort out a better understanding of each other.

    Action items for this would depend on how close you are to your lead and how candid you can be with them.

    One thing that stands out to me as a potential reason why it comes across as defensive is that he is bringing up the timeframe that X task was ago. For example,

    "What about task y?" sounds much less defensive than "What about task y from 2 weeks ago?" because the 2 weeks ago example shows he is keeping much more of a micromanaging eye on it.

    I think one avenue could be providing that feedback to him of saying that you understand where he's coming from with wanting to check in on those things, and that one way to make it come off a bit softer to you personally would be to not mention the time ago that it was. Leave it at that. Don't add to the feedback more than that. Before sharing this feedback, you could leave them open to it by first asking if they would be open to you sharing a small piece of feedback that you think could help you out a lot. Again, the focus should be on you. Don't make it about the team since you don't want to speak for the team; just yourself.

    Hope this helps!