Lessons Learned from a Broken Relationship with a Manager

Kiran Chitluri

Engineering Manager and Leadership Coach at Google



I had been with my manager for three and a half years when we had a really big fight. It started with a situation where on a team of 50 people we barely had any women. Therefore my manager wanted to only hire women. I had been involved with the recruitment process for a long time and although I recognized the situation, from a principles perspective, I did not believe that this was the best approach. Yes, I agreed that we needed to compensate for bias and that we should put more effort into interviewing more women, but I did not agree that if a male candidate should apply, that we overlook him because he was not female. It felt to me that the end did not justify the means.

Actions taken

Our fight evolved out of misaligned values. At that point, the trust began to break down and our relationship started falling apart. I became disengaged with my work. I started having issues with work and working with my manager. And I had a hard time trying to correct those issues. I felt like my manager just wasn't on my side, and I believe that stemmed from our value differences and our failing trust.

I began really spending time thinking about what kind of relationship do I have with my manager? Do I really like this person that I am working with? What are my goals? What are my manager's goals? Are those goals aligned? I thought it was important to reflect and push forward, to continue and make the relationship work so that we could both learn from this hardship.

Unfortunately, the relationship between my manager and I never got repaired. In fact, I don't think it was ever fully back on track after that fight. The opportunity to mend the relationship was lost when my manager ended up leaving the company. When he was leaving, though, I realized that he thought the relationship was much worse than I did, where I thought things were much better. And despite the challenges, he said he learned a lot from me.

Lessons learned

  • I think it's important to assume good intention in other people. Taking a step back, figuring out the details, and really tuning yourself into what is going on with the other person that you might be in conflict with.
  • Sometimes when there is trouble you have to really dig deep to make things better. Other times you might simply value things differently and therefore not be able to resolve the differences.
  • If you have certain characteristics and traits, you need to make sure that they are going to be able to flourish in the environment that you are in. So align your values and strengths to the culture of the company and to the future of the organization within the company.
  • Have a structured outlook when interviewing or deciding to work with a certain team or organization. Make sure that you not only meet their requirements and that you find the role interesting, but also be sure that they align with some of the requirements you have for what makes you happy at work.
  • People say you leave a manager, not a company. I think the reverse is also true, you should stay in a position at a company because you have a good manager.
  • A hardship is not necessarily something that you want to run away from. And failure doesn't mean that you didn't actually benefit from it in some way.

Be notified about next articles from Kiran Chitluri

Kiran Chitluri

Engineering Manager and Leadership Coach at Google

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionIndividual Contributor RolesLeadership Roles

Connect and Learn with the Best Eng Leaders

We will send you a weekly newsletter with new mentors, circles, peer groups, content, webinars,bounties and free events.


HomeCircles1-on-1 MentorshipBounties

© 2024 Plato. All rights reserved

LoginSign up