My Boss is Unhappy About What I Built: What to Do Next

It’s the worst-case scenario for a hard-working developer like yourself: you’ve spent lots of time and effort building out a specific web page or site for your boss. Now that you’ve put the finishing touches on the project and turned it in, you’re feeling pretty great. That is until you get a follow-up email or phone call from your boss that is not quite the glowing review of your work that you had hoped for.

We’ve all had unhappy bosses after turning in a project and it is never fun. However, resolving it can get a lot easier over time with a few tips. We’ll save you the trouble of going through years of unenthusiastic reviews and pass along these life lessons. Keep this post handy for when you have that next unhappy review or follow-up call.

Take a Deep Breath.

Getting a call or email from an unhappy boss after turning in a project feels stressful and devastating. It’s easy to decide immediately to throw in the towel of your entire development career, but just wait. First things first to a thorough resolution process: take a deep breath and reset your mood.

Resist Becoming Defensive.

When you get any type of critical feedback, it’s so easy to slip into defensive mode. After all, you want to explain to your boss why you did what you did (or didn’t do). However, being defensive often puts the other person on edge too, leading to more misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and no path to resolution.

Listen and Ask Questions.

Now that you’re breathing and not feeling defensive, it’s time to listen to why your boss is unhappy with the project you worked so hard to build. Take notes and try to stay open-minded, even if you don’t agree with what you are hearing. Ask plenty of questions as well as you try to get down to the reasons why your boss is unhappy or disappointed. In many cases, bosses may initially be unhappy with an end result simply because they gave it just a quick look during their busy day; asking them to dive into the project more and explain their issues or concerns makes them pause and look with a finer-tuned lens.

Make Sure to Educate Them.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why bosses are unhappy with projects is that they simply are not using them correctly. Remember, even though project leaders or CEOs don’t have to be tech-savvy to tell you their goals for a project for you to work on, they may not be tech-savvy enough to understand how a program or feature works.

Take time to walk them through your project, highlighting the features and how to use them. Don’t forget to tell them how those features will also benefit their company or help them meet their goals.

Refer to the Scope of Work.

Sometimes, an unhappy boss is just a boss with unrealistic expectations. Fortunately, if you have taken the time to create your project from the Scope of Work agreed upon at the beginning of the project, you can use it to point out the project expectations and how your completed project meets those.

Talk About Adjustments.

Finally, have a candid conversation with your boss about the possibility of adjusting time frames for delivery, if needed. Remember, refer back to the Scope of Work in order to determine if timelines need to be adjusted based on what you previously agreed to and planned for in that document.

An unhappy boss is never the ideal scenario after turning in a project. However, with some education and genuine listening, you can often turn the situation around into a more positive or productive one. This is also the perfect time to review your scoping process. Your supervisor should have completed the scoping process upfront, giving you the tool you need to do your best work and keep clients happy. The front work of creating a comprehensive scope prior to work on the project beginning is the key to decreasing the issues and frustration later on down the road.

Good luck!