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Background

At my workplace, we have a "Matrix Management" system. That means everyone has two people to report to: their Day-to-Day manager who deals with daily technical tasks, and their Section Manager, who serves a more background role and is the one who deals directly with the salary. You could say the section manager serves a sort of HR rols (and yes, I know HR is not your friend).


My Day-To-Day manager has just seemed so erratic, negative, and micromanaging recently. I can't really pinpoint when it exactly began, but I will give my view of the situation.

I started on the team back in mid February. My role was sort of explained to me, but it was never cut and dry what team I thought I was on. My understanding was that "I'm on Team A, and I can lend support to Team B, particularly with a certain task they are doing". The problem is, people aren't really good at ramping up new people in my area.

Unrelated (but might contain relevant info) Tangent: For example, the Team B task I barely did because it came as a surprise, I never knew who the manager of Team B was until he came by my desk and started speaking rushedly about the task I was supposed to do. Even one of my teammates from Team A was like "You need a beer?" because she was on board with me with not understanding what was going on. Not even knowing where to start asking questions, I was mostly an observer of that task. I had no idea what I was doing the whole time.

General Description of Work Tasks

In terms of Team A, there isn't a formal task assignment system. The main categories of tasks we do are

  1. We get certain emails to start a specific Team A process and we do them by a certain date specified in an Email. It takes about 30 min to an hour, after which other people from other teams need to approve that it fits a certain standard.

  2. Software tickets for people running systems in the field. These have "due dates" on them, but there isn't really a formalized process for them and they come and go whenever issues occur in the field that they cannot solve.

  3. Updating the version of a project by coordinating large merges of code. These are universally known to be a pain and there is an automation planned for these. But they can take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, and there is a process for them, but the coordination part gets very messy very fast.

  4. Generating a release document for the customer. These take about as long as the tasks in point 1 if it were not for a long cumbersome script that takes 40 min to a few hours simply to generate a document.

  5. If we are not doing any of the above 4, we offer support to other teams, namely Team B.

Weird Situations

  1. I've reached out to people early on when I did not have many of the tasks from 1 - 4, but then explicitly told by my manager NOT to work on some tasks, and never given a reason.

    a. In one case, she asked me to work on a task from #2, then three hours later, interrogated me on who assigned me the task. To which I responded: "You assigned me the task". She then told me to stop working on it without giving a reason. Later I found out we have very limited access to the system to test tickets on.

  2. I've asked questions to other team members and NOT initially given a reason.

    a. Only later I found out I was asking someone who wrote a ticket for the task in the first place.
    b. My manager has since not given me a list, or a comprehensive description of people to talk to about specific matters.

  3. I spent about 3 weeks bungling around with a task from #3, then apparently I was reamed out by my manager and she took the task from me when I was screwing up how merging went. At this point she asked I CC her in every email, and she became particularly misanthropic after that. Note I was only on the team a month and a half at that point. She is currently working on the task and having a tough time with it as well. Around this point I went to my section manager to explain the situation.


Going to Section Manager

After the first 3 situations, I spoke to my Section Manager. I asked her "What is the process that I am missing, there doesn't seem to be a process to what I am doing." She said a few things: 1. It's a cultural thing. Handling multiple products at once with the same importance creates issues with channels of communication. There is an "unwritten rule" as to different hierarchies. 2. I (the Section Manager) feel what you are experiencing, because I face similar conundrums 3. My Task manager went to the Section Manage worried that she would not finish all the tasks she has on her plate. My Section Manager said that my Task manager ensure I am being ramped on well. 4. I should communicate and establish a closer relationship with my task manager. 4. I (the Section Manager) am here, let me know if you want to go to another team.

This would have been nice to know from my task manager. But I had to go to my Section Manager to understand what was going on.


Weird Situations (continued)

After going to the section manager, I get into this situation.

  1. She told me "Don't stand up for Team B if you aren't working on a task for them" right in front of Team B when I was standing up for them. The thing is Team B is the team my Section Manager said I was also a part of In this case my task manager was right in that I wasn't doing a task for them at the time, but I was giving a small input of different task I helped team B start, my manager just happened to catch me when I wasn't talking.

Question

I'm rarely praised for what I do, and I feel constantly pressured given the above situation. How do I handle my seemingly eratic, negative manager?

  • 2
    Maybe you could shorten the question a bit? It may even serve you to make the situation clear for yourself. – BigMadAndy Apr 26 at 16:53
  • @BigMadAndy Shortening it would be better for this format, but I personally don't like excluding details in this case. I will always be partial to myself, and leaving out details will risk extenuating that bias. – isakbob Apr 26 at 17:09
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Your section manager has given you an easy answer. She said "let me know if you want to go to another team". It seems pretty clear that you want to go to another team. Let her know.

At the same time, since that might take a while, get clarification from the section manager on the Team A vs Team B thing.

Beyond that, follow the task manager's demands and try to fade into the woodwork long enough to transfer out. Hopefully it won't take too long.

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