Q. I started a job with a new company 4 months ago. When I was hired, I was told my responsibilities were still up in the air, but for training purposes I would support four people in my group with their work. A month ago I was given permanent areas of responsibility.
A certain vice president continues to contact me directly for assistance, even though this VP works in an area supported by a different person. Not wanting to appear anything but helpful and team oriented, I have responded to these requests, and then forwarded the emails along to the team member who is actually responsible, usually with a message like “Would you like me to handle this?” Her response has always been “yes.”
While my workload from my responsibilities is not so heavy that I cannot take on these extra projects, I am concerned with my teammate’s lack of communication with her areas of support. She has not clarified to this VP that she is still his main contact in our group. Nor has she acknowledged to me that this work is not really my responsibility anymore.
I certainly do not want to be a “that’s not my job” person. Should I just bite my tongue and assume that at some point this teammate will go back to doing her work or is there a way I can address this without coming off as unhelpful?
A. Congratulations on the new job, and for being smart enough not to start the “it’s not my job” conversation when senior people approach you for support. Your training period gave you exposure to vice presidents, and it seems one of those VP’s liked what and how you offered support, or forgot or ignored the reassignment of support people. I’d suggest assuming the VP likes the way you work is a strong possibility. You may find that continuing to support this person who is very satisfied with your work is a better outcome than passing him back to your colleague. The kind of recognition that may follow can often provide better growth opportunities over the long haul. You might decide speaking to your manager about continuing to support this VP is fine with you, but you want to make sure responsibilities are clear. If not, you have another option.
Your question to the team member who easily relinquished her responsibility set her up for a very agreeable “yes”. When asking delicate questions try to focus on allowing the other person to make a choice or decision rather than being told what to do, or having an easy out.
Your conversation might have produced a different outcome placing responsibility where it should have been with a comment like “I don’t want to step on your toes. I know you are supposed to support this VP, but he may not be clear on that. Do you want to talk to him, or our manager to clear up any misunderstandings? I’ll complete this task, and let me know what the outcome of the conversation is ok?” You have offered her the option of how to deal with any confusion, and it is clearly her responsibility. You have responded to the VP’s request, which you always want to make sure to do.
The more senior people who experience the skills you have and the positive attitude and energy you bring to your work the better. But you don’t want to be so over utilized that you can’t continue to produce super deliverables, so making sure the situation is clear will help. If the VP wants you on his team, he has the option of speaking to your manager to make sure that his support becomes part of your area of responsibility. You can then be assigned those tasks, held responsible for them, and rewarded for the successful completion. You colleague can have her own team and deal with their support issues with no confusion over where priorities lie.