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At a new work place, I contributed in a small way to several projects but have not had a real opportunity to lead one (actually had one assigned by my manager, but initial performance was not stellar and likely as a result, the team leaned back onto my manager, who has been their usual contact for a similar role on past projects).

My manager is a super cool boss, and is generally okay with what I proposed (unless he can foresee some detrimental consequence of the proposal). At times, however, I would "initiate" (?) something without getting his approval first. One recent event (or a non-event) was in a group meeting, one member from another department had a request regarding a project but the request was deemed unneeded for the project by the majority and was not executed. Since I considered the request a simple task, I took it upon myself and did what was asked and provided the result by email to the requester (and cc'ed my manager).

Q1. Is my action considered presumptuous especially since multiple members on the team concurred that the request was not needed for the project?

Q2. My manager did reply to my email with a "THANKS" in cap ? not sure why all cap ?

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    If the task was unneeded, it doesn't matter it was easy, you shouldn't have done it. Or do you always do things that don't need to be done just because they are "easy"? Your boss was upset and had good reasons to be. – BigMadAndy Jun 7 '19 at 21:15
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Unfortunately, I don't think any of us can answer whether or not your boss (or anyone else) found this presumptuous. It'll depend heavily on the culture and your boss's attitudes and approach to work management. Some bosses might like this. Some might think you're out of line.

As a frame challenge to your question, I think it would be reasonably low effort to avoid this in the future by checking in with your boss before performing work he hasn't specifically authorized. A quick note could resolve this before it's gotten to the point of wondering if you're being presumptuous:

Hey boss, during that team meeting John asked for that summaries report. Even though it seemed like no one else needed it, I was thinking it would only take me a few minutes to do it, so I was wondering if I should proceed?

This way, you're allowing your boss to do his job and manage your workload. It comes as a surprise to some individual contributors that decisions about what work gets worked on aren't always made strictly on level of effort - there may be other reasons why your boss may or may not want a specific task done. Perhaps he doesn't want John to get "trained" to just throw out requests in meetings or something like that.

At any rate, since that's all in hindsight, you could still approach your boss with a modified version of the above:

Hey boss, I think you saw that I went ahead with that report for John - I just wanted to check in quick, are you OK with me doing low-effort work like this on my own, or would you like me to check with you first?

This way, you're getting some overall direction from him. After all, maybe he's totally okay with you picking this stuff up.

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  • Great tips. I will implement it to gauge how my boss would react to future events. – B Chen Jun 7 '19 at 18:40
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It sounds like you have a good relationship with your manager, so I suggest that you ask both questions of your manager. You'll get the best answers there.

Q1. Is my action considered presumptuous especially since multiple members on the team concurred that the request was not needed for the project?

I don't think it's presumptuous at all -- sounds like you did a favor for another member of the team. If you were able to complete this extra task along with all of your other work, you've gone above and beyond and I'm sure your colleague is grateful.

Q2. My manager did reply to my email with a "THANKS" in cap ? not sure why all cap ?

I wouldn't read into it. My guess is that it is a genuine note of gratitude. Speaking with the sender face to face is the best way to get clarity.


Your manager sounds quite competent in their role. Instead of being a "task-master" (managing by delegating tasks and checking if they're complete) your manager has shown a desire for you to grow in your role and is ready to back you up when you get into trouble. You should feel confident being a bit entrepreneurial in your role -- taking on extra work or making decisions that you might not have in the past -- your manager is there to help you develop and recover from the occasional mistake.

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