How do you set limits without coming across as rigid?

I have a situation at work where the engineering manager I’m partnered with will disregard the first few weeks of a task we have to complete. Every time I set up an invite for us to discuss it, they either decline or show there, say they’ll help move the item forward async after, and then don’t deliver.

The day before the deadline, the engineering manager will finally grant time to complete the task and inform myself and the rest of the team that we did it incorrectly and that there is no time left to redo it. This comes after working with the rest of the team to complete the task two days before the deadline (so I have time to pre-align with stakeholders).

There is a pattern here, therefore this time I chose to defend myself rather than allow them to act like a bull in a china shop the day before deadlines. I advised the management that the job was finished and that it would be too late to change the course of events. The management disapproved but nevertheless did it. I was helpless because engineers work under their supervision. It is still my responsibility to report whether or not that assignment has been performed, and the engineering manager did not even meet with me to discuss how we might go about doing so.

I explained everything to my manager, who is more concerned with seeing that the assignment is completed than with doing anything to hold the engineering manager accountable, in the manner described above, with documentation and a time estimate. My manager, who is new to working with me and the emergency medical team, is accusing me of being rigid and wants this to end immediately.

The EM’s behaviour needs to change, and I shouldn’t drop this because it’s a pattern, I asserted for the first time in my life.

In general, I guess, I want to do a better job of advocating for myself, but I also don’t want to come across as rigid, since it may kind of ruin my career.

Has anyone faced a situation like this before, or more generally, been able to set clear limits without alienating their EM or, regrettably, their new manager?


You should set up checkpoints, in my opinion. Similar problems came up with my engineering team. They would tell me that the feature was very simple to create, but just before they began to implement it, they would change it completely. I informed my engineering manager, but nothing could be done.

One of my mentors advised me to develop a proper Define, Design, Develop, and Delivery process. Establish checkpoints at each stage. For each checkpoint meeting, be sure to record the names of the key stakeholders and a task list. Send a recording of the check point meetings to everyone.

If they later claim that the assignment has not been completed, you can provide your deck and hold your EM accountable.


When your manager doesn’t support you, it can be difficult to hold people accountable for actions.
There are a few options available to you:

  • Note everything down. Keep a record of the exchange in which the EM gave you the chronology; Record any meetings that are denied, Record assertions that something is improperly done, Record the actual completion date as well as any design adjustments that were made (such as anything you requested that wasn’t included or something they decided to add that you didn’t want, etc.). Once that is finished, review it. Consider whether you think it’s okay, then speak with your manager once again. Ask your manager what constitutes “acceptable” lateness and demonstrate any/all instances where the EM overly prolonged the project.

  • A lesson I picked up from a marital book. Ask the EM manager what you can do to solve this problem and be yourself when speaking with him. It is very challenging for me to keep my promises to the sales team once deadlines are missed and the entire job needs to be redone. It also leaves me with a negative impression. How am I contributing to these problems, and what can I do to ensure that we reach these deadlines? In order for us to keep on the same page, I had anticipated that regular meetings to discuss the project would be beneficial. However, I recognize that you are busy and don’t need ANOTHER appointment on your calendar.


I get the impression that the EM is uncomfortable with your strategy but is unable to address it in a constructive manner.

I can come up with two possibilities:

  1. Product Managers frequently have to take on a variety of duties in order to accomplish their goals, thus it’s simple to pick up the automatic behaviors of others in one team. Try to comprehend what the EM’s function is in addition to line management and how the EM sees their own function. Think about whether some of what you’re trying to do or doing overlaps with how the EM sees things. If that’s the case, figure out a way to politely withdraw and let them finish.

  2. The vision and/or strategy you are pursuing are not shared by EM. EM might not feel as though they have a way to contribute or offer feedback, or they might not believe they have been at least taken into account and things are being pushed down his throat and the throats of the team. Perhaps holding a high-level meeting with the EM to discuss the Vision and Strategy and actively solicit their opinion, without addressing it in that meeting but rather just listening in and probing deeply into their worries since they might be reserved.

That is if the EM is not just a dumbo :slight_smile:


Given that your manager is unsupportive and that you lack a scrum master, this sounds like something that needs to be discussed in a 1:1 meeting. It is unethical to ignore responsibilities, decline necessary meetings, fail to produce tasks, and then suddenly unleash bombs.

You can decide on a better working procedure moving ahead if the engineering manager is absolutely unaware of how annoying they are. Alternatively, they might simply be a poor colleague, in which case you would need to decide if you could continue to put up with them.


Sounds like the program manager/scrum master’s job to be honest to be following up like this.


You’re absolutely right, however our program manager has been on “health related vacation” for months.


It sounds like you’re dealing with a difficult situation at work, and it’s great that you’re standing up for yourself and advocating for your work. It’s understandable that you don’t want to come across as inflexible, but it’s important to set boundaries and communicate your needs clearly.

Here are a few tips that may help you navigate this situation:

  1. Document everything: Keep track of all the interactions you have with your EM, including emails, meeting invites, and any conversations you have in person or over the phone. This will help you have a clear record of what has happened and may be helpful if you need to escalate the situation later.
  2. Communicate your needs: When you set up meetings with your EM, be clear about what you need from them and why it’s important. If they decline the meeting invite, follow up with an email outlining your expectations and the consequences of not meeting them.
  3. Be assertive, not aggressive: When you’re advocating for yourself, it’s important to be firm but not aggressive. Use “I” statements to express your needs and concerns, and avoid blaming or attacking the other person.
  4. Find allies: Talk to other members of your team or colleagues who may have had similar experiences with the EM. Having a support network can help you feel less isolated and may provide you with ideas on how to deal with the situation.
  5. Escalate if necessary: If your EM continues to ignore your needs or behave inappropriately, you may need to escalate the situation to your manager or HR department. Be prepared to present your documentation and clearly explain your concerns.

Remember, it’s important to advocate for yourself, but you also want to maintain good relationships with your colleagues and managers. Keep the focus on the work and the impact their behavior is having on your ability to do your job effectively. Good luck!

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I completely understand how frustrating it can be when you feel like your manager is not supporting you and holding others accountable. It’s important to remember that your manager may have different priorities or perspectives and may not have all the information that you have. Here are a few things you can do to try to get your manager’s support:

  1. Provide clear evidence: When you are bringing up concerns to your manager, provide clear evidence to back up your claims. This could include emails, meeting notes, or other documentation. This can help your manager see the situation more clearly and understand why you are concerned.
  2. Explain the impact: When you are discussing the situation with your manager, be sure to explain the impact that the behavior is having on your work or the project. This can help your manager understand why it is important to address the issue.
  3. Offer solutions: Instead of just bringing up the problem, try to offer some potential solutions that could help improve the situation. This shows that you are not just complaining, but are actively trying to improve things.
  4. Seek guidance: If your manager is not providing the support you need, you may want to consider seeking guidance from another leader in your organization. This could be a mentor, a more senior manager, or someone in HR. They may be able to provide you with advice or help you escalate the situation.

Remember, holding others accountable can be difficult, especially if you don’t feel like you have the support of your manager. However, it’s important to keep advocating for yourself and doing what you can to improve the situation.