Dealing with people

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Here's the thing..

I've got a client, a good client and I need the money.

However, the head honcho doesn't really understand software design, but he
thinks he does. He's always hiring people to do this or that, I've tried to
explain why I can't do something (due to the way other things on his company
are set up, if I did, it'd fall apart 6 months from now - it's a political
rather than technical issue) so he just hires someone else to do it.

He's not a stupid person - he just doesn't know about software design
and yet he insists on micro-managing everything.

He's also quite pleasant, he's a nice guy.. but I'm really frustrated.

I'm just having a really difficult time tolorating having my suggestions tossed
aside every time. I wonder why he even hires me if all he's going to do is
ignore me?

Of course, when things blow up (that wouldn't have blown up if my suggestions had
been observed) I look bad.

When I try to explain HOW what I'd explained earlier would have prevented the
problem, my explanation is ignored or not understood - so it's not as if I can
just put it on record. (as it's usually something vague, such as "this will lead
to maintenance problems later" or "this introduces too many dependencies on other
things" etc..)

Seems I'm in the position of always having to do things "his way" and then
looking bad
when they don't work out.

I've been designing software (freelance) since around 1987, I'm no rookie
and maybe it's a pride issue.. but I'm tired of not being taken seriously! (and
looking stupid when things don't work out)

FWIW, other people who've worked for him get frustrated as well - I'm not the
only one.

How do you deal with tricky client relations problems such as this?

Is there a polite way of saying "Look dude, I'm a pro at this, I know what I'm
doing, you may be an expert at running your business, but you aren't a
software designer - I am."

Re: Dealing with people wrote:

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That's a tough call.  Sometimes you can work in an environment like that
for years until you have enough (another job or just a better offer),
and sometimes it's just unworkable.  I've seen people hired for their
skills, only to have a clueless owner second guess them every step of
the way.  When someone hires you for your skills and yet they, with no
skills in that area, try and dictate every little thing to the point
where you can't get any work done, you are faced with the choice of
moving on or working within their micro-managed hell.  It's amazing how
many people don't see how frustrating it is for the people hired. Some
people go too far in getting involved and just ruin it for everyone.

Basically, my opinion about those situations is that it's a really good
environment for people that are either lazy or have no idea what they
are doing (or just aren't very good), because they get to spend the day
screwing around doing what the clueless boss tells them.  That's safer
than them having to just do their job.  Anyone that's good at what they
do and care about it, will just want to get the job done properly and
as efficiently as possible.  Putting up with involvement is expected
and a good thing, but it can be too much and that probably explains why
they have to keep hiring one person, whom leaves or never is able to
finish what they were hired for (due to the micro-management factor),
and then go on to hire another person, and another.  It continues like
that until they run out of money and fold.

People like that need to hire someone they can trust to lead the
development on projects and tasks, else they are always doomed
(always).  If they refuse to listen to you, deal with it and look for
another job with someone else and leave when you have something else
lined up (or use that opportunity to get more aggressive about making
your point and not stress if they let you go, since you'd have the
other job).  There's no way to work in a situation like that if it's
gotten to the point where they are preventing you from performing the
job they hired you for.  This is quite common in a lot of technical
related fields, I'm sorry to say.   Good luck.
Tim Greer, CEO/Founder/CTO,, Inc.
Shared Hosting, Reseller Hosting, Dedicated & Semi-Dedicated servers
and Custom Hosting.  24/7 support, 30 day guarantee, secure servers.
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Re: Dealing with people wrote:

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If you need the work you don't have much choice. He who pays the piper
calls the tune. Beggars can't be choosers, etc...

He may well value your advice, but managers like the one you describe
don't want to hear "can't." You have to either figure out a better way
to accomplish what they want and sell them on it or you have to do it
their way and hope for the best.


Re: Dealing with people

Red E. Kilowatt wrote:
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He's not saying "can't" though - he's saying "shouldn't".

Personally, I'd email him explaining the issues, and ask him 'Why are
you paying me so much money for my expertise if you aren't interested in
listening to what I'm saying?". It could backfire, but at least you'd
know where you stand.

But it sounds like it's just this guys way and he isn't going to change
any time soon, so it's either grin and bear it or leave.

Re: Dealing with people

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Any "Jedi mind trick" advice on how to "grin and bear it"? Like, can I click
my heels together or something? (would it help? :-) )

I considered alcohol, but I'm allergic to drugs and alcohol, so thats out..

I have to add, the guy is nice, he's also not stupid by any means, it's just that
he doesn't know software design. (although it's obvious he's read some books
on the topic of programming, he just doesn't have the experience)

So it's not as if I dislike him, I'm just really frustrated.

Re: Dealing with people wrote:

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As others have said, you will have to try and work within the confines
of an unskilled person trying to dictate how you do your job and
possibly just getting in the way making it difficult (or impossible) to
perform the task they've hired you for (yes, it is a little
dumbfounding, maybe the guy just wants someone to talk to?), or you'll
have to decide if you need to move on.  It doesn't matter how nice the
guy is, if he's unwilling to listen to you and just let you do the job
he's paid you for.  To me, that sounds like he's annoying, not nice.  

Maybe he'd make a good friend outside of work, but if it's truly
interfering with you getting your job done, you have to make a choice
of just doing it how he wants (even if he's wrong) or replacing the
client with someone else.  You can't imagine how many times I've seen
or heard about things like this -- I feel like I'd even know who the
guy was.

A friend of mine just encountered the same issue and ended up leaving
(and now is waiting to be paid back owed money -- we theorize it's a
situation where the guy was involved in the capacity he was, because he
wanted to delay paying, and if he was stalling things, he could holdoff
on paying, or just not pay as much as he'd have owed if the guy could
have just done his job).

I'd be wary of anyone that operates like that, personally, but that's
not to say all of those situations end the same, or have to end at all,
but if the guy can't learn or listen and still wants to control every
small detail/aspect of the project or job when he has no skills in that
area and is why he hired you, then you might just have to deal with it
or leave.  It's ultimately your call, and I doubt anyone can suggest a
way to improve your work environment when dealing with the guy.
Tim Greer, CEO/Founder/CTO,, Inc.
Shared Hosting, Reseller Hosting, Dedicated & Semi-Dedicated servers
and Custom Hosting.  24/7 support, 30 day guarantee, secure servers.
Industry's most experienced staff! -- Web Hosting With Muscle!

Re: Dealing with people wrote:
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Think of how you'll put the money to good use once you get paid.

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Get used to it. My experience working as a freelance repair/networking
tech taught me that most successful small business owners have a "God
complex." Their modest success goes to their head and they start
thinking their judgment is infallible. They rarely take advice, even
when they are paying a premium for it. Many of them mistreat their
employees because they don't respect people who are dependent on others
for employment.

Don't let yourself be frustrated by their bad decisions. It's not your
responsibility. You're getting paid to do a job, not to save them from
their own stupidity.


Re: Dealing with people

I think it's a good idea to point out to him that things
are blowing up and how it's not your responsibility that they are.
I always tell my programming interns to try to think like
a business owner does  (a good business owner, lol).
A lot of programmers don't have a clue what it is like to
run a business, and can waste hours of time doing things
that are not important.  Many business owners have
experience with these kinds of programmers and so they
might not recognize right away that you are not like them.
That's why he may be micromanaging you.

If you can point out why things are going wrong, and even
maybe suggest what is the cause of it (the other guy?  his
own decisions?) then that could work.

As well as manage a small software company, I also do
consulting. I have had one client for three years and they have had
other people work on projects with me, and very often they
would pick inferior people who would mess things up.  Since
I knew the client well, I could explain to them exactly where
the problem was and eventually the bad consultants were weeded out.
They essentially just couldn't handle the stress of working
with this client, so they left kind of by default.   It helped
that when I first started working with them, there were so many
problems that I looked great when I fixed them all.  If you have
good past records with your clients, you should remind them
of this, all the good work you've done, then maybe someone
in management may come to your aid.  If you just sit there
and don't negotiate for yourself, then you will probably get
plowed down by someone that will negotiate for themselves.

Less stress at work is a commodity that people don't bargain
enough for -- it's valuable, just as money is.

Robert Pearson
ParaMind Brainstorming Software
Creative Virtue Press/Telical Books/Regenerative Music

Re: Dealing with people wrote:

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If he is willing to read some books, I suggest buying him a few,
starting with _Peopleware_ by DeMarco and Lister.

Guy Macon

Re: Dealing with people

On Jan 30, 12:50=A0am, Guy Macon < wrote:
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My clients pay for my experience, knowledge, skills and most of all:

I'll tell them straight "Look, I can do this for you (as I never say
"NO" outright) but if I do... Here's the impact on your business long
and short term".

They almost always listen. If they don't, I walk. It's my reputation
on the line afterall.

For example...

I develop web applications. I know absolutely nothing about
videography, community administration or any number of businesses I
have developed applications for but what I do know is this:

How to analyse systems and processes.

With this in mind I present my clients with a project scope and a
detailed functional specification and even a business plan if they
need it to help them understand in a language they speak what the
impact might be of implementing their suggestions in the way they'd
like it done.

It's a cold day in hell if they contradict me because I present an
iron clad case before I even walk in the room and they thank me for my
advice afterwards.

I don't know if that's of any use to you, I don't know if you can be
as open with your client as I am with mine but I do appreciate your
predicament as I have been there and not just with SMEs, with global

Re: Dealing with people

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Agree to everything. Then do it properly (i.e. your way) anyway. Then
let him take the credit for it afterwards. That's how the system works.

Re: Dealing with people

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Pride or money; you choose.
In business, you do not need to like the client, or agree with him; you need
to be willing and able to do what *he* (or she!), wants.

Once the line is crossed, be it pride, ethics, ability, whatevere, then move
Until that day, why throw away your income?

... and, sadly, if that doesn't make sense, then you are in the wrong line
of work!


"She plays the tuba.
It is the only instrument capable
of imitating a distress call."

Re: Dealing with people

Andrew Heenan wrote:
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   That's pretty well said, I think all the advice has been good.

   I'd like to add just one little bit and that is time. Dealing with
clients like this consumes time in vast quantities. So, at some point
you might want to consider whether you couldn't easily be doing
something more profitable.

   With all that said, I throw away time all the time. But then, I'm not
very wealthy, so...

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Re: Dealing with people

On Jan 28, 12:18=A0am, wrote:
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Try not to get upset, and deal with things as well as you can.
I am sure that there are times when things go well,
can you conclude from that which is the best way to explain things,
(and if there are things that can be avoided, or improved)?
I guess that what makes things even more difficult is that you are the
only person who can solve this,
probably your colleagues cannot help more than they already did. (I
assume that
they did what they could to help, people usually do).
Good luck, I am sure that all will be well.

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