columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

A reader asks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green responds:

You need to have a serious heart-to-heart with her.

You note that you've pointed out in your one-on-ones that you need time to work on your programs and it's falling on deaf ears -- but that's probably because she's perfectly happy with the way your time is currently being used and doesn't see a real need to change that. So you need to explain that you see a problem with it -- that you signed on to do X, that X is what you want to be doing, and that you're concerned that the job has turned out to be Y.

This is a reasonable conversation to have. You were promised a particular role and you accepted the job under those terms. She's now changed the terms, and it's entirely reasonable to point that out, explain that you'd like to do what you were hired for, and discuss whether that's still possible (and, if she says it's possible, what the timeline is for making that happen and what specific steps need to be taken to make it happen).

Say something like this: "I want to talk to you about my role. My understanding when I was hired was that I'd be doing primarily training and writing, and I was excited to come on board because those are the areas I want to work in. I've been glad to help out in other areas since there was a need, but at this point I'm becoming concerned about the fact that I'm not doing much of what I was brought on for. Training and writing are really what I want to spend my time on professionally, so I'd like to get a sense from you of whether the role is likely to go back to what we originally talked about."

That said, if she has a pattern of doing this to others, it's possible that this conversation won't change things. But if nothing else, it will bring the issue to the surface and you'll get much better information about whether you're likely to see the change you want. If it's not going to happen, it's better for you to know that so that you can figure out if you want the job under these new terms.

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Published on: Feb 12, 2019
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