I had an interesting 1-on-1 meeting with my manager yesterday. It turned out to be a personal review… for her. She asked me to tell her what she was doing wrong, what I found annoying about her, and so on.
Obviously, that kind of situation is most people’s worst nightmare. What they hear is “I’ve got this guillotine set up, and I’ve invited you to this meeting so you can lay your head down and try it out, to see if it’s comfortable.”
I actually don’t have any problem with her. Other people find her somewhat abrasive, but I’m used to interacting socially with computer scientists, so I have a high tolerance for that. Some have felt micro-managed, but I’ve managed to avoid that because if I told her what I was doing at any given moment she wouldn’t understand most of it.
So I thought for a moment, and realized that nobody else on the team was going to volunteer anything to her in their 1-on-1 meetings. On the other hand, I’m the only person who knows how to fix and improve breakages in the databases the team relies on, so I could probably afford to take a risk…
So I explained that I had no personal issues with her style, but that some of the other people on the team did, and that I’d heard complaints from them. I then recounted some of their complaints, without attribution, and with as much tact as I could manage. It seemed the right thing to do, as the alternative would be nobody saying anything, and people getting even more tense and upset.
In addition, I’m of the opinion that people shouldn’t ask questions if they don’t want to hear the answer. I’m aware that answering people’s questions can negatively impact one’s popularity, but I just don’t value popularity very much. After all, I saw what kinds of people were popular at school and in college.