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I have recently (9 months) been shifted to a team which is handling one of the most critical project of our organisation as well as known for its extremely strict and pushy managers. The focus of the organization is towards R&D, on which our promotions etc depend but the project is entirely service oriented. I am known in the organization for my research initiatives and extremely productive work. Now within last two weeks, I have been called up by the manager twice, and literally been shamed for being unproductive and useless to the organization.

I have spent approximately spent 4 years in this organization with various teams and have always been the star performer. The only difference being that I get a feeling of being a commodity in this team (since week 1). The difference between my earlier work environments and now is in the expectation of working at home and extra hours apart from having no experience of the domain and the technology. I am supposed to do all development work in the office but all study, learning, reading (of research papers), writing them, thinking and exploring ideas are supposed to be done during non-official hours. And sadly, the latter part is what my manager is furious about. He wants me to produce research and propose short term innovative projects with weekly measurable deliverables which I have time and again said I can't since I need a week or two to just explore and read about a domain - which falls in deaf ears, or he just describes me as unproductive in that period and adds pressure for compensating work in the following week.

Notes:

  • I was recently adjudged as an extraordinary employee in my organisation (Only 5/400 got this).

  • Every manager in the organization wants me in their team including the existing one (but no other manager takes the initiative because my current manager is pretty aggressive).

  • He is not a bad person but looses his cool every now and then.

So my question is how do I avoid the label of being unproductive? (In another words in a purely service oriented work with tight deadlines, how can I produce research?).

Also, am I being too sensitive and is this common in the IT industry ?

  • Is this manager the only one who thinks you're being unproductive? – Brandin Apr 12 '15 at 10:37
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    It sounds like you've got a really good relationship with your previous manager(s). I'd suggest asking one of them for advice (informally). – A E Apr 12 '15 at 11:27
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    "Research" with "weekly measurable deliverables" is not really research, it is a PMI-style managed project which is intrinsically incompatible with exploring new ideas and has no place in the production of papers. I think this is an expectation management problem you're facing and your boss needs to get a reality check from upper management if your explanation of the situation has been rejected by him. – teego1967 Apr 12 '15 at 12:55
  • You can have measurable deliverables even in a research project. They just need to make sense. Even researchers have a plan of what they want to investigate and it's not unreasonable to report periodically on what they have discovered. What wouldn't make sense is expecting specific results on specific dates. – Laconic Droid Apr 12 '15 at 14:58
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    @LaconicDroid, I agree that in research there are periodic "deliverables" (although people in research bristle at the use of that terminology)-- such as reports of experimental progress or results, etc. What you don't have is measurable progress in terms of a gnatt chart or anything like a "burn down" to a pre-determined completion outcome. In other words, one can't schedule discovery. – teego1967 Apr 12 '15 at 19:19
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I quote from the article Managing Your Boss

The fact is, bosses need cooperation, reliability, and honesty from their direct reports. Managers, for their part, rely on bosses for making connections with the rest of the company, for setting priorities, and for obtaining critical resources. If the relationship between you and your boss is rocky, then it is you who must begin to manage it. When you take the time to cultivate a productive working relationship—by understanding your boss’s strengths and weaknesses, priorities, and work style—everyone wins.

Research has typical style of work where you start with literature survey and so on. You have been good doing all those things for first three years. But it seems that here in this new projects the expectations are little different. I think your manager is expecting some quick solutions to the problems/assignments is hand. He may not want you to approach the problem with so called "research" way of doing things which you did in your earlier projects.

So my question is how do I shun the tag of being unproductive. (In another words in a purely service oriented work with tight deadlines,how can I produce research)?

  1. Understand expectations of your boss. Set clear objectives out of his expectations.
  2. Plan your work in detail and set the deadline for each activity.
  3. Discuss with manager about your plan. Request for his suggestions on improving the plan.
  4. Apprise him about your progress from time to time.

You may want to talk with your colleagues in the team or with your earlier managers.

If these things do not work, you may consider joining other projects of your choice.

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How much do you want to be on this new team? Be honest. If you really want to be there, do what the new boss says.

Personally, I'd exit that team ASAP. That boss' managerial style is not going to change and it sounds as if his style doesn't match yours. That's OK; not everyone gets along with everyone else. Not everyone is a good fit. Start today exploring the options for you to switch to one of the other teams that you say want you. If your current boss keeps blocking them, go over his head to his manager and say "the choices are you let me switch teams or I'm switching companies."

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