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Greetings!

I am new to the CT forums, and I believe I've done a thorough search to see if my question has already been asked by another member.  No success.

Here's my dilemma: I've been with my current company approximately 10 months and am unhappy/bored.  I did some soul searching and research as to what would improve my current situation, as I would like to stay with my current employer.  I looked back at the job description that I had applied for, and the description has far more (exciting) responsibilities listed than I am currently being assigned.  My job title is "Quality Assurance Engineer," but the description lead me to believe that it would be a Continuous Improvement role, working with other departments, driving improvements, and integrating standard work.  (Our facility does not have any Process Engineers or Continuous Improvement Managers.)  Most of my work load has been process audits, paperwork, and laboratory work.

To be fair, there have been some attempts by myself and my manager to develop process control limits with Engineering and Operations, but the environment has been a bit hostile.  I believe the hostility is a matter of ownership, as the other areas say "we've got it under control" or "we're already working on that".  This then leads me to believe that my manager is not in touch with the other department heads.  I'm at a loss on how to proceed.

I've been doing some under-the-table work with the shop floor leads on process improvements under my own initiative, but I do not feel that the management support is in place or coordinated.  I'm considering presenting my manager with my original job description and asking him how we can bridge the gap between the vision and the reality.  In the meantime, I am applying for what may be my dream job.  Another concern, is that in my application for the new job, I anticipate the questions of why I am leaving my current job.

Any advice on how to proceed?

Many Thanks,

Jenna

jrosenau's picture

Jenna,

Your plan of attack sounds good.  Sit down with your manager with your job description and identify what you feel are gaps and ask him how you can work together to bridge those gaps.  You may also want to come with suggestions.  That will show initiative on your part and that you are looking at the solution rather than the problem (i.e. not complaining).

As for the new job, simply state that the job was advertised as one thing and you found that your responsibilities didn't match to what you understood the job to be.  Explain that you are working with your manager to address those concerns (i.e. you aren't just jumping ship for the sake of jumping) but you are looking for new opportunities that more align with what you expected from your current position.  This situation does happen and shouldn't be a negative to a prospective employer.

John

jennakraft's picture

John,  Thank you for your reply and advice!

Jenna

jennakraft's picture

I have a follow-on question.  How can I ensure that the next time I interview for a position, I do not get into a situation like this again?

I have had another similar situation in the past at a start-up company (which later closed).  My roles and responsibilities were clearly represented, but the company culture was misrepresented.  Essentially, I was given responsibilities that were not well recieved by other departments and I did not have the role power needed to overcome political battles.  Several people told me after my resignation that I really should have been placed under a different manager (at a higher level, to have the role power needed to implement the changes wanted by upper management).

Any thoughts on how to ensure that the management of a hiring company is competent and that the organizational structure is correct?

Thanks in advance!

jrosenau's picture

Hopefully someone else can chime in.

I think probing the job responsibilities to understand who you are expected to interact with can clue you in to your actual job responsibilities.  If you interviewing with other departments, ask them what they expect from your department if you are hired on.  The problem here is that often you are only interviewed by the department that hires you and they believe that they'll be able to bring you in and you'll be able to (almost "magically") change processes / people the way they are expecting.  In reality, that type of change rarely happens quickly and you are left in the position you are in.  

I've seen this happen to a couple people, and there are 2 main positions I've found risky from your stand point:

1) Positions that are new in a company  - unless the company is moving to some industry team standard (I'm in IT so things like Project Manager, QA, Developer) - new positions are often the result of a company identifying a need and hoping to fill it.  Sometimes what happens is what the company thinks they need and what they actually need are 2 different things.  You get hired for what the company thinks they need; but are not fit for the job they actually need.  A job where you don't have a predecessor in a company or the position isn't an additional member of a pre-existing team can be a warning sign.  It's a risk.  It may work out; but it may not.

2) young companies - many companies that are starting up / early years have to find their footing quickly.  This sometimes means starts and stops.  This is almost similar to the above in that as the company is figuring out their place in the market, they can quickly shift gears and have to re-tool their positions.  In this case, you get hired based on the company's current needs; but the market causes those needs to change.  Granted, this could happen at any company, but I've seen it happen more often at younger companies.

naraa's picture

Managers have difficulty implementing issues cross departments as well.

In my company we had for a while a quality assurance manager who was able to get a lot less done than the quality assurance engineer that assumed the function (not the manager role) after she left.  The difference was in the communication and personality characteristics of the two.

Quality Assurance Engineer role is really a challenge because the role requires a strong analytical capacity while simultaneously requiring quite a bit of people skills and persuasion.

It may help you to listen to all the manager-tool podcasts on persuasion (http://www.manager-tools.com/2007/11/how-to-be-persuasive-in-a-presentation), another good book for that sort of role is Crucial Conversations (http://www.vitalsmarts.com/crucialconversations_book.aspx).

Other things you can do:

1 - Identify among the managers of the other areas, who is friends with your boss and who is not (know who you are dealing with and what you can expect from each)

2 - Identify yours and the people you interact with DISC personality and adjust the way you interact to fit their personality

3 - Be prepare to give a lot before you can demand action from them (offer help for them to sort out the quality issues they may have pending)

4 - Develop relationship with people on the other area at a similar ranking level than yours and whom you find affinity and develop a good knowledge of how that department runs and what is important for that department.  

5 - Prioritise your demands from the other team on what really matters most.  And plan some advancement on those issues, you may get a good satisfaction from your work if you can see advancement in a couple of critical issues.    Rather than bouncing your head with the people that you are not getting good responses, you may be able to work towards areas that are hold by people that you can get better responses from, usually all areas need improvement.

What happened in our company over a few years was that the company grew, the management requirement changed, and the quality assurance program had remained the same from when the company was a lot smaller and different.  So the quality assurance manager was demanding action on issues that were not really priority anymore.  

Your approach for your talk with your manager is correct.  Also add observing the people involved, identifying where the issues are and seeing how you can perhaps be the bridge among the departments.  Come to your managers with some suggestions.  I don´t know how fluent your communication with your manager is, but he may as well still be expecting that you do develop what is identified in your job description.  You can also ask explicitly for help for example: "I am having difficulties with these and these people, i just cannot get them to fulfil their commitments, could you help me support my intends with them or orient me somebody else from their department I could work with, etc, etc,...."

There maybe issues here that are outside your control.  But do ask yourself whether there are issues that are inside your area of influence to direct your job more towards your "dream job".  By the way, I am not sure a dream job actually exists, there are always some nightmares embedded within.

I think manager-tools has an year and a half at least rule of thumb for the period you should stay on a job.  I personally would not hire someone who on the interview could not demonstrate to me that they did try hard enough, that they had sufficient persistency, and were resourceful enough to at least to try to modify the job to what the description were and to what they thought was important for that role.

Nara

jennakraft's picture

 Thank you Nara and John.

John, I think you nailed the risk on the positions.  My current role fits your #1.  The older position I mentioned fits both #1 and #2.  I like your suggestions about how to check for consistency between departments during the interview.  Most of my background is Manufacturing Engineering and bits of project management responsibilities.

Nara, I will check out the resources you mentioned.  I wouldn’t have thought to listen to the persuasion podcast.  I believe I have heard of the book that you mentioned as well and its usefulness in business and home life.

I do understand that managers have issues with implementing issues across departmental.  However I believe that a person charged with implementing change should either have the role power to affect that change, an environment that is supportive of the change, and/or management support for the actual implementation.

Unfortunately, there are not many people in the company that have respect for my manager, which is another fun challenge.  =)  Most of my conversations with other managers and peers are best achieved if I leave my manager (or his agenda) out of the conversation.  Not a position or method that I am fond of.

I like your suggestion of doing more DISC analysis of myself and of others.  And you’re definitely right about showing good-will before asking for favors.   I have been working on #4 and 5 already.

I will have the discussion with my manager soon about reviewing my responsibilities.  As far as I know he has not managed a professional before, only technicians and document clerks.   I honestly fear that he doesn’t know how to manage a person at my level, or how to let a direct manage themselves.  Task oriented vs. goal oriented.  I will provide him suggestions, do my own best and continue on.

Re-reading this post, I do know that I’m sitting in the problem and not the solution.  Unfortunately in the current culture and management, I don’t see a solution on the horizon.  I truly wish I did.  I do appreciate the advice.  When I moved to this position (in a new area), I lost my mentor as he’s not a fan of phone or email.  Unfortunately, I’ve gotten myself further into a pickle than I normally do.  =)

Nightmares are always in dream jobs.  My favorite jobs were the most stressful, demanding, and often the most frustrating, but for me they were the most rewarding!  

Jenna

jennakraft's picture

As I mentioned in my last post, I am aware that I am "sitting in the problem," and having a hard time visualizing a positive outcome.  However, I know that my self-justifications come off as "yeah, I know, but (insert excuse)." 

If I'm being thickheaded, please bring me back to reality!  =)  I know forums, texts and other written communication does not convey tone or attitude correctly, so I want to be clear... I *do* want feedback, and if any of my arguments are wrong, please correct me.

In the meantime, I am drafting some dialogue points suggested and have asked my manager for some time at his convenience.  (Also, got a call back on "the dream job" and have a screening interview next week.)

Many Thanks!

jrosenau's picture

Good luck with the dialogue! 

jennakraft's picture

Greetings again!  I wanted to send an update earlier, but the situation has been changing daily (and personal life challenges have kept me busy as well). Anyhow, the dialogue with my manager went pretty well. I was straightforward about my desire to work on the higher level projects that were implied when I was hired on. My manager agreed that things hadn’t been progressing as planned and we both left the meeting with actions. This was encouraging to some extent, and was a good step in building a better relationship with my manager. However, I still have reservations about my manager’s ability to affect “our relationships” with the other departments.

The next work day, the HR manager started a conversation with me (when I was not in the best state to give responses about my job satisfaction.) We ended up having a lengthy discussion about my perception of interdepartmental issues and building relationships. He has offered to coach me in my influencing/relationship skills, which I accepted. Another topic with the HR manager was the lack of communication and agreement with the management staff. He has indicated that there is some action being planned to address this.
 
My current actions are focusing on fostering relationships with peer level people in other departments and helping them with projects they need support with. I’m also working on outlining some achievable goals that would increase my job satisfaction in my current role.
 
Also of note, 2 other white collar employees have now given their 2 week notices. These two have worked here just months longer than myself. Our current staff is less than 30 white collar, and over 70 blue collar. And I would venture to say that over 70% of all employees have more than 15 years with the company. Within the past 2 months, 3 white collars (with tenures less than 18 months) have given notice. Is this attrition rate normal?
 
Outside of my current employ, I found that the “dream job” is a much farther commute than advertised. Probably farther than I would be willing to drive daily. From what I could gather, it could be tricky politics again within a small company. I’m still open to hearing more, but am not sold on the job by any means. In the meantime, I’m working my small local network for other possible opportunities.
 
Thanks again for your support and feedback!
 

Jenna

jrosenau's picture

Hi Jenna - sounds like you are working through this.  This will help you navigate through change throughout your career.

To answer the attrition rate question, your situation is probably not unique.   The other workers might have been brought in with one job description but assigned different responsibilities.  They are choosing to leave.

I think the fact that you are sticking it out will give you a great story when you do choose to leave the firm.  You will be able to say that you did everything you could to make it work.

John

terrih's picture

After you get things all sorted out, do offer to rewrite the job description and/or title accordingly, if need be.

HR will kiss your feet, and the next person won't find themselves in the same dilemma.

My last job before the current one was billed as a "Technical Writing Assistant," but the previous two people hired had quit because they didn't get to do any actual writing. This was disclosed to me in my interview so that I wouldn't have the same expectations. After I was hired, I suggested they change the job title to "Desktop Publishing Specialist." Now I HIRE them, and it certainly gives applicants much more accurate expectations.

jennakraft's picture

Hi Terri,

That is a great suggestion! I will likely offer that to my manager if I move on.

Things are still in limbo at the moment.  I may be moving to another department, or even possibly becoming my own department after talking to the top on-site manager.  They're working on defining the 'future state' this week and I will make some sort of decision after that.

Best,  Jenna

jennakraft's picture

I owe those of you who had given me feedback an update! (Yes, it's been 6 months already since I posted anything new.)  I tried most all of your advice and had many discussions with people of all levels at my current employer.

2-3 months after I had spoke with the top on-site manager in February, their announcement to me was that they had formed a committee to receive, chose, and assign Continuous Improvement projects to employees within the organization (the projects that I had pitched).  The only response I could muster after that announcement was that I was "looking forward to seeing projects come out of the committee".  I also asked if I could/would be involved with the committee, and the answer was no, except for assignments.  I had also heard some rumors that at least one of the senior staff was against my original proposal, so the committee was formed as an alternative.  The CI committee still has yet to even announce to the company how to submit concepts.  A few key managers told me in confidence that they were also disappointed with the path chosen.

New attrition has occurred, the HR manager and the remaining engineer in operations.  I have been approached about the position in operations, but the new description has yet to be approved by top management.

In the meantime, I had been doing some footwork on possible new positions at other companies, but there had not been any acceptable positions or offers.  The area I live does not have much for product manufacturing, and the majority of engineers here focus on nuclear applications.  

But... I received an offer from my family's business (which adds a considerable commute of 2 hours per day round trip), and we were able to negotiate terms that work for the company and myself.  I will be doing a lot of project work: ISO implementation, TQM and lean manufacturing, as well as product project management.  I gave notice to my current employer yesterday.

So, that leaves me with 7 weeks until I get married, finishing my current job, and starting a new lifestyle changing job while planning a wedding.  Wish me luck/sanity! :)

Thanks again to all who provided helpful feedback.

Jenna

VickieTisdale's picture

Jenna,

I have been following your path here in Manager Tools do to my interest in the nature of your work.  It sounds as if "doing the footwork" has provided the opportunity to create your own parameters.   On another note- if there are any suggestions from your experience that you are willing to share regarding your actions to "foster relationships with peer level people in other departments" I would enjoy hearing them!  Again, Congrats on your new endeavor!

VICKIE TISDALE | Front Office Manager

[email protected]