I was trying to retrieve manager.Name going up in hierarchy I also tried to retrieve manager.manager.Name. Field manager.Name was null so I was expecting it to throw an exception. However I didn't got any exception. I tried following code on Developer console:

List<User> userList = [Select manager.Name, manager.Mobile_number__c, manager.manager.Name, manager.manager.Mobile_number__c, manager.Email, manager.manager.Email, manager.manager.manager.Email from User where id = '005900000018D73'];

System.debug('1. :  '+ userList.get(0).manager); //if manager is getting NULL
System.debug('2. :  '+ userList.get(0).manager.manager); // NULL.manager is/should not possible ?! 
System.debug('3. :  '+ userList.get(0).manager.manager.manager);

What I was expecting that it should throw an Exception:

Attempt to de-reference NULL object.

Observation: It runs successfully with no errors.

Can anyone explain why it's happening like this?

  • 1
    We have some hierarchy checks within our managed packages and we reference the 5 levels up without using null checks. Spent a day or two testing these scenarios and your results are right. Strange behaviour as opposed to what a developer would expect. Would love to hear an answer to this.
    – TSmith
    Mar 14, 2017 at 13:12
  • @TSmith Yes, I also found it strange. Mar 14, 2017 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


Here's the documentation about lookup relantionships.

I'm quoting:

Beginning with API version 13.0, relationship SOQL queries return records, even if the relevant foreign key field has a null value, as with an outer join.


Adding @IllusiveBrian's documentation about accessing relationships.

Quote from this link:

When being read as a value, if c.Account is null, then c.Account.Name evaluates to null, but does not yield a NullPointerException.

  • 2
    I hope that one day those will be valid for process builder :)
    – kurunve
    Mar 14, 2017 at 13:29
  • 2
    Also related: documentation (Check the second yellow box). Even without SOQL, sObjects will not throw NullPointerException when read as a field on another object, unless you try to access their Id. Mar 14, 2017 at 14:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.