my manager is disconnected and hands-off, my manager is pushing me to work I don’t want to do, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My manager is disconnected and hands-off — is this normal?

I joined a company at a director level position a little over a year ago. A director is a fairly highly ranking role at this company. The level of interaction with my manager is so low that I just don’t feel I can do my job. My manager never reviewed annual goals, doesn’t keep a regular one-on-one, and didn’t even define what his expectations are of me. He is in a different office than I am, so I don’t even get to take advantage of hallway conversations. If I reach out to him for clarification or discussion, his response is always that he will schedule a one-on-one. The meeting doesn’t materialize. If I attempt to schedule something, I get a terse brushback that I am overstepping my bounds, and that I need to learn to be a little more autonomous. But the issue for me isn’t that I’m not able to be autonomous – it is that I have been completely abandoned. I don’t consider myself a needy employee, but I do expect a two-way dialogue with my manager about expectations, am I meeting them, and if not, finding out about this in a timely manner so that I can make adjustments. It doesn’t even need to be frequent, but preferably, it would be regular.

I feel as if I’ve done all I can to have a functional relationship with my manager, and it doesn’t show any signs of improving. I am strongly considering searching for a new position – something I don’t want to do since I’d have to pay back a large signing bonus if I leave within two years. Is no communication with management something I need to just accept as I move higher within my career, or do I have a legitimate reason to move on?

No, this is about your manager, not about working at a higher level. Good managers at all level set clear expectations, respond to questions, and meet with staff members. Certainly as you climb higher and higher, the discussion often becomes about bigger-picture strategy and less in the weeds, but those basics don’t change.

Your manager is just unusually, problematically hands-off. Since you’d have to pay back your signing bonus if you left, it might make sense to try to figure out whether you can can work under this guy reasonably happily for a while, before just high-tailing it out of there. (But if it turns out that you can’t, keep in mind that if you’re enough in demand enough in your field, you might be able to negotiate your next offer to have the new employer pay off whatever you’d owe on the signing bonus.)

2. I got a large raise, but then my boss cut my bonus

I have been working for a nonprofit organization for 25 years. I have been getting a yearly raise, not a whole lot but I have always been grateful for what I received. Last month was “raise month,” so I asked my manager for a significant raise, which he granted begrudgingly, seeing as how I am the only person in two states who does what I do, and I have been a loyal employee for 25 years. This month’s paycheck included my Christmas bonus, which he cut in half. I did send him an email in case it was an oversight, to which he has not responded. Should I just leave it alone or fight for what I deserve? I am quite sure he gave himself not only a significant raise but also a significant bonus; he pays himself an obscene amount of money.

Well, he might have cut your bonus because of the raise, or it might have been lower for other reasons; bonuses aren’t generally guaranteed. You can certainly ask why and possibly make a case for why you deserve more, but I wouldn’t do this in email, since that’s something you should have a real conversation about. Email isn’t an appropriate forum for this.

Also, it’s possible that it was perfectly reasonable to lower your bonus this year; if you got a “significant raise,” that might be where your compensation is going. (Personally, I’d rather have a “significant raise” than a bonus, since bonuses are one-time and raises are more permanent.)

3. My manager is pushing me into work I don’t want to do

I’ve been working at my company for a few years now. When I started, I was something like a junior teapot producer – I would get tasks from account managers, who would report back to their clients when I was done. My goal was always to strengthen my teapot-building skills and get involved in more complex projects, but despite my telling them what I wanted to work on, the timing never seemed right to bring someone less-skilled into the bigger stuff. Instead, I was given more responsibility in communicating directly with clients to try to reduce the workload of the account managers.

I don’t like dealing with clients directly. They make me nervous. I made a career change when I took this job because I was hoping to have less client contact. But I didn’t feel like I had much choice in the matter, because the account manager I work the most closely with (“Jane”) is always incredibly overworked, and there was really no one else who could help.

A few months ago, my company merged with another, larger company, which I hoped would give me more opportunities to get back to teapot-building. This company, though, does most of its teapot-building overseas, and now my bosses are trying to push me into an even more client-facing role – without consulting me about it. My first indication of this was about a week ago, in a meeting with Jane, some of the big bosses, and someone from the new company. Jane and the big bosses had clearly already been discussing handing one of our big (and difficult) clients over to me because Big Boss had already wanted Jane to stop working with them (news to me), and they were presenting this to me as a done deal. Then today, Big Boss emailed me about a new project, saying “you don’t need to do anything with this now, but you’ll likely be the client manager for this.” I just want to toss up a time-out sign and go whoa, since when am I a manager of anything?? I don’t want to manage clients! I want to be a teapot engineer! How can I say this without looking difficult or unhelpful? I’m honestly not even sure I can salvage the career path I want out of this position any more, and I am willing to move on, but I’d like to try to work it out first.

You need to have a candid and direct conversation with your manager about the direction of your work. Say something like this: “I’m being assigned more client management work, and I’m getting the sense that you’d like me to be going more in that direction. To be frank, client work isn’t a direction I want to go in; I really want to focus on teapot building. Is it possible to pull back from the client work and focus most of my time on teapots?”

Your goal here is to be up-front about where you stand on this and get a realistic idea of what is and isn’t possible. If you end up hearing that this is just the way the job is changing, then you can decide if it makes more sense for you to move on to something more in line with what you want to do.

4. Interviewing when you don’t know anything about the job

Today I got an interview for a job at a company I’d love to work for. The problem is that the job is unadvertised and basically all I know is the job title. (I’m a student looking to break into this particular sector, so one of the people I know at the firm sent my resume around to see if anyone had any suitable vacancies.) What should I do to try to prepare for the interview? Should I email the HR consultant who will be interviewing me and ask for a job description?

Yes, absolutely. Say something like this, “So that I can prepare for our meeting, is there a job description or other information about the role that you can share with me?”

5. Can I send employees home when there’s no work?

Can a non-union, hourly employee be sent home if there is no work to do towards the end of the work day?

Yes. Keep in mind, though, that if you do this routinely, you risk losing good employees, who will want more reliable hours and will resent setting aside the whole day and not getting paid for it.

{ 148 comments… read them below }

  1. Grand Mouse

    #5- this reminds me of the discussion about sending people home at the emergency vet clinic. Some things I remember: see if anyone wants to go home. Some people might value the time off more than the pay. If it’s happening regularly, it would be worth re-visiting your scheduling. If it’s only once in a while, then you might want to just look at it as a cost of business. I’m not sure what industry you’re in, but most businesses have an end-of-day rush that is worth having a few extra people on hand to cover.

    1. Monodon monoceros

      It’s a good idea to take a look at any projects that could be done in those quiet times, too. I worked at an emergency clinic years ago and the management would always send people home until we explained that there were lots of things we could actually do if they kept some of those people sometimes (e.g., pull out all the cages and scrub them down, organize the bedding/towel room, full clean of the isolation room, etc.). We also asked for some of the slow shifts to be “training days” where the vets would teach us something new, or if there was a less experienced tech they would get to do things that we wouldn’t let them do if there just wasn’t time (like placing an IV cath on a stable animal that needed one. When it’s busy the person who can do it fastest gets to do it and the less experienced people get stuck cleaning up vomit).

      If we could show the managers that we could still be doing productive stuff, they would usually keep people on (unless someone really wanted to leave).

      So take a look at things that might never get done unless you have a shift that happens to be “overstaffed.”

    2. Graciosa

      Some very good options, and I really wanted to echo Grand Mouse’s suggestion that the manager ask if people want to go home early. The OP noted that this is towards the end of the work day anyway, meaning that the savings are not likely to be significant compared to the damage to employee relations caused by creating uncertainty about whether or not the employees can count on their paychecks. That extra hour in the paycheck may mean a lot more to the employee than it does to the employer – and the employer created that expectation by scheduling the individual to work.

      I also like the idea of having some back-burnered tasks available for slow times at work. Then the manager can say to the team, “It looks like we’ve slowed down for the day, so at this point I really only need one person to man the register and one to cover the back. Remaining team members are free to leave early if they wish, or to finish out the shift straightening up the stock room or sorting outdated client files for shredding.”

      Giving people choices when you can and managing with a bit of empathy gains so much more than the value of the payroll savings by kicking them out the door.

    3. Zahra

      I worked in a call center for a while about 10 years ago. One thing we had right next to the schedule binder was an “excused time” sheet. You would write in the period you would be willing to take unpaid and they would take people offline according to those requests. You could request a longer lunch (we only got 30 minutes and there was no way the closest restaurant could get you in and out under 45 minutes) or just write the entire later half of your day and finish the day early. There was no guarantee you’d get it, but you’d be considered on a first come, first serve basis. If it was really quiet and everyone on the sheet was already off, they would walk the cubicles and ask if anyone wanted the rest of the day off (I think they can’t send you home if you don’t want to in Quebec).

      1. dawbs

        That seems like a stellar idea–a ‘wish list’ of sorts.

        re: the whole ‘send people home’ thing, if this were a longer discussion, I’d toss in an addendum about holidays/special days.

        I remember being a CSR and begging for a holiday off–which I didn’t get. So I re-arranged everything and went to work. Around 2pm, my supervisor came over and told me I could go home. There was a bit of a stand-off as I explained that, since I couldn’t get the day off, I cancelled my plans–I said I would work the holiday and I was working it now that I was committed for the day. I was leaving when they could pry my holiday-pay (so, triple time) paid hands off the dang desk.

        (there were holidays I took them up on leaving early. But there were more holidays where, as a hourly grunt, I volunteered and worked the full shift for the extra cash)

        1. Zahra

          Yeah, there was another binder for holidays. You could enter the dates you wanted off up to 6 months early. You were also considered on a first come, first served basis. Most people aren’t thinking of Christmas in June-July, so I was often one of the first people on the list.

        2. Judy

          I worked in a place with a 2 week summer “shutdown” where the manufacturing people were pretty much forced to take 2 weeks of their vacation time at once, and the engineers and maintenance people spent the time with line maintenance and model changeovers. One year, my in-laws asked if we wanted to go to Hawaii with them for their anniversary and my sister-in-law’s birthday. I asked my boss in March if I could take the shutdown instead of working it. He said no. OK, that’s fair. Mid June he said that I could take the time off. Sorry, my husband and I didn’t go to Hawaii that week because you didn’t approve the time off, I’m working and we’ll take the vacation we planned in September that you did approve. I was in a new job at the company by October.

  2. Elizabeth

    #2, your boss’s salary and bonus may or may not be reasonable – but either way, you should try to just put that out of your head. It certainly wouldn’t help your case with him to bring it up directly (“you should increase my bonus because, hey, you don’t deserve such a big bonus yourself” isn’t going to win him over), and it will only make you feel more resentful and bitter to think about it.

    1. Graciosa

      +++

      The boss’s compensation is completely irrelevant to this discussion. What matters is the OP’s performance and contributions to the business, along with the market value for that work. Comparing the compensation for completely different work is a mistake even if the approach is not at all combative.

      I am a bit concerned, though, about the tone of the letter. It seems quite adversarial – especially in the light of the fact that the OP just asked for and received a large, permanent raise.

      Businesses run on budgets, and it is perfectly possible that OP’s raise would have blown the budget for the year if not offset by a reduced bonus. Like Alison, I would take the permanent raise over the bonus without question.

      I think the OP can properly ask about this and make a case for a bigger number, but needs to do it in a way that allows the boss to actually discuss the issue. The boss may be feeling that he just gave in to one demand with some ambivalence, and the OP following that up immediately with a second demand may make him wonder where this will end and whether the OP’s self-assessment of his or her value in the market is reasonable. The OP needs to at least appear willing to consider the boss’s position in order to get a real response.

      1. Yo Joe!

        “Businesses run on budgets, and it is perfectly possible that OP’s raise would have blown the budget for the year if not offset by a reduced bonus.”

        Sounds like the boss’s compensation is pretty germane then.

        1. LBK

          I don’t think there’s any situation where you get a good reaction to saying “I know you paid yourself a big bonus so there was obviously money in the budget to afford not cutting my bonus”. Even the best manager in the world is probably not going to take kindly to you trying to force their hand when it comes to budgeting and setting their compensation.

          Plus, the OP doesn’t know for certain he actually did – she says she’s “quite sure,” which unless I’m misinterpreting means she assumes he did but she’s not looking at his paycheck.

          1. Yo Joe!

            Sure, but that’s not the only point. What one’s boss makes is always relevant when the total salary pool is finite. Bringing it up may or may not be a good tactic, but the boss’s salary//bonus is an important piece of information here.

            1. the gold digger

              Yeah, and if you actually see the financials and see that your boss paid over $100,000 in recruiting fees for two new employees because he didn’t want to use the in-house recruiter (who did a perfectly fine job – she found me, after all :) ) and that he signs off on first-class international plane tickets and $300 dinners for one of the country managers, then it can be a bitter pill to swallow knowing he fought for a week over a $1,000 a year increase in your starting salary.

              1. LBK

                Okay, but that doesn’t make it better. That actually makes it sound worse to know what your boss makes or what he’s spending the budget on, because you can’t do anything about it except be bitter.

                1. the gold digger

                  You are right – it does not make it better at all and it’s not even information you can use to your boss, because he already knows. So you are left to stew. Or leave, which is what I did.

            2. LBK

              I just can’t envision any conversation in which knowing that information would benefit you in your attempt to get more money. Even if your boss says “There’s no money in the budget to give you a raise” and you know that’s a flat-out lie…what can you do that’s not going to only further disintegrate your relationship?

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Furthermore, it’s not probably even a lie. The boss knows what salary it will take to keep her at the organization, and the organization probably cares more about losing the boss than the OP. So if some of the salary money is going to retain the boss, then that money is indeed spoken for. The OP’s sense that the boss is overpaid may or may not be correct, but she certainly wouldn’t be the first person to believe her boss earned too much and to be wrong about that (based on the market for a much higher-level position than the OP has).

          2. Editor

            If it’s a nonprofit, I think that eventually it will have to do a public report that may detail compensation, so the employee may not be speculating about the boss’s compensation. While the tone of the letter is critical of the boss, I think that there is a lot more public and private concern about compensation at nonprofits. There have been a couple of public discussions about the compensation for heads of large nonprofits in my state, and when the stories surfaced in news media, commenters and letter writers were pretty indignant about high compensation levels for people who were running “charities.”

            There’s a lot of public confusion about the nonprofit label, but in my experience the general public assumes nonprofit means that no one is making big bucks. This isn’t necessarily the case, and this employee’s resentment reflects that. If the employee’s boss has a pattern of receiving raises and bonuses at percentages that far exceed employee percentages, I think that’s cause for concern, even if it is his nonprofit. It’s not a legal issue, but it is a moral issue in the sense that many ordinary people think the nonprofit tax breaks are provided because the business is working for a cause that needs every dollar it can get — and if it needs every dollar, compensating some staffers disproportionately stands out as a red flag unless that staffer is bringing in large amounts of money, whether in grants or contracts or something.

            After years of interacting with people at various nonprofits, I can tell you that the employees are aware of compensation patterns and do feel some degree of concern and resentment when a nonprofit boss, manager or owner is milking the nonprofit by taking outsize bonuses or a salary or beefing up perks (company car or SUV, business lunches, meetings in vacation destinations, subsidized housing, etc.). It may not be productive or appropriate to resent the boss’s compensation or gauge one’s own compensation in proportion to it, but it is human and sometimes relevant — for instance, my last employer has been publicly criticized because two top executives keep getting raises after laying off bunches of people, and within the industry there’s a lot of comment that the bonuses could just as well have gone to salaries and benefits for (retaining) the workers instead of into those bonuses. The business is a public corporation, not a nonprofit, but the question is similar — is the money this business generates being used appropriately? A nonprofit employee can’t bring that up with a boss unless the employee wants to take the chance of getting fired, but it isn’t surprising the employee is thinking about it.

            I understand that a supervisor’s compensation isn’t relevant to measuring the adequacy or inadequacy of a particular worker’s compensation. I just don’t think it’s a reason to turn a blind eye to policies or patterns that may be creating income inequality.

            1. LBK

              Ah, okay, somehow I completely missed that it was a non-profit in the letter, so the OP could have at least some idea what her boss has made in the past if not what he’s decided to pay himself now.

              I echo your idea that there’s a bit too harsh an expectation on what higher ups at non-profits make (balanced, obviously, with an appropriate level of luxury for something that isn’t supposed to be for the benefit/profit of those working there). I’m certainly on the “why does the CEO get a raise while laying people off?” boat, although sometimes I do think the two aren’t mutually exclusive since budgets don’t necessarily break down to being as simple as “add up all profits, subtract all costs, delete costs until total is positive”.

              If the OP’s concern is that he gets paid too much for a NPO, though, it does seem a bit contradictory to also be so concerned about her own paycheck. Not that she shouldn’t be fairly compensated, for sure, but there’s some kind of cognitive dissonance there that bothers me.

              1. Graciosa

                I think what troubles me – more, in some cases, related to comments than just the original letter – is the pervasive mistrust of The Enemy.

                I disliked this intensely as an employee – meaning those managers who know all employees are lazy, good-for-nothing slackers who can’t be trusted to do anything (even schedule a bathroom break) without supervision. It’s dehumanizing to be treated this way.

                It can be hard on the other side too – the unspoken assumption that bosses are oppressive dictators out to squeeze every penny from the downtrodden masses cringing beneath their boots. This assumption is equally dehumanizing.

                I have no idea at all whether the budget has anything to do with this situation, and don’t know much about the quality of the manager or employee. But I do prefer for people to have conversations about employment issues, and be open to hearing the other person’s viewpoint without assuming evil intent. I think these assumptions bother me more than the cognitive dissonance you noted.

                1. LBK

                  I agree completely with this. The us vs. them mentality always scares me, both from the side of the employee and the employer.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Totally agree. This person just got what she describes as a “significant raise,” and now is upset that a discretionary bonus isn’t as large as she expected, and is complaining about the manager’s own pay, which isn’t relevant to her own compensation. It’s inappropriately adversarial. (And frankly, after being in a job 25 years, there’s a limit to what you can earn, since they could probably replace you with someone new for much less. You can’t usually keep getting large raises if you don’t move up.)

            2. MsM

              But by the same token, if I were an administrative assistant at the very bottom of the payscale at this nonprofit, and I somehow learned this person had gotten a significant raise and was still complaining about not having gotten a sufficient Christmas bonus, I wouldn’t necessarily feel solidarity with him against our greedy ED. I might if I saw how hard he worked and how valuable he was to the organization, but I might also redirect my resentment to him and wonder why he was still here if he was so unhappy with management, especially if his skillset is as rare and important as he indicates it is. The lack of adequate compensation is a sector-wide problem that needs to be addressed (and thank goodness funders are starting to move away from the overhead obsession), but until that shift happens, I think #2 needs to go into any conversation with his boss recognizing that not having to choose between a raise and a bonus is not something he should be taking for granted.

            3. Ask a Manager Post author

              But we have no indication that the manager is paid inappropriately. CEOs of for-profits command millions in salary and perks. If nonprofits want to hire competitively, they can’t pay their EDs $50K. That doesn’t mean they should pay millions either, of course, but some people look at a salary of, say, $150K-$200K and find it inappropriate in a nonprofit, when that’s the only way the organization could attract someone with that particular skill set. We don’t know what the numbers or context are here.

            4. Observer

              On the other hand, it’s worth noting that in all but the most dysfunctional non-profits, the CEO doesn’t set his own salary. The Board DOES have oversight. So, it’s generally not about the “he pays himself” whatever. I’m not saying that some Boards don’t make some fairly stupid or inappropriate decisions, especially when the founder is also the CEO. The poster doesn’t indicate that either is the case, so it’s a pretty good bet that both the CEO salary + bonus and the salaries + bonuses of the top staff are reviewed and approved by the Board.

              Given that the LW seems to be unaware of this facet of management, I have to agree that he (she?) is not likely to be aware of the reasons why the director’s salary might very well be appropriate, even though it’s high.

        2. Graciosa

          Expecting the boss to take a pay cut would tend to discourage the granting of raises, rather than just accepting that there may be an impact until the next budget cycle. I would be happy with the permanent raise.

        3. MK

          It still is completely irrelevant to this discussion, not because it doesn’t affect the reasoning behind the decision, if it is indeed about budget (it does, but then again all expenses and bussiness practices do), but because it doesn’t affect the outcome, since the OP would be crazy to mention it.

        4. Artemesia

          I know a case where the workers who made the banner year happen and had been promised a bonus if the numbers were made, were stripped of the bonus because a huge bonus was given to a new CEO that essentially soaked up all the increased profit — and so of course — suddenly the profit target was not made. i.e. the money was skimmed off for the CEO instead of paying the bonus.

          The bloated pay of the CEO is very germane. It is however not part of the negotiation here. It is a sign to find a job with a charity not run by a grifter.

          1. LBK

            I agree. Budget misallocation is an overall factor in deciding if you want to even stay at the job, but at this level where you’re currently planning to stay and just want more money, it needs to be out of your mind if you’re going to present a calm, rational case for yourself.

            1. Mister Pickle

              I’m not familiar with how nonprofits function, but the phrase I questioned was:

              I am quite sure he gave himself not only a significant raise but also a significant bonus; he pays himself an obscene amount of money.

              So the OP had a ask for a raise, got a raise, but also got their bonus cut in half – but the OP’s boss gave himself a raise and a bonus? I realize that we don’t have any of the actual figures, and OP might be wrong: maybe the boss didn’t have money for any raise or bonus for himself this year.

              I guess I’m just kinda stumped on the notion of the boss giving themselves their own raise and bonus. Is this common in the nonprofit sector (or anywhere else)? Are there checks and guidelines that need to be followed?

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                The board is supposed to set the ED’s compensation, but if it’s a crappy organization with a crappy board, the ED may have more power than she should. (But if that’s the case, the OP really shouldn’t be spending 25 years there.)

              2. Observer

                What Alison said.

                That line jumped out at me as well. And it’s actually part of the reason I think the LW is misjudging the situation. Loyalty is generally not recognized in poorly run organizations, and most people are trying to get out of a place like that, rather than sticking around for 25 years. So, if it’s a reasonably well run organization, it’s almost certain that the ED is NOT just “paying himself” whatever he wants.

  3. Brooke

    #1, In my world (biotech), Director titles are very senior positions for a small, select group of people who are essentially working together to run the business. Yes, it’s important for the CEO to communicate to their executive leadership to make sure everyone is on the same page, but I would be seriously concerned if a director in my company was this upset by a lack of regular input from above. In fact, our 3 directors routinely make business-changing decisions without direct instruction and really only hear from their boss, the CEO, if he sees them driving off in a direction he doesn’t like. I recignize that everyone can use feedback, but the company’s commitments to the board = the directors’ goals and objectives, no translation needed.

    1. Fucshia

      That is the director role that I am familiar with too. The directors make their own goals and targets.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        I’ve been a director level for about 8 years now, and you will find that this varies wildly from company to company. Sometimes, my goals and targets must be a subset of my VP’s goals and targets, which in turn, are a subset of his C level’s targets. Other times, it is free form and I’m left to figure it out myself. I like structure, so I like knowing that my goals and targets are inline with the larger organizations. But even when I’m given autonomy to do what I want, my boss still gives me feedback that I’m pointed in the right direction, or need to course correct. It doesn’t sound like OP is even getting that. Even a director needs some visibility of what they should be doing. An employee who is a silo (if by their choice or management’s) isn’t providing the most effective value to the company, regardless of title.

        1. Grumpy

          I agree with most of this – including the fact that the boss should be providing more feedback – but I think he’s providing some now. He has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be bothered spending any time tying out with the OP, and expects the OP to wing it without guidance or direction.

          Without in any way implying that this is good management, it does seem pretty obvious what the boss wants and how he intends to manage. I think the OP needs to treat this like any other employment consideration – given this fact, does the OP want this job?

          I would not be inclined to give up my signing bonus just because my boss turned out to be incompetent, so I would probably ride out the rest of the two years but I understand the OP may not be willing to stick it out. Assuming this boss will be as bad a reference as he is a manager (although it doesn’t sound like he would take the time to badmouth the OP), the OP needs to start cultivating others in the company. Developing those relationships will give the OP more options in a job search, as well as helping fill some of the information and strategy gaps in the interim.

          1. puddin

            I am in agreement with you Grumpy. OP is getting feedback , just not very helpful feedback.

            Consider developing your own target plan based on what you know without seeking more input. Yeah, you might mis fire, but at least you are moving in some direction. And by plan I do mean, write it down in a format that demonstrates you thought about current goals (what you are aware of anyway), desired outcomes, gap analysis, SWOT, fishbones, 5 whys – whatever is relevant – all that good stuff and then develop your plan based on your findings. At the very least it will keep you busy and not ‘in the bosses hair’ as s/he thinks you are now. And you will cultivate those other relations, as Grumpy mentioned, by pulling people in to get their input.

          2. Decimus

            One solution may be for the OP to write a letter/email to the boss stating “Goals for the Year” and essentially set their own goals, and state “I intend to carry out the following objectives, please inform me if this does not meet with your plan for the organization.” If nothing else it’s a rear-covering action and can be seen as “I am letting you know what I am doing” and less “please tell me what to do.”

          3. periwinkle

            And I agree with Grumpy – it seems like the boss is setting the OP’s goal as “sets her own goals.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m nowhere near a director level, but our boss expects us to set our own performance goals and definitions for success. He has to sign off on them, of course, but we are responsible for understanding our org and department goals and ensuring that our individual goals are in alignment. Three of us hold the same position title, but we each have goals in line with our strengths and interests rather than identical ones. It’s pretty awesome.

            OTOH, it’s concerning that the OP’s boss is avoiding productive discussions. Is there someone higher up the food chain with whom you can bounce around ideas about performance goals and metrics tied to what your org needs from you?

        2. JB

          Exactly. And it’s not fair to the employee if she doesn’t know whether she’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing. Nobody wants to be blindsided at a review for failing to meet expectations you didn’t know about.

    2. AnotherHRPro

      #1 – I think it depends on what level you report into. C-suite leaders are generally very hands off as they oversee very large organizations and put in place leaders (either at a director or VP level) that are expected to handle things very autonomously. If there are risks to the company/organization, you should definitely be getting guidance on that, but on day to day issues your manager probably expects you to manage that.

      All of that said, if you are not getting the amount of guidance you want/need I would recommend a conversation with your manager. The goal of the meeting would be to get clarity on what you should handle independently and what your manager wants to be involved in. If you are not comforitable with the amount of independence your manager expects, let him/her know that. I would explain that as you are new to the organization you feel you need more assistance on _____ because ____. If you your manager is still not going to be available, I would start looking for others that you can lean on to get the support you are looking for. A strong network can be very helpful in figuring out a new organization and what their cultural norms are.

      Good luck!

      1. Person of Interest

        I would generally agree with this, and also with the recommendations to simply send a note with your intended goals for the year. As a newer person to an org, I might also consult with peers who have been there longer to find out how they have handled the relationship, and how they set/measure progress toward goals with this boss.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      It definitely varies. I feel for the OP, since I’ve been in a similar situation (6 business days left with this company, I am SO moving on!). I’m a director and made a lateral move. In my industry, VPs and SVPs set the goals and steer the teams, though as a director I expected some level of autonomy (for instance, in my last job, I updated my boss regularly but dealt directly with clients and other departments with no one else’s input). Unfortunately, when I tried to exercise that autonomy here, I got– still get– “we don’t do things that way” or “you need to do it this way”, and I was put in the terrible position of always waiting for my SVP’s feedback before I could move forward with anything. I, like the OP, got my one-on-ones canceled more times than they happened. I would make suggestions and even start big projects, hear nothing from my boss for weeks, then learn that what I was doing wasn’t what he wanted and therefore I should stop doing it. Just yesterday, he asked me to revise some language in a document because he disagreed with the angle I took– and I didn’t even have the energy to argue, even though I used similar language in the last 4 similar documents I wrote. It’s frustrating, demoralizing, and unbelievably boring. I was talking to a co-worker, who knows my plight, about how I was going to suggest hiring someone much more junior for my position, and she protested saying that when I have projects, I know how to execute them and I brought badly-needed director-level knowledge to my area of the company. So I feel pretty bad for the next person.

      OP, all I can say is that in your position, I would follow Alison’s advice– stick it out as best you can but start looking and hope a new company can pay back that signing bonus. You have my sympathies.

    4. MaryMary

      I think it depends on the size and type of company, too. I work for a fairly small family owned company and there are no formal goals beyond growth and retention targets. Even those are a little fuzzy – there’s no numeric growth target, and retention is supposed to be 90% but there’s a lot of leeway given for “uncontrollable” losses. There are (slightly) more concrete performance metrics for junior staff, but anyone at an account executive/VP level is either expected to keep the business we have or bring in more, depending on if theyare in sales or account management.

      Basically, the owner wants revenue to increase year over year. Exactly how that happens is up to you.

    5. Hillary

      Wow, that’s very different from my current organization. I work for a large, hierarchical manufacturing company with a fairly flat org structure. Directors are generally leaders in support or crossfunctional areas, and most of them have at least 50 indirect reports. They may or may not have P/L responsibility. Almost all the directors report to VPs, with the exception of a couple specific roles that report to the board or CEO.

      Business-changing decisions are made at the C level in conjunction with the board; VP, director and manager level work to implement them.

    6. Steve G

      I found it interesting that the OP noted that director was a high level position at the company, as if that needed to be stated. We merged with another company, and I am thinking the same thing. People in their late 20s are directors at their end, on our end, you only become a director if you have 15-20 years experience, at least 10 years of it being directly relevant…so the new organization has people with wildly different skill sets and experience levels sitting at the same level, and I think it is quite weird!

  4. Dave Jones

    2 – You should absolutely use email or put pen to paper. That way they cannot deny it. Don’t listen to this pro employer website telling you things are inappropriate.

    1. UKAnon

      That seems unfair. If the manager is unreasonable in the conversation then absolutely start documenting it – and I would always follow up with an email setting out what I’d understood the conversation to be – but this is the sort of conversation best had informally to start with.

      – An employee

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      They can deny her a higher bonus just as easily if the request is in writing. (Why couldn’t they? Bonuses are generally at the employer’s discretion.) But doing it in writing is weird and awkward for something like this, not to mention a weaker/less compelling approach that will lower most people’s chances of a good outcome. This is something where you want to have an actual conversation.

      That’s not “pro-employer.” It’s pro-employee because I’d like her to have a successful outcome. (And “pro-employer” is a bizarre label for a site where the whole point is to help people get what they want from their work lives. It’s neither pro nor anti; those labels don’t even apply.)

    3. Daisy

      “Deny” what? That she asked for a bigger bonus? “Deny it” to who? Employers can pay whatever bonus they like, why would they need to hide it?

      1. GrumpyBoss

        I can see a follow up from Dave Jones now. “I complained about my bonus but I did it via written communications. They still denied my bonus. Is this legal?”

        That, son, is how you troll.

      1. LBK

        Actually doesn’t sound like a troll to me, sounds more like someone who’s been submerged in overly litigious US culture that makes people believe having something in writing has more power than it does. We’re so trained to get everything in writing to prevent the possibility of liability or denial that it creates an almost mystical force around the written word.

        1. Mike C.

          I question the idea that the US is overly or inappropriately litigious given the cost of legal representation.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Eh. The very first time I fired someone (someone who had done little work and actually repeatedly slept on the job), he sued. (We won, pretty easily.) I get letters all the time from people who want to make legal threats to their employers. I don’t think it’s crazy to see our environment as overly litigious.

          2. LBK

            Maybe not that people actually go through with lawsuits too frequently, but that people jump to think about legal resolutions too easily, especially where a non-legal method would be more beneficial in the long run. I’d think the fact that “is it legal?” is something of an in-joke on AAM would be a clear sign of that (although there are obviously other factors, like people being vastly unaware of what employment law actually covers).

            1. JB

              I think you and Mike C. are both right. Just based on the questions to AAM alone, people often go straight to looking into a lawsuit when something they don’t like happens at work. But the number of frivolous lawsuits that are actually filed isn’t nearly as high as the common perception.

              IMHO, which is based on anecdotal evidence but without out looking at any studies whatsoever, people wouldn’t be so quick to thinking about suing if they had any real alternatives. They know they are powerless unless there’s a legal remedy because we don’t have any kind of system set up to deal with complaints that should be addressed but not through the legal system. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know if we should try to craft and impose a solution. But I think there would be fewer threats of litigation if people had some way of getting redress for situations that are bad enough for us to be appalled at but aren’t illegal.

              1. Windchime

                Yes, this. If people felt there were strong employment laws and protection for employees, there would be less frustration and questions about the legality of actions that employers sometimes take (or neglect to take). As JB says, it’s frustration that sometimes causes employees to talk about legal action.

          3. Jules

            Some law office would represent you for free and they only get paid if you win. I see those ads on TV all the time. Employment issues, accidents, medical devices. Where I came from, it’s not legal for doctors and lawywers to advertise their services on mass media. Only on Yellow Pages. It is in the US :)

            1. Mister Pickle

              I used to do work for a large group of personal injury attorneys. Many of them were very cool people, extremely honest and sincere in their belief that they were fighting for justice.

              That said, yes, they almost always took cases on contingency, ie, they only got paid if they won – they’d typically take about 30-33%. “Won” does not necessarily mean that they won at trial – most of the time, cases were settled for some dollar amount. As you might imagine, working in this manner, the attorneys tended to be very picky about which cases they would take.

              The guys that you see advertising on television are typically a class of PI attorney that most people aren’t aware of. In short, they settle cases in bulk: the attorney will have 100 cases against AllSnake Insurance Co, ranging from $1000 to $100,000. The attorney will work out a deal with an attorney from the insurance company to settle all 100 of these cases for one lump sum; say $2,100,000. The attorney takes 1/3 (= $700,000) and the remaining $1,400,000 is distributed more or less proportionally to the 100 claimants. So when you see one of these guys on television talking about how he’s fighting for your rights – it’s more like “cutting a deal” (and the “negotiating table” is probably their favorite booth at The Palm).

              It kinda goes without saying – but perhaps it should not – that PI attorneys almost always sue insurance companies. And the point of why I’m writing this is to say that I don’t know much about employment lawyers, but if someone wants to sue a company over an employment matter, I’m going to guess that if an attorney is involved, their principal target is going to be an insurance company, at least for more small and medium sized businesses. I believe that is what “Employment Practices Liability” insurance is all about.

              I’d be happy to hear from anyone who can correct me or add to the little I think I know.

              1. Not So NewReader

                Added stuff: Just because there the settlement is x and there are y number of people, does not mean everyone gets an equal part of that pie. No. Recipients may receive a pro-rated distribution based on the severity of their injury/situation/other basis. And recipients have to show documentation to back up their claim for how much they have been injured/shorted.

              2. Broke Philosopher

                No one with a $100,000 is going to be part of a class action lawsuit. More likely, they have 10,000 cases ranging from $10 to $1000, and then something like 5% of people collect on their share of the damages award. The people whose claims are actually worth a lawyer’s time will opt out and sue separately, since you can get an attorney for a $100,000 claim.

        2. Anna

          I think this is less about our overly litigious culture and more about our fundamental belief that the law should protect the weak or powerless.

    4. BRR

      While having things in writing is often times a good idea it wouldn’t be very helpful in this situation. As stated bonuses are discretionary so they can change. Serious conversations like this are best dealt with face to face. Also it’s harder to deny things in person to someone than in email so it would be in the LW’s best interest to do it face to face.

      Also I’ll engage on the pro-employer front. Two of the most frequently used phrases are “your manager is a jerk” and “your manager sucks.” It might feel pro-employer at times to some because the advice given here is practical advice that deals with the specific situation and is the most likely to get results. Because it often deals with situations with people higher up than the LWs or toxic work environments that are close to being set in stone there is only so much that can be done.

        1. LBK

          This one is particularly evocative for me because I always think of the literal meaning and imagine a bird flapping about a corner office, refusing to give feedback or raises.

            1. LBK

              I’d love to read Alison’s response to that letter. “My company hired a bird to run my department. Is that legal?”

              1. Emily

                “I was hired to run a mid-sized department and promised a comfortable corner office. Lo and behold, I arrive and discover there’s not a single pond or tree in the office for me to nest in! How am I supposed to be productive in this environment?”

          1. JB

            +1 That goes nicely with the phrase “seagull manager.” So now I have two bird images describing bad managers. :)

      1. Natalie

        ” It might feel pro-employer at times to some because the advice given here is practical advice that deals with the specific situation and is the most likely to get results.”

        Jumping off this a bit, I imagine the advice here could come across as quite pro-employer to anyone who lives in a country with more worker protections (i.e. most of the developed world). But of course, that’s a reflection of the realities of the US employment system, not Alison’s personal quest against wage earners.

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          A lot of advice here is applicable in the UK as well, workers may well have a lot of protection but there are still managers who are jerks and there’s no law against that.

          1. Chinook

            Ditto for a lot of this advice being applicable in Canada where we have a lot of worker protection. It is quite useful because idiot bosses are a universal phenomena and it is helpful to see how to manipulate said bosses to get what we need. The American specific stuff is also helpful in explaining the mindset of American head offices when you are owned by “foreigners” and American tv shows.

          2. Natalie

            Of course. But there are ways a boss can be a jerk that come up here regularly that non-US workers lament – at will employment, no statutory vacation or sick leave, etc. That’s what I was thinking of specifically.

        2. BRR

          I also think anybody who is misinformed about US employment. I know for myself I thought my employer could only fire me for cause, HR would protect me from when my manager was mean, and I could use my vacation time no problem. Oh to be young and foolish.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Right on BRR- Alison gives clear instructions for people that will help them succeed at their jobs. It might not be what they wanted to hear. That is not the same as saying it’s bad advice. No, bad advice is advice that does not work out. Alison’s advice works. Sometimes we have to go through some difficulty in the process of handling things correctly or straightening out a problem. No free rides.

        If there was a blog where someone just told people “you’re right and you’re employer is wrong”, what would be the point of the blog? You can’t routinely encourage people to quit their jobs at the slightest provocation. Not only is it bad advice but this is people’s lives. It’s their home/food/clothing/etc that is all tied to their ability to earn a paycheck.

        One’s ability to resolve a problem is tied directly to one’s ability to understand the other person’s perspective. This holds for business/work and it holds true in our personal lives.

    5. Mickey

      This post seems like the result of one of the following:
      1. Making a comment without bothering to actually read any of the other posts on the site.
      2. Poor reading comprehension.
      3. Troll out for a morning run.

  5. Kimothy

    #1 sounds like my boss, with the exception that he does actually hang out in the same office as me a lot of the time. Very hands-off, zero solid quantifiable expectations. I’ve dealt by making my own goals, writing them down, then working towards meeting them – it’s no substitute for a more involved manager, if that’s what you feel you need to work well, but it helps to have a bit of direction. And you’ve also got some kind of written record of your progress, should you ever need it.

    That said, it definitely makes a difference that I’m in a creative field and value the freedom ;)

    1. misspiggy

      Yes. When I’ve had this situation, I’ve emailed a list of targets to my boss saying that this is my understanding of what I should be working on, and if she would like to change anything please let me know. Of course, when they come back and tell you not to do those things, and wait for further instructions which never come, that’s when you know to leave.

      1. JB

        This is a good idea. At least then you can say that you boss signed off on your goals by not telling you otherwise. Of course, if you work somewhere that is dysfunctional, that might not help. But it’s a good idea if you work somewhere even sort of normal.

  6. NPO manager

    #2 – ED at NPOs do not determine their own salary , they are employees of the board. The president and the board determine salary, they don’t get to pay themselves whatever they want.

    1. Editor

      An executive director may depend on a board to set compensation, but I’ve seen several nonprofits where the founder had a pretty tame board. Never underestimate the power of a board to be indifferent or incompetent, whether public or private.

      1. Natalie

        Indeed, a board is only as effective as its membership.

        A local non-profit recently imploded following an embezzlement scandal, and one juicy aspect of the story was the presence of several prominent local politicians on the board. Except they had all nominated proxies to vote for them, and apparently those proxies just rubber-stamped everything. The director was pulling in a generous salary and using the NPO’s funds to pay for cruises and suchnot.

    2. Artemesia

      There are many charitable organizations that exist primarily to provide high salaries to the people who run them; I am sure a couple immediately spring to mind if anyone follows the news. But there are many low visibility ones as well. I lived in a city where a major local charity primarily existed to provide 6 figure incomes to the founder and his wife, his adult children and his sons and daughters in law. The amount that went to the target population of the charity (‘children’ of course) was miniscule.

      Just as CEOs of big for profits know how to work the system in which they essentially serve on boards to give each other obscene salaries because it is ‘industry standard’, the heads of many charities have captive boards and pretty much award their own bonuses and salaries.

  7. Crow

    Re: #2: bonuses are never guaranteed. While on the face of things, it seems like your boss is a jerk, there may very well be a legitimate reason for a smaller bonus. Consider yourself lucky that you get a bonus at all. My company does not give bonuses during the year. Story goes that they used to, but after a slow year and a correspondingly small bonus, people complained, and the company stopped bonuses entirely from then on.

    If you decide to talk to him, avoid the word “deserve.” You deserve your salary, because you worked for it. A bonus is a nicety that your company gives out by their choice.

    1. GrumpyBoss

      +1. When you get a bonus regularly, it can be easy to consider it as part of your total comp and forget, that by definition, it is something extra.

      I think Alison nailed it when she pointed out that a raise is more valuable than a bonus.

      1. puddin

        In addition, this was labeled a “Christmas bonus”, not a performance bonus. In my experience, that means ‘you get what you get’. It is a gift and not pay related to meeting goals. I think it would not hurt to understand what sounds like a sudden change, but tread lightly. Gifts can easily be taken away and there is no legal recourse.

        And as others have mentioned, do not bring up your bosses earnings, you will put him in a position of defending his salary – which probably means he will expect you to do the same. Now its an adversarial discussion with each of you defending your value.

        1. Artemesia

          When bosses are put in a corner, their obvious choice if they can’t resolve the situation in a way you like is to hurt you. No percentage in bringing up the boss’s compensation.

        2. Mouse of Evil

          “In addition, this was labeled a “Christmas bonus”, not a performance bonus. In my experience, that means ‘you get what you get’. ”

          +1.

          When I read the post, my first thought was JELLY OF THE MONTH CLUB! :-) I mean, I understand that people expect to get the same bonus year after year, but that doesn’t mean that the people in charge of giving bonuses expect to *give* it.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Totally agree with you GrumpyBoss. A bonus is a gift. It can be canceled at any time. Each year I would say, “hmm, wonder if I will get a bonus?” But a pay raise is a certainty, you know you have that.

        I would not dare go back to the boss and say, “Someone shrunk my bonus.” I would figure the first thing the boss would say is, “oh, don’t like your bonus? Okay, we will just take it back then. End of problem.” Or worse yet, “Gee, we gave Jane the same bonus and all she said was ‘thank you’. Since you don’t like your bonus, we will give yours to Jane. She will probably like it.”

    2. BRR

      Large raises and bonuses are also very rare in nonprofits especially since 2008. I work at a very well funded nonprofit and we get raises under 3% and no bonus. The nonprofit where I worked last nobody received a raise in a couple years, in fact they had recently come off of a temporary 5% pay cut. They did receive a bonus of 5 days vacation or 1 week pay though.

      1. LucyVP

        My medium sized (internationally renowned) non-profit has had a salary freeze for 6 years. No merit raises, no cost of living raises. A few small bonuses . . .

        Shockingly we have very minimal turnover.

    3. Cheesecake

      I can’t stress it enough: pay rise is much more important than bonus, bonus is called “variable pay” for a reason. Having said that, i think boss should have communicated bonus cut upfront.

      In some countries bonuses are also regulated (that is driven by trade unions) and the only valid reason of non giving bonus/giving smaller one is a)poor company performance b) poor employee performance.But still, it is easier to take away a bonus than base salary.

      1. Emily

        Although I’d obviously prefer both, in some ways I’d almost prefer a bonus in my current situation. I’m young enough to still have student debt but old enough that just in the last year or two I’ve been earning a salary that both enables me to live comfortably alone AND aggressively pay down my debt. Right now my emergency three-months-living-expenses fund is my top savings priority and by its nature it needs to be liquid, which means it’s not going to earn much interest, making it a tough call whether to sock away money at negligible interest rather than pay down debt at high interest. Until I finish paying off the debt, I have very little left over each month to put into savings, let alone retirement or investments.

        A raise that works out to a couple hundred extra a month, tops, would allow me to pick up the pace a little, but it’d still be a long trek to my savings target. A lump sum would allow me to quickly boost or maybe even top off my emergency fund, give me some peace of mind that I have a safety net, and allow me to start directly my small monthly savings into retirement or other higher-yield but less liquid investment options.

        1. Cheesecake

          Your current situation and a need to have “lump sum” on hand is reasonable. Another example: where i live and for particular reasons, i don’t have withholding tax, i pay my taxes once a year and you can imagine it is painful :) Some employers give salary in 13 installments, and 13th salary is usually “spent” on their taxes. This is not my case, i have to be reasonable and save up.

          But we are talking about something else here. Bonus is not guaranteed. Imagine you count on your bonus to top up the emergency fund….and you don’t get it for 100 different reasons all of those are legit (at least in the States). I have an example in front of me; my friend’s husband was silly enough to accept an offer, where base pay way was, say, 1000 and bonus was 1500. So overall he was happy. And all was ok for a year. Then company started to have troubles and he did not get his bonus.

          When one is not happy with proposed salary, it is not so hard to negotiate a bonus. But try to negotiate a higher salary, there is a reason for this. And finally, bonus is (usually) a % of a base salary :)

          1. Emily

            Since I’ve never worked anywhere that gave bonuses they just seemed like this mythical wondrous thing where suddenly a huge chunk of free money is dropped in your lap. It seems so exciting to me precisely for the reason that you can’t and shouldn’t count on it. Because I’d have to budget for the assumption that I wouldn’t get any bonus, 100% of the bonus is like free money to do whatever my heart desires with it.

    4. MaryMary

      The first year I was ever eligible for a bonus, it was pro-rated for the time I’d been in a bonus eligible role (less than half the year), and the company had a bad year. So what theoretically could have been a couple thousand dollars was about $80 after taxes. Which was $80 more than I had before! But it taught me to never, ever count on a bonus. It is a BONUS, not a guaranteed extra paycheck.

    5. Chinook

      Speaking as someone who is a contractor and will be one for a while, but not by choice, bonuses are definitely a “nice to have” but not part of your guaranteed compensation. I can’t bill my vendors for a bonus, just for work completed. Even when I was on staff at companies, I always say bonuses as gifts that require no thank you card and not guaranteed compensation.

      Now, if I happen to take in more work than budgeted at the annual Chinook Consulting company meeting (dog as CEO and cat as Chairman and usually involves lots of tummy rubs), I may be able to convince them to give me a small bonus but they will probably vote for the cat to use it towards the better quality canned food.

  8. Persephone Mulberry

    I usually read AAM first thing in the morning with my coffee and I guess the coffee is being slow to get to my brain yet this morning, because I could have sworn the headline read “my boss is pushing me to work and I dont want to” and I was really looking forward to Alison’s take on THAT question.

    1. Poohbear McGriddles

      Well, with this being a “pro-employer” site, she’d probably tell them to suck it up and get to work. :-)

  9. Graciosa

    Regarding #3, I think the OP is not going to find opportunities for her to go back to teapot building in her current role when the OP’s employer has moved the function off shore. The odds are very much against it unless there was a significant amount of the work retained at her location. I don’t think that changes the conversation the OP needs to have, but he or she should be prepared for this outcome.

    This may also color the manager’s attitude about this reaction. If production work is moving off shore, the way to keep your employees at the current location on payroll is to move them into different roles. It would certainly have been better for the manager to explain the situation and discuss this with the OP, but the manager may have assumed the OP both wanted to develop new skills (making the OP more employable) and keep receiving a paycheck.

    Another factor may be that people in client facing roles often regard them as prize positions, or can be blind to the fact that there are perfectly happy people with different personalities and preferences who don’t want to do these jobs. Sometimes the manager or other role advocate responds to any objections with a lot of reassurance that the individual can do the job and turns into a bit of a cheerleader on the assumption that this is a coaching or confidence issue. That’s not necessarily the case.

    The OP needs to be clear in his or her own mind that there is a difference between the ability to do a job and the desire to do a job. Being clear about preferences, confident and calm during the conversation, and acknowledging past success (“Yes, I know I can do this job, but this is not the direction I want my career to go”) can help convince a cheerleader manager that the OP does know his or her own mind. That will bring the OP and manager more quickly to the real discussion of whether teapot production is even an option.

    1. MK

      I think it’s significant that the OP left their previous career to avoid dealing with clients; this means they have experience in that area that the employer is trying to utilise, which means the company has little incentive to train the OP to other work. Maybe that’s part of the reason the OP hasn’t been able to do the work they like, although maybe the company wasn’t aware that this was a priority for the OP. Add the fact that the kind of work the OP would like to do has been moved abroad, things don’t look good for the OP’s prospects at getting what they want.

      OP, have there been other people moving into the work you want to do? If not, you probably need to accept it may not happen for you at this company.

      1. JB

        I agree with your point about the company has little incentive to train her and keep her out of the role she doesn’t want. That seems to happen at a lot of places. “We need a teapot seller? Oh, Jane did sales before she moved into teapot design, so we’ll have her do it. Let’s not worry about the fact that she came to this job to get away from sales, and let’s not ask her if it’s ok.”

        Based only on my circle of friends, it seems to happen frequently to former IT people.

        1. MK

          To give the company the benefit of the doubt (in keeping with the pro-employer vision of the site), it could be a choise between utilising the OP in salew or laying them off. It’s possible they hired them in good faith with the intention to slowly train them as a designer (it seems that the OP did start as an assistant designer), but they had qualified people already and didn’t rush it and then the merger happened and most of the designing moved abroad. If the company doesn’t need another designer, maybe they take it for granted that the OP will prefer to work in sales than being let go; though there should have been a discussion about it. That’s why I asked if other people have been moving into design.

          1. JB

            That’s a good point. I assumed it was defaulting to the easiest thing for the company because I’ve seen it so many times, but it’s worth considering whether it’s this or no job. But even if that’s the case, I think the company should have had that talk with the OP rather than presenting it as a fait accompli.

          2. AnonAnalyst

            These are both possible scenarios that popped into my mind reading the letter, but the additional note about how the acquiring company has outsourced most of those jobs leads me to think it’s more likely the latter. I still think the OP should approach her manager about it, but she should keep in mind going in that they might be trying to create a position to keep her on rather than just shunting her into a role she doesn’t want, so this might ultimately come down to a decision about whether to stay in this organization.

            I’d also note that if it’s a situation where the employer is trying to keep a job for her, it probably sucks for the manager, too, because often she’ll know you don’t want that job. I’ve been in that situation and while I was grateful for the company for trying to find a way to keep me on, I was miserable in the role. It was just unpleasant for everyone.

          3. Jennifer

            Seconded, I had similar happen to me, except it boiled down to “either do this or you’re getting laid off.” It was a kindness. And what it may boil down to is that the poster, like me, ends up serving with a smile until/unless something else ever comes up because that still beats unemployment.

      2. OP #3

        Hi, OP here. When I say that I made a career change with this job, I mean that I went from psychology to technology, with a stint in a more retail-like environment in between. But my company absolutely hired me to do technical work, not account or project management work. The problem was, it was a very small company with some financial difficulties (part of the reason for the eventual merger), and over time I think we just lost the resources necessary to let me train and take on more complicated projects (since they needed to be done on tight deadlines), while at the same time I needed to pitch in where I could to help out, which meant taking on more of the day-to-day client contact.

        We only merged with the new company a few months ago, and the deal was that initially we would all be doing the same jobs as we transitioned our clients over, so none of us have really moved at all. But yeah, it seems like everyone who does the kind of work I want to do is overseas, so I’m afraid the writing might be on the wall there. And I agree with some of the other posters that it might be coming down to different job or no job, but I REALLY wish they’d be more communicative about my options if this is the case, instead of just sort of shoving me into it. Actually it seems to be, in part, “Well, we need Jane to devote most of her time to X client, so she needs to move her work with Y client to someone else… um… OP knows the next most about this client, let’s have her do it!” And my desires and personal career goals have nothing to do with it. Anyway. I have accepted that I might be done here. So maybe now the question is, if this is how the job is going to be now, and I don’t want to take on responsibility only to leave and make them train someone else all over again, how do I avoid it without telling them I’m trying to get out?

        1. Not So NewReader

          I am not sure if you mean you do not want the new responsibility, period OR if you mean that you are concerned they will train you and then you will leave and they will have to train someone else.

          If it’s the first one- you do not want the responsibility, period, I guess you could take your chances and tell them that. But I am not optimistic that will go well.

          If you are concerned that they will be wasting time and money training you because you know you are done with the job then I suggest to you that is THEIR worry, not yours. If you started job hunting in earnest right now, you might find something in six months or maybe longer. You could write a training manual if you are that concerned.
          Sometimes bosses already know who is going to quit. They might just like you so much that they are trying to build something for you so that perhaps you will stay. Or at least so that you remain employed while you look for a new job.

          I took a job where it was clear cut- I would be doing X. Long story made short, I ended up doing the less desirable job Y. I was good at Y, but was not happy with the work. It did not take long, X fell apart entirely and was dissolved. If I had stayed at X, I would have been out a job. My husband had a similar story, but his X dissolved because of huge changes in the technology. If he had not learned Ys, he would not have been employable. yikes. His setting was even more dramatic than mine.

          My opinion, is that someone is throwing you a safety net while you figure out your next move. Some day it will be your turn to pay that act of kindness forward.

          1. OP #3

            It’s mostly that I know Jane is already seriously overworked, so if she’s going to take the time to transfer her knowledge to someone, it should be someone who isn’t planning to leave the company. But getting this to happen without revealing that I want to leave is… tricky.

    2. Chinook

      I think that OP #3 also has to accept that, overtime, jobs often morph as the directino of the company changes. I am going thorugh this now – I was hired to chase down paperwork, track status of various projects and get people organized and I have suddenly become a part-time statistician for my department. I hadn’t noticed the shift until one day I was having to explain “the inconsistency in my numbers as being due to a fallacy in my assumptions for the equation the data was based on and I am not sure which assumption is at fault.” In my head I wanted to scream “you do realize you hired an English major with the background of Admin. Assistant and Receptionist who some how graduated with her degree without taking a statistics class, right?”

      So, I bitched and complained to everyone I didn’t work with, realized I liked the people I worked with and the other parts of my job and did some hardcore googling to figure out my error (turns out including your total amount in averaging equation doubles the answer – oops). I have had to accept that jobs change and I can choose to either work with change or find other work. OP may have to do the same thing.

    3. RobbyJ

      In my industry the account managers absolutely view any high performing analyst as being in a short term position – they start taking them out on client visits, having them handle more interaction, etc., and will explicitly state that this is to help them move on to the “next stage” of their career. It’s coming from a good place, but totally unwanted.

      When it happened to me (and still happens occasionally), I do as stated above and let them know I’m not interested in client contact, I want to focus on a career “behind a desk, not in front of a client” and typically give a non-controversial (same company, etc.) role I’m thinking about moving in to in a few years as an example of how I want my career to go. As soon as they realize “everybody’s not just like me!”, things go back to the way they were.

      For the OP that might not work, based on what others have stated, particularly if those jobs are being outsourced now.

  10. Not an IT Guy

    #1 – Not the best advice here, but I’d run before this manager is given the chance to permanently ruin the OP’s career.

  11. Joey

    #1. Didn’t you get a sense that the boss was hands off in the interview? Did you discuss goals or direction then?

    It sounds like maybe your CEO expects you to know in what direction to go. Or at least to figure it out. Frankly, it sort of sounds like he trusts you to know what to do and you dont trust yourself.

    1. Anonymous for this

      There is a difference between being trusted to handle things on your own and being completely abandoned. I have a manager like #1’s (and I’m also in a position similar to #3) and while I prefer a hands-off manager and generally like to work autonomously, I can’t expect my manager to answer even basic questions. The general tone of the office regarding any kind of question is “you should know that already” or “since you’re the one who asked, you’re the one who should find the answer,” and it can feel gaslighty at times: I should be more autonomous, I shouldn’t be so needy, etc. It’s not a matter of my being insecure or needy so much as it’s a matter of me being kept in the dark about a lot of things, having to deal with nasty surprises, and just generally knowing that I have no support or guidance available if something comes up or goes wrong. I am definitely feeling held back and, due to the #3ness, am feeling at risk. Trying to leave, but job market in my field is flat.

      The hands-offness was apparent in my interview (as were other red flags) but how do you determine how literally “hands off” is meant? No one’s going to say, “oh, hey, no one’s going to answer your questions when you start,” especially in a field that represents itself as especially friendly and collegial.

      1. Joey

        i don’t think your boss thinks of it as abandoned. Probably more like you’re smart enough to figure out what to do or how to get the answers. I have to admit, I have gotten perturbed when higher level new hires come to me looking for answers. 9/10 they already had the resources to find the answer and just werent being methodical about it or once we reviewed our mission it got them to the right answer. When they bring me a problem I expect them to have a well thought out proposed solution even when they initially have no idea what to do. In other words, I expect that they are smart enough and have enough know how to figure out a solution to just about anything that comes their way.

        1. MsM

          But what good is putting a lot of methodical thought into a possible solution if you hate it and I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board? Besides, just because it’s obvious to you what resources I need doesn’t mean it’s obvious to me if I’m still getting to know the organization and where to find those resources. Sure, I can investigate, but wouldn’t it save us both time if you at least suggested I start by asking marketing for those figures, instead of forcing me to guess that they’re more likely to have them than finance?

          Making me come up with a plan from scratch or develop the objective from first principles just to prove that I’m smart enough to figure it out on my own isn’t smart or efficient. Unless this is something that hasn’t been done before or isn’t working in its current form and you’re looking to me to devise an innovative strategy or lay out all the options for you, I’d rather get input at the start so I can go off and bring you back something I’m reasonably confident will work with minimal adjustments. And the more clearly you communicate your expectations to me on the first project or two (including what kind of working and communication style you prefer), the less initial direction I’ll need on subsequent efforts.

          1. Joey

            Because managers who are hands off frequently expect to hire someone who does need a lot of hand holding even in the beginning. let me put it to you this way. lots of managers would prefer someone who can figure out what to do over someone who asks what to do.

            1. JB

              When I start a new job, I can usually figure out the answers to questions eventually. But on some things, it would save me a lot of time if my manager can provide answers, which means more time for me to actually do my job. When I have a new hire, I tell them about how long I want them to spend trying to figure out answers themselves because at some point, they are wasting their time. And there’s a difference between “where do I file this document” type of questions and “what’s your goal on this project” type questions. You can’t expect your employees to read your mind and know what you expect of them.

              Plus, you still need to provide direction and feedback.

              1. Anonymous for this

                Yes, this, exactly. I’m happy to try to come up with solutions, and I generally approach my manager with “how do you want me to do X, I’m thinking of approaching it Z way, but wanted to check in with you on it,” etc. But the issue has been more with getting answers that hinge on institutional culture: how does X get done HERE? Who do I need to talk to HERE to start the ball rolling on Y? I have idea Z which I know will involve consent and paperwork — how do I start that process? Client X is making what seems like a lot of unreasonable demands — which do you consider reasonable and where should I be drawing lines? It’s frustrating to ask these things and get the equivalent of a shrug. I was told to ask my colleagues, but because of the lack of oversight I’d get WILDLY different answers, even on the most basic policy questions (and I also discovered that some colleagues would look down on me for setting ANY kinds of limits with clients, hooray!). I usually thrive on hands-off, but sometimes you really do need your manager to be able to give you input — especially if you are getting significantly mixed messages from colleagues about how to do your job.

        2. Koko

          There’s always a point at which it’s negligence. I had a boss who abdicated management of me. She rarely met with me, canceled more one-on-ones than she honored, never provided feedback on work I sent to her. She also made it clear she resented having to manage me and complained on more than one occasion that she was catching heat from her bosses for not being more involved in my work. Honestly, 90% of the time I did like it because in the void left by her abdication, I was empowered to make decisions I probably shouldn’t have been empowered to make at my level, but they were all good decisions and in the course of stepping up, I captured the attention of senior leadership who began to mentor me and help me quickly climb the ranks as a result.

          Unfortunately, the other 10% of the time:
          1) I resented that my own manager wasn’t mentoring me and providing me development and growth opportunities herself, leaving me dependent on people I didn’t have formal relationships with.
          2) I got used to managing my own workload and coming up with my own ideas, but about 3-4 times a year she would dream up some grand project that she thought was going to save her from being fired and which were often things I thought were a bad idea and mostly involved dumping a lot of unexpected work on me, and I felt an inappropriate amount of resentment about it because I was not in the habit of having to do work I didn’t agree with.
          3) I felt uneasy every time it became performance review time because I worried that despite the praise I was receiving form people above her, she was the one who determined my compensation and advancement (and I knew she resented me).

          Basically it was just a big resentment-fest that wasn’t helping anyone or anything. My last boss had been such a micro-manager and I cherish autonomy so much that I could have never imagined being in a situation where I wanted MORE management. But everyone deserves a good manager! My absent manager was eventually fired, I got a better manager, and my performance reviews went from “acceptable” with minimal raises to “excellent” with big raises.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale

        In my interview, I was asked how I felt about being across the country from my manager, often left to my own devices, etc. I answered honestly that while I like regular contact, I work very well on my own. Then I started and found out that “left to my own devices” meant that I was expected to sit on my hands and wait for instructions and feedback and that I was not to make any autonomous moves. On my second day I had lunch with the only other person in our office and brainstormed some ideas, and when I mentioned this to my manager, I was told that I “should not speak to that department” and “they should not have any input in your work”. OK, then. I was hired to work in conjunction with that department, at a director level, and I felt– with my director-level judgment– that I should get their feedback. The resistance to that never came up in my interview, and in fact, I was told my position was expected to be collaborative. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way they were sold, and while that can be fine in the end (personally, I’m pretty adaptable and able to make changes in my perceptions and methods), sometimes it’s maddening.

      3. INTJ

        I’m in this same position! My manager is very hands-off, claims she is too busy to meet (although she somehow has time to meet with select other people), and complains when things are moving too slowly (usually because I’m waiting for approval or for a critical question to be answered from her). On top of that, I’m afraid to ask questions, because when I do ask I get berated for not knowing the answer and on some occasions, get called ‘stupid’. While I love the work itself, I don’t enjoy the interactions with people at my workplace.

        OP – I have started outlining what I do in a given week and making my own calendar. When my manager does ‘have the time’ to meet with me, at least I’ll be organized and ready to discuss different items.

    2. LOtheAdmin

      Differing expectations happens all the time. Asking questions works well, but in the interview
      process you have to try your hardest to get the information you need without throwing up red flags. Repeated
      questioning about how your boss works might not be the way to go in an interview.

      Plus, a manager can always misrepresent how they are in an interview setting. Some might not be self aware enough or care enough about how they come off to employees. My boss is like #1 and he was a charming, great guy in his initial interview with me. I was snowed enough to take the position and the working parameters changed within two months. What exactly can someone do when a manager changes everything you thought you knew about him/her?

  12. LOtheAdmin

    To OP #1 – My manager and your manager are exactly the same. He cares, but he’s mentally checked out and doesn’t often show that he does care. Luckily for me, I’m his admin, so I get to keep his calendar and have a handle on things he needs to know. Does your manager have an admin you can work with? Sometimes we can give a little nudge about a situation that needs attention. It may not help with your overall problem of goals and needing professional guidance, but having an ally in the day to day might take some of the pressure off of you.

    Also, are there any other directors on your team that you can work with on day to day?
    Good luck in any event. And keep looking for another job!

  13. Livin' in a Box

    #5 You need to ask for volunteers if you’re going to send people home. There’s always going to be someone who feels sick, is in a foul mood, needs to do their grocery shopping, whatever. If you pick a random person, they might not have a ride home until the regular end of their shift, or might be desperate for that little bit of cash.

    1. De Minimis

      We used to have something called the “Early Out” list, for people who wanted to go home early if things were slow.
      Of course, this was a job where the work was in the evening and a large number of the employees were part-time/seasonal so it worked better than it would for a traditional workday setup. Even then it wasn’t ideal, it was easier for the part-time people to leave early than the full-timers [mainly due to union rules.]

  14. HR Manager

    #1 – Has this manager sat down with you to do your review yet? Do does the director solicit upward feedback in that meeting? I think this would be a good time to bring up how you would like to be managed to be successful. I can see why some expect a director not to need a list of goals, but a broader conversation about company/dept priorities (and therefore employee’s priorities) is helpful. It should not include breaking down project X into 20 subtasks, but it should be: #1) Above all else, get this done, with this type of results #2) Very important project Y because this will help for 2016 revenue, etc.

    Managing (imho) is 80-90% communication and so shutting down that pathway in either direction is poor management to me. Even if he has different expectations of how and when to communicate, he should clearly set that expectation. Not raise hopes of a meeting that never comes, and becomes frustrated when the employee takes the initiative to schedule it. Why someone like this is in a director role is beyond me.

    1. Joey

      I’m not sure this is the type of manager to do a review and I do t think a “this is how I like to be managed” convo is going to go over well. Probably a “what types of items should I bring to your attention” question is probably a better idea.

  15. Wo Fat

    #5 – Just one short comment. Don’t some jurisdictions require that an hourly employee be paid for a minimum of 4 hours (or some minimum) just for showing up?

  16. OHCFO

    #1–you could work next door to me. I am one of 8 directors in an organization with a minimally involved chief executive. What has worked best in my case is cultivating deep connections with the other directors. We have effectively become each other’s “group boss.” We work together on broad strategy issues, bounce operational ideas off of one another, and are sure to communicate our broad goals and issues to one another. We have developed a strong bond this way, and most “big” issues are determined by consensus. If OP looks around a little more, he may see that there is indeed a network of other folks in his position, whom he can use in this manner. Once I got over the hump of adjusting to this management style, I don’t know if I could ever go back. It allows me to really set my own course and because direction/ideas for change come from the group consensus, they have a better shot at success.

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