I work in a small team with a direct administrative supervisor. I often work on multiple simultaneous projects with different project directors, but it is my admin supervisor who manages my workload. I've become dissatisfied with my company's management but hesitate to leave since I do enjoy the type of work here. How may I communicate tactfully with my boss about my dissatisfaction, which will force me to leave if unaddressed?

My problems with management (and my attempts at addressing them) are:

  • Lack of communication with the supervisor. He rarely knows what I'm working on, despite my weekly attempt to email and stop by to mention what I've done and am doing next.

  • No transparent link between performance review and raise. Even though I got a positive review, my year-end raise is mediocre. When I asked about how to get a raise (before the review), the answer was to start managing projects instead of just doing technical analysis. When I asked for opportunities to do management work, the supervisor agreed but there was no follow up.

  • Underperforming colleague gets the same raise as I do (salary info is public), even though they routinely hold up projects and need my help. And when I do help this person (since I can't do my work if they don't complete theirs), their work looks really good to senior staff but the colleague doesn't give me any credit. Several workmates and I are thinking about reporting this to management (should we?). This unfairness is really sapping my enthusiasm.

Should I mention that if these problems are unaddressed I'll have to leave? Since my direct supervisor has been unhelpful, should I escalate? How can I do that without looking as though I'm disrupting the chain of command? I really enjoy the job and also this one sponsors me H1B visa.

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    You can also get a positive review and no raise. It all depends on how long other employees have been waiting for a raise, and how much budget the company has. And of course your negotiation skills. – Juha Untinen Dec 19 '14 at 8:49
  • possible duplicate of How do I tell my boss I quit? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Dec 19 '14 at 15:55

Never "mention that you'll have to leave" unless you are GOING TO leave almost immediately unless the issue is addressed. That's the nuclear option; it's likely to result in their giving you LESS responsibility and LESS opportunity for advancement because they'll need to position themselves for being able to continue without you.

What someone else is getting paid is, unfortunately, not usually considered relevant. Focus on getting them to tell you what you need to do in order to get the next raise, and KEEP AFTER THEM to make sure they give you the opportunity to do it. If this is important to you, you have to follow up when they don't.

I've just seen my first raise in too many years. That's just the current economic climate. Right now, if you're even getting a raise that keeps up with inflation you're doing better than most. You may need to recalibrate your definition of "mediocre".

If someone doesn't appreciate assistance, why are you still assisting them? If you're delayed because they aren't ready, tell them that, then if they don't fix it tell your manager and ask how to get this fixed. Then if you're told to help, it'll be known that you're doing so and why... and your manager will probably talk to their manager about fixing the problem.

If your manager doesn't care what you're doing there's no way to fix that other than changing managers -- within the company, or by leaving. If your manager just isn't good at keeping track of what you're doing, ask them whether they'd prefer a periodic status meeting rather than the weekly e-mails; some folks just work a lot better with spoken communication than written.

Try to work with people, or at worst alongside/around them, rather than against them if at all possible. It's more effective and less stressful.

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  • Thanks so much for your advice. I totally agree with you that I should stop helping this person. What I've started doing is to minimize in person assistance and suggest him emailing the team a list of questions instead. I only mention the bonus because I think that is a reflection of how management evaluate my performance in comparison with others. Your last paragraph is totally on point. I think I will frame my approach to my colleagues and my manager as "I think the current situation has affected me in XYZ way. Could we talk on how to make this work for both of us?" – Heisenberg Dec 19 '14 at 16:30
  • Yep. And not necessarily even stop helping them, but quietly make sure the fact that you're going our of your way to do so is visible so you're credited for it. "Fred was having a bit of trouble getting the task queue working; I helped him out by explaining how to make it threadsafe without losing efficiency." Or whatever it is. No accusation; just saying what you did (and ideally how you helped them learn to do it themselves next time). – keshlam Dec 19 '14 at 22:21

keshlam does a great job on your second and third point. A few comments on your first one:

Lack of communication with the supervisor. He rarely knows what I'm working on despite my weekly attempt to email and stop by to mention what I've done and doing next.

Emails are quickly read and quickly forgotten. "Stopping by" to inform your manager will at best be forgotten just as quickly as an email... and at worst be seen as an interruption and be resented.

Ask your manager for regular one-on-one meetings. One meeting of half an hour per week, or perhaps even a quarter of an hour, or half an hour every two weeks will work wonders. Do these along the lines of a Scrum daily standup:

  • What did you do since the last meeting?
  • What will you do until your next meeting?
  • Is anything blocking you that the manager could (help) resolve? (Like a slowpoke colleague.)

If the two of you really concentrate on this short meeting, your manager will quickly come to know what you are doing at any given time. If you do this professionally, you will stick in his mind as "the guy who can come to the point in 15 minutes - and otherwise doesn't interrupt me during the rest of the week." This can be very valuable indeed.

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  • Good expansion of my next-to-last paragraph. Who knows, you might even become the employee who introduced the company to Scrum and Agile (though the meetings are just the most visible and easiest part of that change.) – keshlam Dec 19 '14 at 13:50
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    That's definitely a great idea. Since i joined the firm, I've schedule quarterly meeting with my supervisor to address any issues and assess the progress towards my goals set out at the beginning of the year. However, based on your suggestion, I will do this on a bi-weekly basis. – Heisenberg Dec 19 '14 at 16:32
  • Make sure you super buys into the bi-weekly basis -- eg by noting that they can usually be shorter than quarterly or monthly meetings would have to be, and that it's a way to be (even) more aware of and responsive to changing priorities, so there's benefit to management as well as to you. (Looking at your user name -- best wishes stamping out that uncertainty!) – keshlam Dec 19 '14 at 22:24

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