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I have been working for a fairly large company for almost a year, in Silicon Valley (in the US). This is my second job out of college. I worked for my previous company for about 5 years. The reason I am telling this is because I don't want to be perceived as a job hopper, but at the same time I want to enjoy my work.

Having said that, I am in a situation where my current job did not turn out to be what I had expected. For example:

  1. It is not challenging.
  2. I don't necessarily enjoy the nature of the work (sort of documentation type work).
  3. There are hardly any opportunities to collaborate with other team members or my own team members. I enjoy collaborating and brain-stormming, and I feel isolated.

So my question(s) are:

  1. How should (or should) I tell my immediate boss about all this at the same time keeping the backlash at minimum?

  2. Every 4-5 months my super boss has meetings with each individual team member and he/she always asks a question on the lines of "What do you like and not like about this job?" Would it be appropriate to tell him at that time? Or should I stay away from traps like those?

  3. Should I go to my HR and confidentially tell them that I don't like what I am doing? Are they likely to go and tell this to my boss? How does the confidentially works with HR in cases like these?

Some comments:

  • My first preference would be to look for something within the company in other departments.
  • If required I am ready to move on and find a job at another company.
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Do you not have any sort of regular meetings with your boss? This seems to be a conversation topic you would have in a 1-on-1 meeting with your boss over your first three bullet points. –  enderland Oct 20 '12 at 4:07
    
What do you like about the job? There are some jobs that are "comfortable prisons" due to great pay, benefits, perks, location, etc. in spite of being unrewarding professionally. Are you in that situation? –  jfrankcarr Oct 20 '12 at 14:49
    
@jfrankcarr You are almost there. The benefits are good but the pay is not that great (obviously because of the nature of the job and I understand that). My boss has been in this role for over 10 years and likes this environment...as you rightly said "comfortable prisons" but I am quite ambitious and want to do exciting and challenging roles. I don't want to be pigeon-holed in this role. –  modest Oct 22 '12 at 6:34
    
@modest - If you don't enjoy your job you should find a job you are able to enjoy. Unless you make a habit of leaving a job because you don't enjoy it, you leaving a job quickly, isn't a negative thing. Don't be worried about little things like leaving a bad job. –  Ramhound Oct 22 '12 at 14:30
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3 Answers 3

You should certainly raise the above with your manager, but you should phrase it similarly to how you phrased the issues in your question (rather then outright saying that you are not enjoying your job).

You should phrase the issues in such a way that your manager knows what he can do about it - so you are trying to provide a solution or way forward:

  • You are not feeling challenged in this role and would welcome more challenging work
  • As well as more challenging work, you would be interested in more varied work (give examples)
  • Explain that you feel isolated and that you would like to work with others in a collaborative fashion

Brought up in this manner, these are things that your manager can and should address, possibly by recommending that you move to a different department or a different position.

The next step is to discuss issues with HR, but only if nothing happens. I don't believe such issues would be considered confidential and such issues are likely to get back to your manager (unless it is explicitly understood that the manager should not know about this). They may be able to suggest a move to a different department or role.

If the discussions with your manager and HR do not bear fruit, then you should discuss this with your "super boss" when asked about what you are liking/disliking, in the same vein as above.

If all this fails, it is your cue to move on.

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You'll want to try phrasing these things less negatively:

For example:

It is not challenging.

Say "I am ready for more complex challenges!"

I don't necessarily enjoy what this job has turned out to be all about

Say "I feel I have mastered my current assigned tasks and am interested in learning more about $AreaYouWantToWorkIn"

There are hardly any opportunities to collaborate with other team members or my own team members...

This is a bit more complicated. You could try to word it as "I believe we could strengthen our team and improve ourselves if we collaborate more".

It's important to avoid saying negative things such as "I'm not happy with my job" and try to keep a positive spin on it such as "I'm eager to try new challenges and opportunities".

As for when:

If your boss has regular 1-on-1 meetings with all staff and even asks leading questions that could turn into a conversation on this topic, YES bring it up at that time. He is actually inviting you to discuss such issues, so take advantage of the opportunity. I've seen some managers so busy they only really have time to schedule 1-on-1's with their many many staff once a year for Performance Reviews.

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Be specific when you have specific things in mind. If you are doing things that rank low on your enjoyment scale now, an open invitation to embrace new challenges may bring more of the same. When the opportunity to open a door to new challenges hits you in the face, try to choose the door you want to leave the imprint: give persuasive examples of things you would more than likely like, and reasons or evidence that it is something you would reasonably be able to do. For example, if you want a more hands-on-technical role, remind them of all the domain knowledge you have from the current role –  JustinC Oct 31 '12 at 5:00
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A question to ask yourself before you go in -

  • What elements that you dislike were clear in the interview process? For example, did you know your primrary responsibility would be documentation?

  • What elements that you dislike may be temporary - for example, are you writing documentation until the next release gets going and then you'll do something else?

  • What are cultural issues that may not change no matter where you work - collaborative style may be one of these.

  • What are cases where neither you, nor the manager would have known that there was a mismatch? Being bored strikes me a likely case.

In all cases, I'd advise you to talk to your direct manager, and then escalate to the super boss, and then HR (in that order) if it doesn't seem to matter to your first manager. But, how you approach the conversation is key. In all cases, you want to be ready with your own ideas for solving the problem and an understanding that they may have other information an ideas...

Here's some examples based on the answers to the questions above:

  • Job is different than described in interview - "I am glad to stretch my role for the team, but this isn't what I understood the job to be in the interview. It was described as X, and I have done no X and a LOT of Y, this isn't my career focus. I'd like to do X, and it looks like there are opportunities to help with X over here - would it be possible to consider a transition?"
  • Temporary reassignment to something you don't like - "I understand you need help with X and that's not really what I signed up for. I'm glad to help out for a short time, but can you give me a clear picture on when I can return to the work I prefer? To be honest, I won't remain happy here if I keep doing this work for more than n months"
  • Cultural issues - "I see we don't do X (brainstorming, collaboration) - I've found it to be really valuable because... - would it be OK if I tried to get the team going with X by doing these things....?"
  • Skill mismatch - "How do you think I'm doing with this work?" Be ready for good OR bad feedback. If the feedback is bad, your challenge is addressing the issue, and it's unlikely that you will get different work until you can address the issues in the current work. But if the answer is "you do a great job!" then it's a good time to say - "how about if I take on this new challenge??" - and have one in mind. Sometimes for grunt work that no one likes, the best next challenge is to automate or simplify it, so the work is minimized and spread around more easily.

Unless you have a reason not to trust your direct management, I'd start there. You reiterate to upper management when they ask, if no changes are addressed, but it's a kindness to you manager who most controls you work assignments to give them the heads up first. In all cases, they WILL hear about it, so if they don't hear from you, the conversation will be "why didn't you tell me?" instead of focusing on fixing the problem.

There's one exception - if you have GREAT repore with the senior management and poor repore with your direct managetment, you can take the route of bouncing ideas off senior management on how to talk to your nearest management... but that requires a LOT of trust that you have a mentoring relationship, instead of the traditional heirarchial connection.

Addition - team mission

@Modest had a great question - when saying "I don't really like X", what are the ramifications when your boss also does X?

For me, this comes down to team awareness. The key is - does your team exist, primarily, because of the need to do X? For example, if you are the documentation team, and X=write documentation - then your team would not exist if there was no need for documentation, and when your team does things that are NOT part of the creation of documentation, you've gotten distracted.

OTOH - if you are designing a tool, and documentation is a necessarily evil - then it's as if this sort of "X" is a tithe on your time. If you stopped writing documentation because you either automated it entirely, or it stopped being useful, you wouldn't loose your mission, you'd actually be more efficient at your mission, cause you'd have that documentation-writing time available. Your boss may still be writing documentation, in fact, many bosses will take less-critical work, becuase it works well in balance with the rest of the team needs while more mission-critical work can be done more efficiently by individual contributors.

So... before you have a conversation of not liking X with your X-doing boss, figure out which of these two stereotypes your team fits. You'll want a different tact for the two cases...

  • Case 1 - you have joined the wrong team. The team exists for X and you hate doing it. While it's still good team-playing to make X more efficient, in the end, you may NEVER be happy doing it, because you simply don't like this work. You have more leverage if you were originally promised a different role, but even if this is what you signed up for and you hate it, it's time to talk about how you could change teams. In this case, it's OK if your boss loves X and you hate X - you are not the right guy for this team. Realizing it and taking steps to find a better fit position is fair and it's better to have the conversation with both your boss and your boss' boss than to simply become unproductive.

  • Case 2 - X is a tithe on a team that does Y - you have a good case for being a hero in proposing that your team finds a way to do less X and more Y. It's unlikely that X is anyone's favorite thing - and even if your boss loves X, the mission is Y and helping do more Y should be well received. Just take it from the prospective of a proposal for answering the need that X fills while making the work easier/faster/less annoying - and not whining and simply trying to avoid it. However, knowing that your boss does it raises the flag that you want to speak carefully about X. Keep your opinions about X to a factual/strategic point (X is not our success condition) and avoid personal opinions about how useless, lame, unchallenging or otherwise moronic X may be.

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Especaily like the skill mismatch part, people seem totally unaware that if they blow off the work they aren't interested in but have been assigned to do, then no one will want to give them the more interesting work. I don't know if the OP is doing that, but it's a certainty he won't get more interesting work if he is. –  HLGEM Oct 19 '12 at 18:35
    
Thanks - there's a lot to be said for sticking with it until you get it right, but no way of knowning the other side from the post... @HLGEM –  bethlakshmi Oct 22 '12 at 14:06
    
@bethlakshmi - Thanks for the all suggestion and ideas. One concern that I have is when I say to my boss "I don't like doing X" is that my boss also does 'X' besides supervising me, so chances are that he/she might get offended since he does the same thing. Any suggestions on how to tackle that? –  modest Oct 24 '12 at 17:19
    
@modest - I need too many characters, I'll add to the answer. –  bethlakshmi Oct 24 '12 at 17:31
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