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The head of my department (think "head of back end engineers") asked me to run a cross company meeting for the department, that is to happen next week because he will be on vacation.

I declined and told him I do not feel comfortable doing that at all, I do not have people skills and having to run a company wide meeting and manage the discussion and all these people will be extremely nerve wracking for me.

He is like "ok", until 40 minutes later, when he messages me again and tells me that I have to do it, because he is the head of the department and he says so, and it's also my responsibility as a senior engineer.

I asked him if he is ordering me right now, and he said that he is in fact ordering me.

That's the 1st time I hear that I am a "senior engineer" by the way, since my official title is just "developer".

I feel abused, should I report this to HR?

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    It might just be your boss being a dick. But the fact pattern (boss is on vacation, so you've been stepped up to act in his stead, in a context with company-wide visibility) is usually a big positive for your career, not a negative.
    – Kaz
    Jun 30 at 19:28
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    @user1658958 do you directly report to this person or to someone else within the organization?
    – sf02
    Jun 30 at 19:31
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    @user1658958 Under your company structure, does the department head have the authority to ask/order you to do work?
    – sf02
    Jun 30 at 19:56
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    @user1658958, so does he have the authority to tell you to do it or not? Does your team leader have the authority to tell you to do it or not? Who at your company has the authority to tell you what work you should be doing?
    – Seth R
    Jun 30 at 20:07
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    @user1658968 - don’t get caught up in titles, you being asked to fill in is a positive thing. Sounds like your head of backend…ask for a raise and title change after you run the meeting successfully
    – Donald
    Jul 1 at 2:14
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It is perfectly normal for a developer or senior engineer or someone else to run a meeting when the normal person running the meeting is going to be out. (Or, where I work, when they are there, but want someone else to get the practice.)

It sounds like it is a normally scheduled meeting, so the schedule and invitations are probably already set - you just have to be the MC, so to speak. If there is a regular agenda, that limits your responsibility even more.

But, you're not comfortable in this role, and don't want to do it.

You can go to your team lead, and ask for their guidance. In fact, you should anyway, so they know that was put on your list of responsibilities. They might offer to run it instead (doubtful). If they agree that you are to run it, then you'll need to run it. It's a bit late to suggest Toast Masters so you are more comfortable speaking in front of people, but since it is a regular meeting, you probably don't have to do more than direct the meeting so you keep on the agenda. It could go something like this.

X asked me to lead the meeting today, as he is out. We already have the agenda, and the R&D Dept is supposed to start with their update.

Then, let them talk. If they seem to get off topic or are going so long that there won't be time, you can interrupt...

Could we get back to the topic on hand? (or) We have a lot of topics to get through, could you wrap this up in the next few minutes so the next department can give their updates?

If you've been paying attention in previous meetings, you should have an idea of what the meeting leader does. Unless the normal leader spends a lot of time talking, you just need to direct the rest of the people to follow the agenda. And if he does normally spend a lot of time talking, you don't have to -- follow the agenda, and end the meeting a bit earlier. People will not be offendend.

Going to HR is a bad idea - it makes you look like someone who isn't willing to step up and expand your skills. Speaking in front of people and running meetings are useful skills, even for developers.

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It's not abusive for them to ask you to run a meeting. Just run the meeting.

Everyone sometimes has to do stuff they don't like or don't feel comfortable doing - your boss is not obligated to refrain from assigning you stuff for that reason.

If they are going to ask you to do this on a regular basis and you have a skill gap in this area, I would encourage you to ask for more training. You might want to go to Toastmasters, for example.

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If I was you, I would do following things:

1, Ask your head, what he expected from the meeting. You asked in this way: As usual, or anything else.

2, Give the answer from you head, to your team lead, and ask his comment (it is fine if he don't answer you, but just let him now). But if he answer you what else you need to do, then do it.

3, Send email invitation to all the parties, and clearly let them aware the head will in vocation, and you run the meeting. If they have any comment, then resolve it now (tell your head). In the email, write down your meeting agenda.

4, Run the schedule exactly to the agenda, and record the whole duration. Record the voice, at least.

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There absolutely something happen between your head and your team lead, or there must something you don't know. What you can do is, not let anyone has any surprise in the meeting, and finish according to the agenda. Let everyone has an impression that "you claimed to act like that, then the truth is like that, no surprise." ==> This is for next time you are asked to do the same thing.

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  • I wish I could fully understand your last paragraph, but I am kinda guessing parts of it by the context. Can you help me a little? So you are suggesting I do as I am told and do everything exactly according to the meeting agenda, in order to prove.. ? I am not sure I get the last part. Thanks. Jun 30 at 21:41
  • Step 1: Talk to your head, talk to your TL, make an agenda (PDF file? PPT file? ) and post to them before you have the meeting. If anything change, make sure you send them the updated version (for example, file name is agenda_v1.1.ppt )
    – Micheal
    Jun 30 at 22:42
  • Step 2: Create an event, and send to every one you need, your head would be in optional list. If your TL is going to join, then in Mandatory list. In this step, you make sure everyone in the meeting will know you run the meeting, and with the agenda content.
    – Micheal
    Jun 30 at 22:44
  • Step 3: During the meeting, you'd better make a vedio record, or at least voice record. And refuse to talk about anything not in the agenda. If anyone talk about something not belong to agenda, don't say anything, just remind him this is not in the meeting agenda, then is ok. Remember to mark down anything special. And DONT MAKE ANY DECISION!!!
    – Micheal
    Jun 30 at 22:45
  • Step 4: Submit what you marked down in the meeting to your TL and your head. Don't handle it, don't handle it. Because you were just told to run the meeting.
    – Micheal
    Jun 30 at 22:47

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