I'm currently struggling on how I can add value to my team and starting to feel concerned for my job. I have a 1 on 1 with my manager but need your help to see if (a) it's the right approach and (b) what's the best way to phrase my concerns.

Background history:
I was hired to help design a new system, which was cancelled due to internal politics. Since then, my boss quit and I have been filling in the gaps for my team. Unfortunately these projects have been very small both in size and impact. I had a conversation with my manager on where I fit with the team and showed my frustrations of not knowing where to add value. His answer was that I had to be patient, that more work is coming and he has plans for me.

3 months later, nothing has changed. In the meantime, my colleague, with whom I started off at the same level, got promoted and has been getting more and more responsibility. I noticed that my boss has been relying on her more for new and bigger projects, while I am left in the dark. I am starting to panic because of this, especially since all of my other colleagues are relying on her as the go-to person for everything and my position is slipping away (funny how a small title change also changes people's perception of you).

I plan on having a 1 on 1 with my boss again. I know what I want to ask, but don't know how to phrase it. I don't want to come off as incompetent. I just want to know if there are more opportunities lined up or if I should start making moves. My questions to him:

  • How do you see me fit in with the team?
  • How can I grow into more leadership opportunities + bigger projects?
  • (debating if I should mention this) I've been considering a lateral move. Thoughts? - kinda nervous about this one since I dont know how he'll react

Please help!!!

Thanks in advance :)

  • 1) why do you feel insecure about your job? Are you not working fully during your shift? How are you spending most of your time in that case? 2) what is your job?
    – smith
    Jul 14 '17 at 20:14
  • @smith I feel insecure because I'm not leading any projects (no impactful work), just supporting the one that my colleague is leading. Part of the problem is my boss wants me to support my colleague, who doesn't have much work left for me to do. I use that free time to work on other smaller projects with other departments so I continue learning (purely from my own initiative). I'm a project manager.
    – covfefe
    Jul 14 '17 at 20:40
  • Getting recognized as a PM and get a promotion is not one thing. It is still not clear why you feel insecure. Is the other PM someone you can learn from? You can do your job to the best of your abilities and say you need more challenging projects
    – smith
    Jul 14 '17 at 20:49
  • Any insecurity on the part of OP is irrelevant. OP is asking a fairly straightforward question.
    – bluescores
    Jul 14 '17 at 20:55
  • @smith Hmm good question. I think it comes from my pride, the fact that my colleague is progressing and I'm not. It's making me question whether I'm qualified enough for the job or whether my boss thinks I'm worse than her. I can definitely learn from her, since she has a lot of contextual knowledge of the different teams. Side note, she is very supportive, but can't really help other than delegate work for me.
    – covfefe
    Jul 14 '17 at 21:00

First off, I don't think mentioning the potential lateral move is too wise. Although you may consider it a bargaining chip, the way you've phrased this scenario seems to be your boss has the upper hand - and that could just dig your grave for you.

That's not saying don't consider the move, just don't mention it. Obviously, if you move companies give your employer the normal notice - but keep that card to yourself until you actually need it.

In terms of your 1 on 1, I think it's good to discuss your concerns with the manager as they arise. Letting them bottle up and explode is a bad idea, of course, but if you express your concerns - your manager could take that as you showing good initiative and in that case would be more receptive to your pleas for more important work. Don't make those concerns come off as complaints or annoyances, however. Keep it professional and express your desire to work on more for the company.

I would mention how you've been working on projects with the company that you feel don't bring out what you can really do, and you want to see if there are any projects or positions that could allow you to demonstrate that. If you have any ideas on projects for the company, that could be a good time to bring it up as well. Depending on the internal politics (which side the manager was on, if it's a touchy subject, etc) you could even bring up the potential of designing the new system you came in for (Although if people are relying on your colleague more - that role could be given to her if you don't push for the developer role yourself so play it wisely).

  • My manager is pretty supportive though, which is why I even considered it. In the past he has offered to recommend me to other dept's if I was interested. Yes, I agree that bottling it up is never good. I thought I could handle it for some time (patience) but starting to affect my work. Thanks for the suggestion.
    – covfefe
    Jul 14 '17 at 21:27
  • Glad to help, also it seems like if he wants to recommend you to another department he could be hinting at you that he can't do much to help you in your current department - it all depends on how he says it. Food for thought-
    – EML
    Jul 14 '17 at 22:00
  • Yea, that's how I took it as well. Maybe it is time to move...
    – covfefe
    Jul 14 '17 at 22:09

see if [a one-on-one] is the right approach

I would say yes, this is the right approach. This is assuming your manager is the person in the best position to fulfill your immediate wishes.

what's the best way to phrase my concerns

I believe you did a good job of phrasing your concerns in your post. I would add, don't make it about your colleague whom you mentioned, keep the focus on your own professional development. How can I grow into more leadership opportunities + bigger projects? is a succinct question that gets right to the crux of it.

If a position is open that would facilitate a lateral movement within the company, it may be something to explore if you feel you are qualified. If you are going to try and convince your manager to change your responsibilities to a position that isn't advertised currently, at best you won't get very far, at worst your manager will say yes and in 6 months you'll be back in this same boat, because your manager didn't really need you in this new position and so has nothing for you do.

You want to be fulfilled an find purpose at work, just like everyone else. Your manager wants to manage happy, productive employees, because those employees are easy to manage and they make the manager look good. You can't expect your manager to just intuit what you need, that's simply not fair. Part of managing people is finding what motivates them and leveraging that to unlock their potential. I find it unreasonable that your manager would not be receptive to your questions about professional development, but alas I'm only a stranger on the internet. You know the manager better than I do.

  • thank you for the reassurance, I needed it. Thanks for the eye opener on the last part; I hadn't considered the manager's perspective. And yes, although he is VERY hands-off (trusts us to do the work), he has shown to be supportive when I ask for help. I wasn't sure if it was better to phrase it as "I don't feel like I've done anything of substance the past 6 months" or "how can I grow?" (second one sounds more professional, but doesn't seem to address my concerns about team fit as much).
    – covfefe
    Jul 14 '17 at 21:39

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