I report to a new manager as of 6 months ago.  Since the transition occured, my motivation has declined dramatically.  I'm curious, if there's a lesson to be learned from this siutation.  I need to find this because this is the only motivation i have left to work as i find my next move.  

Her managers have openly said to the team that their main and only concern is to hit milestones at any expense

My manager was a peer of mine that was promoted to this new role. Prior to her promotion, we got along great.  I seek her advice and I gave her advice on some challenging tasks.  We were a team.  Since her promotion; our working relationship has drastically changed. I do believe that her promotion was based on the fact that she could along with people more than I do.  Because her technical experience did not align with the department's needs.    

She now has stripped all my responsibilities away from me.  She first stripped away my technical responsibilities.  At first, I tried to be on her "good side" by suggesting on how to improved the situation. She disagrees with me on all of it without considering if it could be helpful. Eventually, I stopped contributing and stopped trying.  Instead I focused on my managerial skills.  But, she took this away from me too. She continuously provided guidance to my techinicians on career growth and their MBOs. Some of these contradicts with my ongoing one-on -one feedbacks. I kindly suggested that we should proactively keep each other in the loop so we can prevent confusion to our personnels.  She again adamantly disagrees with me and she feels that informing me is sufficient.   

So the big question is; what lessons am I suppose to learn from this? How should I handle this situaiton better? 

donm's picture
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The first thing you need to do is to understand that she is now your boss. She is no longer your peer. Instead of remembering the good ol' days when you worked together amicably, you might want to try to internalize that your old peer quit, and about that same time, they hired a new manager. Treat her the same way you would a new manager, and definitely not the way you did when you collaborated with her previously.

"Her managers have openly said to the team that their main and only concern is to hit milestones at any expense." This is her problem, not yours. She works for them. You work for her. Regardless of what her manager has told her to do, you are only responsible for doing what you are told to do. If a decision falls within your area that will determine whether a milestone is hit or not, then make the best decision you can with the milestone target in mind. Just mentioning the above quote makes me think you might be trying to do her job and not your own. If this is the case, then stop it. You do not work for her managers.

Do your assigned tasks and duties as well as you can. If she insists on stepping over you to your directs, go to your directs and get the entire story of what was discussed afterward so you can continue to do your job. Find out if they were given new tasks or assignments, and then follow up to see that these tasks are done. Let your boss know if her new assignments interfere with any of your previous assignments to your directs, and what the consequences will be to their completion. If you can still make all of your targets, then just track the new assignment exactly as you would any assignments you made yourself.

For example: "You have told Employee A to do Task X. This will delay the completion of Task Y by two weeks." You are not judging her. You are not criticizing her. You are reporting the function of your department so she can manage her group.

If she states, "Task Y must be done on time," then you need to ask for the additional resources necessary to do the task.

"Employee A was assigned that task. Employee B can do it, but then Task Z will suffer. If you want to get all three tasks done simultaneously, then I need additional (necessary resource; probably personnel or overtime authorization)." Of course, she's probably going to tell you to do Task X instead, which brings me to the next paragraph....

Now, to draw a few conclusions: I think she feels threatened by you. Your technical skills are superior to hers, and you were considered for her position before she was awarded it. I think she may be laying the groundwork to eliminate you as a threat. The easiest way to eliminate you as a threat is to promote one of your directs into your position and demote you to your direct's position. You are then two levels away, and would not be considered a valid replacement for her should she fail in the new position.

Plan of action: I would do my job to the best of my ability and keep my boss informed of all department operations, as well as keeping myself informed of what the boss is telling my directs. I would probably tell my directs, "If you are given an assignment by (my boss), please let me know at the first opportunity so I can adjust my planning accordingly." You do NOT tell your directs any of your suspicions or frustrations. You're going to have to basically just deal with this yourself without any allies, as anything you say to anyone else at the company cannot possibly benefit you. Talking outside of class can only hurt you for skipping your boss going up, or bad-mouthing her going down or laterally.

I would also keep my CV up to date, and take the time to "refresh" my network communications. There is a second way to eliminate you as a threat, and that is to fire you for not performing your job, insubordination, or any other real or imagined offense. Similarly, she can make your life so difficult that you just throw up your hands and quit.

mrreliable's picture

To be honest, one glaring aspect of your original post was that you didn't say a word about what your manager wants you to do. You talked about what her managers want her to do, and what you've suggested she do, but reading your posting gives absolutely no clue about what your job is.

Is it possible you're worrying too much about other peoples' responsibilities and not enough about your own?

Kataifi's picture

Thank you for providing such thought provoking feedback.   I believe that there's some truth to your feedback.  You're right; she;s my boss and I truly should be concern on what she asks me to do.  mrreliable, I think you brough up a great coment.  Let me try to explain the culture of our company and hope that it will provide a bit more clarity on this situation.  Our organization does not believe in creating and sticking to job responsibilities.  The trend at this compnay has been; everybody can do anything, and can do the project anytime and anywhere.  As much as I respect that, it can provide inefficiency.   So individuals who are experts in certain product or processes are not always consulted or assigned to the most related projects.  For example 4-5 invidiuals who have similar career experiences are assigned to the same tasks.  But there's a glaring gap of communication between members. We often have to go back and forth to try to determine what's been decided or what's been experimented.  There's a huge disconnection on the knowledge transfer. We often had to reinvent the wheel to later turn another team member has thought through that process. 

Because my job responsibilities changes from day to day, I truly do not know what my role and responsibilities on the team are.  I have sat in multiple one-on ones with her trying to seek where I should focus my efforts in the short and long term. But she's been inconsistently able to define this.   At one point, she mentioned that my focus on project X.  but as I started to focus my time on project X; she changes her mind and asked me to deal with other pressing matters.  Once the pressing matters got resolved, she told me to not worry on project X anymore because she's taken care of it.  This situation has happened numerous time and has occured regardless on how small or large project X is.  It goes back to that I'm no longer sure where I should focus my attention to.  I know that majority of the stress is not her fault; and it's due to the lack of gudance from sr. managment.  So i completely sympathise with that. At the same time, I'm completely at a lost.

I definitely do not want to be perceived as a disgruntled employee....even though it may come out that way.  But I'm frustrated and concerned if I'm still an asset to the company.

Thank you both for your awesome and candid feedback.  It's definitely forcing me to change my perception on this situation.  Maybe...I should alter my perception and focus only on the very short term goals and be maleable that the priorities will change and tasks can be taken away anytime.  And to develop more patience.

jrb3's picture
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If your organization has no stable job responsibilities, and waffling senior management, then it's a management failing.  Flapping projects/duties and the resulting waste is a symptom.  This is especially true if her current behavior differs noticeably from her earlier behavior when she managed only individual contributors.

You can spot-check outside your part of the organization to see whether it's isolated to your department or division.  Chaos normally flows downhill;  if this trouble is localized, you might be able to network to and get advice from folks in saner circumstances, and note behaviors causing chaos to avoid doing those yourself.

Meantime, deliver as best you can, and help your directs deliver as best they can.  Be as good an "asset" while you're there, even though in a situation like this, "assets" are often unacknowledged and unappreciated.  (That, sadly, is another side-effect of the "interchangeable parts" theory of management.)

One mantra that's kept me going in bad times like this is "this too shall pass".  One tactic I've used is to set priorities for the week, then get items done in rank order as quickly as possible, before any get shifted out again.  If an item is too big to deliver during the week, I split it into smaller coherent chunks which do fit into a week. I've used this as an individual contributor, a team lead (for team delivery), and a project manager (for multi-team delivery), all with good results.

criscarter's picture

Interesting. These typical supervisors can suck the marrow out of any office. It takes preparing and an active dedication to clear communication to make it work. These frequent mistakes takes learnings on how to make dealings with employees more efficient. Check out more at Common mistakes managers make.

272631's picture
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Hi Criscarter

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