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I'm a Product Manager for a proprietary software. In that role I participate in the "longterm planning" team comprised of our lead Developer, the CTO and myself. I'm the only woman in our 20 person development department. I'm around the same age as the rest of the team, with the CTO being much older. The CTO is very involved and frequently meets with Dev and other team members about special projects etc without me there.

Recently, in email threads between Dev and CTO where I am copied (but not actively replying), Dev has @ tagged me "Can you please add this to our agenda for next meeting"?

At first I corrected him via replying to the email that CTO owns that recurring meeting and its agenda, and I ask CTO to add it in my reply. The next month Dev tagged me again to update the agenda and I reminded him again.

Then today, Dev began an email thread with CTO regarding some application decisions. CTO replied with a "Next steps should be a meeting of the longterm planning team." Dev then replied to CTO's email and @ tagged me to "please schedule a meeting that works for our schedules."

I'm feeling a bit like Dev is treating me as CTO's assistant, but I'm not sure how to politely push back or if I should push back. It feels strange to be tagged at the end of a conversation thread and only for the purpose of scheduling a meeting. It is possible Dev is very busy, but I estimate the time it took him to add me to the email and then tag me is equal to the time it would take to schedule a meeting.

Should I be scheduling these meetings/writing the agendas? If not, how can I politely push back?

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    As a manager, you are an assistant for folks higher up the management chain.
    – keshlam
    Aug 9, 2023 at 21:19
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    The bigger question is whether it's the developer's job. If it's not, and they email you and the CTO about it, they're doing the right thing. Who else are they supposed to tell?
    – tbrookside
    Aug 10, 2023 at 0:32
  • Couple of clarifications - do you end up doing these things that the dev asks? And if not, do they get done (and by who?). Secondly, do you cc in the cto when saying it isn't your role? Seems like sexism could likely be a factor since AFAICT the dev is ignoring your push back. If it really was your job, wouldn't you expect them to say "oh sorry but I believe this meetings agenda is managed by the product manager?"
    – T. Kiley
    Aug 10, 2023 at 8:27
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    The answer depends heavily on how involved you are with scheduling meetings and planning for the team, and who's involved in the meetings you're being asked to schedule, who'll run it, and what'll be discussed. If you generally handle planning meetings, it would not be appropriate for the dev to ask you to schedule a one-on-one between them and the CTO, but it's probably appropriate to ask you to schedule a planning meeting. (And scheduling a meeting may not take a lot of time, but for some it can be a lot of effort, and it may involve miscellaneous adjustments too).
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 10, 2023 at 11:47
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    Without ruling out implicit or explicit sexism, consider also that the role of "Product Manager" may hold different descriptions between organizations and within one's mind. I would generally request my "Project Manager" to be scheduling those meetings as part of their role in managing the project.
    – psaxton
    Aug 10, 2023 at 17:57

6 Answers 6

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Should I be scheduling these meetings/writing the agendas? If not, how can I politely push back?

If you have any doubt as to your role you should reach out to your direct manager and ask them. If they tell you that you should be scheduling these meetings and writing the agenda then you should do it.

If they say this is not your responsibility, find out whose responsibility it is and inform Dev. If after that Dev continues to act like it is your responsibility and continues to make these requests, simply ignore their requests.

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    This has occurred to me, but there is some concern about bringing such a small thing to my direct manager (CTO) and appearing unhelpful. I'm trying to gauge if that level of concern is needed - or if I should just do the task to be kind to my teammate.
    – SNSAD
    Aug 9, 2023 at 14:51
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    @SNSAD You can frame it to your CTO as not wanting to overstep by scheduling or changing something that they are in charge of. That wouldn't be a small thing IMO.
    – InBedded16
    Aug 9, 2023 at 15:07
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    It is a known phenomenon, and disappointingly more common than it should be, for a man to delegate administrative tasks (like scheduling meetings) to a woman without regard for whether those tasks are actually part of the woman's job. So it's possible that gender discrimination is playing a role in what's happening here. If that's the case, @SNSAD, you would be very justified in not considering this a small thing. But the first step in figuring that out, as the answer said, is to check with your manager about whether these tasks are officially your responsibility.
    – David Z
    Aug 10, 2023 at 4:26
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    @Davor I believe every statement in your comment is incorrect, but we could go back and forth about that without helping anyone so I'm not going to get into it here. But one thing I think is particularly relevant: a product manager's job duties vary from company to company, and while I'm sure at (almost?) every company the job includes some amount of scheduling meetings, the extent to which product managers are responsible for managing other people's meetings is less uniform. So I reiterate that the best (and only?) way for OP to get authoritative info for her case is to ask her boss.
    – David Z
    Aug 10, 2023 at 7:56
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    These are usually duties of production roles. If you find out it's not sure who's duty it is and the task is valuable enough, might be time to hire someone to fill the gap :)
    – bracco23
    Aug 10, 2023 at 11:39
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From the original post I understand the aim of all these interactions is to establish a long term roadmap for the "Product". Without knowing specifics of your role and the organisation, typically it is the Product Manager who owns the Product. The other people mentioned are basically technical resources who helps Product Manager to deliver the Product.

CTO helps you and Dev to understand organization's long term technical vision and Dev Lead owns the actual implementation. But in the end it is a product you own and they are there to help you. Product Manager reporting to CTO does not (should not) change this fact and rather represents an organisational hierarchy. Furthermore, CTO can represent (own) the product, for example at a board meeting where you are not available. This also justifies Product Manager reporting to him.

Given that it is your product, it makes sense for you to lead and setup meetings, agendas etc. This also makes you more in charge of what's going on as you would be the one deciding when to meet and what to discuss. If I were you I wouldn't take this a secretarial task dumped on me but more like an opportunity to step-up.

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    This makes it sound like the problem is actually that the OP is left out of conversations that she should be actively part of. Aug 10, 2023 at 16:25
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    Agreed with @aherocalledFrog. I would expect a Product Owner to be included in these roadmap-type conversations. There is nothing wrong with a developer being a part of this. Who knows, the developer and CTO might have a close working relationship. But either way, yes, the OP should be scheduling these meetings, and the CTO and developer should be including the OP to begin with. It feels like the inclusion of the OP is a secondary thought, when it should be at the forefront of their minds. Aug 10, 2023 at 18:53
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    I also feel like the developer is attempting to set this working relationship straight. They are pinging you in e-mails hoping you step in to take charge. Consider that maybe the developer feels pressured to meet with the CTO and does not feel like they are authorized to tell the CTO "No, I will not meet with you unless the Product Owner is involved." Aug 10, 2023 at 18:55
  • I'm guessing @SNSAD is new at the company and up til now, the CTO and lead dev have been playing more of a project manager/product manager role than they should have. OP has been brought in to manage the project as it's more in their skill set. They're trying to get OP to pick up more of this so they can do less. It's just not a good use of their time to be scheduling meetings, managing agendas, chasing people up, etc.
    – Dan
    Aug 11, 2023 at 8:02
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This is probably your responsibility, delegated to you as part of being a manager. The CTO shouldn't be spending their time on this kind of detail. If there isn't another manager who is clearly responsible for this, it's yours. The days of having an administrative assistant to pass it to are long gone.

This is one of the roles that almost defines a manager. You may be able to delegate arranging some meetings downward, especially if you are using a company-wide calendar/scheduling system so folks can eliminate most conflicts up front. You can't pass them upward.

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    It seems more like *possibly" their responsiblity to me ("the CTO owns the meeting") and therefore worth checking as sf02 suggests to me. Aug 9, 2023 at 18:27
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    According to the question, they already said "should be done", not "I will." You can certainly check, but I would take that as a strong hint that they don't intend to do it themselves. –
    – keshlam
    Aug 10, 2023 at 0:32
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    @keshlam The only place I see "should be done" here is in your comment. The CTO told a dev the next step should be a meeting. Then that dev CCed OP about it. That's not the CTO delegating work to that manager, it was the dev doing it. The CTO didnt even CC OP when they said the meeting should be done, so if anything to me that's a strong hint they wanted the dev to do it, not OP.
    – JMac
    Aug 10, 2023 at 18:07
  • We read the implications differently. That's OK. We all agree that if still confused, your choices are either to ask or to take control or to sit waiting for someone else to do something, and that the last is the least useful.
    – keshlam
    Aug 10, 2023 at 18:30
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Dear [CTO],
usually, you have set up our recurring meetings. Regarding the meeting of the longterm planning team, do you wish to organize that or shall I do that?
Best wishes,
...

From the group of CTO, PM and Developer, to me it seems quite appropriate for the PM to organize a planning meeting. The CTO is usually more in the role of a consultant and/or stakeholder. However, if he is very involved in the product in your case, he might be interested to organize such meetings. Or not.
Just ask him nicely in a way expressing your interest in helping him and the product. I do understand that the developer appears to be pushing you, however if this is the most effective way to organize the meeting, then take the active role!

Also, inviting to a meeting implies some responsibility that a certain goal is reached within that meeting by moderating it. Dev probably doesn't want to take that responsibility, maybe for your own good (he doesn't want to take something from your role), maybe for your bad (he doesn't want to have the work).

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I think a lot depends on what these meetings are about. If they are about products, to help you do your job properly, then technically the meetings are yours to call.

Thinking about my days as a developer, I certainly did not call any meetings, it was always the CTO or the Product Marketing Team. Most often the latter.

Therefore, it is proper for the Dev to ask you put it on the agenda. The agenda is not theirs. It is yours or the CTO's. And it would be rude of him to ask the CTO to put them on. Perhaps you are seeing too much into it. Maybe you should take charge of the meetings. Shouldn't you you be adding things to the agenda, yourself ?

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You haven't said much about what you are doing as Product Manager. The responsibilities that go with the title vary wildly.

For example, at my workplace, the "Product Manager" for the product I work on has just retired and is not being replaced. He was basically a product administrator, doing administrative tasks that the heads of development, maintenance, QA and customer support were too busy for. The person who decides what goes into the product is the Product Owner, who is in overall charge of the product, and whom those four heads report to. Because those heads are competent, a lot of his job is asking questions about things that seem to have been neglected, and endorsing suggestions from below. He still gets to do some development, too.

In your position, I'd want to start scheduling the meetings, writing the agendas, and producing the minutes. The person who records the decisions can have a lot of influence, if they keep the information organised and point out problems and opportunities that arise from old decisions in conjunction with new ones.

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