coworkers keep trying to get me to do things that aren’t my job, when to ask for a promotion, and more

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

1. Coworkers keep trying to get me to do things that aren’t my job

I just got out of a frustrating meeting and my heart is pounding – so I’m writing angrily. How can I handle it when coworkers endlessly ask me to fix/weigh in on things that aren’t my realm of responsibility? One of today’s many issues was that the designers (including the design director) wanted to know if we have an inventory of all the supplies. Well, I’m in a sales/marketing/processing-paperwork-for-funders position, so why would I have the inventory? We have Jane, the operations director, who’s supposedly in charge of supplies. Why not call her and ask, “Jane, do we have an inventory?” Nope, instead of calling her and asking, the designers cornered me and insisted that I see if it’s any of our funder reports. One of them vaguely remembered something that made her think maybe it was in a report – and if it’s in a report somewhere then it’s my job to be in charge of it, apparently!

Today I tried saying, “Well, that’s in Jane’s area, so you should ask her” to end the conversation, but the designers insisted that I needed to look into it (right now!) and refused to contact Jane. The designers also like to go on and on, so it dragged out forever. I wanted to just call Jane up, tell them to ask her, and leave the room (thank goodness I didn’t blow up that way, though I did get very snappy).

I want to get my coworkers to stop thinking that I’m the problem, and point out that Jane is the one they need to ask. My boss recognizes this recurring problem, and supports that it’s between their two departments to solve and not our department’s issue, but she’s can’t attend every meeting with me. Overall, how do I get out of conversations where they keep insisting it’s my problem but it’s really a different department’s area to address?

Since your boss has your back, then problem solved: “Lucinda has made it clear that I shouldn’t be doing work in that area. But Jane has the info you need.” If they keep pushing: “Lucinda has stated multiple times that this is something you need to go to Jane about. I can’t help.”

And if it continues after that, your boss really needs to tell their boss to get them to cut it out.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. When is too early to ask for a promotion?

I started my job 11 months ago, and was looking forward to conversations about a promotion from X to Senior X at my one-year mark. This timing would not be absurd, as some people with my degree start out as Senior X at other companies.

However, this morning (near my 11-month mark) I was surprised with a bonus, 5% merit raise, and stock options. Although I’m thrilled, I’m a bit disappointed that this closes the door to my conversation about a promotion. Although I appreciate the extra cash, I think a title upgrade is more important at this early stage of my career. Was 1 year too soon to ask for a promotion anyway? At this point, should I wait for my 1.5-year mark to bring it up?

In most fields, even 1.5 years would be way too early! There are some fields where this is more normal, but if you’re not in one, you risk sounding really, really tone-deaf/naive. So the thing to do here is to figure out what’s normal for your field (the fact that other people are hired at a higher title doesn’t necessarily tell you what’s standard for promotions) and in your particular organization. If it’s not immediately clear by looking around and watching other people, one option is to talk to people who are one or two levels up from you and get their advice.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I want to take a week off in between jobs

I work in hospitality and am considering an offer for a position at another hotel in pre-opening (they open in May). I’d like to give two weeks notice at my current position and also take a week off after that before starting the new position because I can afford to do that and so I’m coming into the new job refreshed. Will that request seem out of line or lazy? And if not, what is the appropriate way to bring it up?

Nope, totally fine and normal to do. When you accept the offer and are discussing start date, just say, “Would (date) work for you?” If they ask if you can start earlier, say, “I of course need to give my current job two weeks notice, and I’d like to take off a week before starting so that I’m able to start with you refreshed.” It’s a really, really common thing to do. It does not look lazy or out of line in any way.

4. Should I agree to a work project a few months off when I’m job searching?

I am actively applying to new jobs, but I have no idea how long that will take. There is also a real possibility that things may improve at my current job and I may decide to stay. (We are going through a transition, and they are exploring a possible new role for me.)

In the meantime, a supervisor asked whether I could speak at a major conference in two months. It wasn’t an order, it was just an ask, but I also don’t think it would look good to say no when I can’t provide a good reason. I don’t want to leave them hanging if I change jobs in the meantime — I don’t think anyone else could easily fill in on this event — but I also don’t want them to know I’m looking for other jobs. What do you recommend I do?

Proceed as if you’re staying at your job until you have definite plans to leave it. You said yourself that there’s a real possibility that you may decide to stay. Even if you don’t, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be at a new job in two months. In fact, that would be a pretty fast job search — it would mean you’d need to get an offer sometimes in the next six weeks, which could certainly happen, but many searches take a lot long than that. So assume you’ll still be there in two months, until and unless something happens that makes it more certain that you won’t be.

If it does turn out that you’ll be gone by the time the conference comes around, your employer will deal with that. People leave jobs, it’s often at inopportune times, and employers make do.

{ 99 comments… read them below }

  1. Juli G.*

    OP2, I know you think that the title bump is the most important thing but it’s not. Your company is rewarding you and giving you the opportunity to continue being a superstar at your level. And it’s been less than a year. You’re in a great spot.

    1. Random Lurker*

      I was just another to say the same thing. A bump in pay is always preferable to a new title at the same pay.

      This is industry dependent, but for many industries, the roles and responsibilities are what are important rather than a title. If you are concerned that other companies hire in people with a degree as a “senior”, compare what those responsibilities are to your job. There may not be the gap you perceive.

      1. I'm OP #2*

        I think whether salary or title is more important is subjective, and to me, title is more important. This is because of my own personal weird reasons, but I also think that many people (of course depending on the situation) get recruited for positions 1-level higher, so having a higher title by the time you’re looking wouldn’t hurt. I do agree with you, though, that ultimately it’s the skills and experience that will get you the job, since all companies have slightly different title scales.

        Anyway, I agree with Alison that 1.5 years could be too soon and that I have to assess how promotions work here. As my company was growing, people were getting promotions left and right (even after 8mos), but we may be settling down a bit.

        1. Colette*

          Keep in mind that salary increases are often done as a percentage of your current salary. Let’s say you were making $10,000 to keep the math easy.

          Scenario 1: no title change, 5% annual raise
          Year 1: $10,000
          Year 2: 10,500
          Year 3: 11,025
          Year 4: 11,576.25
          Year 5: 12,155.06

          Scenario 2: title change, 2% annual raise
          Year 1: $10,000
          Year 2: 10,200
          Year 3: 10,404
          Year 4: 10,612.08
          Year 5: 10,824.32

          Since your pay for future jobs within the same company (and sometimes outside) can be affected by your current pay, getting a raise can increase your pay for years to come, even once you’ve moved on to a new job.

          1. azvlr*

            Although if we are all following Alison’s advice, the pay for a future role should be market rate, not based on what you are making now.

        2. Dean Jackson*

          If you’re in software engineering, you have a PhD, and you’re kicking ass, one year in is the beginning of the appropriate window to move to Senior Engineer, with 2-3 years being typical.

          If you don’t have a PhD, moving from entry-level to mid-level is 1-3 years in, and mid-level to Senior is 3-5 years. Compress the schedule if you’re at a company that’s growing exponentially (double staff every year will yield more promotions for the better half of the old staff), and/or compress if you’re honestly kicking a lot of ass.

          Slow it down – enormously – if you’re at a company that existed before the internet became popular. They’re not setup to reward skill and teamwork, but setup to reward *tenure*, which you do not have.

          Finally, title boosts are good, but won’t necessarily transfer directly between organizations. The only way a title boost helps you is if it lets you work on more interesting things (boosting potential impact) *or* if different titles have different pay bands. In both cases, you want the title over the short-term raise, assuming you expect the company to still be around in a year.

          1. Dean Jackson*

            To be fair, at the other end, about half of the incredibly solid Senior Engineers I’ve known got there in their 30’s. Going *above* Senior Engineer is also something that’s expected of maybe 15% of people in the field, so getting to Senior in your first year outta school – even PhD – is pretty quick.

            And like I said, that’s software, which is it’s own special snowflake.

          2. Doriana Gray*

            The only way a title boost helps you is if it lets you work on more interesting things (boosting potential impact) *or* if different titles have different pay bands.

            This is how it works at my company. A higher title means more decision making authority, less supervision, more challenging and interesting work, and an increased pay ban. It’s absolutely better to get a promotion/title bump than a raise within the first couple of years of employment because you’re going to get a much larger raise at that point anyway. The downside, however, is the higher up your title goes, the less they focus on increasing your base pay. Your merit raises will decrease over time and you’ll only get lump sum bonuses at your division’s discretion.

        3. Dan*

          Titles can be really inconsistent, even within in an industry. At my last job, “senior” was given after about 10 years or so. My current job gives the “senior” title to anyone with a graduate degree. And pays a hell of a lot better to boot. Go figure.

          I work with some young people who are preoccupied with titles (one told me they didn’t even care about the money) for reasons not understandable by me.

          1. Koko*

            Yep. I made a career move once from a Director (of a 1-person department in a tiny organization) to a Manager (of an entire program within a large organization) position. The move was a big step up in terms of pay, responsibility, and autonomy. I would have in no way been qualified to be even an Associate Director at NewOrg even though I had a Director title at OldOrg. Whatever OldOrg called my position, skills and experience are what they are.

          2. Graciosa*

            The preoccupation with titles can actually damage your career. Title inflation is a lot easier for a company than salary inflation, but it doesn’t fool more sophisticated hiring companies or managers.

            This was brought home to me earlier in my career when I saw my boss at the time casually dismiss someone with a significantly higher title (even to him, not just me!). When I asked about it (because, wow, C-suite title we’re not bothering with!), he kindly explained to me that actually, I outranked the person with a C-suite title because title was not really the way rank was measured in our function.

            The real measure of status was the size of the business (in $ and people) for which we were each responsible. Since the work I managed was multiples of the other company’s revenue, I outranked him at a much, much lower title (and therefore C-suite title was properly at a level to deal someone junior to me).

            It was actually a bit of a shock at the time, because I hadn’t thought much about the value of the business I handled (not my money, and my job didn’t change much with more zeroes at the end of the deal number). I have spent most of my career in Fortune 100 companies, so it takes some serious money to make the deal significant to a companies in that category.

            I have since seen a few people chase titles and end up with much smaller paychecks (among other things). There are many small companies who will – especially in early stages – hand out officer titles at the drop of a hat, but the compensation levels are less than those of my entry level team members.

            But, yeah, they can claim their titles.

            If you think that the title will change the level of the position you would be offered at my employer, however, think again. Like my boss told me, that’s just not how it’s done.

          3. Doriana Gray*

            Titles can be really inconsistent, even within in an industry.

            Hell, even within the same company. I work at a Fortune 500 that employs 5500 people over 30 some divisions that all operate as if they’re completely different companies. Promotions do not happen consistently throughout the organization. I was promoted to a senior level position in Division A after only a little over a year of work experience in Division B. A friend in Division C was promoted twice to a Specialist level (three grades higher than my position) within a year of working there. Meanwhile, another friend in Division D worked there for six years before finally being promoted to a Representative role, which isn’t totally entry-level in our industry, but is pretty damn close.

            It’s interesting to watch how these things unfold. The divisions that earn a decent profit tend to promote quicker (though Division C hasn’t been very profitable lately), and the ones who have had previous financial difficulties tend to be a little more stingy with the promotions.

        4. BananaPants*

          Where I work, engineers aren’t even remotely going to get a promotion until 2 years in. Doesn’t matter how awesome they are or how hard they work or what they come up with – they won’t get that bump until they’ve been here for 2 years. There’s almost never a merit increase in the first cycle of working here, either. We’re not eligible for bonuses or stock options, and I’ve had actual promotions that only came with a 5% raise. Needless to say, merit increases are much lower. It varies by workplace, of course, but in my organization for someone to get a 5% merit increase and then whine about not getting a title change would come across as being wildly unaware of how things work around here.

          One company’s “senior” title may be higher than another’s “associate” or “staff” title, and vice versa. Some companies call half of their employees a “director”, which in my organization is the first executive level and is very rare. In the future when job hunting it’s likely that the responsibilities of the specific position will matter more than the title itself.

  2. Mando Diao*

    OP3: I took a whole month off in between jobs! It’s a totally normal thing to do, especially if your old job didn’t give you much vacation time. You don’t need to over-explain it. Just give them your desired start date.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. There are times when they have to have you earlier and some jobs like school jobs where there is no flexibility, but it is entirely routine to negotiate a start date that is more than two weeks from your notice on your old job. My son didn’t mention his planned wedding until he was negotiating the offer; they had hoped to have him on board by X but then negotiated to have him on board a week after the wedding which was what he wanted.

    2. TootsNYC*

      #3—taking off a week between jobs
      In my experience EVERYBODY does this. The people who don’t are really rare.

      Why is this so common? Because at your new job, you will probably have to wait before you can take any vacation.

      You’ll either have to accrue it, or you’ll have to prove that you’re actually going to stay, so they have a 6-month requirement before you get your 1 week of vacation.

      1. Liz L*

        Yup, agree it’s something most people would take advantage of and isn’t a big deal. I’ve done it and simply told the new workplace that I had vacation plans and I’d like to start on X date instead of Y as they advertised. They had a reason for the Y start date which was to train me along with a coworker at the same time so that they wouldn’t have to repeat everything, but they were accommodating and nice about it. And despite coworker’s earlier start date, she couldn’t grasp the concept of what we were doing and eventually left due to all the issues accruing from it. (I’m just throwing that part in to emphasize that “missing” a week did me no harm. I stayed for five years there until it was time to move on.)

      2. Snork Maiden*

        I did not. Ended OldJob on a Friday, started CurrentJob the following Monday. I do not recommend it. Take at least a week and reset, if you can afford it. Especially if you are leaving a toxic environment.

    3. AnxiouslyAnon*

      Oh hallelujah for reading this.

      I’m so burnt out and dead I need more than a week to recover when I change jobs, but I have been having anxious thoughts that if I DARED to ask for a start date 6 weeks after an offer (2 weeks notice + a month off) that it would be though of as absurd.

      Not that I have a need to worry about that yet. Need to have some better prospects before I should really worry about this stuff…

    4. OP3*

      Thanks, this is so helpful! I want to come into the job ready to go and not wiped out from the last few stressful weeks of job-hunting.

  3. Amber*

    #2 What I do is way before review time, bring it up with your manager. Tell her that you want to work towards a Senior position and you’d like her help, ask her what sort of things you’d need to work on and if she can give you work that has more responsibility.

    1. I'm OP #2*

      Yes, I agree! I wish I had brought this up when I discussed and submitted my 2016 goals, but I didn’t. I will have to bring it up at a regular 1:1.

    2. Steve*

      Exactly. You really have to talk to your manager and get a feel for what the path will be and how to progress along it as fast as you can but no faster.

      Anecdotally: I and another guy joined a company at the same time reporting to the same manager. I asked our manager what I needed to do to get promoted to Senior X, and my manager said keep doing what I was doing. Two months later he called me into his office and gave me the promotion. The other guy demanded a specific plan and timeline to get promoted; and he said it had to come with a big raise to boot. He is no longer with the company.

  4. ginger ale for all*

    OP 1 – What would happen if you take them at their word that it must be done now and you get out a cell phone and call Jane from the meeting. When she picks up, just greet her and say that you only dialled the phone for Bob who has a question for her about her area and then hand the phone to Bob? Too rude, possibly, but I think if you do that often enough they will listen to you when you speak. And if they complain about you, how could they phrase it? They wanted a quick answer and you got them the very person who could give them that answer.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I thought about that and I think there’s a way to do that without being horribly rude. You’re just very, very helpful. “Really, that’s not me who does that, but let me get Jane on the phone for you so you can check with her about the papers.”

      1. OP #1*

        Another twist, when I’ve tried saying, “I don’t do that, but X does” in the past, they’ve asserted that I should be overseeing Xs work, and that “we all have to do things outside our job description”. Well, no, I shouldn’t be supervising work done in other departments!

        1. fposte*

          “That’s not what my manager currently thinks, but you’re welcome to talk to her to see if she’s interested in a redistribution of the workload.” Take yourself out of this.

          1. Need cheering up*

            This. You are in a good spot because you have already addressed this with your manager and she is backing you. These people bully you, you realise that?? And fposte’s answer is the way out of this.

          2. JM in England*

            Saw a phrase on Facebook that would be a cool (but not recommended) repsonse to these requests “Not my circus, not my monkeys!”……………….

    2. OP #1*

      Thanks, and it’s something I considered doing. Because of the dynamics, and the way they cornered me, it didn’t seem feasible in this situation. When I talked it over with my boss later, she agreed that I should call Jane into these meetings. Many of the issues seem to rise out of Jane not taking ownership of her department. Also, the designers have this skewed vision of my job in which absolutely anything is considered my responsibility if they say it loudly enough.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Maybe acknowledge theeir frustration out loud before pointing out the issue? “Guys, I understand it’s extremely frustrating that you aren’t getting the teapot reports when you need them. And I understand that I am right here, and Jane is not. But it is Jane’s responsibility to get you the reports.”

        1. fposte*

          Oh, I like the acknowledgment and also putting the responsibility squarely on Jane. Who really does need to be at these meetings.

      2. fposte*

        So it’s clear your manager has your back–do you have a sense on just how fiercely you can push back? Because this sounds like it’s starting to take up a silly amount of time. If it happens at the end of a meeting, you can probably just leave, but in the middle that’s another matter. “Guys, I’ve told you; that’s no more my area than it is yours, and if you want to get that dealt with, you need to talk to Jane. Can we move on to X topic?” (I also have a fantasy of you leaning back in your chair, putting your feet up on the table, and guffawing. “WTF makes you still think that’s my problem?” But probably that’d be a bad plan.)

        I also think you can detach yourself a little from the emotions here. Your boss knows this isn’t your job, and these people are being absurd. Lots of people want us to do silly stuff and stuff we can’t do (seems to be a bit of a theme this week), and it’s usually not worth an adrenaline rush. Think of them as little yappy dogs. “I want a treat! I want a treat! I want a treat!” Yeah, but you’re not getting one right now, so simmer down.

        1. Artemesia*

          Well you are a woman right? And your role in life is to serve men. That is the vibe I am getting. Ignore this if they are all women too or you are a guy. But it really feels like ‘all professional women are my secretary’ syndrome.

          Since your boss agrees and has your back, push back as hard as you need to and next meeting make sure Jane is there or call her when the issue comes up. Because they say it loud, does not make it your problem.

          1. boop*

            Yeah, what is this “say it loudly enough” thing about anyway? If coworkers start overstepping their bounds and start heaving authority at me, and then start BARKING at me, the meeting is over.

        2. TootsNYC*

          “do you have a sense on just how fiercely you can push back?”

          Agree. I’d start asking your boss a little bit on that. And I agree, you could leave the meeting.

          “I also think you can detach yourself a little from the emotions here.”
          I agree. Let them be unhappy. Let them continue to disagree with you. Let them push.
          Be Teflon.

          They’re silly, they’re wrong. Roll your eyes at them (internally is probably best, though…), and just ignore. They can say stuff all they want; that doesn’t make it true.
          In fact, you can say that: “You can tell me it’s my job all you want–that doesn’t make it true.”

          Also–never, ever, ever do anything like this that they ask. Don’t call Jane. Go straight to your boss, and tell her. If I were her, I’d pick up the phone and call the designers’ boss immediately and say, “I hear your team was trying to assign job responsibilities to my employee. OP#1 does not have time to do someone else job for them. Your team needs to call Jane, and if you aren’t getting what you need or want from her, take it up with her.”

          (These people sound like people who would push Jane around if they could; maybe that’s why she doesn’t do what they want. Maybe her way of taking responsibility for her department is to not do stupid stuff just because pushy designers are demanding it…. OK, maybe not, you’re there and I’m not, but it’s got some truthiness to it.)

        3. Lily Rowan*

          It’s a downside of being the development person with good relationships across the organization — people just want to come to you for everything, instead of the “right” person who is probably harder to deal with.

      3. SunnyLibrarian*

        It sounds like you are super annoyed by this for no reason. If there is something I am missing, please set me straight. I think this would be an instance where you just need to act clueless. “I have no idea on the stats for that.”

        If they continue, just repeat yourself. They will get bored or get the point.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          It’s annoying because OP has already said this and yet, her brain trust coworkers keeping asking as if they didn’t hear or understand her the first time.

      4. newworldofwork*

        It may very well be that Jane has made a big stink out of them asking her these questions. doesn’t change anything, but it might explain why they are so reluctant to ask her.

  5. Snazzy Hat*

    #4: I’m not quite in the same boat, but I’m certainly at the same harbor! Thanks for writing, and Alison, thanks for the response. It really takes a load off the stress of applying to multiple jobs, sometimes more than one in a week, and wondering when I’m supposed to assume lack of response from the employer means lack of interest in having me as a candidate.

  6. hbc*

    OP1: Did you point out the ridiculousness of their request? “So you want me to dig through piles of reports looking for something that might not be there because you don’t want to lift a phone and talk to the person who definitely has the information?”

    1. OP #1*

      I’d love to do that. Unfortunately these two are in much higher positions than I am and it’s important that I not be too snappy with them. I think a variation like, “I don’t know that any of the reports would include the specific information you’re looking for. Let’s call up Jane directly and see if she knows,” might work in the future.

      1. Need cheering up*

        They are abusing their position. And it works, because you are already thinking it is important you are not too snappy with them. They have overstepped their boundaries. You need to be clear and set your own boundaries, which does not have to be snappy. It can work wonders as 1) they could well back off and 2) they’ll think twice how they treat you in the future as they realise you are not a pushover. I know it’s sometimes had to be firm and stand up for yourself, set boundaries, but once you do it more often it is incredibly liberating and a whole new world opens.

        You are already getting very angry. If this continues you’ll lose your temper at some point. Set those boundaries now.

        1. Tamsin*

          Except, if they’re in much higher positions, it’s really difficult for OP to make them “think twice how they treat you in the future as they realise you are not a pushover” without the OP saying something they’d pretty much consider insubordinate. Which is often grounds for immediate firing. Workplace relations are not quite the same as other social relations.

          1. OP #1*

            Yah, a few months back I pushed back and got lectured by them for not being helpful enough. Since then I’ve been trying to shed the reputation of not being a team player.

            1. catsAreCool*

              In this kind of situation, I try to refer to my boss a lot, for example, “My manager told me that Jane is the person to work with.”

              1. neverjaunty*

                Agree. It sounds like these people are glass bowls. The best way to work around them is to pretend to be on their side (“I know how frustrating it is that you don’t have X”) and enlist your boss, as a shield if necessary.

            2. Need cheering up*

              I feel for you. They are manipulating you and you feel you need to comply because they are more senior. I was in that same position. It is hard. But they do not have nearly as much power as you may think they have. It will be difficult to change the dynamics between them and you, but going forward think about ways of setting boundaries early with other people. I started practising this and am far from perfect, but it is already very liberating. It the uncomfortable truth, but they do this because you let it happen.

            3. hbc*

              If they’re going to pull rank (directly or indirectly), you have to cite your own manager Every Time. “Manager doesn’t want me spending time on stuff like that if it belongs to another department.” They whine/cajole/corner. “Sorry, do you want to go bring this up with Manager? Because my hands are tied.”

      2. JessaB*

        I don’t think you want to get into “Let’s call Jane,” because then instead of asking you for the info, they will expect you to call Jane for them and get it and hound her if necessary. It won’t make them let up if they’re as tone deaf as you’ve suggested they are.

    1. OP #1*

      I’m sure they just didn’t want to ask her. Have you heard the analogy of the house with a missing stair? Everyone who lives their just works around it, but the newcomers can see it obviously needs to be fixed. Jane is like our missing stair. She manages a department, but doesn’t take responsibility for the work they do… or don’t do. She sees herself as doing what she’s told, not much more. My new boss is pushing for Jane to be held more accountable.

      1. fposte*

        Can the senior designers push for that too? That might provide some added weight.

        I’m starting to feel for them a little–I’ve definitely tried backdoor methods when the person who’s supposed to have information is a brick wall. But I don’t berate anybody.

        1. OP #1*

          Honestly, I’m not sure why they haven’t been pushing for it. It might be that missing stair element – they’re so used to her, they don’t see anything problematic in working around her.

          1. TootsNYC*

            YOU are the way they are working around her.

            How did this meeting end? Did you do what they wanted? Did they get anything from you that would qualify as positive reinforcement?

            Seriously, dead straight, this is not a joke:
            Take Jane’s phone number with you to the next meeting. If there’s not a speakerphone in the conference room, take your cell.

            Say, “That’s a question for Jane,” and call her immediately on speakerphone. When she answers, say, “Jane, the designers have a question for you.”

            Be polite and matter-of-fact, but do it. Seriously. Not kidding.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Interesting. I was thinking of replying above, when it was suggested that you invoke your boss, to also say that Jane’s boss probably wouldn’t like you trying to do Jane’s job any more than your boss would. Now that I read that Jane may be an obstacle and that may be why the designers are taking their frustrations out on you, maybe if you mention that Jane’s boss is the one ultimately responsible for Jane’s reports, they might see them as the path of least resistance (especially if you start pushing back).

  7. Lontra Canadensis*

    OP#4, would it be possible to speak at the conference if you did get a new job? i.e.: the topic/conference aren’t too current-job specific? Our state-level Teapot Manager’s conference is coming up, and even if I left my current job with the state today, I’m 99.9% certain neither side would have a problem with me doing a presentation about teapot studies.

    1. TootsNYC*

      This was a thought I had as well.

      If I were asked to speak at something for my company, the company AND the organizers would be relying on my expertise that belongs to me alone, all the years I’ve put in and learning I’ve put in and speaking skills I’ve accumulated, even before I got my current job.

      So a part of that would be “mine,” and not my company’s. But if I left on good terms, I could probably represent them going backward by a week or two.

      1. Koko*

        I feel similarly. It would still be exposure for my org’s brand if I was presenting research done at our org at a prestigious conference, and I work with/for sane people who generally understand the value of maintaining collegial network connections.

        I would guess that unless I was fired for misconduct or gross negligence, or I threw a fit on my last day or something, they wouldn’t take issue with me still speaking at a conference about our work even though I’m no longer with them. Of course, I’d have to pay any travel costs they hadn’t already paid up front I’m sure.

  8. MicheleNYC*

    #2 The one thing that really stood out to me is your statement that other people with your same degree have the senior title. IMO experience plays a much bigger role in achieving the senior title. I agree that 1-1.5 years is much too soon. I know in my industry (fashion) especially my company it takes a very long time to achieve the senior title. It is considered a huge accomplishment.

    1. I'm OP #2*

      What I meant with the degree is that if a BS and PhD are entry level into this field, they will be X and Senior X at many companies. My company didn’t for me/phd (and I’m my boss’ first hire; I didn’t think to negotiate title)

      1. Artemesia*

        Is this true at YOUR company. If so, a conversation about how all the other PhDs are listed as Senior Teapot Polishers and you are the lone POlisher without who had a PhD with your boss is in order at year end reviews with a request about how to plan to make that move yourself. If that is not the practice at your company then what other companies do is not directly relevant

  9. Rocket Scientist*

    #1 >>I wanted to just call Jane up, tell them to ask her

    This is exactly what I do in meetings, only without any anger.
    Hit the speakerphone button on the conference phone line (or put your cell on speaker), dial and when Jane answer say, “Hi, Lucinda has a question about inventory, could you meet her in Conference Room 7. Thanks”. This way everyone hears that Jane says she is the one to provide this information.

    This may or may not change their long term behavior but it signals that you aren’t responsible for that.

    1. OP #1*

      Thanks. I need to work on not sounding angry, and think about how I’m being helpful and professional instead of how I shouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense.

      1. Artemesia*

        In your head or out loud say ‘Oh I can help you with that, let me call Jane for you. . .’ Sometimes a wreath of ‘oh I’d be happy to help you find thats’ surrounding the ‘I am not doing this for you.’ works a treat.

        It is like the southern ‘Oh I’d just be so happy to help you with that and just wish I could and that my schedule was clear but I’m just so sorry that that won’t be possible this week or next. But I do hope you can find someone to do that. I would love to be able to do that for you if only I could.’

        1. fposte*

          The less Southern version I always think of is Phoebe from Friends being asked to help with a move and responding sweetly and sincerely, “Oh, I wish I could, but I don’t want to.”

          1. Koko*

            I loved the line in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where Jonah Hill asks Russell Brand if he’s had a chance to listen to read his screenplay yet, and Russell says, “Oh, right, I was going to do that, but then I just went on living my life.”

          2. Doodle*

            Or Lindsay from Arrested Development — she’s asked to do something:

            – “I can’t”
            – “Why”
            – “Because I’m… don’t want to.”

        2. TootsNYC*

          Well, I might vote for less “I’ll help you” and more “I’ll help Jane,” because of course Jane needs to know that people need something from her, right?

          Especially if Jane is a reactive manager; give her a stimulus to react to. She can’t help them with their inquiry if they won’t make it, right?

          So I’d say, “Oh, Jane needs to hear this, I’ll help her by looping her in immediately.”
          Think of it as an efficiency move.

    2. Meg Murry*

      If this is a task that would take some time, or something you don’t need today but rather for the next meeting I would email it and copy the others in the meeting.

      “Hello Jane, The Teapot design team needs the latest inventory for the ChocoPots project. Please forward to us by Friday. Thank you, OP#2”

      It sounds to me like the coworkers (who are higher up than OP#2) don’t really care how OP#2 gets the inventory – they just need the data. I think OP#2 is interpreting this as “you need to take an inventory or find it in a report” when the others probably mean “I don’t care if you ask Jane or do it yourself, just find this information. ”

      If the other are higher up and Jane is known for needing to be poked and prodded to get work/information out of her, I would interpret that as OP#2 being delegated to follow up with Jane, not just OP#2 being delegated to do the work herself.

      Now if Jane ignores the emails or says “nope, no can do” OP#2 can get her boss roped in to deal with Jane’s boss.

      1. OP #1*

        That would still be problematic, but in this case they clearly refused to bring Jane into it and made me look up the data on the spot.

  10. BRR*

    #2 I’d take into consideration that different companies have different titles and what people at your company have a senior title and their background. Reading your other replies, I don’t think there always clear cut levels across companies. That if you are recruited for or apply for another position you’re not limited to senior roles.

  11. OP #1*

    Alison, thanks for your perspective. My boss is pushing to get other departments to understand what our role is, and what it is not. So I’ll definitely discuss with her before actually citing her. In past years, our department has gotten in trouble when we don’t agree with the designers, and I don’t want the designers to get my boss in trouble until she gets upper management’s backing. I appreciate the language you suggest, I hope to use it soon.

  12. Vulcan social worker*

    OP #2: I don’t know what your industry is so this may not be applicable for you at all, but in mine, titles are all over the map. I’m currently looking and I want to be a program manager again, which I have been in the past. A search for program manager returns hits for program coordinator, and some those job descriptions, and some of them fit closely to what I did as a manager: in charge of the program, maybe manage a small number of staff but not many, manage some volunteers and a few interns. I’m not that worried about the title and I will apply for those jobs. (I’m also smart enough to search for the term program coordinator too.) But here’s the funny part: I’m finding that program coordinator could be anyone from the person I would call the administrative assistant, to someone who is in charge of an entire site for a multi-facility agency and all of the staff there report to her! I guess I would give a different distinction to someone responsible responsible for everything that happens at that location, even if the whole program is managed by someone at main office.

    I guess title inflation has been around for a while: when I was 22 and in my first job as an administrative assistant, friends who were doing pretty much the same thing at other places were called program associate or communications coordinator, and I was concerned that when I was ready to leave my job and had to compete with them, they would look like they had better experience because of the title. I ended up getting promoted internally, so when I did leave I had a different title. I got my next job doing exactly what I wanted to do because a friend knew that her organization was looking for someone who did teapot design and told me to submit my resume, and I was working there six weeks later.

  13. Liana*

    OP #3 – Taking a week (or more) off between jobs is TOTALLY normal and you should absolutely do it. I have tons of friends and coworkers who have done it, and no one blinks an eye. Taking some time off to decompress from your former job and gear up for your new one is important, especially if you work in a high-stress field.

  14. Puffy*

    I wanted to take a week off to mentally prep myself for a new job but it just wasn’t possible… with my new job the interviewer told me that it was between me and another candidate, we were equally strong and the final question had come down to availability. The other candidate had requested the ability to give 2 weeks notice plus a week off, I was going to do the same but in order to get the job I offered to give my 2 weeks notice and start right away. It was very important for them to have someone start ASAP.

    The worst part was that my notice was given mid-week… so I worked at job 1 Monday + Tuesday but then on Wednesday I had to start at my new job. Looking back, I wish I had asked for at least a day or two as a buffer… I was not mentally prepared to start absorbing new information and seemed unprepared. It also made things sticky with my old job… I had been sick one day during my notice period and they had wanted me to work an extra day to make up for it, but I had to refuse because I didn’t leave any buffer between jobs.

  15. Narise*

    I think my response would be something along the lines of ” The information may be in that report, however Jane is in charge of that area and she would have that information without even looking at the report. She would also have the most up-to-date information rather than something that maybe a few weeks old.” If they keep pushing the matter suggest that something is going on behind the scenes. Respond with: “Is there a reason why you don’t want to discuss this with Jane? I’m just not understanding why we’re not including her in this discussion it clearly falls into her area.” This puts the focus on the fact that they’re intentionally excluding a manager of the department from a discussion that involves her. They wouldn’t want to be excluded from something that they are in charge of or that could affect their department so why are they leaving her out of something that is affecting her area? This puts the focus back on their behavior rather than on you.

    1. TootsNYC*

      >> Respond with: “Is there a reason why you don’t want to discuss this with Jane? I’m just not understanding why we’re not including her in this discussion it clearly falls into her area.” <<

      Yes–questions are really, really great stalling tactics. Just keep asking them until they answer.

  16. TheAssistant*

    I’m in a slightly similar boat to OP#4. I’m just starting a job search (and, complicating matters, I’m waitlisted for a grad program that would start in the fall). Also complicating matters: there’s talk of a promotion for me, but funding is still a few weeks off and I’d likely need to apply for it. My team announced on Thursday that we’re starting a project with a timeframe of July-October, and while the coveted Project Manager position has been taken by a colleague, they’re looking for team members and team leaders for the project, and they’re looking for volunteers. On the one hand, I don’t really want to be in my current role by October 31, but on the other, if I AM still at my current company, I really want to be involved in this project (ideally as a lead). I want to keep all of the complicating factors off the department’s radar. Do I volunteer for the project or no? I’m leaning yes but this is new territory for me and I don’t know how to proceed professionally.

  17. TootsNYC*

    #2-wants a promotion
    Just as getting a promotion can have a bigger impact on your career than a bonus and stock options, it can also have a very big effect on the organization itself.

    It’s not something most companies do lightly. If they don’t need another Senior X, they can’t really promote you. They have a head-count to stay under and a budget to meet. So promoting you out of Plain X to Senior X means they’re short a Plain, and they have one too many Seniors. They can’t just go hire another Plain, and maybe there isn’t enough work to justify a larger number of Seniors.

    Promotions (in my experience) aren’t something you get just because you’ve been there that long, or as a pat on the head. You get a promotion because they need someone to do a higher level of work than you are doing. It should always be accompanied by a change in duties. More autonomy, less scut work. But then…who will do the scut work if they promote you? (In my current department, I couldn’t promote anyone–there are only 3 positions, and they’re filled with the 3 of us. There’s nowhere to move someone up TO.)

    I do think you could, at 1.5 years, say, “As I’m sure you must realize, I would like to move up to more autonomy and different duties. Is that something that might be in my future here? What would have to happen?” The answer might be, “You have to show us X qualities” or “…put in Y time,” but it also might be, “one of the other Senior X’s would have to leave.”

    Because it’s not all about you—it’s about their organization and its cost-efficiency, and its task efficiency.

    1. Emily*

      My employer takes this principle SO seriously. We have job bands much like the government, and for any given type of a work, a position in a low band has a set salary range and also a designated level of responsibility and autonomy. You can’t give someone more responsibility than their pay grade indefinitely without promoting them, which is nice, but it also means you hit a ceiling where you can no longer earn merit raises unless you take on more responsibility.

      Assuming you haven’t maxed out your pay grade, your manager can pretty easily get you a merit raise each year just for doing very excellent work. But every time a manager wants to promote an employee, they have to write a new job description that aligns with the responsibilities appropriate to that pay grade. So your boss may love your project work, but they don’t think you would be good at leading a project team or managing your own project budgets, and the criteria clearly state that people at the pay grade above you have purchasing and budget management authority or manage a team.

      It’s really intended to prevent the Dilbert principle, where being good at X earns you a promotion where you now do completely different Y. If you’re good at it, you get promoted to different Z, but if you’re not, you remain at Y. Thus people are promoted to their own level of incompetence!

      Making managers write new job descriptions in order to justify a promotion helps ensure that they really are tied to substantive increases in responsibility and value.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Even if they think you’d be GREAT at a higher level–they may only have room for 4 Senior X’s. And there are 4 Senior X’s right now.

    2. Graciosa*

      This is true in a lot of large companies (including mine).

      The work is structured with the specific number of positions we need (1 Chocolate Teapot Guru in charge of 3 Chocolate Teapot Wizards in charge of 9 Chocolate Teapot Managers in charge of 100 Chocolate Teapot Technicians (30 of whom are Senior)). When a higher level position is open, it goes to the most qualified candidate. We don’t just promote people because they’re doing good work and want to give them a title bump – we have to actually need someone specifically to do higher level work.

      I have seen a few companies (and some niche industries) where there are regularly scheduled “promotions” in title without significant changes in duties – they seem to be more about tenure than responsibility, and they have a *lot* of titles and levels to accommodate this system (Junior Teapot Polishers I, II, III, and IV, then Teapot Polishers I-IV, then Senior Teapot Polishers I-IV, and so on!). In those cases, not getting a scheduled promotion (and they are practically scheduled) is a negative sign, and something the OP should definitely pay attention to. Of course, in these situations, the titles don’t have any value in the broader market.

      In all other cases, promotions are tied to the level of work required by the business. Getting this type of a promotion *does* have market value tied to the change in the level and type of *achievements* included on the resume.

      There’s a clear difference between “Consistently met all teapot production requirements” and “Rerouted the teapot production line to increase throughput by 30% and revenue by $10M per year, while also reducing spoliation for a margin improvement of 130 basis points.”

      As a hiring manager, I can easily spot (and dismiss) the candidates who can’t demonstrate any achievement beyond moving from Teapot Polisher III to Senior Teapot Polisher I during their tenure on the job.

  18. TootsNYC*

    #4—taking on a project when you’re hoping to leave

    Your employer will figure it out. At one job I had, a food expert was going to represent the company as a judge at a BBQ contest. She quit about a week before; there were plane tickets, hotel, etc. I was in a non-food role, completely—but that was my home state. So they called and said, “If we sent you, would you get to see your family?” And when I said yes, they sent me. I even got the tacked-on weekend that the original person had arranged bcs she had friends there.

    My company decided I was good enough for this thing.

    You should start planning your talk right away—and then anything you’ve done to prepare the speech could be available for anyone who might fill in for you.

    It’s also possible that, if truly no one else could speak, they’d ask you to do it even after you aren’t an employee anymore, if you aren’t on bad terms. Or, your company will back out, and the organizers will ask you to speak under your own aegis. (That would be my preference: to cast that speaking assignment as “mine” and not “my company’s,” bcs that would be a plus on my resume)

  19. Quilter*

    #2 – Although it differs from my own personal viewpoint, I can totally understand your preoccupation with titles because when you are looking to move on, some employers won’t be open to someone making a huge leap and becoming “senior” now will help further your career later. I suggest you talk to your manager, but you need to do so delicately. Tell her that you’re grateful for the faith the company has shown in your work by the raise. Use that conversation as a chance to say that you’re interested in making sure you’re continually providing work at a high level and ask what the next steps would be for you to work towards title of “senior”, including what would be seen as a reasonable timeline. In other words, you don’t demand or act as if you expect it already. You express gratitude for what was given and you bring up the title boost in terms of you having future goals rather than being disappointed you aren’t there yet. That should give you an idea of where your manager sees your progress and what timeline she has in mind for you in particular. Don’t be pushy about it. Frame it in the perspective of wanting to do good work for the manager, for the company. Plus, it will get her to know that this is something of value to you. Good luck!

  20. CM*

    OP #1: In addition to “I’d love to help you, but that’s a question for Jane,” is there a way you could point them to other resources that they could look at on their own? For example, if they think the information is in a report, can you say, “You can find all the reports in the team folder. Jane would be able to tell you where to look, but you can feel free to search.” And if they still push you to do it for them, maybe you could deflect and say, “My manager has asked me to focus on X work, so you should talk with her if you want me to make this a priority.”

    OP #2: I think the speed of promotions is so dependent on company culture, but it doesn’t hurt to tell your manager you want to know what you can do to become a Senior X. You can also ask what the typical timeline is for going from your level to a Senior X. Framing it as “I’m eager to progress in the company and I’d like more information about how to do that,” rather than “I deserve a promotion,” is likely to go over better with your manager.

    OP #3: I’ve taken a month off, TWICE, and it is glorious! That’s my favorite thing about changing jobs!

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