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How to manage politics from more senior engineering folks?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

Hi all

I recently joined an organization as a senior where I was made tech lead within 3 months of joining. This was somewhat related to recognition of my work among product and my peers.

I advocated for good engineering practices such as automated integration testing and established projects for cross org collaborations to help deliver whats important for the organization.

All of this was quickly realized as a super critical projects by the organization. I created tech specs and prototypes for these projects.

However recently the organization hired a principal engineer.

since he was new I volunteered to help him onboard and asked for his advice on the new super business critical project that was next in our todo team pipeline. He is an ambitious guy so he wants to create his mark in the organization.

But for some reason the way he is approaching it doesn't seem right to me.

He plans to create a new team taking over the business critical project while splitting the newly formed team I lead on the same project that I helped him ramp up on.

I opposed to this asking for rationale for a new team.

there seem to be now two impressions of my work:-

  1. held by my peers, folks I lead and product manager of good business delivery and product timelines. I am respected among both.

  2. the principal Engineer tries to devalue my work in front of senior engg. Leadership saying things like I am overcommitting and under delivering if I do this project with the existing members of my team in public and in front of senior engg leadership.

The automated integration testing project which no one was doing before and we were starting from a basic version to iterate on. This is now communicated to engg management as every team is trying to do their own testing.

My engg management for some reason is siding with him since he has 15-20 years of experience and i have 5. He also is principal and i am 2-3 levels below him.

for some reason I am being micromanaged with no fault of mine.

From engg management perspective I have been just told to lead the project that I am currently leading and just help the team formed by principal engg to start the project.

I have communicated my expectations of being able to continue leading the project. Product is in support of that but engg managment isnt.

I have also tried giving feedback to the principal engineer that his actions are disruptive to the team and becauase of what he is doing he is slowing us down and blocking us from doing critical projects.

My worry is despite doing the hard work the project I have the most context on and I worked on for a while is being given to someone else and second i will not be given credit for the hard work I am doing.

Should I just change teams. I dont want to leave my existing team because I do think they need me but I feel I would rather create more impact where I dont have to swim against the tide. I may also be suffering from sunken cost fallacy here where I knew I led the development of a new critical project

Tia for your help.



  • 4
    Profile picture
    a year ago

    How important is it for you to stay in this team? You said, "I don't want to leave my existing team because I do think they need me". This does not seem like a very strong reason. Please list a few more to have more clarity.

    If this is the only reason you would stay, I suggest talking with your manager about your future in this team. And if there is no silver lining, then think about leaving this team and finding another opportunity.

    But even before that, learn to collaborate with the new senior engineer. See how both of you can work together. A partnership between you two can be a great win for the company and you two. So, invite him to lunch to declare the breakdowns. Bring a mood of optimism, a new beginning, and possibility. Also, invite these moods for that engineers by sharing that you are coming with these moods. Help them see the potential for both of you as you both work together in a powerful way.

    You can learn a ton from him as a mentor and under his leadership. See if you can come to some agreements. As a new person in this team, he needs allies more than anyone else. Both of you could become a force of nature in this company brining great ideas and implementations.

    If both of you cannot see it, and you both cannot come to a collaboration mood, then life is too short to fight such battles. If the management is already favouring the senior engineer, then you don't have much hope here. You will keep trying, but in the end, you will feel bad that you are not valued enough.

    Switch now instead of later. Many people spend too much time trying because of the sunk cost. If this company lays you off, would you feel the same?

  • 4
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    It's different from your case, but I highly recommend going through this other Taro discussion about how to improve a contentious relationship.

    It's with a manager instead of another IC, but a lot of the concepts still apply:

    1. Assuming good intent and pushing to understand their perspective
    2. Constructing a case to back up your viewpoint
    3. Escalating if necessary

    Overall, I agree with Touseef: Talk to your manager and see if you can build a bridge here instead of seeing this principal engineer as a villain who is playing politics (this is the vibe I get from the question personally). If you have a good manager, this is exactly the kind of issue they should help defuse. Even though you're 2-3 levels below this engineer, senior ICs are still very important (and you're operating as a tech lead too).

    When approaching this conversation with your manager, make sure to frame it constructively in a way where it's more about working better with this engineer rather than pointing fingers. Suggest concrete action items to improve the relationship if you can come up with any. I recommend watching this video on voicing your frustrations in a positive way.

    All that being said, it's very possible that this principal engineer is indeed a toxic coworker who you can't work with: There are many bad people working in tech. But you should do the due diligence to exhaust other options and opinions before jumping to that conclusion, especially if other engineers on the team really enjoy working with this person.