1

Background

I work as an engineer for a large multinational consulting firm. My job includes collecting available data, running engineering calculations, generating reports and communicating with colleagues about the progress of various small projects. I have been working in this role for about 3-4 months now.

Situation

In my first day of work, my direct manager introduced me to a colleague with slightly more experience than me in these particular projects. After a few months, my impressions about this person include the following:

  • They appear to be responsible for distributing these various small projects to the team members. They routinely assign me projects to work on.
  • They showed me some of the ropes on how to actually carry out the work
  • They are generally available and open to answer questions
  • They rarely, if ever, check in with me to ask about the status of the projects I am assigned.

Question

My question mainly pertains to my last impression, namely:

They rarely, if ever, check in with me to ask about the status of the projects I am assigned.

In the first couple of months, I showed a lot of initiative by regularly calling and ensuring that me and this person were on the same page regarding progress of the various projects.

Unfortunately, the constant initiative required on my end has proven to be quite draining. I have to admit that this has also makes me a little resentful, since I have an expectation that they check in every now and then.

Is it reasonable to expect that colleagues/managers regularly check in with those that they delegate work to? Or am I being high-maintenance, and need to act more responsibly?

4
  • @JoeStrazzere It's more the fact I'm the one constantly doing the calling which drains my energy. I don't think I am overdoing it. For instance, when I refrain from calling, I get radio silence. I've tried this and it can go on for at least a week. If I refrained from calling more than that, I'm quite sure there would still be radio silence, so I haven't risked it.
    – user32882
    Dec 23, 2021 at 16:25
  • @JoeStrazzere, Like I said, it's not the act of calling itself. It's the fact I have to constantly keep reaching out. Either that or get radio silence. I don't necessarily need them to constantly feed/micromanage me. An occasional check-in would be nice though.
    – user32882
    Dec 23, 2021 at 16:29
  • @JoeStrazzere Allright. Point taken. Thank you.
    – user32882
    Dec 23, 2021 at 16:32
  • Did you ask that person if they would like you to check in with them? Communication is everything. I am the opposite and just do my stuff and finish the projects. My manager told me that he would like for me to check with him more often and talk about my progress and problems, even outside the weekly meet-ups. If he wouldn't have told me I might not be working here anymore, due to lack of communication. Maybe this person expects you to check in? Or they just want you to ask them if you have problems. Only this person knows the answer. And maybe your manager
    – bibleblade
    Dec 27, 2021 at 13:41

6 Answers 6

11

This person is not your manager

You said it yourself, your direct manager introduced you to colleague who has slightly more experience than you. Or in other words, you and this person are likely about the same level in company's hierarchy, and both of you are essentially doing the same job, so your manager got him to help you with your work for a few months.

It is quite likely that this colleague has his own set of projects he is directly responsible for, and does not have the time (or is his job) to supervise what you are actually doing. For that you have your direct manager.

It is also quite possible that you are actually wasting his time by your calls and updates, only he has no heart to tell you that, and hopes that you will learn to work on your own and stop badgering him ;)

My advice: talk with your direct manager, and ask him bluntly who is responsible for supervision of your work, manager, colleague in question, or some third person.

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  • I'm pretty sure this person is my acting manager... there's no need to go start a fuss about it with my "official manager", who is responsible for a large department with hundreds of employees and doesn't have the time to bicker about semantics. My question is more general and pertains to whether employees should generally expect their managers to regularly check in with them.
    – user32882
    Dec 24, 2021 at 12:33
  • @user32882 I'm pretty sure he is not - otherwise he would be acting like one ;) Check with your "official" manager about that if unsure. Also check official hierarchy and titles in your company (big companies usually have them). Your question is indeed general and points to a situation when new employee confuses mentor with manager.
    – rs.29
    Dec 28, 2021 at 21:12
7

You are already providing your colleague with everything they need, so there is no need for them to reach out to you.

  • You check in with them regularly.
  • You provide them updates on your projects and ensure that you both are on the same page.
  • You reach out whenever you have questions.
  • Presumably you get your projects done on time and they are satisfied with the output.

You are managing up - proactively reaching out to your colleague, so they don't have to reach out to you. You're taking work off their plate and taking care of it for them, allowing them to focus on other things.

4

Part of the job of an engineer is working independently. You are expected to be able to be given a task and complete it. Your repeated check-ins with this coworker are redundant; if you are expected to be completing your task, repeatedly checking in to show "oh look I'm doing my job, see?" isn't helping anyone, and in fact may be annoying.

For now, stop checking in with your coworker, except at specified times (e.g. daily standup, sprint planning, and whenever you are asked to check in). If someone has questions, they'll ask you, otherwise they'll assume everything is ok. As long as you do your work and submit things on a reasonable schedule (or, if you have hard deadlines, before those deadlines) then everything will be fine. You don't need to "check in".

As a side note, if this person is not your manager (i.e. if you have not been told they're your manager and if they are not in your direct reporting chain in company HR), they are not the person you should be reporting to. If you need to report, report to your actual manager who is responsible for managing you. If this coworker is just another engineer, you're probably being annoying to him, who has his own work to do and isn't interested in managing you.

1
  • I'm pretty sure this is the person I need to report to.
    – user32882
    Dec 24, 2021 at 7:53
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I suggest turning the problem around. Instead of asking how to get attention from others, ask how best to keep other people aware of what I am doing. It is part of the job to communicate up.

Managers, supervisors, and people who assign tasks generally have far more on their plate than they can handle. It takes extra effort for them to reach out and ask what you are doing. (I had one supervisor who was in the next cube to me, but only took the time to talk to me only after quite a number of months and it was time to fire me.) In short, I am not surprised that you are not getting calls to ask about your progress.

I find that when I am proactive in communicating to managers, my work life goes better. You might want to read up on the concept of "managing up" or "how to manage your boss".

2

First, you should clarify this individual's actual role and responsibility with your manager.

They appear to be responsible for distributing these various small projects to the team members. They routinely assign me projects to work on.

Are they actually responsible for this? It sounds like they assign you work, but they may not be accountable for tracking status or progress. Or maybe they are able to keep track of your progress asynchronously.

Is it reasonable to expect that colleagues/managers regularly check in with those that they delegate work to? Or am I being high-maintenance, and need to act more responsibly?

It's reasonable that those who are responsible for tracking status will check in on it. It's also reasonable that over time you should learn how to proactively provide status so they don't always have to ask. It's a balancing act that will vary from person to person -- some managers are more/less hands on or "in the weeds".

0

Lots and none at all. That’s entirely reasonable yet in no way necessary.

Acting “… more responsibly…” would be to deny the Question itself. “Constant initiative required on my end…” sounds like a fair definition of responsibility. (“… high-maintenance…” seems rather a strange view of anything like this situation.)

Working as an engineer is interesting yet here, it should not be different from working as, eg, a musician. Yours being a large multinational consulting firm should not matter and neither should your job details.

What might matter would be, when your manager introduced a colleague with more experience, what exactly was stated about either seniority or reporting?

“Check in with me” describes a junior reporting, while eg, “check on me” reflects a senior supervising - whatever your impressions about that person.

That after a couple of months, you both saw less need for checking most obviously suggests you had grown not just used to, but happy with each other’s ways of working. Why should that trouble either of you?

It seems the actual problems you’re describing are that “… the constant initiative required on my end has proven to be quite draining” and that colleagues/managers are to be seen as equal.

If the initiative is draining, try asking the other guy whether he needs a another progress report just yet.

If colleagues and managers are to be seen as equal, try asking the most senior manager - or someone higher up - to clarify all such issues.

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