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My four-person department has been using outdated software for years. Upper management hired me about eighteen months ago to begin a transition to an updated technical environment. I am the only person in the company that makes use of the full range of functionality for the software, in many roles, including technician, analyst, and developer. I've been teaching the basics to the other employees and my manager, but I feel limited progress has been made.

I have established myself as a go-to person for other departments for this software -- some people even come to me directly, bypassing my manager, even as others in my department still use their old software.

My manager has noticed this and has said, in a completely friendly way, that we need to treat all work coming from this department as the work of the department, and not the individual. There have been other times where I have completed work and my manager presents it without me there. I spend a good deal of time sitting behind my manager, or the other two employees, and telling them which buttons to press for tasks that they have done many times before with my help, just for them to go and present it as their work. However, because they cannot effectively use the software, none of the others can really do any of the work without my help.

Lately, I was even tasked with helping them use their old software that I didn't know before coming to the company. There is a general lack of basic functionality across the department and I feel like my manager uses me to make them look better.

I've thought about going the superior above my manager, but I just don't want to sound like a complainer. I am on friendly terms with all of the employees and I'm not one to stir the pot. I just want to make sure that I'm getting credit where it is due. I feel like I have done so much to help them learn, including providing internet resources, one on one lessons, etc. However, I'm beginning to think that what I do is just a little a too technical for them to understand without a more advanced education on the topic.

So... My question is... Is there anything I can do that won't be regarded as me being in the wrong? I don't want to go to anyone and say "All of these people are under-qualified". I am really not looking to get into a dispute with anyone I just want a way to make sure people outside the department know who and how the work is coming from. I know my manager sees my frustration sometimes, and he always acts sympathetic but that's as far as it goes.

  • Who was it who hired you to move them in this direction, and what is their opinion? – Amy Blankenship Mar 9 '16 at 17:12
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    The guy who hired me is many tiers above me. He is a VP, and I think he is aware that they are so under-skilled. I believe that's why he put me in the department. However, for me to go to him seems like I would not be going through the proper channels. It would be like circumventing 4 superiors. – GeoJohn Mar 9 '16 at 17:19
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    I believe you're misunderstanding me. I should have been more explicit. You should be sending the VP who hired you reports on the progress of the conversion. They should be private and blunt. It appears he's trying to affect change from within. You need to be a "reverse periscope" of sorts, allowing him visibility into the depths of the department without the layers of management sugar-coating it. – Wesley Long Mar 9 '16 at 17:39
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    Why on earth were you hired by someone four levels above you who you don't report to? This has dysfunctional written all over it. – Lilienthal Mar 9 '16 at 20:27
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    Look for another job. You're not acutely miserable where you are, it seems, so you can afford to wait for a good opportunity. Your career is going nowhere there, and that's not going to change. One of the worst mistakes people make is waiting until they're acutely miserable, and then bolting to the first lousy offer they get -- and then repeating the process all over again. You're going limp here. Don't go limp. Take charge of your own life. – Ed Plunkett Mar 9 '16 at 23:01
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I'm not generally a fan of people collectively taking credit for one person's work, but the thing I'm even less of a fan of is breaking outside of one's management chain to address this issue. If you really think that this is the only way you can fix this kind of thing, I guess go ahead and do it, but you also have to take into account the fact that you are probably going to seriously ruffle some feathers by doing this.

And the thing is, it's my experience that this kind of thing kind of comes out on its own anyway. My experience has been more with underperforming people rather than entire teams, but even at that the fact that people are going directly to you with issues means that there is already some scuttlebutt in the building that you are the person who makes things happen in your department. There is a very good possibility that your going around management is just going to be to tell them that the sky is blue and water is wet.

Otherwise I think you have to just consider how this is impacting you. Are you being denied promotions because of this situation? That is one great reason why you might want to move up the chain (in fact, the proviso there is that by accepting a promotion you wouldn't actually be in the department that you'd be cheesing people off in any longer). Are you being unduly harassed? Or is this just a situation where you kind of disagree with the office politics? As the old saying goes, cream generally rises to the top. I mean, it doesn't always and that's why you should make sure you're keeping a lookout that you aren't being kept down, but otherwise I think you are in a situation where you can damage your standing a lot more than you can increase it by speaking out.

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    I'd say the same thing another way : turning around the hierarchy is already happening, just not coming from you. It's even better. You don't do anything "bad", and still the information, slowly but surely, spreads. – gazzz0x2z Mar 10 '16 at 8:33
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Many are simply resistant to change, but that does not mean they are necessarily under-qualified. Seems like you've done what you can to get them up to speed on the new software, but at this point they have become dependent on you, and you are starting to enable their lack of knowledge.

One thing that might help is to document what you've been showing them, and step away from doing their work for them. You can either create your own documentation, or pull content from the official documentation of the software itself. If they ask you how to do something, write it down. Then the next time they ask, you can point to the document, and continue doing your own work.

This way you can demonstrate to a third party (say, your VP) how much you have done to try to help. Right now you don't have evidence to back up what you say is happening. The documentation will help if anyone in your department attempts to say that you are not helping, or tries to escalate this to upper management. There's no need for you to raise concerns to upper management yourself. Your work and attempts to help will speak for themselves.

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    I appreciate your answer. Both you and NotVonKaiser brought up some really good points. I would probably except both answers if I could. Thanks. – GeoJohn Mar 9 '16 at 21:12

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