my boss asked me to project-manage a peer — and the peer treats me like his assistant

A reader writes:

I work for a small company where I am, let’s say, head of X. I’ve never worked very closely with my coworker, Tim, head of Y, and I don’t see very much of him because he works outside the office.

Recently, my boss (who’s the CEO — we’ll call him Jason) has asked me to step into more of a middle-management role, providing status updates on the rest of the business to him and the board of directors. He’s specifically asked me to work with Tim in a project management capacity. Tim works on producing content for our website (videos, blogs, podcasts, etc.), and the CEO was hoping I would step into the overview and planning of what content we already have, what is coming up next, what themes we need more content on, etc., leaving Tim more free to focus on the creative side of actually developing the content.

I set up a meeting with Tim about this where I explained what Jason had asked me to do and asked what projects he was working on and how we could collaborate. The task he asked for my help with was booking a restaurant for a team meal, and he also offered some (subtle) pushback on the idea of me having oversight of his work. I was offended by his ask as I felt it was more suitable for an assistant or an intern. When I tried to clarify that I saw my role working with him as more of a project management one than an administrative assistant one, he said, “Oh, definitely, and finding this restaurant IS project management, because the project is getting the whole team together.” And this is not a one-time thing. The last time I had contact with him was when he asked me to set up a filing system for him on our new server.

I feel like his treatment of me is partly because I’m a woman in my 20s (he’s in his 40s) and he doesn’t see me as his peer. I don’t know how to address it with him without coming across as aggressive and unwilling to pitch in where help is needed. I will involve my boss if I need to but I’d rather deal with it directly. Since my boss is the CEO of the company, he has a lot on his plate and is too busy to deal with his kind of day-to-day stuff. We don’t have an HR department.

Oh, Tim. Booking a restaurant for a team meal is not project management, and it’s pretty patronizing that he tried to play it that way. If he has an issue with what the CEO has asked you to do, he should have communicated that like a grown-up. It would have been a lot more respectful (to both you and the CEO) if he’d said, for example, “I don’t think involving you in that way makes sense because of ___ so let me talk to Jason and figure this out.”

That said, it’s possible that the way you approached this might have left Tim some room to think this was more optional than it is, or more your idea than Jason’s. Some of the language in your letter (which I realize might be different than the language you used with Tim) sounds pretty soft — like “asked what projects he was working on and how we could collaborate” and “tried to clarify that I saw my role working with him as more of a project management one than an administrative assistant one.” That’s not to say you should have bulldozed your way in, but I can see how Tim might have gotten the impression that there was room for him to redefine your role in relation to his work.

Much more importantly, though, Jason shouldn’t have left you to communicate any of this to Tim on your own. That’s especially true if the work he asked you to take on is work Tim has being doing up until now. People shouldn’t hear from a peer that their job is changing. But even if that’s not the case, this new set-up will have him answering to you in a way — not as his boss, but as the person making decisions about what he should be working on. And that’s sensitive enough that Jason should have been the one to talk to Tim about it, rather than leaving it to you to announce.

You need Jason to go back and fix that now. You say he’s too busy to deal with this kind of day-to-day stuff — but this is very much his job as a manager, and he’s the only one with the standing to do it. You’re not being weak or copping out by asking him to. You can frame it as, “I’ve gotten some resistance from Tim to me the work we talked about, and I’ve realized he needs to hear from you what your vision is so he’s clear it’s coming from you and has a chance to ask you questions about it.”

Before you do that, though, I’d go back to Tim and say something like, “I think we’re on different pages about the work Jason has asked me to do. He’s asked me to manage the overall planning of our web content, what we’ll produce when, and what themes we need more content on. I’m going to put together a schedule of what’s on the horizon right now, and then I’d like your input before I finalize it. I’m also going to ____” (fill in with a couple of other steps you plan to take that get you into the real substance of the work Jason has asked you to do). That part is crucial; don’t wait for Tim to suggest what you could do, because that’s not working. Instead, decide what makes sense for this piece of your role and let him know your plans.

Meanwhile, if Tim asks you to make any more restaurant reservations or set up a filing system for him, look confused and/or amused and say, “That’s not something I can help with” or “That’s something you should talk to (admin) about.”’ If it keeps happening, then address it more directly: “You’ve been asking me to do admin work for you. That’s not part of my role, and it’s coming across very weirdly that you’re trying to send those tasks my way. What’s up?” If again claims it’s project management, say, “Nope! That’s stuff you’d need to do yourself or give to (admin).”

But really, Jason needs to step in here — not because you can’t handle it yourself, but because that always should have been step one of this shift.

Also, since it sounds like he might want you doing similar higher-level work with the rest of the business too, make sure he’s conveying that to the rest of the company, not just Tim — or you risk running into resistance or confusion from other people over time as well.

{ 243 comments… read them below }

  1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Yes, do everything that Alison says. Also remember that your job is to manage Tim. Not his feelings. He doesn’t want to you oversee his work. Realize that he is never going to want you to oversee his work. Realize that you cannot find a way to make him happy/pleased with your overseeing his work. But you and the CEO can find a way to explain that he has to accept it.
    Your rookie mistakes which let him put you aside and down are just that, rookie mistakes. You don’t want to be a “bitch.” OK. Don’t be. Be a confident woman who takes her job seriously. You didn’t say he was a “dick” because he well, simply put, played you. You said he didn’t get it. First of all, he got it. Second of all, take it back. You are too concerned with how he perceives you. That shouldn’t matter if you are being professional. And that can’t matter if you want to succeed.

    1. Arctic*

      The thing is that she isn’t supposed to manage Tim. She’s supposed to manage the logistics of his projects so he can focus on creative. She hasn’t been given authority over him. Which puts her in a terrible position.

      1. Morning Glory*

        Not logistics which would be a bit more admin-y. She’s supposed to do higher-level project management like creating a strategy for content.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Logistics is project management. Strategy isn’t. Jason is really not being a good manager or CEO here because he’s essentially moving Tim from a strategy / management role into an individual contributor role, and that’s a huge shift for him not to communicate. Tim is being passive aggressive here (no, booking a restaurant isn’t project management, either), but this shift is way beyond what would normally be considered project management, and I understand his resistance.

          1. Genny*

            I found myself wondering this too. It sounds like a major shift in responsibilities for Tim and something that, given his reaction, he probably didn’t ask for. In his shoes, I’d be hard pressed to see it as anything other than a demotion. Because of that, I’d personally go straight back to Jason to ask him to clarify with Tim.

          2. Lucette Kensack*

            Yeah, “project management” isn’t really what the OP is describing here. I think everyone needs to get clarification from Jason about what he’s really looking for.

          3. annony*

            If the CEO did not clearly define the new roles (what OP is going to be doing vs what Tim should be working on) it makes perfect sense for Tim to push back. It could seem like the OP is taking excessive initiative and Tim is defending his job and trying to get her to stay in her lane. The CEO is the root problem.

            1. What's with Today, today?*


              Yes, I can visualize Tim’s letter…”My co-worker has started thinking she is supposed to project manage my work but she isn’t.” Actually, we have seen that letter here a few times.

          4. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Maybe! But it’s possible Tim wasn’t doing this stuff previously — in a small office, it’s possible that coming up with content ideas and priorities was actually being done by a group and then Tim was executing, and the CEO wants the OP to take that on as her own. It’s not clear from the letter.

            1. JSPA*

              I’m betting on a particular scenario.

              Tim went to the boss and complained about having to handle non-creative aspects of the job. Tim meant, “I want an assistant to handle the boring stuff.” Boss heard, or chose to hear, “I want to be a creative content creator without broader oversight.” Boss told Tim, “I hear you, I’ll move some of those duties over.”

              Result: Tim expects to maintain control of his project and the “fun stuff.” Boss believes he’s done what Tim asked, and has let Tim know. Tim figures that OP’s “oversight” role is a funky mis-definition meant to pad OP’s resumé and make OP feel OK about picking up the extra duties. (Alternative possibility: boss may indeed be doing exactly this.) OP is thus set up to fail; but frankly, so’s Tim, and so’s the Boss.

              That’s what people get for talking in jargon and generalities, rather than specifics and examples. It happens way too often. The only way I see to clearing up this mess is to have everyone in the same room, talking specifics.

              And if OP finds out that her “extra supervisory duties” are intentionally along the lines of being called “engineer–sanitation engineer” for emptying the trash, then it’s time to use that extra terminology in her job description to polish up her resumé and get the hell out of Dodge.

              1. Aquawoman*

                Eh, I’m not quite buying it because that does not lead a person to say “booking a restaurant is project management” to a person who is at the same supervisory level as you are.

              2. Crooked Bird*

                Oof, that *sucks* if it’s true. My boss’s communication issues suddenly look so much smaller…

          5. Morning Glory*

            At my org, there’s project coordination which focuses on logistics and executing the vision/goals of project leaders. Then there’s project management, which is still primarily an execution role, but does include some strategizing and leadership in the form of making recommendations to the project lead. And then project lead, who is the final decision-maker.

            I don’t see logistical execution as project management based on my experience, although it’s clear from some of the replies here that this is not universal.

          6. AKchic*

            Yep. He really is being demoted, without the language demoting him. And Jason is being manipulative and trying to soft-foot the whole thing so he’s not having to deal with Tim’s feelings, and hoping that Tim doesn’t notice the whole new level of management, and maybe even hoping that OP will just go along with the idea of “admin-managing” to assuage Tim’s feelings so nobody has to deal with Tim’s feelings on the subject.

            Jason needs to manage properly and have a real meeting and convey what he wants so everyone is on the same page; because I don’t think anyone is on the same chapter if they are even reading from the same book!

            1. Helena*

              “Hoping that Tim doesn’t notice the whole new level of management”

              Exactly this happened to a friend of mine. She was head of department, and a second head of department was brought in, above her, “to allow her time to do more (junior) project work”. She was informed about this new head of department being appointed over her head when the new person introduced herself on her first day. Friend walked out and didn’t return.

              OP if I was Tim I would see this as a massive red flag about Jason’s management style.

              1. Junior Assistant Peon*

                The exact same thing happened to my former manager. They announced a newly created “Director of Innovation and Llama Grooming” position above the “Director of Llama Grooming.” I think the long-term plan was to get rid of the old director after a year or so once the new one was up to speed on the technical aspects of what we did, but he foiled their plan by announcing his resignation before the new person started. Apparently, another company had been courting him for a long time. Needless to say, no attempt was made to fill the “Director of Llama Grooming” position after he left.

        2. teclatrans*

          I think this is part of the problem — OP says her role is project management and that she is to determine the direction and scope of projects, but these are two *very* different things. I could see Jason thinking she has been assigned to help manage the logistics of his projects and that the leap to scheduling a restaurant *isn’t* that far, if the team is small enough.

          1. teclatrans*

            Whoops, I meant Tim.

            And I would make sure that you yourself understand the scope of your responsibilities, because strategy and crafting a timeline are two very different things; it is possible Jason was vague or overbroad in the mandate he gave you.

            1. valentine*

              thinking she has been assigned to help manage the logistics of his projects and that the leap to scheduling a restaurant *isn’t* that far, if the team is small enough.
              Tim was flipping off OP/putting her in her place.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I’ve been reading all the replies under my comment as well as the others. Wow, this situation is a hot mess of miscommunication and misunderstanding. The more comments I read the less I understand what is happening between those three. This needs a meeting.*
        *Words I never thought I’d use!

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Seriously. I hate meetings like the plague, but even I think this is best resolved by sitting down face to face

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      Good advice in general, but her job is not to manage Tim — her role is to manage the project of producing website content.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        But how do you manage a “process” without managing the person or persons charged with doing that “process”? I am honestly confused about this!

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I should have said “project” instead of “process.” But either way, the distinction is still clear as mud to me!

        2. Gumby*

          Welcome to project management. All those books about leadership without authority? Aimed at project and product managers.

          I’d say the strategy part of OP’s description seems more *product* manager-y to me than project.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yep. My project is to get this llama groomed. This requires the work of the llama nail trimmer, who is not supervised by me and can quite easily get pulled onto someone else’s llama. And the llama shampooer, who is supervised by yet another person. I’ve got no control over these people, but they’re crucial to my project.

            1. TardyTardis*

              Precisely. I advise bribing them with chocolate to show up when you need them (chocolate can actually play a role in certain project processes, and I wish I was joking).

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      As others have said, her job is not to manage Tim, but his work. But 100% with you that it’s not her job to manage his feelings. OP needs to understand that being direct and not letting Tim walk all over her does not equate to being a bitch – Tim may see her that way, but that’s only because his ego is hurt and he can’t handle this change professionally. Part of this is on Jason as Alison said, because if their job duties were changing, he should have been the one to address it directly, and he put OP in an awkward position.

    4. The Starsong Princess*

      It does sound like expectations are a bit vague for both you and Tim and Jason needs to clarify. However based on what Jason told you, your first step should be asking Tim for his existing project schedule (there probably isn’t one), then meeting with him to add structure, more detail, deliverables and milestones. Make sure you have his buy in on dates and commitments. Then start monitoring outputs to this plan and report on it regularly to Jason. That’s the role you are being asked to do as I see it. I’d just start doing it.

        1. Close Bracket*

          I recommend you do some research into what’s generally covered by project management. Many people here are saying certain things are not project management about things that very much are. I would start with looking at a broad overview of what is covered by PMP certification. That’s a non-industry-specific certification that could be seen as a sort of a standard for what constitutes project management. Then you can go to Jason and ask things like, “Did you want me to identify stakeholders?”

  2. lauren19*

    say to him “ive been hired to manage your tasks and its my job to watch over the entire planning. I am not admin assistant or event organiser. if there is an issue please speak to Jason.” reassure him you are not taking over him and your simply there to manage him and collaborate.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is tricky because it’s not clear she’s been told to manage his tasks. (If so, though, this is great language.) It sounds like she’s been told to project-manage (not person-manage) pieces of work that intersect with his, so the authority isn’t quite as top-down, although it’s there.

  3. Myrin*

    Yeah, Jason really dropped the ball here. Did he speak with Tim about this at all or does Tim have only your word that this is something that Jason wishes of you? Because if so, for all Tim knows, you could’ve suddenly gone mad with power and simply decided on your own to take on a somewhat supervisory position because you felt like it. (This sounds so far-fetched but honesetly, with all the crazy stuff we’ve already read about on AAM, I’m sure there are readers who actually experienced something like this.) It really needs to be the actual person in charge who communicates such important changes and decisions, not least of all because that way, Tim can’t claim you simply didn’t explain your new situation correctly and he misunderstood.

    (All that isn’t to say that Tim doesn’t sound wilfully obtuse – even if he had no inkling whatsoever of this new arrangement of yours, you’re his peer. Meaning, with collaborative projects, it still wouldn’t fall on you to make restaurant reservations, unless that was part of his own job, too.)

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      “Jason really dropped the ball here. ”
      Definitely. I didn’t appreciate that the first time through. But if I were a senior employee and younger, less experience peer came to me and said, “The CEO wants me to oversee parts of your project,” without any input from the CEO, I’d lean toward finding something for that peer to do that was out of the way as well. Tim could be thinking he’s doing his best to manage a situation with a coworker who misunderstood Jason’t instructions.

      1. annony*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. Tim is coming off as a jerk here but from his point of view, it could seem like the OP is taking excessive initiative.

        1. londonedit*

          Tim is definitely coming off as a jerk, but I wonder what message he might have actually heard from Jason. If Jason presented it as ‘Hey Tim, we really want you to concentrate on the creative stuff, so OP is going to take the logistics off your hands’, he might have assumed OP would be working in some sort of support role, ‘helping him out’ with the day-to-day so he could focus on the good stuff. That doesn’t excuse him trying to get OP to book a restaurant for him when that’s clearly not her job, but maybe there’s been some disconnect between what Jason meant and what Tim understood. Or maybe I’m just being too charitable!

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I think if Tim felt the OP was overstepping and didn’t realize Jason backed this new effort (which is a fair possibility), then Tim should be taking it up directly with Jason and not giving OP busywork and calling it project management. That’s why Tim isn’t coming off well – “run along and make us lunch reservations” isn’t the way to handle this.

      2. OP*

        Hi, OP here. A lot of people in the comments seem to assume the prospect of us working together in this way wasn’t communicated to Tim by Jason before I spoke to him, it was! Definitely he was too vague about the specifics of how it would function and Alison’s right that that’s what I need to address, but Tim absolutely was made aware that I was going to be working with him in a project management capacity. Also part of why this new arrangement has been suggested is that Tim has recently been overwhelmed and overworked so the idea of me taking some high-level planning off his plate seemed to make sense for everyone (although he clearly doesn’t see it that way).

        1. Myrin*

          Ha, in my other comment, I actually wrote that we don’t actually know that Jason hadn’t talked to Tim about all this, but then I re-read your letter and deleted my caveat because of the “I set up a meeting with Tim about this where I explained what Jason had asked me to do” part (I think that’s the sentence which led people to think there was no conversation between Jason and Tim here).
          So in that case, I obviously need to retract all of my musings about Tim being blindsided by the new setup and only remain with my musings about how Tim could and should be behaving differently.

          1. OP*

            Sorry I just realised I replied to another comment of yours below with the exact same clarification, clearly I should gone over my letter a bit more closely before sending!

            1. Myrin*

              Not a problem at all, OP, I’ll gladly read the same clarification twice! (Also helpful for others who might just be skimming and only see one of the two.)
              And I think almost everyone who’s ever sent anything in here knows the thoughts along the lines of “oh my, it seems I should’ve worded X differently/more clearly” when you suddenly see a debate unfold you never would’ve predicted because you yourself obviously know your own situation and forget that what is obvious to you might not be obvious to others.
              Heck, I’ve never sent anything in but I’ve commented lots on the open threads and sometimes I come back in the evening after having posted something in the morning and am blown away by the surprising (to me!) direction the discussion took!

        2. serenity*

          Yeah, I’m going to agree with most of the comments here saying this was Jason’s slip-up. “A project management capacity” is too vague, if that’s indeed how he pitched this. Jason needs to clarify expectations for everyone and specify to Tim exactly what will be changing.

        3. Square*

          I think the 3 of you need to sit down and discuss what specific tasks that will be handed over to you because just saying “project management capacity” is not at all clear.

        4. BRR*

          Reading this and your other replies (thank you following up!), Jason needs to clearly communicate that you’re there to do X, Y, and Z. And it could be possible that Jason needs to do that with you as well if you’re not entirely sure on your role. Is it possible Tim was only told you were there to help take some work off his plate? If I knew my manager was shifting resources to help me, I would be handing off lower level work before higher level work if I didn’t know better.

          But it sounds like Tim is still being ugh (based on your other reply of him repeatedly asking you to make a reservation even after you told him that wasn’t your job). If everything has already been made clear between the three of you, I would say, “Tim, I’m here to help with A and B. Why are you still asking me again to make the restaurant reservation?”

        5. Close Bracket*

          (although he clearly doesn’t see it that way)

          This is on Jason to manage, but if Jason won’t, it will be on you to manage. All the people saying it’s not your job to manage Tim’s feelings are missing a huge component of working with other people. After all, it’s not Tim’s job to manage your feelings, either, and yet, you are having feelings about being asked to make restaurant reservations, and there is broad agreement that Tim is being a jerk. So. Taking work away from Tim that he isn’t interested in giving up is bound to breed resentment on his part. I’d be super pissed if I were Tim, and rightfully so. He should have a say in which parts he offloads — not the whole say, bc you have feelings, too, and you shouldn’t get all the shit work and none of the good work (btw, that is a hugely gendered division of labor). But he does have feelings (as do you), and you do need to be thoughtful of them (as he does of yours), and you need to find a solution for dividing the labor that leaves everybody still mostly gruntled. Well, really, Jason needs to, but it sounds like it will actually be you.

    2. Mazzy*

      Thank you for this. I’m really baffled by the hate on Tim in the few comments so far. I’d be totally confused if a much less experienced colleague came to me seemingly out of the blue and started talking about managing my work. Do I suck? Did one of my projects fail? Am I being laid off? Is the company transitioning to a project management platform and no one told me? What creative work am I not doing enough of?

      Jason definitely dropped the ball big time

      1. Lance*

        Sure, but even then Tim’s message reads as a bit… condescending. Not to mention, if he has an issue, then as Alison says, he should speak up about it. Not just pretend nothing could possibly be going on, and ‘oh but this is project management’.

        1. Genny*

          To be fair, we don’t know that he hasn’t talked to Jason about it. He very well may have (or tried to) and found it to be ineffective. I’m not getting strong “Jason is a good manager” vibes from this letter, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he left both LW and Tim hanging in the wind.

          1. Lance*

            Granted, yes, that’s entirely a possibility… but I also mean speak up about it with the OP. If Tim and Jason had spoken in some way about this, then Tim would know that none of this is on the OP, and could well warrant actually working this out between them.

        2. Mazzy*

          From the OP’s perspective but remember that not everyone even knows what “project management” includes. He could honestly believe that it’s just taking care of random tasks

      2. Alli525*

        “Let’s talk about how we can collaborate on your projects” =/= “Please make a reservation for me at Restaurant.” That’s never, NEVER the correct response to OP’s admittedly soft suggestion. That’s why we are hating on Tim.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          And then asserting that booking reservations IS project management. Honestly… I don’t think I could have resisted retorting with “Don’t be a smart arse, Tim.”

          Or “Don’t be disingenuous” if your office culture doesn’t let you get away with the above.

          1. Lucky*

            Or draft an entire RACI matrix around the team dinner. Like, LW is responsible for making reservations, but Tim is accountable for approving the reservations and is consulted on the reservation and the team is informed about the reservation. Then, Tim is responsible and accountable for organizing rides to the restaurant. Tim is responsible and accountable for bringing his p-card. Tim is responsible and accountable for asking if anyone wants appetizers. The team is consulted on their appetizer desires. Tim is responsible and accountable for ordering the correct amount of appetizers. Should we get individual beers or order a couple of pitchers? Tim, time to step up and be responsible, consult the team, be accountable for making the right choice, inform the team which pitcher is a lager and which is an IPA. . .

            1. Gumby*

              I think this calls for a Gantt chart!

              (Maybe *this* is why the default duration when you type in 1 m is one minute instead of one month in MS project.)

            2. Death By Procedure*

              This is glorious!

              As a woman in engineering I’ve had more that my fair share of being asked to do these types of tasks under the guise of all sorts of leadership labels. Now I have a tool to pushback.

        2. OP*

          Thank you!!! Honestly part of why I didn’t manage to formulate a stronger response to him in the moment was that I was just so shocked.

      3. Sparrow*

        That reaction is understandable, but I think most reasonable people in that position would go to Jason and ask for clarity instead of just passive-aggressively giving the peer admin work. No one handled things well here (but especially Jason, I agree).

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I cannot think of any situation where my reaction to “why is this person now managing my work? Am I in trouble? Do I suck?” would be “let me treat this person as my personal assistant and see if that helps”. How would that help if I’m already thinking I’m in trouble? That’s a very irrational response, and offensive to the OP, so Tim did earn some of the hate.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m not actually particularly pro-Tim here and I hope my original comment didn’t come across that way.
          It’s more that I can think of a situation where the first Tim heard of this was in his conversation with the OP (in fact, it souns like that’s indeed the case) and that I can totally sympathise with being thrown by this, wondering why exactly this is happening, maybe even thinking my coworker just decided this unilaterally (depending on what I know about her and what our relationship is like) and being unsure of how exactly this collaboration is supposed to look/work.
          The responsiblity to behave better up until this point falls very squarely on Jason’s shoulders.

          But Tim’s behaviour afterwards is certainly something he has control over, even if he secretly thinks this is all just an elaborate setup of OP’s to gain power of his projects. He first of all needs to approach Jason about it and ask for guidance (although to be fair, we don’t know that he hasn’t done that), and afterwards, he can be forthcoming and collaborative with the OP, he can make his preferences clear to OP and see if she’s willing to compromise, he can speak up if something isn’t working for him, but he can’t just decide on his own to delegate tasks to her which every adult human in the workforce should know aren’t “project management” (and if he somehow isn’t actually clear on that, he can voice that confusion after the first or second time OP has refused him so that she can correct his understanding; he shouldn’t just merrily go on with a path that’s clearly not to OP’s liking).

          1. OP*

            Hi, OP here. Thanks for your thoughtful replies and advice! I clarified in a comment above but my conversation with Tim was 100% not the first time he was hearing about us working together, he had already had a conversation with Jason about it.

            Also just as an update, even after I clarified that booking a restaurant for him was not in my remit and that he should talk to his intern or our admin assistant about it, he asked me again to help with this task…FOUR MORE TIMES.

            1. Sunny*

              Yep. Tim is a man in his 40s, trying to tell a woman in her 20s that restaurant reservations are “project management”? Unless he time-warped over from the 1960s, he knows perfectly well what type of BS he’s trying to pull here. He’s a sexist jerk.

                1. valentine*

                  he asked me again to help with this task…FOUR MORE TIMES.
                  If he really asked for help, shouldn’t it be for a third party to do?

                2. Lance*

                  Yes: the intern or admin assistant would be doing what he’s asking for help with in this case. Not OP.

              1. 1LFTW*

                Yeah. When I read “but booking a restaurant IS project management!”, I thought, “wow, did he follow that up with a pat on the head?”.

        2. hbc*

          I can totally see Jason soft-pedaling this as a way to sell it to Tim and not bruising his ego. “I’m going to have OP step in and help you with the mundane tasks that you don’t have time for, the stuff that falls through the cracks because you’re focusing on being creative. You know, manage the detail side of the projects.”

          There’s a not a ton of functional difference between assisting someone with their calendar, being a peer with organizational/PM responsibilities, and managing their work, so I’d give some benefit of the doubt for misunderstanding on all legs of the Jason/Tim/OP triangle.

        3. Mazzy*

          Oh, you don’t even believe this. I don’t think we need to take sides on this but I can’t think of a situation where an employee would NOT be thrown off by this. Being thrown off by this would be a completely normal reaction

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Sadly, the situation where someone is told “hi, I’m NewHire with zero experience in your field, I’ve been promoted to X role and I am here to help you understand how to do your work”* has been such a standard occurrence in my workplace in the last several years that everyone would be “oh, business as usual”. Even if I were thrown off by it, my thrown-off reaction would not be, basically, a “oh cool, now go make me coffee”. It just wouldn’t occur to me, I guess?

            * NOT saying that this is what OP is – given that OP was already head of X, I am positive that she is qualified for this new role – but it may very well be how Tim sees it.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Thank you. I utilize one of my favorite workplace mantras, “If you ignore a problem long enough, it’ll go away”. Within a year, NewHire will either get good at what they do, or get transferred to some other project that needs their help/s, or leave, or “leave”. So it goes.

                1. Junior Assistant Peon*

                  I agree, especially if you’re at a big company. Bad boss? Problems with your co-workers? Project not going well? Just wait a few months until the next re-org!

      5. Allypopx*

        Definitely, but I think Tim is handling it in ways that can easily read condescending and misogynistic.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree with you, until Tim got to the point where he tried to convince OP that administrative tasks are “project management.” That suggests to me that he knows what’s up and is just being a jerk about it.

        But ultimately Jason needs to step up and fix this. OP can speak directly to Tim, but it’s obvious that he’s either ignoring her or doesn’t believe her. And a lot of the tension is because of Jason’s failure to communicate a significant change in roles and process.

        1. Mazzy*

          Not everyone knows what “project management” entails. My senior level colleague is trying to institute project management tools and I’m not seeing them add value and it just looks like him busy bodying. You’re assuming Tim has expertise he doesn’t have

          1. BRR*

            “Not everyone knows what ‘project management” entails.” Reading the comments, this is one thing that is sticking out to me. This reminds me of my previous manager who was notoriously vague. He would tell me that he wanted [project management equivalent] and that could have meant a huge number of things. I was laid off and someone I still talk to at that employer said that manager wanted her to do project management. Anyways…

            It sounds sounds like Jason was also not clear on what project management means, either on accident or as someone suggested on purpose to spare bruising Tim’s ego, and needs to define things more clearly and Tim is being a jerk.

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah Jason, you really set OP up to fail here. You sent a much younger female employee to unilaterally inform a peer that she’s in some way in charge of his workflow now? This was predictable. I would be annoyed if any of my peers came to tell me they were butting into my work, even if they said they had the bosses’ blessing (and I would probably set up a meeting with my boss to discuss).

    4. Adlib*

      Yeah, the confusion here is really on Jason. It also seems like OP should be more assertive in her wording so it doesn’t sound like Tim has room to argue. For example “When I tried to clarify that I saw my role working with him as more of a project management one…” sounds like there’s room for argument. OP, this isn’t really about not being unwilling to pitch in where help is needed as you state near the end. It’s about doing the job that Jason needs you to do regardless of how Tim perceives it. It may be less “collaboration” and more “here’s where we are and where we’re going with the website” and then telling Tim to get going with content.

      Jason needs to clarify with everyone what the expectations are. (I still have a feeling Tim is going to try to turn this around though. Ugh.)

  4. Mazzy*

    I don’t want to talk about Tim I want to talk about Jason. What exactly does he want you to do? Do you even know? It sounds very vague. You mention age and I think it is a factor but not in a bad way necessarily. Obviously Tim has much more experience. I would be very confused if someone with 15 years less experience came to me and said they wanted to project manage my work. I would definitely be wondering what I was doing wrong that sparked this. Booking a restaurant is not “project management” but he may feel he has no other work to give you. He may have gotten by without project management tools this far. Maybe things are going great and the owners don’t know but Tim knows and that’s why he’s confused. Either way, Jason needs to give more specific direction and go to Tim first.

    1. You can call me flower, if you want to*

      I agree with Mazzy 100%. Tim didn’t handle this perfectly, but I don’t know if I would either. I would definitely wonder why part of my duties are being reassigned and why my boss isn’t talking to me about it. Jason completely dropped the ball here.

      I think step one is to go back to Jason and get so clarity and exactly what he wants and why and ask him if he will tell Tim about the change. “Hey, I spoke with Tim, and I think he’s confused about me taking on project management. Can you clarify for him? It’s making it difficult to get started.”

    2. OP*

      Hi, OP here, first of all thank you for your response!

      To clarify a couple of things it seems like everyone is seeing this as a kind of demotion for Tim or that I have just gone to him and basically told him I’m going to be his boss now, which is not the case. Ours is a small organisation and Tim has a lot on his plate to the point that if the creative stuff is going to get done, he doesn’t really have time for a lot of the planning/reporting stuff, which is where I come in. It’s not that he’s done something wrong and work is being taken off him and given to me as a punishment, it’s more just a redistribution of work that makes sense for everyone’s workload and skillset – and this was communicated to Tim by Jason before I spoke with him (though as Alison said, obviously not in a very clear way!)

      Sorry if I have been to vague about the work Tim/I will be doing, there seems to be a healthy debate below about the definition of project management, but I know a lot of people who read this column and don’t want to get too specific for reasons of anonymity!

      1. valentine*

        this was communicated to Tim by Jason before I spoke with him (though as Alison said, obviously not in a very clear way!)
        I think it was clear and he’s pushing you because he can’t push Jason, but it’s odd if he didn’t even try for an alternative. Maybe he didn’t think it through. There are letters here where the OPs refer to their PMs as their (temporary) bosses. Tim feels demoted because you are now a layer between him and Jason.

      2. Roverandom*

        “if the creative stuff is going to get done, he doesn’t really have time for a lot of the planning/reporting stuff, which is where I come in.”

        I don’t know much about project management, but… planning/reporting/detail work doesn’t seem like project management to me? I would think project managers are more involved in the big picture/scope setting/managing communication stuff?

        I can see how if that is how it was explained to him, he thought “oh she’s going to do all the planning and detailed stuff I don’t have time for.” And things like reserving a restaurant would fall under that.

        I can definitely see how sexism/ageism could be a factor, but to me the bigger and more relevant issue is a lack of clarity on your roles. Even the commentariat doesn’t know what you’re supposed to be doing.

        1. Qwerty*

          From the description in OP’s letter, the activity sounds more like content strategy than project management to me. And I could see why Tim would be less inclined to give up that kind of oversight on the website.

  5. Chili*

    I think Alison’s advice is great and measured, as always. I would definitely guess that gender and age are at play here: I don’t think Tim would be asking a male Head of X Department to be booking restaurant reservations for him. Also a bit beside the point, OpenTable and Resy and all the other booking apps are now things– making reservations is so easy! Why would you even need an assistant (let alone a Project Manager) to do it at this point?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Because they Don’t Want To Be Bothered. I’m suddenly having flashbacks to when I first started in my role, was explicitly told I was on the executive team, and was asked to take notes at my first strategy meeting. I am a terrible note-taker. One of them still asks me for my dang notes after every meeting and gets irritated when he gets random bullet points that only I can decipher. I’m the only woman.

    2. sunny-dee*

      I don’t think gender is an issue, but I think age / experience is a huge one. Tim is also a department head, and younger, less experienced peer all of a sudden pops up and says “hey, I’m going to tell you what topics to cover, set your deadlines, and control editorial, but, you know, you can focus on doing the stuff I’m telling you to do.” I’d push back on that, too, especially if I haven’t had any updates from the CEO.

      The thing here is project management doesn’t mean any of the things that Jason is having the OP do. Project management involves tracking deadlines and deliverables, as well as schedules and blockers and changes, but not setting the strategy or actual content. That’s way out of scope.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        The clue that Tim’s reaction is gendered — aside from it being a reasonable assumption to start with — is in the tasks he assigned the OP. Truly, it’s hard to imagine him pulling that with a younger man rather than a younger woman.

      2. Chili*

        I definitely don’t think LW’s gender is the only thing bothering Tim or even the largest, but I do have a harder time imagining someone asking a male department head to do a bunch of stereotypically secretarial/ feminine-coded tasks. I don’t doubt that Tim would also be bothered if a man jumped in and kind of took over in a management capacity, but I think his reaction wouldn’t be to try and deflect their efforts to making restaurant reservations. But obviously I don’t know that for sure!

        I agree with you that Jason really needs clarify what he’s looking for out of this new arrangement with LW AND Tim because right now the lack of clarity is causing unnecessary tension.

        1. Mazzy*

          You don’t think age is? I think age is the demographic that is sorely sticking out in this case. I also think there is a sentiment on the internet that people of different ages and experience levels should be treated the same but it’s not applicable to all situations and I don’t see anything bad with deferring to an older colleague with much more experience

          1. OP*

            Hi, OP here. I think age is a factor but not necessarily in the way you think it is. Tim is actually not super experienced in the field our business is in, and since he mostly works away from the office, does not have a great understanding of how parts of the business other than his own run. He was hired from a more creative field and his current role was kind of a career change for him. I actually have more experience in this field than he does and that was part of the basis of us working together more closely.

          2. VeryAnon*

            Additionally, ‘more’ experience doesn’t always translate to ‘better’ experience or more effective work.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m in that male dominated world and they do ask men who are designated as assistants to do this kind of thing. Lots of our male assistants are indeed older than management/leads.

      And lots of restaurants don’t let you make large reservations with the apps because they’re such a special accommodating required!

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        The issue isn’t whether male assistants are asked to do assistant-level work, but whether male peers are asked to do assistant-level work.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The problem here is that one department head is now poking themselves into someone else’s department. So the defacto hierarchy is whomever is the department lead that is in question.

          So yes, if a male department lead went to another department and was asking how they could help out with a project, they’d be given these kind of administrative tasks or something else that’s pretty much grunt work. “Yeah file these for me, thanks.”

          1. Kate2*

            Um no, project managers don’t do these kind of tasks. Restaurant reservations? Filing? Those are admin tasks.

            1. Roverandom*

              Exactly, and that confusion has nothing to do with age or gender.
              Those may be at play here but not as much as this basic confusion.

              1. Chili*

                The OP added that Tim has at least one intern and that there are admins he can ask for the booking. While I think there is some confusion, Tim’s insistence that LW book a restaurant reservation definitely seems gendered.

      2. Chili*

        But LW is a department head, not an assistant. If LW were an assistant or an admin of any gender and age, yes, it would be normal for Tim to ask LW to perform these tasks.
        With LW’s updates, it sounds like maybe what Tim wants is an admin assistant rather than a project manager, but you don’t handle that by treating your assigned project manager (and fellow department head) like an admin.

  6. LadyByTheLake*

    I also think that use of “project manager” might be causing confusion. I think of project managers as the people who help someone else execute a project — they are not themselves deciding on direction or planning — they are executing on priorities established by someone else. And while I do not think of scheduling lunches as “project management” per se, it is the sort of thing that a project manager might do to bring a team together. In no universe would I hear “I am going to be your project manager” and think that that person would be doing strategy or overarching planning — I would not even hear that position as a peer. Project managers are great and important, but if someone is my project manager, they are doing what I need them to do, not the other way around.

    1. Jimming*

      That is not my understanding of project management. Many PMs do have to decide on direction to keep a project moving forward and they are in charge of planning – usually coordinating multiple groups of people to stay on task and on time and keeping projects within scope and budget. I don’t want to derail, but PM is a large, nuisanced skill-set that goes way beyond “make a lunch reservation.”

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Totally agree that PM is a huge skillset — but I would never see someone who is PM’ing my project as setting the strategy or doing anything other than executing. Maybe it’s just the places I’ve worked, but the PM (again — critical important skillset) doesn’t set the agenda or strategy. I have to admit that if someone told me they were my PM I wouldn’t be as MUCH of a jerk as Tim is being, but I would definitely not think that they were in a position to set my strategy or oversee my work in any way other than scheduling and logistics. In other words, they are the organizer and planner to execute my vision — not the other way around.

        1. Bostonian*

          Just adding another piece of datum to your sentiment: I am also in an industry where project management is exactly what you describe.

        2. Jimming*

          All the more reason for the CEO to clarify the roles – there’s a good discussion here about the different roles PMs have in different industries. I hope the OP gets clarification soon!

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        Best typo! I assume you mean ‘nuanced’ for ‘nuisanced’

        I mean, I assume there are a lot of nuisances involved in project management, I wouldn’t know.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah it’s odd. I’m a PM and I make sure others get their work done on a specific schedule, and report to leadership on progress. I don’t actually do anyone’s work for them. I understand not wanting to run to the CEO as if OP can’t handle the situation, but it’s clear that Jason dropped the ball on this one. He should have made it clear to both OP and Tim was he expected of these changes, and allowed them to ask questions and iron out the details. He put OP in a very awkward position and he needs to be brought in to clarify.

      1. Mazzy*

        I get the idea that Jason doesn’t want this type of PM. Your approach seems much more hands on than what the OP described. Jason needs clearer expectations

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I’m a project manager. People do what I tell them to do, not the other way around. The project is executed on behalf of someone (an executive, committee, stakeholders, etc.) with the insight to why we are doing the project and how it fits into the company strategy. That “someone” may develop a project charter that provides overarching definition of the project. Someone provides me a budget. I decide what tasks need to be done, when, and who does them. This may be defined in a project management plan, that I would be responsible for creating and executing. I report back to the “someone”, but they don’t manage the day-to-day and tell me what to do.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Agree with this! But here I think that Tim sees himself as the “someone” the project is being executed for, while OP is describing herself as the one setting the goals and Tim as the one executing them. Jason needs to clear this up.

        1. Robin Sparkles*

          But that would be odd if someone came to me and said they were the project manager for my project that I never heard of. If the LW came to me and said that my CEO made her the project manager -even if it was for something I normally manage, I would expect to support the LW by providing whatever expertise is required from me- not ordering her around as my admin. This misunderstanding is odd to me in that I would never interpret that as delegating work to her.

      2. Robin Sparkles*

        Yes I am also a PM and exactly this. LadyoftheLake- if you are the executive sponsor of the project- yes I would be carrying out your vision but not quite correct that I wouldn’t help with direction and even working with you on a strategy as it relates to the deliverable of the project. In no world that I know of would any of my executive sponsors ever ask me to “schedule a meeting” -they have admins for that. They also see me as the person responsible for getting the work done and therefore I have the authority to delegate tasks to the appropriate subject matter experts.

      3. sunny-dee*

        This may be industry-specific, but that is not at all how project managers work in my industry (software). The project manager does NOT determine what tasks need to be done or who does them. Their main job is coordinating between very different teams (engineering, support, marketing, docs, product management) to create an overall schedule, identify dependencies, track progress, do reporting, etc. It’s a really important role, but it does not at all involve strategy or management.

    4. The Starsong Princess*

      A project manager very much does the overarching planning on a project to meet business needs, with the input of the project team. In most cases, they lead the work and hold team members accountable to the project plan. The role you are describing sounds more like a project coordinator, a more junior position. Of course, different companies name roles differently.

      1. TechWorker*

        This is interesting to me, because my experience (also in software) is closer to sunny-dee. On a large project there are many large project teams, each with a lead/manager, and the overall project manager has the job of coordinating between these teams and checking that everything is on track. It is *not* a junior role, but they’re holding entire teams accountable to the plan rather than individual team members :)

        1. Monica Bird*

          Are you using the agile/scrum framework? I am wondering if maybe there are differences in what people think are project management because people are using different methodologies. What you are describing sounds like scrum, where the project manager is the scrum master.

    5. pcake*

      A project manager is and has always been the person managing the project. That’s true with the companies my husband and I have worked at. It was also true years ago. My parents were in aerospace from the ’60s through the ’90s, and a project manager was always the person in charge of the project.

      1. Square*

        No, that’s not universally true. I’ve worked with organizations that use the term “project manager” the way that LadyByTheLake describes it. There is no one standard definition.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Technically there is no standard, universal definition, but the definition used by PMP is fairly standard and is what is meant in project management continuing ed courses, project management college courses, every engineering company I’ve been at, etc. The way LoL is describing it is the way it is used by managers who want to assign some short term unpleasant task to someone and make them feel good about it, as in, “I’d like you to project manage the department meeting planning next month.”

            1. Jamie*

              People do use it to mean other things, but the accepted meaning is that used by PMP and what is taught in college classes, just like AnotherAlison said.

              If a job is advertised for a project manager and the duties are that of an assistant or coordinator PMs are going to be pretty surprised by that.

              IME PMs manage the project. Budget, assignment of tasks, hiring of contractors as needed, project plan, scope, etc. Not saying they don’t use input of others, but they are working at the higher strategic level.

              1. Square*

                PMP does not own the term “project management”. Plenty of companies implement projects without using PMP and they use the term however they want. Just because that doesn’t fit neatly into your experience doesn’t mean it’s not true.

                1. Jamie*

                  I’m not sure why you’re so emotionally invested in this, but my first sentence acknowledged that people do use it to mean other things.

                  But conventional meanings are important when it comes to things like job postings and discussions.

                2. fhqwhgads*

                  True but when you circle back to the “use the term however they want” then we’re in the situation where the term has no meaning at all. I would expect most people who talk about Project Management or Project Managers to meaning something pretty darn close to how PMP defines it. I’m sure there are plenty of companies that mean something entirely different, but when there is a professional body for doing A Thing that’s pretty much how industry standards come about.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              Eh. To me, a lot of jobs have unclear or inflated titles, but there is often an accepted standard published by some industry body and related salary surveys are published for HR folks in those industries to use. I think it is preferable to use standard titles with an accepted definition, but I agree it’s not always possible or preferred. However, that doesn’t make everyone else wrong if they say “a PM is normally responsible for XYZ.”

              I’m also a registered professional engineer, and there are laws about who can call themselves an engineer when doing public engineering work. Other types of companies might title the non-degreed, non-licensed maintenance manager as maintenance engineer, and that doesn’t make him an engineer. Still, it’s his title and it’s not illegal in his industry. Yet, with a degree and a license, I can’t present myself as an engineer in certain states that I don’t hold a license in. Titles are probably a bit of a personal hang-up for me, I will freely admit that!

    6. Megabeth*

      I’ve had the opposite experience: no PM that I’ve ever worked with or for has scheduled lunches. They handle tasking for the project and play a role in requirements gathering and design/planning, and I wouldn’t dream of telling them what to do. But it goes to show, that if we here on this blog are differing in our definitions of what project management means, then it would be reasonable to assume that Tim and OP may have not been clear on what Jason wanted. Heck, Jason may not be clear on what Jason wants.

    7. Rachael*

      As a fellow PM, I agree. It looks like Jason wants more Program Management or a director role for the OP. What he wants her to do is not project management because that would imply that she is in charge of a project with a specific beginning and end. When, in reality she would be overseeing multiple projects that and setting direction for the department. He needs to give her authority to make these decisions. No matter the position, it is imperative that management backs up the authority of those they put in charge and Jason did not do that and she just looks like she is trying to muscle her way in.

    8. CM*

      It sounds like the bounds of the PM role really depend on how project managers are framed in specific workplaces.

      I think the OP would probably be best served by getting a really specific list of responsibilities from Jason (like, responsible for developing a timeline, or responsible for developing a content strategy, or whatever) and then plan for how to meet those responsibilities without worrying about whether they’re “project management” tasks or not.

  7. Goola*

    Ideally, after Jason spoke with you, he should have had a meeting with Tim, or even better, had a meeting with the both of you to discuss the new project management goals and deliverables.

    Jason really dropped the ball here, but now you need to pick it up and put it in the basket based upon what Allison has said.

    1. annony*

      I think ideally after Jason and Tim meet, they should all have a meeting to make sure that they are on the same page. It is possible that the OP misunderstood what the CEO was asking for. I had a problem with a coworker before where I was managing some of her projects. She in turn kept trying to manage MY time and schedule things for me to do that did not work at all for me. I met with our boss to make sure my understanding was correct and then we met all together to clarify roles. In the meeting, I could tell that my coworker was getting entirely the wrong impression and rephrased what the boss had said, asking if that was what she meant. Without a meeting with all of us there, I am sure the misunderstandings would have continued.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      Yes, a meeting where all 3 of you hear the same things sounds key. But I’d be prepared for Jason to fold and tell you to book the restaurant. Unless you have a meeting with Jason first and *very clearly* define what your new role is and *isn’t.* It doesn’t sound like Jason is comfortable redefining the scope of Tim’s work directly, and that is a bad, bad sign.

  8. EPLawyer*

    Ahh the old “I pitched in because I didn’t want to look like I wasn’t a team player” trap. As long you keep “pitching in” on admin tasks, Tim will keep giving them to you. You are not failing as a team player if you say no.

    Tim doesn’t want you overseeing him, so he is distracting you by giving you admin tasks. You are doing them, so his little plan is working.

    Go to Jason, but also assert your own authority. The wording at the very first comment is the perfect way to do it without being over agressive.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      +1 The team isn’t Tim and Tim’s projects, the team is the company and what the CEO has tasked the OP to do. Tim’s the one not being a team player and OP needs to shut him the hell down directly, call out his sexism bluntly, AND bring it to the attention of Jason.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, being a team player isn’t about doing menial tasks as someone tosses them at you like they’re tossing treats to a puppy.

      If someone asks me to do something that’s that far out of my responsibilities, being a team player means you say “Oh Billy can help you with reservations if you need assistance with it.” Point them in the right direction and move on, that’s being a team player.

  9. jj*

    As a content producer…we are usually all pretty good at project management, and I would totally bristle at this too, especially if my boss didn’t tell me directly. (I mean, I’d go back to my boss first instead of being a jerk and handing out admin work, but still.) Taking away the kind of project management Jason is talking about may actually be taking away a big part of Tim’s job. Tim didn’t handle this well, but neither did Jason — he threw you to the wolves.

    1. Mazzy*

      I know. My job has tried to institute a so called project management thing in a few different ways and it was weird. 99% of the work is the content. Most delays happen for a reason. The timelines and ways we manage lists and deadlines is actually not important. It doesn’t create much value. We’re not finishing projects earlier or forgetting about smaller projects because we didn’t make a gantt chart

    2. Chili*

      I also was confused by what Jason wants from this arrangement and why he thought he didn’t need to tell Tim about this change. Unless Tim had asked for more guidance and help with project management, it’s a pretty big deal to go from a one man show to having someone guiding your projects.
      It’s also kind of odd that LW was told to project manage Tim, but had to ask Tim what projects he’s working on and ask for tasks she could help with. It seems like Jason needs to clarify what he’s actually expecting to come of this project management role– was Tim not communicating well? Does Tim not meet deadlines? What needs to change?

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        Yes reading the letter I don’t believe project management is used correctly here. Is this managing Tim’s work? Is she more of a strategic planner or strategic planning coordinator perhaps?

      2. It's a Yes From Me*

        Or possibly Jason intended all along for LW to be a helper to Tim and just positioned it as a “manager” type position.

    3. Editor Person*

      I agree with this. Tim is an ass but has it been communicated that this is to free up his time rather than something punitive? If suddenly the CEO brought in someone to oversee all my work I would wonder what I had done wrong.

      1. OP*

        Hi, OP here.

        “Has it been communicated that this is to free up his time rather than something punitive?” – yes it has! This is in no way a punitive thing and Tim knows that.

        1. Mirve*

          What Jason told you to do to free up his time may be different than what Tim was envisioning to help free up his time. So, Jason told you to do the strategy etc and Tim wants someone to make restaurant reservations and file systems.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            Yeah, I’ve been in a similar situation as you describe (am dealing with it right now, actually) and wonder if there’s just a disconnect between what Tim actually needs and what Jason thinks he needs. My department is very small and is being inundated with huge projects, way more than we can handle. Our leadership keeps telling us they’re bringing in help, but it’s clear every time they do something to “help” that they’re not actually listening to us when we tell them what help is needed. We’ve had more than a few iterations of us saying we need help with things more on the side of filing systems and restaurant reservations and leadership giving up someone who sees those things as beneath them (like, we legit said we need help with personnel filing and data entry and they hired a comptroller.)

            All this to say, it sounds like there’s a lot of miscommunication and it might be a good idea for all three of you to sit down together to get on the same page.

            1. valentine*

              wonder if there’s just a disconnect between what Tim actually needs and what Jason thinks he needs.
              Tim should have told Jason any of the five times he told OP to make reservations.

              So glad you didn’t make them, OP!

  10. Amber Rose*

    ” I don’t know how to address it with him without coming across as aggressive…”

    Aggressive is not the same as assertive. You have been given the role of managing work, and you have the right and the job to assert that managerial authority. Have you ever had a manager tell you to do some task and thought, “man, that was so aggressive?” Probably not.

    “… and unwilling to pitch in where help is needed.”

    Pitching in is not managing either. Although you are upset that he’s treating you as an assistant, you are also treating you as an assistant. Step one here is to stop thinking of yourself as a helper, that’s what assistants, interns and newbie entry level employees are for. Although they do help as needed, that’s not a manager’s primary role.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      But without Jason’s active buy-in, OP is not going to look managerial here, if she doesn’t have the title or even the seniority to back it up. She’s borrowing the authority from Jason (which is not her fault at all, it’s his!) and he needs to back her up. There’s no amount of asserting authority that OP can do here on her own, IMO.

      1. Amber Rose*

        True that, but since everyone else had already basically said that, I was trying to avoid being repetitive. :)

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But she has no managerial authority. Jason asked her to manage Tim’s work, not Tim himself. No she shouldn’t be completing admin tasks for him and should say no from this point forward, but the only person who can fix this is Jason. Jason needs to define his expectations to BOTH of them clearly, and allow them to ask questions until they’re both aware of how things should work moving forward.

      1. londonedit*

        It’s really hard for the OP to start saying to Tim that he needs to be working on two blog posts a week and three podcast episodes a month without it sounding like she’s managing his work – and by extension, managing him.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          That’s the problem I was pointing out. As a Project Manager, it is my job to manage my team as far as the project is concerned (although I have no authority over their employment as a boss would), but my role is clearly defined and the team understands how it works. Jason told OP to “project manage” some of Tim’s work (which doesn’t really make sense in the first place) and said nothing to Tim, so it’s clear as mud and OP has been put in a no win situation.

      2. cmcinnyc*

        I don’t get the distinction between managing a person’s work and managing a person, as the person is doing the work. Telling me, “Do X” is which? Managing me? Or managing X?

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          See my response above. Also, what Jason is asking of OP is not project management. He’s basically asking her to take over some of Tim’s duties so he can focus more on the creative part of his job.

        2. londonedit*

          That’s my problem with it as well. I don’t see how you can manage Tim’s strategy without managing the work he’s supposed to be doing, and if you’re doing that, surely you’re managing Tim? Otherwise Tim would be coming up with his own strategies and executing them in the way he wants to. If OP’s job involves looking at the next few months and figuring out what Tim needs to be creating and when, and giving Tim those tasks to work on, that sounds an awful lot like being Tim’s manager.

    3. OP*

      “Although you are upset that he’s treating you as an assistant, you are also treating you as an assistant.”

      I want to clear up that I didn’t book the restaurant! I told him that kind of task wasn’t part of my remit. I feel like my issue is not with my ability to be assertive in the moment, but more with managing my relationship with Tim in general. The advice from Alison and in the comments has given me a lot to think about though and I am going to be speaking to Jason.

  11. Arctic*

    Tim is a jerk. No ifs or buts about it. And most sane people would jump at the chance to have someone take over the logistics side of a project so they can focus on the creative. This could be a really valuable *partnership* (emphasis on partner) for him if he didn’t have his head up his ass.
    But Jason is the real problem. Tim’s gonna Tim. But Jason gave you a position without giving you any authority or ability to assert your role. AND it seems like the job of informing Tim was left to you.
    I get not wanting to run to the CEO. Totally. But he really should be making it clear to Tim what the expectations are for your relative roles.

    1. SuperAnon*

      I think both Tim and Jason are ‘problems’ — Tim becasue he acted like a condescending jerk, and Jason becasue he didn’t manage the entire change in duties.

      OP, set up a meeting with all three of you together to clarify. Let Jason know ahead of time that you’d like him to do so.

  12. Delta Delta*

    I really wish Jason had explained his plans to both OP and Tim. Part of me wonders if Tim wasn’t really in the loop on this and is suddenly being told his projects are going to be handled/managed/[insert correct word] by a different person, and this is how he knows how to delegate some tasks? Hard to know. Perhaps a meeting with Jason, Tim, and OP would be in order to narrow down what Jason envisions and how OP and Tim can most effectively work together. And I get it that Jason is busy, but the longer this goes, the more a problem it may become and then Jason can’t reel it in.

  13. Allypopx*

    Last time a coworker asked me to make him a cup of coffee I threatened to pour it down his pants.

    Terrible idea, don’t do that. But…

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Terrible idea? These lies of yours ;)

      My response is usually around the lines of “They say that women are more likely to poison their victims. *smile* You should be more careful about what you ingest.”

  14. Dust Bunny*

    Ugh, LW, you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Or rather, two guys who should be communicating directly but are using you as a tin-can telephone instead.

    Jason blew this, either out of laziness or bad planning: He should have explained to Tim directly what was going on rather than having you filter it for him. Does Jason even know what he wants? Because it sounds like you’ve been asked to sorta-be responsible for Tim without having any authority over him, which, as AAM has discussed many times before, is a terrible and pointless situation.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yes the worktask-authority-without-any-actual-managerial-authority is veeeery tough to pull off, particularly if the team resists, and definitely if the manager doesn’t strongly have your back. It sounds like both those yellow flags are waving. I’ve only seen it work when the team is very good natured / eager for direction AND everybody understands that the real-manager will heed the team-manager wrt promotions/raises/firings. Otherwise it can quickly become a scapegoating opportunity (that rarely leads to raises or promotions, somehow!). If Jason truly wants OP as a second in command, I would hope he’d quickly promote her or at least give her “senior” or “lead” title ASAP; otherwise, watch out OP.

  15. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I don’t know what Jason was thinking just tossing this at you and thinking it was appropriate for you to approach Tim. Clearly he thinks Tim needs management because he’s probably lacking time management or communication skills, so you’re the go-between now. Yet he cut out one of the critical people in this loop. *face palm*

    I agree you need to go speak with him and have him do his job when it comes to creating a new position/management chain that involves more than just one person.

    You need to regroup with a talk with Jason first of all. Tim isn’t the issue until someone who isn’t you tells him you’re his new boss. It’s pretty weird when someone comes and says “Hey the CEO told me that you report to me now.”

    Granted my response wouldn’t be to be a jackhole like Tim, I would have went and skidded into Jason’s office all “Hey dude, did I miss something, explain to me this new setup, please.”

  16. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    This reminds me of the time, in my mid-20s, I got a staff lead job, which was really common in my field: I did new staff orientations, reminded people of the rules, etc., and everyone accepted that.

    Except one guy, a man in his 60s. He WOULD NOT HAVE IT. He couldn’t tolerate “just a girl” “telling him what to do.”

    It escalated to the point that he would refuse to talk to me: eventually, if he saw me walking into the room, he’d start walking out of it, so by the time I got to his post he’d be in a different room. This was a coverage based job, and he was abandoning his post by walking out before I was ready to take over, but he didn’t care. He wouldn’t listen to “just a girl.”

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      The fact that he wasn’t fired the first time this happens shows that at least part of the issue is the company not truly having your back.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Fundamentally, it’s ALL about the company. A functional company would have called that guy to the carpet right away.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        We were short-staffed, it was a coverage-based environment, and he was working a lot of hours. There were a LOT of problems with his attitude and work quality: it wasn’t just me he was unspeakably rude to, and his work was so poor that objectively his presence was a liability problem. But we had to have a warm body, so…

        Typically in that environment we’d manage them off the schedule so they were working fewer and fewer hours, and then eventually none at all, which is what my boss did. He came back once when we were desperately shorthanded, and lasted about a month before he was fired for anger and erratic behavior.

        1. WellRed*

          “we’d manage them off the schedule so they were working fewer and fewer hours, and then eventually none at all, which is what my boss did.”

          Hate it when companies do this. Either manage or don’t (not you, GQH).

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m not even angry about this dillweed you dealt with. I’m livid that he was allowed to keep his job. We’d fire anyone who pulled this move. You respect your supervisor’s authority or you get yourself a new job, end of story.

  17. AnotherAlison*

    Ugh. This is Jason’s fault. Honestly, I think I understand what Jason wants you to do, but the structure is a little fuzzy. Producing content has a project aspect and an operations aspect. To me, shooting a specific high-budget video would be a project, but ongoing content management is operations. How are these projects budgeted? Is there an ongoing management relationship with you and Tim, or are you a project manager only, and you manage Tim’s duties on Project X? Jason needs to think this through more and advise, or OP can put together her own documentation to define everything and see if he will buy into it, then revisit it with Tim.

    Not to say this is unusual. I had a similar situation where I reported to someone, then we were peers, then my manager wanted me to manage him (without ever giving me a title or authority). That was when I moved on to a new role in another department.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      This should have all been hashed out in a conversation between Jason, Tim and OP. Then there would be clarity and lines of authority.

  18. Person from the Resume*

    I just feel so much sexism here on both sides of the question. without coming across as aggressive and unwilling to pitch in where help is needed.

    This situation doesn’t call for aggression, but it is not your role to pitch in to make restaurant reservations or set up a filing system so it’s absolutely fine to not pitch in there. And you can and should back on not doing that for a peer or someone who you slightly outrank since you’re managing his projects. Being firm and refusing to do admin type work that is not aggressive either.

    A firm “no” by itself is not aggressive.

    1. OP*

      I feel like the “pitch in where help is needed” thing mainly comes from the culture of my work. We’re a fairly small organisation and when things are busy it’s an all hands on deck kind of situation.

      I also want to clarify that I did not book the restaurant or organise his filing system!

  19. Heidi*

    It doesn’t sound like this new middle management role is an actual promotion. If you’re taking on a lot of new responsibilities, it might worth asking the bosses to make it official and using that as an opportunity to clearly define what your role is supposed to be for everyone (but mostly Tim) to see.

    As for Tim, ugh. Just ugh.

  20. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Also don’t get stuck in that mindset of “He’s the CEO and he’s busy and I’m trying to help him out!”, that’s how you make a mess of things with good-intentions. He’s the CEO, he’s paid to deal with this kind of stuff, he needs to do his job of creating the management structure. Then once it’s clear, you are ready and able to proceed appropriately.

    He’s busy, it’s important to respect his time but you have to accept that he still has very clear jobs, this is one of those very clear jobs.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Not to mention he created this problem. He put her in a super awkward position without a heads up to Tim. I wouldn’t react the same as Tim, but I don’t think I’d be too happy if a peer told me she was taking over part of my job and there had been no heads up or discussion with the changes from Jason. I would assume I’d screwed up, and this was my punishment, when there may very well be a logical explanation for the change.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, the letter makes me feel like Tim isn’t good at time management and communication but good at his creative side. So the CEO was trying to find a way to clear up that gap…but in turn totally mucked it up by not telling Tim what the OP’s role was supposed to be.

        So Tim is turning this into “Oh, he gave me an assistant. Okay, do assistant things.” which is all wrong with how Jason laid it out to OP. So much barf and communication errors here.

      2. hbc*

        I mentioned this above, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason *did* have a conversation with Tim, but basically said “Here, an assistant to do your dirty work” to help Tim swallow someone essentially managing him. I also can imagine that Jason did something similar with OP, selling her on the aspects of this position that were Management-Lite while being fine if the output was that she collected everyone’s schedules and functioned as a high-level assistant.

        1. Princess Scrivener*

          Yep. OR, Jason *did* tell Tim about OP’s new role, and Tim decided to act obtuse when OP approached him about it.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s where my mind keeps going to. Been there, done that. Spineless leadership is spineless.

  21. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

    Removed. The letter doesn’t support this and it’s derailing. – Alison

  22. Master Bean Counter*

    My thoughts–as a person who deals with a co-irker who constantly asks me what my boss thinks of things.
    First do you think Tim has worried once about coming across as aggressive or unwilling to pitch in where needed? Of course not. He’s being a passive-aggressive jerk.
    Second, go back to Jason and clarify your role. Then formulate a list of things you need from Tim, such as:
    What content is on now?
    Where does he want to improve the content?
    What additional content would he like to see?
    What’s the next area of content to launch?
    What does Tim need to have the time to get the next step done?

    If Tim suggests some more admin type of work, your reply would be, So you’re telling me an admin would make your life easier? Because, that may actually be what Tim needs.
    If Tim doubts your authority, look him straight in the eye and tell him to go ask Jason if he has any questions about this process.

    1. OP*

      This is great advice, thank you!

      A small update is that we had a meeting (after this restaurant booking request, which Jason was made aware of) where Jason straight up said to Tim: “We’re going to get you an assistant, OP is not your assistant” and Tim still came back to me a further three times to ask for my help with finding a suitable restaurant.

      1. Myrin*

        Tim is oddly fixated on this restaurant thingamabob. I’m starting to believe that he has some kind of organisation-phobia. [read this in sarcasm font pls]
        For real, though, it sounds like the problem lies much more in his… Tim-ness than in any kind of misunderstanding or unclarity. For someone coming from a creative field, he seems astoundingly unwilling to go with the flow and adapt to new situations.

      2. Tallulah in the Sky*

        It’s official. Tim is a sexist pig.

        Seriously, I think this changes a lot. Before this (and when we thought Jason didn’t talk with Tim about the changes of his role), there were some mitigating circumstances. But now we know : he knew about the changes of his role, Jason talked to him about them, Jason was even clear you are not his assistant and you’re not here to help him with administrative tasks. And he still asks you to do book restaurants for him. With all this, he’s not confused about your role. And I seriously doubt he would ask this from a male colleague.

        Although at the end, Alison’s advice still stands (talk to Jason to make things very clear for Tim, don’t wait for Tim to give you work but take charge, push back in the moment,…). I just have now zero sympathy for Tim.

        1. mf*

          Agreed. OP, Tim didn’t misunderstand. Tim knew what he was doing when he tried to get you to do his admin work. Please be vigilant in turning down any and ALL requests to help him with admin stuff–he will take advantage of you if you let him!

          1. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

            Yes! Turn down every single request every single time and reiterate “I am not your assistant.” Every time.

      3. Lucette Kensack*

        So Tim is getting an assistant and a project manager to help him with his work? Either there’s a workload problem here or a Tim problem… why is he getting this kind of support (and you, his peer, being asked to take it on, presumably in addition to your own workload)?

    2. It's a No From Me*

      I wonder why the LW was promoted to a project manager position if she doesn’t know how to do project management in this situation?

  23. the_scientist*

    I understand that Tim didn’t handle this well (“no no, making a lunch reservation is TOTALLY project management!” is SO disengenious that I can’t even handle it), but the fault here is absolutely with Jason, who has set OP up to fail and set Tim up to be bristling over the fact that a peer is unilaterally trying to take over his work. Project management authority without managerial authority is already challenging enough, but it sounds like the OP is also being expected to do the strategic planning that I’d imagine most creative teams or individual content creators usually do themselves, which is a very different ask than managing content development schedules, reviews, approvals, etc. This change has to be communicated directly to Tim, by Jason. Until it is, this is a no-win scenario for the OP.

  24. phonedead*

    Rather than acting as a project manager, she’s asking permission to try and be one. Age and gender are in play, sure. But they’re irrelevant as long as she’s lacking basic PM skills. She definitely needs topcover and handholding from her boss, but I’ll bet she’s lost any credibility with her coworker.

    1. banzo_bean*

      This a thing women are commonly taught to do in order to avoid seeming bossy/controlling/rude, and for good reason. What is seen as assertiveness in men is often perceived as aggressive in women, and there is research to that says it leads to less women in positions of power. So yes, OP needs to step up her assertiveness but that doesn’t mean she lacks basic PM skills or that she needs handholding from her boss, and it certainly doesn’t excuse her co-worker for telling her to book a restaurant.

    2. Chili*

      This is harsh! Taking on a new role in an existing framework is tough. While she doesn’t need to ask for permission to be a PM, it was respectful to ask Tim what he was looking to get out of this new collaboration. It’s not LW’s fault the answer was “I would like an admin.”

    3. Salamander*

      I disagree. OP has explained that Jason informed Tim of the new structure. And also called Tim out on treating her as an assistant, and Tim persisted in asking her to book restaurant reservations several times after that. OP has explained that Tim does not have the relevant experience she does – that’s an assumption that folks seem to be making because he’s older. Nope. She’s already dispelled that notion. He’s a career-changer.

      Tim is being a territorial jerk. OP, I think you gotta stop being nice with this guy. He’s not the victim of anything. My reading of it is that he’s sexist and ageist to boot. I don’t know why people are defending him.

      OP, it seems like you were brought it because he wasn’t getting everything done and that he needed some direction. Is that accurate? He just wasn’t getting his job done so he has more oversight. He’s playing games with you because he seems to think he’s smarter than you. I think you have to dispell him of that notion asap. This sounds like one of those guys who has read THE 48 LAWS OF POWER and is trying to play you. Stop being nice.

  25. Falling Diphthong*

    Finding this restaurant IS project management, because the project is getting the whole team together.


    We should have an award at the end of the year for different categories of gumption gone awry, along with worst boss and most viewed.

  26. Tuckerman*

    I worked with a Tim once (though with a much better Jason). She and I ended up working very well together and are still in touch. But at first she was condescending and I dreaded interacting with her. I think she was disappointed in the direction the company was taking, and my new role was a huge departure from how things were always done. I represented a change she loathed.

    It took about a year but eventually she trusted me. We realized we had a lot of common interests so we had fun conversations, which eased the tension. And giving up some control over her workload meant that she could finally go out of town without worrying about all her accounts. It ended up working out great, but was a stressful first year.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve dealt with some Tim’s over the years. It didn’t turn out like yours did but it turned out fine enough because all it took was being firm and laughing at asinine requests that were clearly a joke, right? Then they tuck their tails and go “Oh yeah, it was totally a joke, I’ll go make the reservations myself now.” But I’ve also never been in a position where I needed to tiptoe around anyone or had leadership who expected anything different from me of course. I don’t BS well and so I don’t try.

  27. Robin Sparkles*

    I commented in responses above but I don’t know if what you have is a project manager role here. A project manager manages the project- they execute the work, assign tasks, and allocate resources to ensure the work gets done well (within scope and budget). You don’t “project manage” people. That’s what a manager does. If Jason wants you to manage Tim- he needs to give you a promotion and make you officially Tim’s boss. If Jason wants you to manage Tim’s projects- he should have made that clear to you and him. And if you ARE a project manager and need Tim to step into some aspect of the project, then you don’t go in asking for permission or tip toe around his feelings. You are there to get the work done and you find the tools and resources needed to do so. If Tim is a resource, your job is to make it clear what you need from him and how. For him to delegate work to you tells me that both of you may not be clear on what your role is. Which all circles back to this being a Jason problem.

    1. VivaL*

      In a matrix organization, a PM has a lot of authority- more so than a technical lead or even department head (regarding that project). And their job is strategic in nature, not administrative. They manage the project but not the people. People are assigned to their projects. That’s how they manage work and not people.

  28. Bird Person*

    I was in a similar situation once, and it turned out that my Jason actually had presented these duties to Tim as though I was admin/support – while telling me I was project managing! It was…not a good environment. It might be a good idea to sit down with Tim again and ask (if relevant) how Jason has presented the situation to him.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah in this case, I think it’d be best to set up a meeting with all three of the people to work out the roles. It makes sense, if you’re supposedly supposed to be collaborating in some fashion, everyone should be present while discussing it.

      1. Bird Person*

        You would think – the issues there ran much deeper, and it seemed the biggest concern was keeping everybody “happy,” rather than actually, you know, managing the team themselves.

    2. Jerusha*

      That’s kind of what I’m coming away with. OP said, in a comment, “…part of why this new arrangement has been suggested is that Tim has recently been overwhelmed and overworked so the idea of me taking some high-level planning off his plate seemed to make sense for everyone (although he clearly doesn’t see it that way).”

      OP says that Jason met with Tim before she approached Tim. What I’m wondering is whether Jason made it clear exactly which tasks OP was to take off Tim’s plate. (Or if he clearly said it, but Tim heard something else, which is also a thing that happens.) Regardless of what Jason said, it sounds like Tim has the impression that the OP is to take lower-level stuff off his plate so he can focus on the higher-level stuff, while OP was told by Jason to take the higher-level stuff.

      (To clarify what I mean by upper-level vs lower-level: There’s the core stuff, making the content and so forth, there’s “lower-level” stuff that includes administrative tasks like organizing the file tree (and making restaurant reservations, apparently), and there’s “higher-level” stuff that includes holding a higher strategic vision and plan. But there’s also “higher-level” stuff that involves high-admin stuff like upward reporting on the project progress, securing resources for the project. My guess is that what Tim wants to keep is the core stuff + possibly the strategic vision/plan responsibility, and offload all the tedious admin tasks of any level. But what OP was told was to take over both the higher-admin stuff and the strategic vision/plan portion. Tim may be hoping that he can a) offload the lower admin stuff that he doesn’t want to do, and b) keep OP busy enough with that to maybe prevent her from picking up the strategic vision/plan task that Tim wants to keep.

      Unfortunately, both what OP describes as her understanding of the role and what I’m inferring Tim’s understanding of the role to be could be described as “taking tasks off your hands so you can focus on core tasks”. So if Jason wasn’t specific enough, we could end up in something much like this mess with good intentions on all sides. (However, the “Of course making lunch reservations is project management!” kind of drops my estimation of “good intentions on all sides” well underground.

    3. It's a No From Me*

      +1 this is exactly what I’ve seen happen in a number of situations. The boss is trying to pitch it to both “nicely” knowing no one wants an extra layer of management above them (so tell them they have a “helper” or “assistant”) and no one wants to do more scut work either (so tell them they’re a “manager”).

      1. CM*

        There was a nightmare scenario at one place I worked where a contractor was hired to lead a project that an employee had previously been leading — this was pitched to the employee as “I brought in a contractor to help you,” with no discussion of why anyone thought the project was going wrong or any explicit acknowledgement that the employee wasn’t going to lead it anymore. It turned into a massive power struggle between the contractor and the employee who each thought the other person was there to assist them, and it took weeks to sort out that that’s even why they were fighting, by which time both of them and, like, three other people who’d got pulled into it, felt furious, humiliated, and betrayed.

        That is what happens when you take the “This means whatever you want it to,” approach to assigning roles.

  29. banzo_bean*

    Okay, there is no excuse for Tim’s behavior- telling you to book a restaurant is just plain rude.
    BUT I think part of why he may have trouble giving up responsibilities is that he is overwhelmed. I know that’s counterintuitive, but I’ve been in positions where I’m so overworked and overloaded, that the idea of having to deal with the potential growing pains that arise out of transitioning tasks/training up coworkers/brining new team members up to speed really overwhelms me. It requires taking on a little bit more work to make a lot less work. He’s focused on the short term effects though, so while you should be more assertive and it’s not your job to comfort Tim. It might help to express the ways you think he’ll benefit in the long run when you’re working with him.

  30. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I think Tim is just a sexist asshole. And, with all the additional comments from OP, I don’t know that Jason hasn’t made this situation clear. I’m not so sure that Jason hasn’t made his directions clear; I think Tim just doesn’t want to hear them.

  31. Pamplemeow*

    “People shouldn’t hear from a peer that their job is changing.”

    This stood out to me. I couldn’t tell you how many times my (now former) manager asked me to say/do things that stepped on my coworker’s toes without my manager telling them himself. Whenever I would push back and say that wasn’t my place he would tell me he needs me to be a leader and a self-starter. Ugh. It sometimes made it so awkward and it almost impossible to do without someone getting their feelings hurt.

    So, long story short, Allison is 100% right that your manager should have discussed the change with Tim in the beginning. It sucks that it fell to you.

  32. Earthwalker*

    Some people see a project manager as a manager who assures that the work of a project gets done: builds a timeline and drives it, manages people and funding resources, analyzes and manages risks, handles communication, and so on. Some people see a project manager as more of an admin assistant who books conference rooms, sends agendas, and maintains and disseminates project paperwork (artifacts) for a technical lead who is responsible for driving project completion. Tim clearly imagines the second case, in which he is the technical lead and the OP is his admin assistant. (He may be right.) OP appears to believe that the first case is what Jason really intended. Many managers make a bollixed hybrid in which the PM and the tech lead are both given responsibility and authority and yank each other around, or the PM is given responsibility but the tech lead has the authority, making the PM an admin assistant and fall guy if the effort fails. Jason may have confused matters in one of these ways, which would explain the disconnect between OP and Tim. OP needs to sort out role separation with Jason first before addressing Tim.

  33. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

    “Tim you have misunderstood the situation. I am not your assistant in any way. I am to *manage your projects.*

  34. Dan*

    I wonder if “project manager” and “producer” terms have been confused somewhere. When you’re talking about video projects, a producer definitely will be booking reservations and things.

  35. J.B.*

    I recently interviewed for a job that was supposed to involve project management. There was a group interview part (!) at which I wound up project managing because a dude was trying to overrule the women in the room. I wish that I had bailed out before spending the time on that interview.

  36. Scarlet*

    Tim is straight up sexist. There is no way he would assume the same things if OP were a male.

    OP – this is outrageous but I feel your pain being a young woman myself. I concur with Alison’s advice and want to add a bit more – don’t be afraid to be more aggressive in communicating that you are NOT his admin. It is insulting that he assumed it and when you tried to push back to clarify – he doubles down? UH NO. Please give us an update on how things go! Best of luck to you.

  37. VivaL*

    In a matrix organization, a PM has a lot of authority- more so than a technical lead or even department head (regarding that project). And their job is strategic in nature, not administrative. They manage the project but not the people. People are assigned to their projects. That’s how they manage work and not people.

Comments are closed.