Advice Learned Along The Way
Dealing with Overreaching Teammates

Dealing with Overreaching Non-Technical Teammates: A Guide for Technical Leads

As technical leads, we're hired for our unique expertise and experience. We know our domain inside out and back to front. Yet, we sometimes find ourselves undermined by non-technical, non-delivery teammates who overstep their boundaries. If you're experiencing this dilemma, here's a no-nonsense guide on how to deal with it, and how to ensure it doesn't hamper your productivity or team morale.

1. The Problem: Overreaching Teammates

The Situation: We've all been there. The marketing specialist who knows nothing about code wants to dictate the tech stack, or the finance team member who believes they can sort out the DevOps issue because they once set up a Wi-Fi router at home.

The Impact: This overreaching behaviour leads to multiple issues. It slows down decision-making, hampers productivity, and can cause significant frustration within the technical team.

2. The Reasons for Struggling

Loss of Autonomy: As technical leads, we value our autonomy. We're employed for our specific skills and knowledge, and this autonomy allows us to perform at our best. Overreaching behaviour can feel like a direct threat to our control over our work.

Undermining Expertise: When non-technical colleagues overreach, it can feel like they're discounting our expertise. It's akin to us telling the marketing specialist how to run their ad campaign.

Increased Tension: The overstepping of boundaries can lead to increased tension and a fractious working environment, impacting team morale and productivity.

3. The Solution: Assertive Communication and Clear Boundaries

Assertive Communication: Make your thoughts and feelings known in a respectful yet firm manner. State your case backed by facts and your technical expertise. Example: "While I understand you're interested in the tech stack, we have assessed different options and chosen the most suitable one based on our project needs."

Set Clear Boundaries: Establish the roles and responsibilities within the team, emphasising that each member has their own area of expertise. Encourage others to respect these boundaries.

Educate: Use these situations as teaching moments. Explain your decisions and the reasoning behind them, making the non-technical team members understand the complexities involved.

Involve in Appropriate Areas: Get them involved in areas where their input is valuable. This could be helping the marketing specialist understand how the product works for better promotion or explaining the finance team member about the budget required for specific technical resources.

Escalation: If all else fails and the situation continues to hamper your work, escalate the matter to a higher authority. Explain your concerns and suggest possible solutions.

As an assertive technical lead, remember that you hold the reins of the technical aspect of the project. Assert your expertise, set clear boundaries, and maintain open, respectful communication. Use your knowledge and experience to guide the project and keep the overreaching teammates at bay.