my new boss treats me like his assistant … which isn’t what I was hired for

A reader writes:

I am on the receiving end of a bait and switch job offer. I was hired to be a project manager and am now effectively an administrative assistant.

The job I interviewed for was listed as a project manager at a very large company. The job description clearly outlined expectations of a project manager and seemed to perfectly align with my background.

During the initial phone screen, the recruiter asked about my experiences as a project manager – but oddly, he also asked about my experience with calendar management and planning off-sites. Since I had worked at large companies before, I knew the challenges of scheduling meetings with numerous stakeholders and executives and figured this is what he meant. I explained that I had done that work in those contexts before. The recruiter said that 10% of the role would be those responsibilities and “light admin” work, such as submitting expenses. A little concerned, I tried to clarify, and he assured me the admin work was minor. He also mentioned that the role was open because the person who previously had the role, “Melissa,” had moved to another team but was still with the company and very happy.

Subsequent interviews focused on my project management experience so I wasn’t too worried.

However, once I started the job, in my first meeting with my boss, “Kevin,” he outlined his expectations of the role and said 75% of the role would be to support projects he assigned me to and 15% to support other team member’s projects, with the remaining 10% admin work. Then he began assigning me administrative work like submitting his expenses, scheduling meetings for him with others, booking conference rooms, booking hotel rooms, and ordering catering.

Cut to four months into this job and I am now a full-blown admin with absolutely no project management work. I am treated by Kevin and the team as an admin. I’m invited to meetings just to take notes. If I attempt to participate in any way (as I was used to doing as an actual project manager), I’m dismissed or cut down. Kevin messages me to do extremely trivial things that he is fully capable of doing himself. I set up meetings for him and then he promptly changes his mind. When I booked a conference room that didn’t have enough seats, he ordered me to go grab chairs for the others. He asks me to grab pastries and book catering, order him lunch, book hotels — all very admin stuff. He also announced at our most recent team meeting that he had hired a person with a project management background to help with projects so I’m suspecting that he truly has no intention of me taking on the role I was hired for.

Last week I met with Melissa and explained what was happening. She nodded knowingly and said that Kevin came from a company where he had an EA who did everything for him. Since our company doesn’t allow EAs at his level, he uses the project manager role to fill that function.

I asked her why the job description was for a project manager – why not just hire someone with an executive assistant background? She explained that HR is involved in reviewing the job descriptions, screening candidates, and interviewing candidates as a control for preventing this from happening. My boss is just blatantly circumventing this by forcing the person in this role to be an EA and it was why she left the team to join a different one.

Do I have any recourse here? Or do I just have to quit since this isn’t the role I signed up for?

I worry about leaving early. I have a few short stints on my resume and it’s not ideal to add another one, but I don’t know that I can stay even six months with this treatment. Do I hold out and try to transfer internally? Is there any way I can alert HR to what’s actually happening? Or do they know, and just don’t care?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 218 comments… read them below }

  1. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Please go to HR right now. Like, drop whatever you are doing and make an appointment or call.

    1. ThatOtherClare*


      AAM Community says:
      Go to HR.
      Go directly to HR, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 more admin chores.

  2. sunny days are better*

    I would run straight to HR, but the fact that Melissa has already been through this makes me wonder if they are just turning a blind eye to Kevin doing this for some reason.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Same on both counts.

      It’s telling (and sketchy) that he’s openly hiring someone with PM experience when YOU are right there with PM experience.

      If I were your future interviewer and you stated that the role was advertised as a PM role and was really EA, I’d fully understand a short stint.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Also, I’m guessing LW is a woman and so was the previous person in this role. Especially if he hires a man to be the PM I’d think that could show sexism – women as EAs but only a man as a real PM?

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yes, if LW is a woman and then he hires a man for the “real” PM role I think you’d have a fairly clear-cut case of discrimination here— if you and him have the same job title and similar job descriptions, but are assigned very different duties, I think HR would be *very* alarmed. Harder to demonstrate if there isn’t a male PM in post though.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            If this is the case I would strongly suggest a consultation with an employment attorney. Stat. Even if you don’t want to sue they can guide you on how to deal with HR.

            1. Emily*

              Yep, if a man was hired for the “real” PM role, and Melissa and OP are both women, I definitely think OP should consult an employment law attorney, even if they end up deciding not take to any action, it could be helpful to get the attorney’s thoughts.

        2. Ellie*

          This is the avenue I would attack it through. Go to HR, say that you are a project manager, and that pushing you into an EA role and not allowing you to contribute during meetings is sexism on Kevin’s part as well as making it impossible for you to do the job you were hired for, and use that to push for a transfer or a generous severance. Then get out. And I’d complain loudly about what happened to you to anyone who will listen on your way out. Kevin deserves to be exposed.

        3. Just another woman*

          “Also, I’m guessing LW is a woman and so was the previous person in this role.”

          Side note: International Women’s Day 2024 is today.
          I had to turn off the radio because it was blaring patronizing comments about the usefulness of women at me.
          It reminded me of how I was scolded a while ago for earning too much (completely disregarding the years of work I put in), something I don’t see happening to a man.

      2. Not A Girl Boss*

        Hopefully Melissa can help this look more like a pattern which would make HR support her more?

        Being honest though, I’ve interviewed for plenty of project manager roles, and heard “I was hired to be a PM and ended up doing too much EA work” quite a few times… and its a yellow flag for me, especially combined with LW saying they had a few short stints on there. The fact is that there is some menial work associated with PM roles, and in the past I’ve had to deal with one too many PMs who think their job is to boss people around, when its really about doing myriad random things (even menial stuff like sending reminder emails or helping people book conference rooms) to support and ensure the success of their teams.
        I think for LW, if it comes to interviewing, more explicit information would work better. “I was hired to be 90% PM and 10% admin, but I had a boss who routinely sent me to fetch snacks, book conference rooms, and take notes for meetings I wasn’t even a contributor to. Whenever I tried to share my opinion, my boss immediately shut me down.” As a lady PM, I could definitely empathize with that amount of detail and join you in wanting to ring Kevins neck for messing with your career in such a selfish way. In fact, my very first PM job I reported to a literal and figurative Kevin.

    2. LCH*

      yeah, definitely a good idea to get more info from Melissa first.
      but fingers crossed that HR yeets Kevin to the mooon.

    3. Bunny Girl*

      Honestly it’s worth just having something on the record sometimes. People leave and there’s turnover and sometimes things work out.

      Story time: I had the world’s laziest boss. I was doing 99.99% of her work. She did quite literally, nothing but occasionally boss me around as a power trip. She also violated ADA and was a terrible person. I quit and showed up to HR with receipts. Laid out everything she was (and was not) doing. HR took a report, but Boss Lady stayed. Cut to a few years later. There’s a new director and he said what does Boss Lady do all day? He couldn’t figure it out so he asked around and went to her file. And there was a neat little report with proof that she was doing… absolutely nothing. And he fired her. My friend who still works in the department (under a different boss) couldn’t text me fast enough.

      1. Caramellow*

        Sometimes it takes that upper level authority. I once worked with an RN who did absolutely nothing, leaving all the patient care to evenings and nights. 100%. For years. I complained but got no where so I quit. A few years later I was talking to an MD who was telling me he managed to get that same leaker fired. It was extremely satisfying.

      2. Just Another Cog*

        Years ago, I worked for a bank that had a manager exactly like this! She spent nearly all day running her side business and meeting with those clients. Her employees, me included, told upper management about our frustrations with her which fell on deaf ears. Several years later, I heard she was fired when a new big boss was hired and figured out she was just collecting a paycheck. It was satisfying to learn this had happened….finally, but still irritating that people like this are kept on long after everyone higher up knows they are slackers.

  3. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    As a PM this is one of my biggest fears. There’s enough overlap in duties sometimes that it just feels so risky sometimes. As a female-presenting person I am always on guard against being turned into an admin. (There’s no shame in being an admin, if that’s the role you signed up for!)

    1. E*

      I battle this too, especially since I’m in the construction industry. It doesn’t help that some companies have positions called PMs that are really a coordinator or high ranking admin. It skews what some people think of a PM. There’s a reason why PM roles in my metro area range from $45k to $200k. Some of them aren’t true PMs.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        There’s nothing wrong with being an administrator – but if, for example, you’re saddled with student debt after doing an engineering degree, you need to be managing large construction projects and gaining the appropriate skills and experience to progress up to the 200k salaries, just to pay off your loans. Being tricked into only having experience scheduling meetings and taking notes is a huge problem, because you could have done that without the massive debt and it’s impairing your future ability to pay it off.

        It’s like tricking a lawyer into a job where what he actually does all day is garden maintenance. There’s nothing wrong with garden maintenance and landscaping as a career, but it’s not his chosen career path. It’s highly unethical. Even if you’re paying him a lawyer salary it’s unethical – because he’s not building up a track record of successful cases, so he can never advance or get hired anywhere else.

        1. darsynia*

          This is such a clear, concise way to describe the issues here. It goes a long way to reassure people that something is indeed wrong, and that they’re actually professionally harming themselves by going along with it if that’s not what they want.

    2. I Have RBF*

      I got told, in one job, that if I (AFAB) wanted to get into management I should go be a (non-technical) “project manager” first. Men there were promoted directly from IC to manager, no project management required. Project managers there were just one step above glorified admins. Hard no.

      I’ve done admin work. There’s no shame in it. But for a technical professional like I am now, it’s a big step back into what is essentially a pink ghetto.

    3. House On The Rock*

      I’m frequently telling our department’s PM (who is amazing) not to fall into the trap of taking on others’ administrative tasks. Because she’s so organized and helpful, people assume she’ll schedule their meetings, take notes, send follow up emails etc. So many times I’ve “jokingly” said “of course we know that Best PM will gladly do this, but it’s not her job so IT Manager Bro, please follow up”.

    4. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

      I hear ya. I’ve been with my org for 24 years, so some people still think of me as an admin even though I’ve been PMing for years. The actual admins seem to like me, though, because I actually understand how much effort it takes to support everyone.

  4. MigraineMonth*

    Flames. Flames on the side of my face.

    I would love to have an assistant, chef or house cleaner; that doesn’t mean I can just hire one using a deceptive job description and company resources!

    Who else has a strong suspicion that the new person hired to be an actual project manager is male?

      1. Not that other person you didn't like*

        If this is true, then I’d also bring that up with HR. This isn’t just a job bait and switch, but sexual discrimination, which opens up the company to legal liability. I’d want to know that if I were HR.

        Shit, if it’s really a “dudes are real PMs and chicks are Admins” situation, letter writer (and their attorney) might be able to negotiate a severance package to support her through her next job search.

        1. Nea*

          THIS! See if Melissa will go with you to HR to prove that this isn’t a one-off episode of sexual discrimination as well.

        2. Not A Girl Boss*

          Yep. When I worked for a Kevin, I didn’t really get anywhere with HR on his mistreatment of me. But when I came back with my two female coworkers (and a male ally) who pointed out it was a sexism-shaped pattern, the panic was palpable and things changed quickly.

        3. Artemesia*

          This is key. One of the things that makes lazy or inept HR perk up and listen is a potential discrimination suit. You have a boss who REPEATEDLY turns women PMs into EAs. And now while having been hired as a PM, you are serving as an EA and the role you were hired for has NOW BEEN FILLED WITH A MALE PM WITH SIMILAR EXPERIENCE. THIS IS CLEARLY A CASE OF SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION.

          AND STOP talking here. They should at minimum transfer you to a real PM role — and be alerted to potential harassment and RETALIATION (another magic word) if they put you in this same role as PM with this boss.

    1. Leenie*

      I think it’s probable that the new PM is a man. But even if the new PM turns out to be a woman, I am completely confident that he’d never pull this EA job switch on a guy – just never.

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      I actually really hope the new PM is a man. It would give the letter writer an even stronger case to take to HR.

  5. BellyButton*

    UGG what a BS move by Kevin. I would be livid!

    I wonder how he would react to “Hey Kev-a-rooski, I am a PM not an admin assistant. I do not want to be an admin assistant, I want to be the project manager you told me I was being hired to be. I do not appreciate the deception.”

    Take a LOOOOONNNG PAUSE with direct eye contact, to make him squirm and explain himself. Do not ask anything right away. Just pause. This makes people uncomfortable and they usually start making excuses and sputtering out the truth. Let him ramble on then ask “How do you plan on correcting this?”

    When the answer is unacceptable let him know that you need to speak to HR and see about other PM roles in the company because you will not continue to work as an admin.

    If he does say you can now be a PM on that team, I would let him know that you appreciate that he is attempting to make the situation right, but you aren’t sure that the trust can be rebuilt or that the team truly understands your level of experience. Go straight to HR and ask they make this right by finding you a new PM position in the company.

    Good luck and please update us!

    1. HonorBox*

      I think there’s too much chance that Kevin could mess things up more if he is challenged like this. LW doesn’t need permission to go to HR. That should happen. And the conversation with them can be, “I’m not sure that even if Kevin made an adjustment, I can trust him. Can you see that I am transferred to a PM role on a different team?”

      1. BellyButton*

        Oh I know, but I so want to make him squirm!!! I want to call him out on his deception and his bad behavior. I am also curious if all the other PMs on his team are men– because then I would want to point out the discrimination and possible lawsuits. :)

        1. pally*

          Thinking every person reading this site wants to see Kevin squirm. It’s just a whole lot harder to achieve this when he lacks integrity to begin with.

        2. LCH*

          maybe if OP goes to HR, and Kevin gets called into a meeting with OP and HR to get asked about this bait and switch. i think i’d want some backup so Kevin can’t put his own spin on it before OP gets her say.

        3. MassMatt*

          I think you are not appreciating that Kevin is perfectly comfortable with this deception, as is the HR involved with hiring (who “nodded knowingly”). Kevin is also LW’s boss. LW may really need this job. I don’t think our desire to fantasize about Kevin squirming is doing the LW any favors. It could wind up with LW fired on the spot.

          1. Leenie*

            The person who nodded knowingly was the last person who held the role, not HR. That doesn’t necessarily mean HR isn’t complicit, but it does mean there’s at least some hope that they might not be. If HR was just sitting there, nodding knowingly, LW would really need to cut her losses.

      2. Ellie*

        Yep, go to HR first, then confront Kevin. Don’t give him time to concoct a cover story.

    2. pope suburban*

      I do sort of wonder what would happen if LW just…did the job she was hired to do. I know that this wouldn’t likely play out well in practice, but in theory, she was hired as a PM, she is getting paid as a PM, and she has the qualifications to be a PM, so why not do that instead of all this nonsense?

      1. BellyButton*

        Yeah, it was upsetting to read that when she tries he shuts her down. I would want to push it– by playing stupid sweet. “Kevin, I am so confused! I was hired to be a project manager, why are you shutting me down.” But then again, after this many years in the workforce I am much more willing to burn a bridge and leave on bad terms.

      2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        But… how? lol Kevin isnt giving the LW any projects or tasks related to projects at this point.

      3. Speak Now TV*

        Because being an effective PM means everyone needs to agree that’s your job. They have to agree that you’re setting meeting agendas, let you speak in meetings and listen to what you’re saying, agree to loop you in on their status updates… You can try to create a timeline but it’s meaningless if other team members won’t share what they’re working on or when they expect it to be done. If the team and the boss don’t agree that you’re the PM, it’s just a lot of heartache as you beg team members to please let you access their files.

        1. bamcheeks*

          See “the person we hired to be a project manager (which might be a project coordinator at other companies) is behaving like a project manager”; letters, passim.

        2. Distracted Procrastinator*

          absolutely. PMs manage projects, not people. If you don’t have access to the information or the documentation for the project there is jack all you can do with the project. Sit around in an empty conference room and avoid Kevin for the day? It won’t work.

    3. pally*

      You are expecting Kevin to react as a normal person might, when confronted with his deceit.

      1. BellyButton*

        I have zero expectations, I just want to make him as uncomfortable as possible and call him out directly on his BS. I just posted above that at this point in my career I don’t have to put up with this kind of BS anymore and I am more than willing to burn the whole place down as I give a FU on my way out the door. :)

        1. HonorBox*

          I think that if HR doesn’t respond in the best way (meaning, helps OP find a PM role in the business) then making Kevin uncomfortable would be great. But Kevin doesn’t need to be tipped off yet that OP is going to HR because he’s already scamming the system and will likely have answers for HR cued up if he’s expecting their call.

        2. yeah*

          You can make whatever choices you want. But the abundance of imperative statements makes your comment reads like it’s advice directed to the letter writer. It might be fun to fantasize about this approach, but since life isn’t a movie, it probably won’t result in a productive outcome for the letter writer. Discreetly approaching HR is obviously a lower-risk strategy with a higher chance of producing a good outcome for her.

        3. Ellie*

          He may honestly believe that the admin work he’s giving OP are legitimate PM tasks that are more important than the project work they were hired for. He may also tell OP that they’re not qualified or are lacking some other quality, based purely on his own biases that live inside his head. I think its too risky to discuss this with him in the first instance, OP should just go straight to HR, or quit, and let him know why on the way out.

    4. LCH*

      ehh… i wouldn’t want to give Kevin any warning. OP should get to talk to HR first, not him.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Absolutely no warning. His bait and switch is an open secret. Hell, the letter mentions his plan to hire an additional project manager to, I guess, actually do OP’s job. And it seems to be happening.
        He’s playing chess.
        OP has to play chess, too.
        Document everything up to this point and go straight to HR with it. Explain everything. If the person you talk to is not shocked, concerned or otherwise moving to act, well, you know who is on his side. Talk to someone else.
        Remember “HR said my service dog is too small” HR person?
        Remember “Elizabeth deadname’s John” HR person?
        And let us never forget, “HR tried to fire me because the guy who stole my spicy food got sick” HR person who was involved with food thief.
        This is not his first rodeo.
        He hires women (let’s face it) for his admin position, uses them until they move on and gets another person.
        Nobody is looking at his turnover; they are giving him MORE positions.
        Be prepared, OP. And don’t stop.
        Get yourself transferred.

        1. MassMatt*

          I agree with everything you say here, including the collusion from HR. How is he getting a requisition for a project manager when he filled the PM role 4 months ago? Every place I have worked that was large enough for an HR scrutinized new job requisitions thoroughly.

          Somehow this guy is saying he has work for TWO project managers, when so far as we have seen, he has work for none, unless that work is sitting undone while LW orders catering and looks for extra chairs. Between this and the “nodded knowingly” I don’t have much confidence in the company’s HR, but that’s the next step I would take.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            I think part of what Not Tom is pointing out is that these situations all involved managers and HR being awful at their jobs, but they all got resolved properly in the end once someone with sufficient power found out.

            The small service dog is totally allowed and the VP of HR causing the problem left “for other opportunities.”
            The person deadnaming a colleague and the HR rep who blew it off got fired and the deadnamer’s boss got a bunch of management training.
            The food stealer and HR person got fired and the LW has gotten doubled pay and support from senior management for professional development.

            Maybe the initial HR contact will flub it (hopefully not!), but there is at least a possibility in an otherwise functional company that not everyone is useless.

            1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              I am definitely saying this, in addition to, someone is letting this guy slide. But that person doesn’t have to stop OP. Keep talking until someone responds appropriately.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        That’s where I land. I’d want no chance for Kevin to prepare some kind of defense. I’d just go right to HR with 1-the job description I was hired for and 2-a list of things I’d actually done in the past 4 months. I’d tell them that I don’t feel, with this huge discrepancy, that speaking to Kevin would help, as he knew I was hired to be a PM, but wasn’t treating me like one. I’d ask the former woman if it was OK that I brought up that she had the same issue, an issue that HR tried (and failed!) to prevent. And I’d keep going back to them for updates (but also job searching).

    5. Beth*

      If LW didn’t know Kevin does this intentionally, having a 1:1 “I was hired for X but most of my time is actually being spent on Y, it’s important to me to be focused on X, how can we get my workload back on track?” conversation would be very legit. Naming a problem is a good first step to getting it resolved, when everyone involved is working in good faith. The solution might be getting the off-track person assigned different work, or it might be acknowledging that the team’s needs have shifted and giving the employee the green light to move on…but either of those is an effective resolution.

      But we know Kevin isn’t acting in good faith. He intentionally lied in the job description, he intentionally lied in interviews, he’s intentionally lying to HR. OP isn’t the first person he’s done this to. It’s not an accident, and it’s not an unexpected shift in the team’s needs. Having this conversation with someone who’s intentionally acting in bad faith is just asking for retaliation or other difficulties. OP should skip that, decide whether to involve HR based on Melissa’s feedback, and GTFO to another role either via internal transfer or external job hunt.

    6. Kella*

      This approach is completely dependent on the power to enforce consequences, of some kind. OP may not have that. OP could attempt to call him out but Kevin could verbally overpower her and ignore everything she says. OP could attempt to make him uncomfortable by visibly judging him for incompetence, but that falls flat if he has no investment in OP’s opinion of him. OP could threaten to go to HR but this is only an actionable threat if HR is likely to hold Kevin accountable.

      As others have said, this is a nice fantasy but not how interactions based on imbalanced power dynamics usually go.

    7. LolaJosie*

      People like this will bend over backwards to justify why they think it’s okay to ask you to do work that you didn’t sign up for. “Well, we said there would be an administrative aspect…”

      Example: I was the financial manager in a mill setting, and also the only woman. My boss would ask me to order catering, manage the break room food, and arrange team outings because I “held the purse”.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        What an appropriate choice of words for him to use. There must be a term like “weaponized incompetence” that describes a term that has a bias to it, but is also very ingrained that “I didn’t mean it that way!” is completely plausible. Plausible deniability? Microaggression?

  6. HonorBox*

    HR! HR! HR!

    You have info from Melissa, and maybe they turned a blind eye to her reporting. Or maybe she saw an opportunity and just took it. But absolutely go to HR.

    It may not help you, as outlined in the advice, because Kevin seems like the kind of person who would hold a grudge and find ways to make things miserable for you. But if there’s an internal transfer, that’d be great. And if not, at least alerting HR and potentially saving someone else the hassle after you leave, you’ve done the right thing.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      I would hope that after OP leaves (for another role in the company or another job) that HR would, with these examples, be keeping an extremely close oversight on Kevin, meeting with the new PM at least weekly to make sure that their job aligns with the job description.

      1. juliebulie*

        It wouldn’t be hard to envision them firing Kevin, because OP is receiving a PM’s salary and doing the work of a (usually) lower paid employee. Also possible exempt vs non-exempt concerns.

        1. House On The Rock*

          This was my immediate thought too. It’s not fair, but in my organization experienced, credentialed PMs typically make about twice as much as Admins (think $60k versus $120k). If LW was hired as a PM for a PM’s job description and required experience, they are likely making at least a reasonable amount more than any but the most seasoned Admins/EAs. So the company is both spending more money than they would for an Admin and the other Admins in the company might have a legitimate equity issue.

        2. single quote*

          Yeah, at my job this would be a huge problem, because you’re paying a much higher salary for a job that does not get that much money. In my department, you do not want senior people doing junior work; that’s a waste of money and time. Hire a junior and let the senior keep doing the work only the senior can do.

        3. Lora*

          I am also curious as to whether they plan on paying the new PM more, because they will be expected to do Project Management work. there are many layers to the salary issue.

    2. Elbe*

      Agreed. Going to HR is the right thing here.

      I know people have had bad experiences with HR, but I have a little bit of hope in this situation. The fact that Kevin had to be so sneaky with how the LW was interviewed and had to shift the job description over time (once HR was less involved post-hiring) makes me think that HR isn’t hands-off in this company. If the no EAs rule wasn’t something HR would actually enforce, he wouldn’t have had to be so shady about the hiring.

      HR told him he couldn’t have an EA, and now they’re about to find out that he went against their rules to force the LW (and Melissa) into an EA position against their will. And that HR is now being expected to sign off on a second PM to cover the actual PM work. I’m pretty hopeful that HR will be livid.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yes, the fact that HR is at least trying to stop him from doing stuff that isn’t allowed is a good sign.

  7. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

    HR now- my jaw is on the floor! But it also reminded me of that letter years ago from that person who wanted to “borrow” the CEOs’ assistant until the company assigned them one, even when they had basically been told that they were not going to be getting an assistant? IIRC, the LW was humble and gracious when we basically flipped a table in the comments, but now I’m wondering if it was “Kevin” and “Kevin” has since moved on to another company that did not give him an assistant company and he’s working around that particular thing by doing this BS? That LW in that letter briefly thought about assigning the role to a random, not-an-admin person on the team. Surely there cannot be two people out there with this attitude? Right? RIGHT? (*sigh* I know that there are more than two. *weeping*)

    1. Serin*

      I went back and re-read these letters, and they read like somebody had decided to actually DO what the proverbial out-of-touch boomer dad would tell you to do.

      “You just walk right in there, my boy, and say to your assistant, ‘Judy, take a letter.’ … what? they haven’t assigned you an assistant? Well, you need to talk to the top man about that. … what? he says you have to wait? Well, in the meantime, his girl can be your girl. That will light a fire under him to get you a girl of your own.”

    2. MassMatt*

      To his credit, the writer of that letter did follow up and seemed to take to heart the criticism he got from both Alison and the commentariat, which must not have been easy.

      Sadly, I think attitudes like Kevin’s are all too common, though the bait-and-switch job posting is more extreme than most.

    3. Not A Girl Boss*

      Oh man I missed that original thread and love it but… Im hoping its Kevin, and there are not in fact multiple Kevins in the world.

  8. Jack Straw from Wichita*

    In case you go the quitting route–document every interaction you have with Kevin that includes a question about doing PM work. I was also involved in a bait and switch where I had to do technical writing instead of the training I was hired to do–I quit and was able to get unemployment (YMMV depending on your country state, I’m in the US in Ohio) because I was being asked to do a job that was not within the job description I was hired with.

    I asked for help learning tech writing, I asked for help understanding the role, I asked for help repeatedly and when the unemployment office requested a statement for a hearing (company was trying to deny my claim), I turned everything over and they quickly approved the claim.

    1. Nina from Corporate Accounts Payable*

      I work with two Kevins I cannot stand and are not well-liked in general, so figures this jerk is a “Kevin”. Kevins are the male Janes.

    1. Lydia*

      There are some letters where you just wish you could flip a page and see what happens if/when the OP goes to HR. Basically, Kevin lied to HR to get what he wanted, and I bet you anything they will not be well pleased.

      1. Walk on the Left Side*

        Someday, we all need a mashup of the history of great AAM posts with a choose-your-own-adventure book…

        “If you go directly to HR, turn to page 12.”
        “If you confront Kevin about job duties in a one-on-one first, turn to page 37.”

  9. A Simple Narwhal*

    Ooooooh this makes me so angry! Absolutely go to HR asap, I hope they can either transfer you or you can negotiate a departure. Either way it is absolutely not safe to stay working under Kevin.

    Best of luck OP, I hope you can update us with good news soon!

  10. lost academic*

    Go to HR, sure. But – the job for which you were recruited and hired never existed. Your manager deliberately circumvented the hiring process to get an EA and that’s you now. If the PM work doesn’t exist, they can’t give you that role. Maybe this guy can be disciplined, but I’m not sure where that could leave you materially. Best case – there are internal opportunities and you can be transferred into one AND Kevin can’t do anything to damage your reputation or workflow.

    Honestly the best possible case is using your time to find a better PM position and making sure HR protects you in the meantime (and honestly, they should pay you a severance if they can’t remedy the hiring deception internally).

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      “But – the job for which you were recruited and hired never existed. ”

      Eh not necessarily. At more places you can’t simply decide you need a position and post it. There has to be justification for the position and there is some kind of approval process.

      There is PM work it’s just not being assigned to OP.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      According to the letter, he’s looking at hiring another PM. So he’s managed to get another position for his group, by hiding that he misappropriated the one he was given.
      In my company, creating a new position (not a new role) but hiring a second llama groomer in the Llama Groomer group can take a year of research and justification.
      OP was hired four months ago and he’s asking for another person.
      Definitely get on the record that you were not allowed to do the job you were hired for. Because if his justification is “it’s too much work for one person” “this person is coming up to speed fast enough, but we really like her and want to keep her on” Well, that’s OP’s reputation and she needs to set the record straight.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. I’d also be concerned about review time, as how could OP be evaluated on PM skills and goals when they haven’t been given any PM work? I hope OP is documenting everything.

      1. I AM a Lawyer*

        Yes, OP was clearly a replacement for Melissa but the new position should really be cause for concern for HR.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        Well he “hired a person with a project management background”. I’m not sure we can take it as a given that they were hired as a project manager.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          According to OP, she was told project manager in her interview.
          Kevin changed it day one. But only to her. They didn’t have a meeting with HR and the hiring manager and Kevin’s boss to explain that even though all the information you were given indicated this was a project management job, it has been changed.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      There’s always firing Kevin, promoting internally from the PMs, and hey! There’s work for LW! And a manager who owes their job to LW.

      That’s how I want to see this play out.

      LW: Alison is right on. Check w Melissa, if she doesn’t veto HR, document and go! If you are female-presenting, make sure you talk about EEOC / hostile workplace and gender based discrimination. Best of luck to you.

  11. Pita Chips*

    Oh wow, Kevin is a louse with an inflated sense of entitlement, to put it mildly

    Yes, please go to HR, and get out of that position. Even if HR talks to him, I doubt he’ll get better. If he wants an admin, then he should make a case to HR to get one.

  12. Michelle Smith*

    OMG get out ASAP. Sure, a bunch of short stints on the resume is less than ideal. Apply for jobs anyway. You should not stay in this position working for this manager and if someone is willing to take a chance on hiring you despite your concerns re: job hopping, TAKE IT!! You won’t know if it’s a big issue until you try. Try.

  13. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW — I’m going with a combination of things previous commenters have outlined above. A few thoughts:

    Based on your knowledge of Kevin so far, is he likely to retaliate if you go to HR? If so, that needs to be part of your discussion with them. Document everything you told AAM in your letter. Have a copy of the original job description, plus the one you have now. Keep thorough notes of your interactions with Keven and keep them off site.

    In your position, I’d probably talk with Melissa again and ask her if she considered going to HR and, if not, why. She’s been there longer and may have some information that you could use to decide whether it’s worth it to you.

    Of course, a lot of that depends on whether you want to stay with this particular company at this point. Quitting would be a lot simpler. You said you have some short stays on your resume, but a lot of things have been in flux since The Great Plague Year, and I think you’re less likely to be viewed as a job-hopper right now.

    And while it’s fun to fantasize about taking Kevin down, drama like that is usually more trouble than it’s worth.

    Good luck, and let us hear from you.

  14. rightokaysure*

    DON’T TELL ON MELISSA. She is going to have professional consequences for not disclosing this situation. What the heck?????

    1. Nea*

      What professional consequences? She’s already transferred within the company, presumably to a PM role. Saying that this has happened – and happened to another woman – should light a fire under HR to protect the company from a discrimination lawsuit, not rebound on Melissa in her new, proper role.

    2. LCH*

      yeah, i didn’t understand this comment.

      Alison recommends going back to Melissa to get info on why she didn’t go to HR before. using that info, OP will know whether or not to bring her into it.

      1. Lydia*

        Right. Melissa may have just decided it wasn’t worth it, or Kevin convinced her HR was aware and approved the change, or she did, and it never went anywhere. Going back to Melissa and getting some more information to find out exactly what HR may or may not have known, will help OP a lot. Melissa didn’t do anything wrong and let’s say HR isn’t loony toons and will be very interested in hearing about what happened to her.

  15. Just a Moving Truck on Storrow Drive*

    I’d quit so quickly. That shows so much about the company culture.

    1. The Other Sage*

      You can only do this if you can afford to live for some months without an income :/

  16. Portia*

    It may be possible for LW to bring up sex discrimination in this case, particularly if this goes back even further than herself and Melissa and the targets are all women. But it’s bad enough even without that element.

    Kevin has been addressing his desire for a PA with zero regard for how he might disrupt or even derail the careers of the people he is using. He is messing with people’s lives on a whim.

    (But I do feel certain that Kevin would never dream of doing this to a man.)

  17. Llellayena*

    I’d be interested in the demographics of the rest of the project managers on Kevin’s team. Are all his project managers men? Has he EVER hired a female project manager who has actually done the job of project manager and not admin? If you can point to a clear discrepancy based on sex, there are additional protections HR would have to provide to protect from retaliation. Would Melissa be willing to go to HR with you to provide corroborating background? Are there possibly allies within your department (other sympathetic project managers) who can speak to what they’ve observed?

    1. ILoveMyManager*

      I was definitely thinking Glassdoor is the way to go, especially if OP ends up quitting, if HR won’t make this right.
      Name and shame.
      This is rubbish and a waste of OP’s time and skills.

  18. I Count the Llamas*

    Does anyone have a link to the original letter? I haven’t been able to find it searching the archives.

    1. I Count the Llamas*

      Oh never mind, I misread – I thought it was an old letter she was dusting off.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      I believe this is a new letter, when it’s a republishing the link usually says something like “…where I re-answer letters that have been buried in the archives…”, this one just says she’s answering it somewhere else, no reference to it being an old letter.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Whoops when I hit post your response wasn’t there, didn’t mean to pile on!

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I think the letters in New York Magazine are new, and the ones Alison answers on Inc are from the archives?

  19. HugeTractsofLand*

    This sucks on so many levels, I’m so pissed on your behalf! Especially that you’re getting shut down in meetings when you try and share your professional insight. I’m worried that you won’t be able to recover at this company (or at least, on this team) because of the work that’s been done to shut you into an admin box. I think you could overcome people’s bias over time and by being REALLY proactive (ie you may have to push hard to have your ideas heard and acknowledged), but this jerk has really damaged your image with your other coworkers. Please contact HR right away and quit this job if necessary! You could possibly leave it off of your resume altogether since it’s been a short stint.

  20. Number Blocks*

    This is not an indictment on the LW, but I’m very curious what their pay is like. Is the pay aligned with what they were expecting for a PM role, or did they take a pay cut to be hired? I ask because that would be an indication that something is off. Granted, there’s no way to predict this exact scenario would happen, especially when the rest of the recruitment process seemed normal and LW did everything reasonable to suss out the admin duties during the interview.

  21. Choggy*

    I’m wondering if the salary of the position is more in line with a project manager or an admin? The reason I ask is if the company thinks they are paying for a PM, they should absolutely be notified since that would be a huge issue. And wouldn’t those who OP is working with think they are doing PM work, and should not be doing admin work? It’s pretty outrageous this guy is getting away with this bait and switch, not only for the person in the position, but the company itself.

  22. Statler von Waldorf*

    I’d like tell the LW that going to HR will solve this issue. However, I honestly don’t think it will. The fact that the HR team was supposed to act as a control to prevent this issue and their complete and utter failure to do so does not inspire me to believe they are going to be useful to the LW at all.

    I’d skip HR and go straight to updating my resume and start a new job hunt. That sucks, it’s not fair, and I’m sorry that the LW got a bait-and-switch job offer, but that’s my read on the best possible outcome here.

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      I would do both (start job hunt and inform HR) at the same time.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Same. Alerting HR is important in case they actually do anything about it….for the next person. This job is tainted now for OP whether she tells HR or not.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      I think HR is worth trying, in that it’s possible that after Melissa, HR wrote the JD and kept a close eye on the hiring process, but after that decided that it was all OK so their work there was done. Could be worth flagging to them that actually OP was bait-n-switched after the job started (they might think “Oh, Kevin wouldn’t dare do that” when in fact surprise! He would!).

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        Sure, it’s possible, but only if the HR dept is either naïve, lazy, stupid, or just stretched way too thin to actually do their job. One follow up interview a few months in is all it would have taken to determine that this was an issue, and they didn’t bother to do it.

        That’s why I don’t think it’s worth it. The risk of retaliation from a boss who will happily lie to get what they want is just too damn high, and given the fact presented I wouldn’t trust HR to protect the LW from that retaliation.

        1. Elbe*

          I know that HR has its problems, but this read seems really harsh to me.

          The LW mentions that it took four months for the situation that she’s in to get this bad, and that she started off doing some PM work. It’s possible that HR followed up, but the extent of the issue wasn’t apparent at that point.

          Even if they never followed up, I don’t necessarily think that it’s a sign that they wouldn’t care about her current situation. I think that there’s a pretty big gap between not proactively following up with a new hire and not caring at all that a new hire has been lied to and effectively made an EA without her consent. At the very least, I would expect HR to care that THEY had been lied to and misled by Kevin.

        2. Moira's Rose's Garden*

          I work at a large org (>20K employees) and HR here is none of those. An interview with the applicant *after* the hire is simply beyond their purview. HR’s focus w/new employees is whether the new hire is meeting expectations in the 90d period, & they rely on the hiring manager’s eval for that.

          Kevin has figured out how to game his company’s HR system to get an outcome that he know is wrong and/or legally fraught. If there is a new job posting in the works, it tells me that he’s figured out how to create the right kind of paper-trail/internal documentation to manipulate HRs SOPs. Maybe there is an argument that HR departments *should* be proactively tracking managerial malfeasance, but I’m not sure how workable that is on the ground. IME, working for orgs with that kind of suspicious mindset just is a different hive of bees from an HR that looks the other way or colludes with bad management.

      2. The glass is half empty*

        This is 4 months later. HR might have kept an eye on Kevin for a bit and thought all was well.

    3. Elbe*

      Even good HR teams aren’t magic.

      I don’t think it’s an HR failure that Kevin – a grown man – is intentionally changing the LW’s job after she was hired. It’s not common for HR to be involved months after an employee was hired, and it’s not common for managers to intentionally bait-and-switch like Kevin is doing now. I think it’s reasonable to think that HR doesn’t know what is happening to the LW, particularly if Melissa didn’t report the issue.

      I don’t think it’s particularly risky to go to HR over a job you’re willing to quit. Unless the LW has circumstances that would make her rely on this particular job long-term, flagging this to HR seems like a good step.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      If he is not allowed to have an EA and this role is basically secretly his EA… I feel like a real potential outcome of explaining the situation to HR is them saying “oh, then your role is not actually supposed to exist” and suddenly OP finds themselves out of a job. I guess I’m having trouble imagining what any potential positive outcome could even come out of HR for this situation?

      I think if I were OP I’d look for a new job, and then let HR know the situation after I’ve turned in my notice.

  23. Della*

    I think getting more intel from Melissa is a good call and might help frame your conversation with HR. Also, if you generally like the organization, you could follow her path and keep an eye on internal openings.

    Best of luck with this, OP! I once turned into an assistant after being hired — my incompetent boss was just so determined to appear busy and important. Once, I was on vacation for a week and a half. He left some forms in my inbox for the entire duration instead of just walking them a few doors down to their destination on his own.

  24. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    The main thing is to go to HR first — escalating beyond HR if necessary — and THEN tell Kevin that you “might” go to HR about this.

    (Since Kevin blatantly lied throughout the hiring process, OP gets a pass on pretending that she hasn’t yet gone to HR when she actually has.)

    1. juliebulie*

      If OP goes to HR first, there is a good chance that HR will notify Kevin promptly.

  25. Girasol*

    Women PMs can end up in an oddly admin role. While a male PM leads a project, often a woman is chosen specifically to call meetings, take minutes, report status, and write “artifacts:” the documents that are evidence of good project planning, which she may be asked to invent in the absence of actual project planning. When senior management calls for structured project management, subordinate managers may hire real project managers. But if the project team would rather fly by the seat of their pants and make up excuses later, and they resent the idea of structured project management, they can hire someone they call a project manager but who is really a specialized admin support. I’ve seen a number of women frustrated with that role (especially when they actually are well qualified project managers expecting to do that job) but I have never seen a man put in that position. OP’s HR may know very well what a project manager is supposed to do and be, and will be helpful, or they may also think that a PM is the gal who takes the notes and be confused about why OP has a problem with that.

  26. Mountaingirl19*

    Agree – tell HR immediately but also tell the recruiter you had the initial screening with.

  27. Czhorat*

    This whole thing strikes me as SO short-sighted from the Melissa and Kevin’s perspective. How could they possibly expect this to play out?

    The BEST CAST scenario for them is you get a qualified PM who is desperate enough for a steady check so they can pay the mortgage to stay long enough to find another job. It isn’t as if you can keep it secret forever that the entire job is a complete mismatch for what you hired them for, and a qualified PM (especially with credentials like a PMP) is likely underemployed as an assistant.

    Even if they aren’t underemployed from a pay perspective, the career/advancement path to a program manager or senior PM position just wouldn’t be there for this role. If they stay it will only be as long as they are desperate, and they’ll have negative good will which will lead them to do the absolute bare minumum until they can escape.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      ?? on including Melissa here. For all we know, she is the reason HR was so involved in the job description. Or maybe she saw the PM position open and just decided to move to escape retaliation. But Melissa isn’t the problem, Kevin is. OP can ask Melissa if she’d be willing to go on record that it happened to her too (now that she’s settled in a different job), but you can’t blame her for looking out for herself.

      1. Czhorat*

        Misread it and typed the wrong name; I meant the hiring manager, whose name wasn’t apparently listed.

        Melissa took care of herself in a reasonable and sane way. All the best for Melissa.

    2. Leenie*

      I agree with your perspective on Kevin. But Melissa was just looking out for her own well-being when she took the transfer, apparently wasn’t involved in hiring, and told LW the truth when asked. I don’t see how she did anything wrong, or should be lumped in with Kevin.

      1. Czhorat*

        I misspoke; I meant whoever hired the OP, but that isn’t Melissa.

        I agree – Melissa did right by herself.

    3. Jackalope*

      My experience with dudes like this is that they don’t actually think about women (the OP confirmed that she’s a woman below) having career paths that matter to the women involved. They think women are there to make men’s lives easier and anything else is irrelevant.

  28. Project Maniac-ger*

    Oh no… I am a literal hybrid EA – PM and this ain’t it.

    Your boss is blatantly circumventing company policy. You’d tell HR if your boss wasn’t allowing you to take PTO, or work without overtime (if nonexempt) or some other infraction so do it with this.

  29. Next*

    I was once hired as the “Director of Business Communications” and it turned out my actual job was clicking “next” on my boss’s Powerpoint presentations during live demos, and ordering lunch for our weekly staff/board meetings. Get out while you can; I personally spent six months crying in the bathroom daily until I could get myself out of that one.

    1. Lydia*

      I think OP has some recourse here since HR only approved the posting because it was for a PM, and because Kevin lied to get around the no PAs for middle management.

  30. SpecialSpecialist*

    Flipping things around – could you manage Kevin like HE’S the project? :D

  31. Blake*

    This was me!! I concur with Allison’s advice – go to HR, try to fix it, but 99% you’ll have to leave, and one day you’ll look back and be able to laugh, but not now, I realize.

    Document it so that others will hopefully not have to go through this…

    HR told me they agreed with me and saw my concerns but the boss was not doing anything “illegal”…. I left and I wish you the strength, wherewithal, and hopefully financial situation to do so.

  32. BurnItAllDown*

    I grumpy this afternoon so I’m going to muse, I wonder what Kevin would do if OP sent an email to Kevin and HR and said, this isn’t the job you were hired for and you are looking for new opportunities and in the meantime will no longer do admin jobs for Kevin. He can accept it or fire OP or another team.

  33. Elbe*

    “He also announced at our most recent team meeting that he had hired a person with a project management background to help with projects…”

    WOW, Kevin. Wow.

    I agree with the LW that this needs to go to HR right now. This is an awful way to treat someone, and I hope HR will be as outraged as we are.

    It would be great if the LW could get something in writing where she asks Kevin why another person is being hired to do the PM tasks that she was hired to do. It would make HR’s job a lot easier if there is some indication that this is something he knows about, as opposed to a way of working that just happened to develop over time. This seems 100% premeditated on his part, so it would be great to take away the “I hadn’t noticed!” and “Whoops! Must have just been a habit” excuses you know he’s going to rely on.

    1. LCH*

      oh wow, i fully missed that when reading. definitely good ammo for HR. why is he hiring extra PM people when he isn’t even using the one he already has?! what a tool.

  34. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    UGH I had this job. I was hired for strategic planning for an angel fund and ended up being the administrative assistant to the fund managers, planning parties and scheduling meetings. What was worse was they were too cheap to pay for real teams software so most of the calendar management had to be done on paper until they were back in the office. I spent my days filing, calling people and spinning idly in my chair. I never once got to take a meeting with a client.

    When I left I suggested that they hire someone with office manager experience since that was clearly what they were looking for, but they went and hired another MBA.

  35. single quote*

    Talk to HR. I don’t know if there’s anything they can do about it, but it’s possible they can switch you to another team. But even if not, he has now done this twice and has a history. If you can’t go to his boss and address it, go to HR. He will keep doing this. You may or may not be able to save this job, but by doing nothing, you will not save this job.

  36. Emily*

    I think Alison’s advice about asking Melissa why she didn’t go to HR is key. If Melissa says something like she saw the internal transfer as an easier route to take, maybe both Melissa and OP could go to HR together. However even if Melissa refuses to go to HR with OP, as long as Melissa did not have a solid reason for not going to HR before (such as the one Alison gave, like HR is ineffective and it would make things worse), I definitely think OP should go to HR and lay out what is happening.

  37. flour and water child*

    Hi there !

    OP posting here. Firstly I wanted to say thank you so much for this response and from the encouragement I’ve received in the comments! I’ve never written in before and genuinely thought I had no recourse in my situation beyond quitting. It’s been so validating to hear from you all and I feel supported that others here recognize this is highly dysfunctional environment.

    I wanted to address a few of the questions received in the comments.

    Firstly – as speculated I am a woman, as is Melissa. Our boss Kevin and the new PM hired are both male. There is unfortunately some element of bias that I was made aware of after the fact.

    For those asking for an update – I’ve now been in the role for 6 months and the situation has only gotten worse. I’ve received late night “urgent calls” with requests to make dinner reservations for Kevin while he is traveling abroad, or putting in requests for items left behind in taxis, general lack of boundaries, and increasingly trivial requests. It was also made aware to me that Kevin has a history of weaponizing performance reviews to prevent paying out bonuses or allowing employees to transfer internally. At our company we need to meet a minimum level to apply for internal transfer and in the past he’s arbitrarily dinged strong performers to prevent them from leaving. These employees had to go out and seek additional references to prove they are performing at a high level. Again very questionable behavior so it’s right to assume there would be retaliation for going to HR.

    For those asking why I don’t try to continue to do project management work regardless – the answer is I’ve honestly been trying. It’s been me reaching out to other stakeholders and trying to support them, create efficient processes for the team, but the moment my boss gets a whiff of this he immediately shuts it down. He’s asked to review all meetings I attend and those he deems not relevant to him he says I shouldn’t be attending. I’ve had to basically do project management work for other team members in secret.

    I will absolutely be speaking with HR and hope that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel in this situation. Thank you all again for the encouragement and support!

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Go you!

      And absolutely use some of Alison’s advice to other letter writers about what to say to HR about blatant gender bias that can open the company up to legal action.

    2. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      Best of luck to you. You’ve got a lot of people sending good advice and good wishes here.

      One thing I noticed nobody suggested is consulting with an employment lawyer. If you can, you may want to consider that. That doesn’t mean you’re declaring war. As Alison often reminds us, lawyers often know of possible courses of action that we might not think of ourselves.

    3. HonorBox*

      Best wishes for that conversation with HR!

      Go with as much detail as you can. Document the late night urgent calls for dinner reservations, taxi request, and other trivial things.

      Document his request to review your meetings.

      Share what you’ve been told by your predecessor (very generally if she’s concerned about retaliation on her own).

      Share that (now all) your tasks are not at all part of the job description for your role.

      And without a doubt compare your situation to the new male PM.

    4. Saturday*

      Thanks for the additional detail, and I really wish you the best of luck!
      Argh, Kevin is a real piece of work, and I hope someone manages to stop him from being so horrible.

    5. Jackalope*

      Please keep us posted and send Alison an update once you have solid news on what happens next. We’re rooting for you!

    6. Almost Empty Nester*

      Please collect documentation and speak with a lawyer. You have a case for discrimination. But most importantly focus on collecting as much documentation as you can and storing it offsite.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        Yes, document everything. Even verbal communications can be written down in dot points and emailed to the other person in the conversation (thus creating official written documentation). After all, that’s the kind of thing EAs do, so in Kevinland it would make complete sense for you to be doing it. You’re being helpful :)

        Good luck, flour and water child. We’re all cheering for you.

    7. Vi*

      Thank you for the update/info! As others have said, please do speak w a lawyer since there is the sex discrimination piece. HR will try to give you the absolute minimum they think you’ll accept (whether that’s a not-that-desirable transfer, unimpressive severance amount, etc), and a lawyer has a good chance of getting you more.

    8. nodandsmile*

      I wish you luck. I had a 75/25 PM/EA (advertised) role which turned out to be about 2/98. When I left 3 managers later, I was replaced by a competent, professional EA (which I was not). My advice would be to get out of there. It’s easier to change the company you work for than CHANGE the company you work for.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        That is the part I haven’t seen anyone bring up – EA work is a difficult job that requires experience, skills, knowledge and consent on the part of the person hired to be EA. I was an admin assistant for six months and I was horrible at it. I am a good SWE, but I would not have hired myself as an AA.

    9. Abundant Shrimp*

      Re the (horrifying) update – a long-ago ex’s daughter got a job at a NYC-based magazine, after graduating with honors with a degree in journalism from a reputable school, that gradually devolved into the exact thing you’re describing. She quit and moved back home, where she went on to work jobs like retail, substitute teacher etc while looking for work in her actual field. She found one shortly before I lost track of them all. Hope things work out for you without the “quitting and working retail” part of it. She did not have a case for discrimination like you do. Hoping for a positive update!

    10. Moira's Rose's Garden*

      Nthing the call to document! document! DOCUMENT!

      In addition to HR, it may help to consult with a lawyer specializing in the area. It can help you understand options, your company’s obligations and whether the case has legs in terms of discrimination. They can also provide you with scripts and ideas to use with HR.

      Good luck! And Kevin sucks!

  38. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW, when you talk with Melissa be sure to let her know that you plan to ask HR about Kevin’s bait-and-switch ploy and get her input. Even if you don’t plan on staying very long at that company, Melissa herself might be planning to do so and might be concerned about retaliation from Kevin once he figures out who told HR what he was up to (and people always DO figure out who told the truth about them!) Unless Kevin is in a protected position (related to a highly placed executive/Most Valuable Client, etc.), HR will doubtless be furious at him for doing an end-run around them to get himself a personal assistant. But that still leaves Kevin angry with Melissa.

    You might be happily ensconced in another job in another company, while Melissa was stuck in your old company and now bearing the brunt of Kevin’s anger for her “tattling”. Kevin fully deserves whatever fallout he gets for pulling this stunt, but people very seldom see it that way, and take out their anger on those they see as fair game – in this case, Melissa.

  39. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    Awful situation. You can’t make the project management work appear if he’s unwilling to assign you anything, so this job is probably a wash, but if you’re willing to torch this job off your resume while looking for another job, just full-stop doing any admin work. If he’s circumventing HR, he’ll be hard-pressed to put you on a PIP or fire you immediately for not doing tasks you are officially not supposed to be doing anyway. It could buy you some paid time.

    Kevin: OP was insubordinate for refusing to order catering and do my expense report.
    HR: hmmmm, interesting reason for a PIP for your project manager. Can you elaborate? (hopefully… there is a possibility they might shrug and write up the PIP, but then you might have in writing that the bait and switch happened if you need to apply for unemployment).

    I’ve learned over the years to clarify that when they say anything like “light admin work” or thereabouts, I make sure they mean MY OWN admin tasks…like, “we all do our own filing, calendaring, expense reports and travel arrangements around here because there is no department admin.” If the answer is doing anyone else’s admin work for any % of time— nope.

    1. HonorBox*

      This is a really good point. A PIP for not doing tasks that are not part of the job description will no doubt raise eyebrows.

  40. AAM fan*

    The part that breaks my heart is the hiring of a new person with project management experience. This shows that Kevin is not just circumventing the organization’s processes, but also that he doesn’t respect you or your experience. If he did, he would be looking for ways to keep you happy and to tap into your experience. He’ll continue to treat you poorly. I’m so sorry, LW, and good luck!

  41. kiki*

    My personal response would be to alert HR– it seems like they are actively trying to prevent the boss from hiring an admin so I’m sure they’d want to know that he’s been taking advantage of the project management role that they hired for.

    But I wouldn’t have tremendous faith this will be resolved in a way where there is a completely happy ending– even if HR intervenes, LW will be working for a boss who begrudgingly allows them to be a project manager rather than an admin. And I’m sure a boss who has gone through these lengths to trick his way into a de facto admin isn’t going to make things easy for anyone.

    Unfortunately, I would start job hunting the same day I alert HR to the issue.

  42. For what it's worth*

    100% talk to a lawyer. If you do end up having to leave, you deserve a decent amount of severance.

  43. Raida*

    “Since our company doesn’t allow EAs at his level, he uses the project manager role to fill that function.”

    I’m sorry what?
    You’re saying “Since our company doesn’t offer that, he’s stealing from the business and we know it and go along with it”

    Either he has a personal assistant or he doesn’t. Which is it?

    1. Raida*

      “HR is involved in reviewing the job descriptions, screening candidates, and interviewing candidates as a control for preventing this from happening.”

      Okay, cool. So you’re saying I need to talk to HR to inform them that it IS happening. I’ll not throw you personally under the bus mate ~pointed look~ for hiding this from the business with at the very best just silence on the subject.

  44. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    My advice is get job hunting, apply for other jobs, and when you have accepted an offer in writing, speak with HR re why you’re leaving, so they have it on record and can do whatever they want with that information.

    If nothing else, if/when it comes up again, HR can’t deny knowledge. Maybe you should let Melissa know you’ve made HR aware. (And I agree with the advice to check with Melissa about HR in general first.)

    Then leave a good Glassdoor review. Once you have your reference.

    Honestly, it’s not your problem to solve. If HR want to address it they can.

  45. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Oh, and talk to a lawyer, because surely this at least raises the possibility of sex discrimination!? Mention that when you talk with HR too. A lawyer could probably give you useful phrases to throw in there.

  46. DJ*

    I’m sorry to hear this has happened to you. So many companies have laid off so many assistants expecting others to incorporate that work. But in reality they either do what’s happened in your situation or latch onto a woman in the least senior position and dump it on her. It’s devastating for the woman especially if she’s taken the time out to undertake a degree incurring income loss and debt.
    A lot of LW’s have given good advice. Also agree with Alison look for other work internally or externally and be upfront with why. You can say my skills, quals and experience are in project management, it’s my strength and I’d like to keep those skills current.

  47. Copy that*

    Go to HR, immediately, in writing. Tell them everything, and make sure that you tell them Kevin’s hired a new PM since you, and if that person is male, emphasise that, too. They need to fire or demote Kevin, and more than anything, they need to transfer OP into a PM role with another team. They need to create a PM role for her, if need be.

    I’m sick to death of employers and managers getting away with the bait and switch nonsense. I’ve experienced it more than once myself. It never ends well, and I’d love to know why the hell employers and managers do it, when they know it never ends well, and is a waste of their time and money as well.

  48. Wilbur*

    What happens if you don’t do all these tasks that are outside your job description? If his expenses aren’t submitted, he’s going to be held responsible. You probably can’t get away with not doing all of the admin work, but you can probably get more attention pointed at the work he’s supposed to be doing. Look into a transfer, start looking for jobs, and be ready to file for unemployment.

    This doesn’t sound like a job that’s beneficial to keep on your resume, and if you’re not there for very long you can just leave it off.

  49. Lunacydress*

    What’s interesting is that I’m trying to get an
    AA/EA job and a friend said I should apply to Project Manager positions because that’s what a lot of companies are calling them now. I looked at some PM listings and thought, “that’s not at all what I want to do, at least not yet.”

    1. Abundant Shrimp*

      “because that’s what a lot of companies are calling them now”

      Yikes, are the Kevins multiplying? Sincerely hope not.

  50. Not My Job*

    I was hired as a technical writer, which is what I went to school for. The job description was for technical writing. The interviews were for technical writing. After I started, the company decided they really needed a designer, instead. It was my first job out of school, so I thought I needed to be a team player. I did design work (really poorly because I have no design experience) until eight months when the company announced they were going to hire another technical writer. They shared the job description, and I asked if I could apply internally.

    To their credit (?), they were shocked. They asked why I would apply to my own job because the job description matched what I did. I had to remind them that I’d been doing design work for eight months. I don’t know why it was surprising when they’d been assigning me design tasks literally up until that morning. Fortunately, they ended up changing the open role to that of a designer, and I finally got to do what I’d been hired to do.

  51. Anna*

    I wouldn’t stay, even if Kevin starts giving you actual PM assignments. He’s already undermined you in the eyes of others by shutting you down in meetings and having you take minutes. It might be difficult at this point to have your co-workers and clients see you as anything but an admin.

  52. Curious*

    Alison, can you please shed any light on why bosses and employers pull these bait and switch moves on candidates?

    And I don’t mean in this type of case, where an awful boss is trying to get his way by deliberately violating company rules.

    I mean like when a company advertises a role for a Senior Chocolate Teapot Designer at market rate, but when the “successful” applicant starts the job, they’re told they’ll be paid $10k less and they’re actually the Chocolate Teapot Sales and Marketing Lead. The jobs are related, but don’t involve the same skill sets. And a lot of the time, you end up having to do both jobs anyway. Why do companies do this, other than the “changing operational needs” excuse?

    1. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

      Companies do this because they know that if they tell the truth about the job being advertised, no one would want it. Or maybe they want to hire someone “overqualified” for the job but don’t want to pay for the overqualification.

      1) I accepted a job after being told that the hours would be 9:00 AM to 5:30 PM, only to be told on my first day that the hours would be 9:00 AM to midnight, plus 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday, plus Sunday mornings if necessary.

      2) I accepted a job at a stock brokerage firm after being assured by the recruiter, the branch manager, the office manager, my future supervisor, and a future co-worker that experience working at a stock brokerage firm wasn’t necessary. I quickly found out that there was no training, and that they had originally wanted someone with experience, but, in order to save money, they decided to get someone without experience and expect him/her to learn everything without any training.

      3) I accepted a job as an admin/back-up receptionist, only to find out on my first day that the receptionist had just quit, so until they hired a new receptionist, I would have to be the admin and the receptionist. It was an impossible situation, because whenever I had to leave my desk to do an admin task, I also had to be sitting by the phone in my role as the receptionist. And when the admin had to go to the ladies room, the receptionist was supposed to be answering the phone. And when the receptionist had to go to lunch, the admin was supposed to take over the job of answering the phone. And when the admin had to make dozens of copies on the copier, she had to stand next to the copier and wait for the copies, because if she didn’t wait and just walked away, she would return and find out that someone had dumped the copies on the floor and walked all over them. But if she just stood there, that was wrong, because she, in her role as receptionist, was supposed to be sitting at the front desk, answering the phone.

      4) I accepted a job as an executive assistant, only to find out on my first day that the receptionist was on vacation, and I would have to fill in for her until her return. A few days later, I was told that I was doing such a good job that I would be the permanent receptionist, and that when the receptionist returned, she would be given another job. I soon found out that there wasn’t any receptionist on vacation – they had planned all along to have me be the receptionist. I found out that they didn’t like the applicants who responded to their ad for a receptionist, so they decided to advertise for an executive assistant, hoping that they would like those applicants better.

      1. Abundant Shrimp*

        I had one. A dotcom startup (very late 90s) hired me for a developer role, and in fact spent 30 minutes on the phone with me trying to convince me to take it, because the location was not great (downtown, paid parking, insane traffic) and the pay too low for that. My soon-to-be boss won me over with “this is cutting-edge tech you’ll be doing, if you still don’t like it here after a year, you’ll be able to go anywhere with your new skills”. On my first day, they had me stand up in an all-hands and said “This is Shrimp. She doesn’t know it, but she’ll be going to (location 40 miles from downtown and 65 miles from my home)”. Apparently, my boss’s friend, who ran a small consulting business, had his only dev quit, and my boss promised that I’d fill in. The work was maintaining an old application, written on an obsolete platform, for a big manufacturing company. The opposite of what I’d been promised. Plus the 65 mile commute in the dead of winter in a lake-effect snow belt area! I was assured that this would be a part-time, temporary arrangement and for a while, it really was part-time – until, two months in, there was a conflict and I was told “Boss’s Friend’s stuff comes first, in fact it is going to be fulltime for you” and it was not temporary, it was my permanent job as it turned out. I started looking for work the next day and had a job offer two weeks later, from a place where I ended up working for six years. Only way they’d given it away during the interview process was when they asked how I felt about occasionally having to travel to a client’s site, and about occasionally working with older tech. Other than that, I made it to my first day at that job none the wiser about what the job really was.

        PS. wow, yours are scary!

        1. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

          Yours is worse! I think I would have quit on the spot if I were told on my first day that I would be working at another company (not the company that I thought had hired me) that was 65 miles away. But, knowing me, I probably would have given two weeks notice. Traveling 65 miles by bus or train is one thing, but by car – oh my goodness, no!

          1. Abundant Shrimp*

            Oh thank you! And, because of the part-timeness of this job, a lot of times, I would come to the downtown office in the morning, park, pay the parking fee, work there for a bit, be told to go to Other Location, work there for a few more hours, come back, park again, pay the parking fee again… It was my 3rd year in the country and my 3rd job there (my first having been an entry-level one) and my pay was not enough for that nonsense in any way!

  53. E.E. Dalton*

    I had the same thing happen to me. I left my job for the perceived next rung in [healthcare administration] career but went from private practice to a large organization and the role was completely designed to be an EA (he referred to me as his EA in emails) shaded as something else. It was very demoralizing and complaining felt like I was dismissing EA’s work. No, it’s that it wasn’t the job I wanted. Basically after 11 months, my old practice called me back and created a new role for me to return. I am now part of the long line of people who had the job helping the new person until they inevitably leave too.

  54. 2e*

    My last permanent job was a comms role with some admin responsibilities—probably a 90/10 or 85/15 split? It wasn’t unusual for me to go a week or two with basically no admin tasks; in those periods, I was doing only higher-level copywriting, technical writing, etc.

    Fast forward to me filing a disability discrimination complaint against the company.

    The complaint isn’t about the job description: I accepted the job knowing that admin would be part of the role. It’s a small company, and I don’t think it was unreasonable for them to combine the responsibilities into one role. (Briefly: the complaint encompasses refusal to provide reasonable accommodations, hostile work environment/psychological abuse, and retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint.)

    But the job description is *becoming* relevant because the company is now arguing that I was in fact an administrative assistant with an inflated title. I think this argument is intended to try to limit potential damages and undermine my credibility, but I would also think that my ex-supervisor/grandboss we’re very pleased to be able to submit a formal statement about how little I deserved to be valued. (I have a new, visceral understanding of the ways in which a legal process can retraumatize a victim…)

    If I’d known a few years ago what I know now, I would have kept much more precise records of time/tasks by category. I have documentation that will, I think, make it clear that my title was accurate—but I’d love to be able to say, for instance, “in [month], I spent approximately 12 hours on administrative tasks, out of 150 hours worked.”

    I’m wondering if LW might benefit from keeping that kind of log? I see a few other comments upthread about potential gender discrimination (i.e., if the other PM position goes to a man who is then given duties of a PM), and I’d think it would be easier to make that case with that kind of documentation.

  55. Frances*

    Many years ago I applied for a job known as Staff Accountant. It was for a non profit firm. I went on two interviews and was eventually offered the position. I started there six weeks later and bang I later learned that it was an Accounting Manager Position. I lasted there five years though. The position didn’t make a whole lot of money but I learned a lot. But I’m sure if I found out I was a receptionist I wouldn’t be so happy neither because I applied for Accounting.

  56. Same Same*

    OP I feel like I could have written this letter! I started my job two months ago and this is exactly what it turned out to be. Shockingly, I have a counterpart at another site with a PhD who does not seem bothered by the fact that we are just admin assistants. It is driving me bonkers. Plus, it honestly isn’t playing to my strengths because I am not great at scheduling and ordering catering. I started applying for jobs after the second week and am happy to confirm I just signed an offer this morning and will be making 20k more than this role. I recommend you get out and consider this job a lily pad to jump to the next. Good luck!

  57. RJ*

    I actually witnessed a similar situation at a toxic job I was at during COVID for a few months. Carol was hired as a Project Manager. We also had a Project Coordinator position that had been open for far longer than the PM role. Instead of giving Carol the role she was interviewed/hired for, she was given the role of Project Coordinator (the job description is basically what OP is doing now at bail/switch job). Carol left within a week and I hope filed a lawsuit against them.

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