I'm working for a "flat" tech company of roughly 50 people. I work with several project managers, but there's no one whose responsibility is to manage me. Despite being billed as flat and having no org chart, there is absolutely an unofficial org chart and hierarchical distribution of responsibility and information.

Currently, I'm mostly assigned specific tasks by project managers. However, I feel like there's a desire for me to "take more initiative" in projects. I would love to do so, but I don't know where to start. There's no standard processes to follow on projects, no consistent way of sharing information, delegating responsibilities, or organizing communication with clients. Each project manager has their own approach, and it seems to be expected that I intuit their approach. When things go right or wrong, there's virtually no feedback given. I have an annual review, but it's conducted by someone I don't actively work with.

Also, I'm always the only person on the given project team that isn't the project manager, and I'm not able to observe the workings of other projects to any meaningful extent, so I can't look to peers as examples.

Often when I try to ask clarifying questions about my role or seek confirmation on communications before sending them to the client, the reaction seems to be that I'm looking for micromanaging. But I genuinely feel that I need additional information in order to proceed competently. I also worry (admittedly probably much more than is necessary) about stepping on the toes of those with more seniority than me.

I'd love to magically understand exactly what's expected of me, but realistically, I like to either have more information so that I feel equipt to "manage myself", or I'd settle for the project managers I work with to be willing to "micromanage" me.

My main question is, what is the best way to communicate these concerns (to the closest approximation of a manager I have)? However, I wouldn't object to direct advice about how to handle the situation.

Some information on me: working for the company ~4 years, millennial, no neurodivergent diagnoses (but it's not rare for me to struggle with "obvious" things in a manner similar to those with ASD), generally not assertive enough for the culture I'm in, one of the few females in a very male company with all-male "upper management"

  • What does ASD stand for ? Nov 7, 2022 at 20:00
  • 2
    Autism Spectrum Disorder? Nov 7, 2022 at 20:03
  • What is your job title, actually? Are you a business analyst? Secretary? Nov 7, 2022 at 21:11
  • From your third paragraph, the projects your company does are typically one-person projects that occasionally give out subtasks to one other person namely you?
    – quarague
    Nov 8, 2022 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


I've been in this situation somewhat recently - we had a big company merger, the Management layer was all in a flux, new manager was in a different country and timezone and for about 2-3 months we had no direction in our Team/Office.

To the point where we drafted a letter to our regional manager stating that the lack of leadership and direction was hurting morale, driving resignations and increasing anxiety.

I say Drafted because there were also informal conversations happening at this point in time and eventually those informal conversations reached the right ears and something was done about it before we sent the letter.

In terms of your specific situation - the key points that I would be looking to raise with the company are:

1: Due to the current structure and work environment, you aren't getting any mentoring/upskilling from the more senior staff members, which is hampering your personal and professional growth.

2: The person who conducts your Annual Reviews does not work with you nor assign you your work - this is a biggy, because how can they assess whether you have met expectations or exceeded them and put you forward for Salary review if they aren't active in your working life?

3: General lack of feedback - it's fine to ask for more management when you are younger and not quite as sure in your work product and work ethic that what you are doing is bringing value to the company/team. Something like a weekly catch-up or a scrum meeting or a daily stand-up - something where the person who is directly managing you (see point 2) can give you positive feedback and point you in the right direction.

These are the points that I would raise with the Management layer.

In addition, there is something else you can do - go out and make trouble. If you have a very loose and flat hierarchy, then this is the best place to take initiative. Find something in the business that you think ought to be done, draft up a plan, then present it to the team:

"Hey Guys, I noticed that each week we waste 3-4 hours doing XYZ, well, I've got an idea how we can streamline this down to about 30 minutes, I've done a small-scale proof-of-concept here and I think I can make it work, I'd like some assistance from a Project Manager to just help me as it's my first major task."

Worst case scenario - you get told it's a bad idea, won't work and not to waste anymore time on it.

No ones' toes will have been stepped on and if people act like you've stepped on their toes - simply point to the flat structure - no one told you that you couldn't and you decided that you wanted to show some initiative.

Best case scenario is that the team agrees, you move forward and you deliver something to the company that you identified and saw to completion. Then you find the next thing and so-on.

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