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Hi all,

I'm a software engineer currently transitioning into a engineering manager role. Our IT department is made up of 3 different teams, each with roughly 3-4 engineers. It has been decided by my boss that my reports (a total of 5) will actually be scattered across these 3 teams and not just my current team. My boss' reasoning for this is that some other engineers on my team have been peers of mine (and also close friends) for a time, which may affect how impartial and effective I can be in my role. 

My question is, should I push back and try to limit my reports to my team exclusively? Or is managing multiple people across teams something achievable?

Kind regards,

Will

mrreliable's picture

Without knowing the details first hand, I'd be concerned that your boss thinks there "is" a problem rather than there might be a problem. If that's the case pushing back might be seen as trying to protect a bubble.

wbrowne's picture

Thanks for the response!

After talking with my boss, he actually said his main reasoning was that he assumed I would not want to manage my (closer) peers as to not affect our relationships or put me in difficult situations. In that case, the question becomes is it possible to effectively manage people not within that team?

jrb3's picture

I think your boss has at least two mistaken assumptions here:  that you gaining directs doesn't alter other relationships as well anyway, and that you would be unable to handle the transition with a former peer becoming a direct.

Functionally speaking, my impression is that team are exclusive -- everyone on the team sees everyone else on the team more than anyone else, there's one manager, one identity.  There's a boundary, sort of a bubble at times, around an effective team which is part-cause of their effectiveness as a coherent unit.

The situation you describe grates on me.  The two times I've been in a group structured like this, both went bad as in "results suffered markedly and the organization suffered noticeably".  The formal organization matrixed across the functional and informal organizations disrupted all productive work.  Things fell through cracks, stuff got done twice yet incompletely, team identity and goodwill dissipated, and people (inside and outside the teams) slowly lost the will to spend time together to get things done.  Solution each time?  Delete the matrixing, put one lead or manager into each functional team, and otherwise realign the formal organization so that there's only one responsible party for any responsibility.

This might be as simple as talking with your boss, reassure him that his assumptions were unfounded, and ask to step into manager/lead role for one of the functional teams (with none of this "splitting teams across managers" distraction).

Perhaps review the podcasts here on becoming a new manager after being in competition with co-workers?  Not having luck finding them, darn it;  they're the obverse of the "I am a former peer" podcast (search the Map of the Universe to find it, somewhere under Communication / Boss constellation).