Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Boss won't let me take on more work

This came from a reader in the information technology space:

“I was recently hired for a role which requires me to manage activities at the product architecture level. It’s been a couple of months now and I’m yet to get into anything substantial. The very reason the company hired me was because I matched their job requirement completely and if hired I could hit the ground running. However, my boss doesn’t seem to be in a hurry! The others in the team (with much lesser work experience than me) are currently doing higher level work! I haven’t spoken to my boss yet thinking he’ll delegate work soon, but that hasn’t happened. Any suggestion on how to manage this situation? I don’t want come across as pushy, while at the same time I do want to get assigned to a project and get started with the real work.”

First, I assume that your current boss was indeed on the interview panel that selected you and he did interview you for the role (if not, I'll come to that point later). If he was on panel; then go right ahead and talk to him about assigning you work that you were hired to do. Why have you waited for two months to talk to him?!?! Quite sure it would have been considered being ‘pushy’ if you had asked within the first couple of weeks. Common practice is to give new hires about thirty days to settle down into the team, work, culture, etc. So yes, talk to him. But when you do have the discussion, show some tact, you don’t want to tell him that the current work is below par for your experience. You would be better off to tell him that while you are working on the current assignment, you have done the necessary ground work (only if that’s true) and you are ready to take on more work. Your discussion should aim at giving him the confidence that you have settled down well into your role and ready for the grind. Listen to him with patience and understand his concerns (if any). But do communicate your stand too. I doubt his concerns would be around your capability; else he wouldn’t have hired you in the first place! Right? It could at times be with change in project plans and he could be waiting for approval to start off. It’ll all be assumptions, until you talk and find out the actual reason. There’s no reason I can see that should stop you from talking to him.

Second, it gets slightly complicated if your current manager wasn’t involved in the hiring process. Really. It’s a possibility. I’ve come across situations where managers have hired for teams they don’t manage. Reasons could vary from setting up a team bottom-up (hire the team members & then hire a new manager for that team), the team’s manager had quit recently and hence the guy you interviewed with is just an interim manager. There are so many other reasons that come to mind. If you fall under any of these categories, then your current manager is: (a) struggling to allot/delegate work since he was only asked to select the right candidate and doesn’t know much about the plans, (b) He has allotted the current work to test waters, before assigning actual work. It’s weird. But I’ve seen that happen too, (c) He doesn’t want to mess around with the existing team’s momentum (it's not his yet), (d) He is waiting for someone to take over the team or to get more clarity from the management, (e) He is a new hire too and is taking time to plan team activities and roles that each team member would play. It could be any of these scenarios (or more) that he has to resolve. If you are stuck here, you should still talk to your manager. Understand the current situation and his plans for you in the team.

You must have noticed. The key thing is to communicate. It’s obvious. Right? Don’t go with assumptions, they’ll only hamper your chances of coomunicating clearly and also in understanding the situation at hand.

Hope you get allotted work soon and good luck with your job!

PS: Most important, don't jump to conclusions (without talking) that you are at the wrong place! That's a path you don't want to follow.