Protecting My Team From Overtime

Conflict solving
Managing Up
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

11 July, 2018

David Tabachnikov talks about the importance of standing up for your team and being willing to protect them from more senior management.

Problem

I was working as a team leader for a five-person development team. One day, our senior management demanded for my team to work during the holidays to finish part of a development project. The team stayed to develop and build it. However, the work they had done was ultimately only used three months later. The project hadn't been nearly as urgent as our senior management team had said and this really frustrated my team.

Actions taken

The second time, when a similar situation happened, I decided to have a meeting with the company's CEO. I was very firm with him and explained that unless I was certain that a project was urgent enough that it couldn't be postponed, I wasn't going to let me team over the weekend. I explained that this was because I didn't want to make them work extra when it wasn't essential because then when I really needed their help, they wouldn't trust what I was saying about its urgency. The CEO and I ended up in a fight and yelled back and forth. He told me that if he asks for a team to stay, then they would have to stay. I argued back, saying they wouldn't stay because there was no point in keeping them - the product wouldn't be deployed for at least two months. The two days he wanted me to take away from them wouldn't help the project but would hurt morale and the team's perception of us as managers. After the meeting, I told my team to leave at the end of the workday, and they did. When I got home, I saw an invite for an HR meeting, scheduled for 9 am on a Monday morning. After the fight I had had with the CEO, I was sure that I was going to be in huge trouble, if not fired, so I spent the weekend trying to work out what other jobs I could do. I walked into the meeting, and my manager, the HR manager, and my CEO were sitting there. They then told me that they had thought about what I had said and that they wanted to give me a management position because I had stood up for my team. I quickly went from the team lead of just one team of five people to managing six teams.

Lessons learned

Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself or your team when you know you're right. We always think about how to handle interactions with people more senior to us, but sometimes we need to protect the people who work for us from the people who manage us.


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