Work hog or unskilled manager?

Q. My manager will not give me any work to do, but puts on my reviews that I need to learn all aspects of my position. My manager works from home several days a week and tells me she needs the work to get all her hours, but even when she is in the office, she does the work that I am supposed to be doing. What should I do?

A. Wanting the opportunity to perform your job is an admiral goal, and one you share with others. The Job Doc has had many questions similar to yours, so you are not alone in this difficult situation. The world of work is complicated by the challenges employees, supervisors and managers face, especially when there seem to be conflicting needs.

You need to be able to get work, learn all aspects of your job and do your job; your manager “needs to get all her hours” which seems to put you at odds. Understanding what this means to her, (is it all about compensation?) and why it negatively impacts your work load will be important to move the situation to a positive resolution. .
Is your manager new to the role? Managing people can be challenging particularly if the manager in question is used to working independently. That said consider it your professional obligation to yourself to do everything possible to remedy the situation for the sake of your own professional growth and livelihood. Having a discussion with her about your need to perform your work well, and eliminate any conflict this causes for her may not be easy, but I believe it will be the best place to begin. If it doesn’t go smoothly and lead to resolution, you may need to escalate the issue to her manager, or a human resources person who can help take apart the issue, and recommend solutions
While many people hope to tell the manager what to do, it is more effective to focus on what you can impact. Hopefully the actions you take, and the behaviors you exhibit will bring about the changes in the work place that you look for. A reasonable action plan would start with a review of your job description. If you don’t have one, you can offer to discuss this with her and take responsibility for the first draft so that your responsibilities are clear to all involved. If you have human resources, they should be able to help you with this project. Ask what she likes most and least about her position and see if you can start to get more work by offering to take some of the things she doesn’t like to do. Also, this is a great time to express your desire to prove yourself to her and to contribute to her success as well as your own.
Your goal is to walk away from that meeting with both of you having a clear understanding of your role, the work you have to do, how much time it takes, and if there are additional tasks or projects where you can share responsibility or lead.

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