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Recently I have been assigned to a new project. But my manager is not giving any work to me. I don't know how to discuss this with my manager.

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A good way to do this is a private conversation with the manager - book some time on the manager's calendar. By booking time you set up the space for a private and undisturbed conversation. That way, we can hope that the manager will give you undivided attention, and also be able to say things that could not be said in public.

Start with - "I'm free right now. I can start on this project now." - as there could be a chance that the manager is thinking you still have work on some other project. If that's not true - for example, if a previous project wanted you for some final work, or even as a back-up for any surprises - be clear. But make it known that you're ready for some starting tasks - even if you are not completely free.

If that doesn't end with the manager giving you something to do... ask. A good set of questions is "what is the timeline for this project? When does it start? What does it need before it can start?" - that will give one of two answers:

  1. Some information as to why the project hasn't started yet. It may be that the manager both didn't know you were available, and also that there are blockers to getting the project started, that haven't been clear to you. If this is true, get into a discussion about dates, and get an agreement with the manager on what you'll do while you wait.
  2. "The project has started" - at which point, ask a direction question - "Is there a reason why I haven't been assigned tasks?".

One thing to be aware of in the mix is that some teams and managers are direct in assigning work, others expect people to jump in. Usually there's a common culture for this in a given workplace - but you could have had a change of managers where your previous manager assigned tasks, but this one expects you to look around and claim a task for yourself. Often with engineering/science jobs, also, a person is expected to figure out what needs to be done and do it more and more as they become higher and higher seniority - it's expected that greater experience requires less direction. That change is usually clear, however, in the job's responsibilities. I would be surprised if there was a big change from one project to another within the same company.

This is a heavyweight answer to what could be a light question however - if you haven't tried finding the manager for a quick minute and saying "hey, I'm free, where do I get started?" - give it a shot. It may be as easy as that.

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