my new job isn’t what I signed up for

A reader writes:

I was hired four months ago at a large organization to be a trainer and writer. I got to ask a lot of questions about the role, which fit what I wanted to do perfectly. My would-be boss pushed hard to bring me on and insisted to the team that this role was necessary, despite budget issues.

Fast forward four months later, and my immediate boss loves me. The problem? I’ve hardly done any of the work I was brought on to do. She has piled work on my plate that was previously hers and fills my schedule with very long work meetings where I provide damage control to different teams about shoddy work she completed before I was hired because I’m better with people.

Although I’m using my project management skills and getting a lot of things done, no one is noticing except her, and the work I’ve been doing was not part of the job description when I was hired. I am a total team player and am happy to lend a hand, but part of the role I was hired to do involved working within certain timelines, which I’m now not meeting.

She doesn’t seem concerned about this, and there doesn’t look to be any end to this on the horizon. Our weekly one-on-ones where I bring up the need for time to develop my programs always fall on deaf ears in favor of immediate priorities.

A coworker who also works under her had the same thing happen to him – for two years! He’s complained to our boss’s manager and asked for a reorg several times and is encouraging me to do the same. I’m wary of this since I’m just settling in and I don’t want to cause problems, although I’m starting to get resentful. My boss also tends to be sneaky and hold grudges, so I can see her getting really upset if she hears I did this.

I’m concerned because my role is to work with most of the people in the organization, so not doing the job I was hired to do is starting to become very obvious. A lot of people are currently waiting for training, and I keep promising that it’ll happen soon. Should I just accept the the role has changed? Is this going to be detrimental to me in the long run, or should I just continue since she loves me?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Posted in Uncategorized

{ 73 comments… read them below }

  1. JokeyJules

    I think it’s important to point out in no uncertain terms that you took the job that was offered and expect to do that job. It seems like she needs an assistant or something and that’s fine, but not the job you took.

    1. AMT

      Yeah, it’s such a huge red flag that she’s treating it as a casual, everyday occurrence! Like, yeah, of course it’s normal to do absolutely none of what you were hired for. And the boss’s boss is apparently enabling it. This might not be a fixable situation.

  2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin

    The boss is both incompetent and a coward. Just reread the second paragraph.

    She “pushed hard” for OP to come on so that OP could clean up her messes. The fact that OP met the ostensible job description just made it easier for her to complete the hiring process. But she intended to bait-and-switch from the beginning.

    1. tra la la

      I was thinking this too (especially when I got to “boss is sneaky and holds grudges.”) Suspect this is a “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change” situation.

      1. RJ the Newbie

        I agree. The problem – which is totally a plus for OP – is that she’s been good at what her boss has been bad at doing. It’s going to be very hard to discard the boss’ screw-ups even if it wasn’t what OP signed up for. Sadly, I’m living this now and making an exit strategy.

      2. Triplestep

        Yup, this describes the job I just left, and contributed to why I left it. I had responsibilities dropped on me that I had left behind in my career decades before. What’s more, my sneaky boss pretended as if I was just “helping” but helping who? No one else owned these things! I finally embraced them figuring if she’s too much of a coward to actually direct me to do them, I’ll feel better if I just admit they were part of my job.

        My now -former co-worker told me he saw the job description for my replacement, and those responsibilities are not on it. I guess the boss does not care about doing it to someone else!

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?

          Call it what it is. Lying. It’s how I ended up where I am now. They needed a warm body with X skill, which wasn’t easy to get (not impossible, but not a dime a dozen either) so they presented a very responsible position that was a very definite move up for me. I get a damned good benefit package and a reasonably substantial salary, so if the boss & the people were halfway nice to work with, I could live with it. The only thing that has kept me from walking out at times is financial terror in the wake of the great recession, which I’m still rebuilding from. I’ve started interviewing and realize there are other good benefit packages and paychecks out there.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?

            Sorry, to clarify: it was presented as a move up and a few of my duties are higher level, but I’m expected to do a lot of crap that’s the same as I did when I started at the co. at entry level and thought I’d left behind years ago.

      3. AnnaBananna

        I know it’s an old letter, but this reminded me of a workplace I was once at. To that particular department (and department head), the headcount was more important than the actual role. As in, they would lose the headcount if they didn’t have someone in that seat by the end of the fiscal year. So they would open up a role, sell the crap out of it, and then once the person was onboarded, they’d stick them where there was a NEED, regardless of what the candidate signed on for. Needless to say, there was high turnover.

        If I was in the OP’s position and I trusted her colleague’s feedback about their boss (and adjacently their grand boss’) lack of efficacy, I wouldn’t even bother trying to talk them into moving my role back, because it’s clear (2 yrs!!) that it will never happen and she was totally swindled into taking an assistant job. I would leave, immediately. It’s four months, and I doubt her boss would give a good recommendation even if she left 5 yrs from now (sneaky/grudge holder).

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.

      Yup, this is the boss’ MO. She hires in someone for a company approved position and then foists her work on that poor sucker until he/she is able to move on. In this case, the guy before LW was able to network and move within the company, which indicates, everyone knows how this woman is so they don’t judge her employee’s abilities by their failure to meet the assigned work.
      And it also indicates she is the broken stair. Give her money and resources to have someone do her work until that person throws in the towel, move that person around and bring in the next victim.

  3. That Girl From Quinn's House

    Is it possible to include HR in this conversation? I know HR isn’t always the greatest, but in all of the places I’ve worked, HR would take a complaint like this seriously. Especially if you approached them with a polite, professional, and reasonable request, they would sit down and go over The Rules with you and let you know what your options were.

    1. Yikes Dude

      My gut tells me this is in the HR department or at least in a department that is in the same group as HR on the org sheet.

  4. CrypticNameGoesHere

    OMG I swear this is my previous boss. I was there before her and she hired a bunch of people who got stuck in that situation. Best exit I’ve ever made.

  5. DaffyDuck

    If you are not able to do the job you are hired for – I would definitely speak up. It makes YOU look really bad to everyone else in the company and it sounds as if pulling your direct bosses chestnuts from the fire is only helping her. I think you need to make it clear to your boss you need to start working on what you were hired to do. I expect she will come back with assisting her as a priority. At that time I would go to grandboss and explain why you are unable to get your job description done and ask for direction. I expect grandboss won’t be surprised.

    1. DaffyDuck

      Oh, and your boss may love you now; but this isn’t the type of personality that would have your back when things get bad. Push for a getting her work off your plate, a reorganization, or start looking for another job. The sooner the better.

      1. tra la la

        100% this. She loves you because you’re fixing her screwups and covering her rear end. She likely also loves you because you fit the requirements of the official job AND can be pressed into this kind of service.

      2. Anonym

        Agree. Best case, the boss is without insight (unlikely to change). Worst case, she’s without integrity (definitely not going to change, and dangerous).

      3. MassMatt

        I agree, the fact that no one else knows the OP is fixing the boss’s work and not getting the work done she was hired to do means she will have little to no protection from being downsized. Especially since the OP is promising employees that their training will “happen soon”. Make sure the boss is getting the heat from the people needing training, not you. But bigger picture, the fact that boss has done this before and ignored your very reasonable requests to get to the work you were hired for means she is unlikely to change. I recommend trying to get out ASAP.

      4. Important Moi

        This can not be stressed enough. Further, she may provide a bad/dishonest reference. LW should be working on expanding her professional reputation in the event she can’t depend on her boss to offer a fair reference.

    2. Suzy

      This is my concern. Your immediate boss loves you but if you look incompetent to the rest of the company this could be bad for you in the long run. I would follow Alison’s advice but also add on – if someone asks for the training, instead of saying “It will happen soon” I would start to throw your boss under the bus. Not in a mean way but in a factual way. Saying “Boss has not authorized me to do that yet” or “Boss has asked me to focus on this other stuff instead and so the training is on hold” is factual. If those others who want the training start complaining to their bosses, you want it to be clear that its not you who is dropping the ball.

      Your boss sounds incompetent and you have good reason not to want to hitch your star to her wagon.

      1. Mr Shark

        Yes, this, exactly.
        The LW has to let others know that they are following her direction and that is taking you away from the originally required work, otherwise others will believe that she is just incapable of doing the work. This is especially true if, as it sounds, the position was one that some felt was unnecessary originally. If the LW doesn’t accomplish anything in that position, then why is the LW employed?

  6. Dust Bunny

    File this under “your manager sucks and isn’t going to change”.

    She’s done this before and didn’t change it until pressured from above, at which point she sucked in the next available new hire and started all over again. Either her bosses don’t know, in which case you need to tell them, or they do know (since the last guy had the same problem) and don’t care.

  7. I'd Rather Not Say

    It’s troubling that no one knows about the work you’re doing except her, and I’d find a way to raise your profile in this way. It will also protect you when questioned about not doing training. I would also document, in follow up emails, any conversations with the boss about this, so you are protected in case she tries to take disciplinary action against you if anyone complains about you not getting something done (such as training). This will also be helpful if you choose/need to take it further up the chair or to HR. Though some people appear to know about the boss’s behavior, maybe there is a way to bring this out in the open so it will be noticed that she’s not really a good employee? Also, have you tried scheduling training, so she’s the “bad guy” when the training gets cancelled?

      1. 30 Years in the Biz

        Yes, 100%
        Like the scheduling training suggestion. I also like the idea of emailing back to those requesting training that training has been sidelined until bosses’s project is complete. Say it in a matter-of-fact way. No complaining, just objective evidence. Documentation is your best way to show you are working (bosses’s work) and you’re are also attempting to do the work you were hired for.

        1. AnnaBananna

          And Cc boss so she’s aware that you’re now pulling the wool off the company’s eyes and will now start having to address their training requests. It will simply look like you’re keeping her in the loop, when really it’s a check to her king. You’ll probably be able to tell immediately if boss can tell the difference because suddenly she’ll be really irritable and will badmouth the folks requesting training.

          1. AnnaBananna

            (why yes! i did have this boss in a past work life. talk about needing to understand strategy very quickly.)

  8. huskypunx

    I sound like the coworker. I was hired by a non-profit to help our clients with their technical issues, but the role has now turned into writing request for proposals. It was like a long-term bait and switch that happened over 3 years. I brought it up multiple times to my old boss, who was a control freak and delusional that “relevant work for me was coming.” She ignored the fact that the needs of our clients simply didn’t necessitate my skill set anymore and refused to be honest that my role was no longer necessary because she needed a body doing the other work. My new boss that replaced her has been more honest, but the role is what it is now.

    My advice? Move on before the relevant skills you were supposedly hired for die out and you can’t get a job elsewhere. You’ll become too bitter and then be screwed.

    1. huskypunx

      I’d add to that: listen to your gut. If it’s telling you this is a problem, then listen. My gut told me to move on 6 months into the job, but fell for the trap of well paid easy job (like the letter writer last week).

  9. Tasha

    Can you start building the time for training into your schedule? Then in the one on ones with your manager, tell her this is the time you’ve allocated for training, with only x left for other projects (her messes). I mean if others in the org want/need/demand training, why not start doing it.

    1. Evergreen

      This is the tack I’m taking at the moment in a similar situation (not as bad as the OP’s though) and I think the OP should take this approach as well. If I was the OP I’d also look for a new job at the same time.

      The difficulty is that I’m often working longer hours effectively doing .75 of two jobs. But the interesting (CV relevant) work is always priority (but I think my manager sees enough of the other stuff happening that he doesn’t really notice or mind) – but YMMV

  10. Mephyle

    Shouldn’t she also mention explicitly in the heart-to-heart talk with the boss that people are needing training and it’s not getting done? All the other talking points recommended for the talk follow the theme “I’m not happy because I’m not getting to do what I was brought on for.” While that does speak to how it affects the company, it does so only in an implicit way, and I fear that what Boss would hear is only “whine, whine, I’m not happy.” Boss has already demonstrated that she doesn’t care about the LW’s happiness. She needs to hear “An essential business function that was promised is not getting done,” and if she doesn’t care about that, then it’s a broader problem than just her preventing LW from doing what she was hired to do.
    I hope that LW soon moved on to bigger and better things without wasting too much time at this lost cause.

    1. Marthooh

      I was thinking OP should tell the people who want training to talk to her boss about it, instead of (it sounds like) just giving out vague promises. If the boss is the roadblock, let people know that so they can take steps to get what they need.

    2. AnnaBananna

      Yep. OP would need to really understand what motivates her boss and then lean on that insecurity (egg on face in front of peers, awards for work, etc).

  11. Elsie432

    >> A lot of people are currently waiting for training, and I keep promising that it’ll happen soon. <<

    Don't do this! Making promises that you can't keep won't do anything to bolster your professional reputation. Let people know that they need to direct their training requests to your boss (and your boss's boss, if necessary).

    1. mf

      Agreed! Make them direct their complaints to your boss–then she’s forced to face the problem she’s created!

    2. valentine

      Let people know that they need to direct their training requests to your boss
      Or their own bosses, who may have better influence on OP’s boss.

      1. nonymous

        In my org, depending on the political capital involved, there would be a nonzero probability that the staff complaints will simply be seen as “we need to work around [whatever training was supposed to teach]”.

        What I do to facilitate training as a low-level peon is just do the training. I identify a training need, coordinate a timeline with that group and then block it out in my workload. I actually don’t even bother to loop my boss in until there’s an outline in place, possibly some draft training material. I actually stumbled across this approach by accident after talking to a peer who reports to a different supervisor – she didn’t know about some documentation that our group had already published and so I casually offered to pop the document up on a projector and walk her team through it. Very low-key, it required no commitment from me outside of the hour-long meeting, but it facilitated discussions that needed to happen and their feedback made me ask questions of the policy developers in a different way (which exposed flaws in the original approach and has led to a revised policy that is so much better for all parties).

        I would recommend OP cut back on the tasks that they are being directly assigned and carve out that time for training tasks. The simple way to do this is just make it seem longer to do the assigned tasks – instead of finishing the TPS reports before lunch, start working on them at 10A and give a noon update that they’ll be finished early afternoon. Use the first two hours of the day to develop the training pipeline. If OP can’t spend large chunks of time actively training (maybe they are used to full day training sessions but newjob really needs it to be self-directed 45min chunks?), break the flow up into modules that the trainees can bite off in short sessions. Use these long meetings to have side conversations with stakeholders regarding their training needs – there are probably lots of tricks OP can use to speed up the meetings and then just stick a mini-training slide as the last agenda item (just make sure to identify who doesn’t need training and give them the gift of time by excusing them from the meeting early). I would keep the mini training to less than 5 minutes initially and then work up from there depending on feedback. With the meetings specifically I would work towards reducing the duration of “damage control” convos. What it should be is stakeholders factually presenting their problems and OP factually presenting their team’s progress. If there’s no progress (and there wasn’t any before OP stepped up, right?) that should be really brief. If the stakeholders are being long and windy in their descriptions, help them come up with a template or workflow that reduces OP’s involvement. Maybe there are parts of the meeting that OP doesn’t need to attend (b/c stakeholders are refining their problem descriptions), so find a way to step out and use that extra time for the training pipeline.

        Finally I suggest that OP apply the Eisenhower Matrix approach and schedule some time for that Important/not-urgent category. Guard the time for that quadrant however you can!

  12. Karlee

    If she won’t commit to giving you dedicated hours to do the job you were hired to doo, ask her to send an email to all department staff expecting training – or at least department heads – to let them know training won’t be available in the near future. If she says no, ask her how she’s like you to handle requests for training that you can’t meet. At the very least, stop saying it will be soon and say you’ll let them know as soon as your manager makes it a priority for you to prepare and deliver it. That might gwnerate pressure from her peers. Just do t say it with a negative tone – you’re just sharing information. Then if your manager asks you about it you can be surprised she has an issue with it since it’s the truth and ask how she’s prefer you handle it.

    1. DaffyDuck

      Exactly! Promising training will happen soon makes the LW look bad. She needs to stop taking the heat for her manager’s choices.

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.

      Yup. The manager needs to be put in the spotlight here.
      Tell people the truth, you don’t have the resources from your boss to schedule and complete training.

  13. Cobol

    A counter viewpoint even though I agree with what everything is saying.

    There’s a benefit to large organizations though. If you do a good job there’s the opportunity, usually after a year, to go to a different group. Also dealing with other people to fix manager’s messes really is helping OP’s suck (probably). People know who’s good and who’s bad, and are (likely in my experience) seeing OP as the competent one in her group.
    That doesn’t make the situation any less frustrating, because it doesn’t seem like OP is going to get to do what she wants. It’s totally reasonable to stary looking for a new job, but if you like the org, I’d see if you can stomach what you’re doing and try to find a way to a different group.

    1. DaffyDuck

      I’m wondering what the LW’s annual review is going to look like when she doesn’t hit the majority of her job goals…

      1. Cobol

        That’s something to keep in mind. OP doesn’t mention that with the other employee. I’ve worked with a couple of people who (seem to be) like OP’s manager. They’re good people, bad managers, but not the worst. The exposure OP is getting with other people makes me think this is a coping mechanism her manager has figured out. Usually there people who sandbag your career tend to keep as much of your work secret as possible.

  14. Hey Karma, Over here.

    “should I just continue since she loves me”
    She doesn’t love you. Or hate you. But she is using emotions to blur boundaries.
    Are these weekly one on ones, where she doesn’t listen to you…does she instead talk about what you can do FOR her? Not what tasks you need to do, or what resources you need to do them, but what she NEEDS from you?
    Are you “the only one who understands how much work she has to do and how little support she gets from others in the company?” Do you “really get that she WANTS to work with people, but it’s just so HARD for her.” and “You are SO good with people that they UNDERSTAND when you tell them they have to wait.”
    Because she’s

    1. mf

      She’s using the OP to bolster her own career–and at the expense of the OP’s career. It’s a really gross and underhanded way to treat your employee.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.

        Gross is exactly the word. She’s manipulating her emotions, almost grooming her into a dog robber who will yes, sacrifice her own career to save this woman who only wants to love her…
        so freaking gross.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.

            I learned it from the movie version of The Americanization of Emily (very different from the book, much more naive and I would say sanitized.) But it’s James Garner and Julie Andrews. check it out.

    2. Dust Bunny

      She doesn’t love you. You are yousful to her. Don’t expect any positive attention she pays you now to continue if you start pressing her to allow you to do the job for which you were hired, or if you embarrass her by revealing to coworkers and superiors that she’s using you to get away with slacking off and screwing up.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?

          I see the seed of a cool pun there, though.

          And I have to wonder, if Boss has a track records of bait and switch, if the rest of the co. knows about it already so they just let it slide and nobody’s going to do anything about it.

  15. Totally Minnie

    If OP has this conversation with their boss and the boss shuts it down and refuses to budge, is this a situation where you would recommend taking the issue to the grandboss? Maybe something like “I was hired to do X, but Clarissa has been assigning me to cover Y so often that I haven’t had time to take care of my X responsibilities. I’ve talked to her about it, and she’s not willing to free up my time to focus on X.”

  16. GreenDoor

    I had this happen to me. Unfortunately, it was back in 2008-09 when the economy took a nose dive and it wasn’ t easy to simply quit and find a new job. I had several one-on-ones and was promised numerous times “When X happens” or “In June” or “When so-and-so leaves.” Every time that milestone would come, there’d be another excuse. The only reason I’m still here is because that manager left and I got a manager that knows what she’s doing. So, I’d advise the OP to think about a concrete timeline for how long they can handle being in limbo. Have that one-on-one, but if the promises keep getting broken, stick to your internal timeline and start looking once your mental deadline for her to change things comes. I agree – this may be a “your boss sucks and things won’t get better” situation…so have your limit clear in yoru mind.

  17. Tysons in NE

    I would probably at this point, after having the “I”m serious about wanting to do the job that I was actually hire for” conversation. Did you ever get a job description?
    If that has all the point that were discussed during the interview process, but you are now only doing “other duties as assigned” there is a real issue for OP (the boss seems happy with the status quo).
    Starting dusting off your resume and get out there. When asked why you are looking so soon, you can be honest “I was hired for X. Currently doing Y with returning to the JD that I thought that I was hired for no where in the immediate or distant future.” If you are a teapot designer and thought you were going to be a teapot designer, but switched to tea pot seller, no one should be surprised that you are looking for a move. And in this case, it does sound like OP can at least say that she ask improved her project management skills.

  18. Observer

    Stop promising that the training will happen. Instead, tell people that you can’t get to the training unless your boss allows you to spend the time on it. Yes, it’s what you were hired for, but at the moment your boss is insisting that you do other things.

  19. Speaking from experience

    OP, get out of there!

    Your situation sounds eerily similar to my situation at my job (where I’ve been nearly two years, sigh). Seriously, I practically could have written this exact letter early on. There were many, many promises that things would change and I foolishly bought them all.

    Newsflash: nothing ever changed, my boss didn’t get any better, it has become crystal clear thar nobody at our organization is willing to hold him accountable, and I ended up shouldering all the blame for his incompetence and almost getting fired.

    Nothing good is going to come from sticking with this place. Get out while you can.

    1. designbot

      I’ve been there too. I was hired to do a teapot graphics because this great teapot design firm wanted to expand into that area instead of hiring consultants. But what wasn’t disclosed in the interview process was that one of the partners was in a long term relationship with their favorite teapot painter! So I never had the work I was brought on to do, and six months in they fired the lone person in the marketing department and made me do her job. Getting out of there was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. And the explanation for why I was leaving was pretty much bulletproof! I was hired to do X, turns out they don’t have enough X to keep me busy so I’ve had to spend time doing Y, I’m looking for a job where X is my sole focus. Nobody batted an eye.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?

        Good to hear! I’ve wondered how it would go over in interviews if I said, I moved from teapot demonstrator with the understanding that I’d lead the demonstrator team and manage the teapot booth, and instead the job is mainly demonstrating teapots. I was afraid I’d sound like an arrogant whiner.

  20. Magenta

    I couldn’t concentrate read the response because of the annoying autoplay that didn’t stop even when I closed the little video box in the corner.
    Why do sites do this? If I want to watch a video I will hit play, I don’t need to be made to jump out of my skin by unexpected full volume crap I have no interest in.
    This kind of thing should have ended with MySpace.

  21. SandBagged

    Wow. Just wow. This exact thing happened at the place I’m at now. Except I wasn’t hired on, I was a really high-performer in one dept, and (unbeknownst to me) I was given a “step up” opportunity in another dept that I thought was a free choice. So I went to the other dept and bingo…the place was a train wreck because of a problem person this manager had not only not fixed, but expected me to fix, instead of doing what I was promised and signed on to do. Here’s where things differed from other. comments-I pushed this manager and finally got to go back to my old dept, but I was done at that company. Done…done. No longer invited to the high level meetings, given my old tasks, passed over for promotions, etc et. I strongly suspect this manager deep-sixed my reputation when she saw I wouldn’t do what she wanted and meekly clean up her messes. She ended up getting fired, but by then it was far too late to repair the damage that had been done to my career and reputation there. My last day here is tomorrow, but my advice to OP, as someone who’s been there, is don’t try to fight this or fix it: even if you get the work you originally wanted, it’ll always be an uphill battle, if not worse. Companies need to be held accountable for allowing people like this to stay in their org, and the best way to do that is to vote with your feet. Let failures fail. Its not your problem to fix.

    1. SandBagged the Second

      Me too. Made it back to the old department, discovered myself in corporate Siberia. Except bad manager is still here and I’ve remained and have been shunted to an even less desirable team.

  22. Eccentric Smurf

    Something similar happened to me, only it was the department lead who was turning me into her own personal assistant and I went over her head to the department manager. I told him that it seemed like there had been a misunderstanding somewhere along the way about the role I had been hired for and mentioned that if they needed an assistant for Jane, I probably wouldn’t be a good fit because I was looking for something more like (job description that was discussed in my interview.)

    Department manager put a stop to Jane’s shenanigans that very same day. I knew it was risky to suggest I wasn’t a good fit for the job, but I disliked the situation enough to move on if the conversation didn’t go well. Thankfully, the conversation went well, although it took Jane quite some time to stop holding a grudge.

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