BLUF: I am transitioning to a new role where I will be successful but unhappy. Do I bring this up to my boss or find a new place to work.

This is my first post so please be gentle. :wink:

I am an individual contributor who has exceeded my goals and the performance of my peers consistently the past three years. I have been rewarded in that time with an increasing depth, breath, and complexity of responsibility. My performance evaluations have been exemplary and I have been compensated fairly. I have as good a relationship with my boss as any that work for him (he is very demanding but generally fair) and I have been very happy with my work.

At the beginning of the year I was asked to transition into a group, as an individual contributor, that is dysfunctional. They are poorly managed and have a reputation for painful relations with their internal customers. While I entered in to the arrangement with high hopes and a positive attitude, things have degenerated. I now informally report to three managers in addition to officially reporting to the original guy. I am struggling to be part of the team an am currently failing at getting along with one member of the team in particular. (I know the umbrella poke allegory and it is true but that doesn’t mean I have been successfully at executing. I am trying.) My general happiness has greatly diminished.

I am convinced that I can perform well in this new job. I am certain that my boss put me here because he knew I could help make this team more successful.

I feel uncomfortable bringing this to him because I think he would consider it a failure on my part. I also no longer want to be in this situation and do not feel I have the ability to change it.

The question is: My skills are easily transferable to other companies/industries and my accomplishments are very quantifiable. Do I just find another place to work or can this be worked out at my current place of employment?

Thanks for listening,

jhack's picture


You don't describe specifically what your new boss(es) are doing, nor what makes your current performance below par. Do your new co-workers also report to your boss?

You can't change your boss, and you really can't change several bosses. It is unrealistic to assign a good performer to a bad manager and expect good results. This is not your failure.

You must focus on the behaviors ("things have degenerated" isn't a behavior; "a coworker withheld information critical to our project, and the customer rejected our first release" is behavior). You need to talk about specific behavior if you are going to discuss this your boss.

You could find a mentor who is closer to the situation and who might help you navigate. Your boss did you no favors putting you on this team.

Definitely make sure your network is strong and consider other opportunities.


HMac's picture

jamjtole -

First, congratulations on becoming a posting member!

Talk to your boss (your original boss). Prepare a candid, behavior-based assessment on what you're been able to do so far. Be prepared to discuss your behavior-based observations regarding others in the unit, but do so sparingly (you don't want to make this a gripe session about the other employees).

Use this approach to clarify your bosses' expectations about why he put you there in the first place, and to understand how well HE thinks your doing.

Then you can reassess whether or not you should move on.

MsSunshine's picture

BLUF: Work with your boss on what YOU should do yourself first. Choose to leave if what you have to do doesn't work for you. It could be that a great learning experience is waiting for you to tackle.

I have a couple of comments. This comment you made struck me:
[quote]I feel uncomfortable bringing this to him because I think he would consider it a failure on my part. [/quote]
Give your boss the chance to prove you wrong on this. There is a good chance that he didn't expect you to do this without any problems. What I expect my team to do is do their best, be honest where they need help and come to me as soon as possible with an issue for help on how they should fix it - not dump problems on me and say "boss - fix this".

Secondly, what you want to do is ask your boss for advice/thoughts/options on what YOU should do differently. The conversation is "Boss, here's what I think you asked me to do. Is that right?" If you are in sync, the conversation is "Here's what I'm doing and the results I'm getting are x,y and z. I'm feel that's not meeting your expectations. Can you give me some advice on what I should do differently?"

Finally, the key for me to be happy is to focus on changing what I can change - ME! If it turns out that I am unwilling or unable to make that change, I would definitely look for another job. Unwilling isn't always negative. It could be that I would need to do something that I am personally against or doesn't fit where I want to go with my life/career. Then I choose to leave. But it could be that you are missing something that could make the difference. Your boss should be giving you the opportunity to solve the problem in your own style. Don't assume that the boss isn't willing to help if asked.

US41's picture


[quote] I am certain that my boss put me here because he knew I could help make this team more successful. [/quote]

I submit that you are not certain that your boss put you there to change the team. Unless your boss said, "I am putting you on this dysfunctional team to fix it." you do not know that. You are imagining it.

Good managers do not fix dysfunctional teams under them by moving top performers to work for the managers of those teams. Instead, they manage the manager of the team to fix the team.

Individual contributors do not change teams. They participate in them, are absorbed by them, and are changed by them. You put a super-star onto a lousy team and what you end up with is a lousy team.

You say you are having trouble getting along with some of your important relationships. I want to press you hard to look in the mirror and consider the very real and probable possibility that your belief in your own superior performance and placement to fix the team is the source of this friction. If you join a team thinking you are the messiah sent by The Boss to save the little people, they will pick up on that through your behavior, and you will not FIT IN.

What is the first rule of joining a team? FIT IN AT ALL COSTS.

Are you dressing like them, talking like them, and complimenting what they do? Or are you verbally speaking up in protest of failing processes and attacking standard operating procedures which seem ineffective?

Sounds to me like you need to go back out of the room and come back in, and this time, knock first. You might be a top performer when it comes to performing certain job tasks, but your annual review this year might have some serious criticism of your teamwork and interpersonal skills.

I know you asked us to take it easy on you, but I took that to mean that you already knew everything I just wrote, and you posted this message to get confirmation from the outside that something in your belief/behavior system was flawed.

Consider it confirmed.

Believe me, I feel for you. I have been in this position so many times, and have burned so many bridges. I once joined a team thinking the exact same thing, alienated everyone, and instead of being made the manager, I was pulled back out of it, given a bad annual review, and severely reprimanded for creating a whirlpool of bad morale and conflict.

Change your perspective now or you will drown in your own self importance.

I am so sorry to deliver this message so bluntly. Perhaps I will burn for it later, but I write this to you because I believe this is what managers do. We risk our short-term happiness and personal comfort to help others see what is going on and improve.

For all you know, your boss does not consider the team dysfunctional, he thinks the management is awesome, and he put you on the team because he thought you would learn something there. Do not assume motives of other people. Observe behavior and only draw conclusions from facts in evidence. Even if you know otherwise, do not ever go in with the intent to change your boss or overhaul a team unless you are the manager. Even then, for 90 days you do nothing but give praise and assess the situation.

Mgr_1234's picture

I related so much to this post and devoured the comments.  In particular, the candid feedback from US41 really struck a chord with me.