Author Topic: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?  (Read 8833 times)

Schaefer Light

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Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« on: September 29, 2017, 02:01:00 PM »
I don't know about the rest of you, but I have no idea what's expected of me in my current job.  I've asked my boss about this and was basically told that I'm doing fine and not to worry about it.  The problem is I have no idea what I'm supposed to be working on each day, and I certainly don't have a way to independently judge whether or not my performance is meeting expectations.  As far as I can tell, I could sit in the office and surf the web all day and get the same grade on my performance review I'd get if I busted my ass every day.  Of course, I don't know what type of work I'd be busting my ass doing every day.  Maybe it's just the nature of a middle management position.  The big wigs seem to make all the decisions and the front line workers seem to do all the work.  I feel like I'm just here to enforce the rules and make sure people play nice together.

What about you all?  Do you really understand what's expected of you?  And do you have a way to judge your performance?  It sure would be nice to leave work knowing I've done a good job that day.  All I really know when I go home is that I've spent another day sitting in the office responding to emails and (most importantly) getting one day closer to retirement.

MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2017, 02:10:43 PM »
How long have you been in this role?

What were your expectations and what expectations were told to you when you started?

If it were up to you, how would you distinguish above vs. below average performance for someone in your role?

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2017, 02:21:16 PM »
How long have you been in this role?
3.5 years

What were your expectations and what expectations were told to you when you started? 
I wasn't given any expectations when I started, and stupidly did not do a better job of asking for them.  I was replacing someone who our then VP (my boss's boss) was unhappy with, and while I did ask what aspect of his performance was not meeting expectations I never got a satisfactory answer.  The answer I got was that my predecessor (who now reports to me) wasn't very good at office politics.  Knowing him, I'd guess he was just too honest for the higher ups here ;).

If it were up to you, how would you distinguish above vs. below average performance for someone in your role? 
I honestly don't know.  I manage a group of people who operate and maintain telecommunications equipment.  If the equipment works reliably, people are happy.  If it doesn't, then we have the whole company breathing down our necks.  I really don't think a person in my role can do a whole lot to improve the reliability of our network, though.  Once the equipment is installed and working, we pretty much leave it alone.

See answers above.

dandarc

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2017, 02:42:36 PM »
Just wanted to say, similar boat here.

We supposedly have deadlines, but they have taken such an "everything is due yesterday" approach here for the last 4-5 years that any deadlines are meaningless.  There seems to be no consequences of any kind no matter how I spend a work day.  Trying to view this as "freeing" as opposed to "nerve-wracking", but it is an uphill battle.  Seems like it ought not to be anxiety inducing to have this kind of job, but like you, I would like to really know I've done a good-enough job at the end of each day, so I'm constantly wondering "did I do enough today".  Left to my own devices to answer that question, the answer is almost always "no".

jamesbond007

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2017, 02:52:14 PM »
Same here. But that is my company "process". I write requirements and send them off to engineering and then basically dust off my hands. Typical waterfall. But when there is work, there is usually a shit ton of work.

MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2017, 02:56:29 PM »
I manage a group of people who operate and maintain telecommunications equipment.  If the equipment works reliably, people are happy.  If it doesn't, then we have the whole company breathing down our necks.  I really don't think a person in my role can do a whole lot to improve the reliability of our network, though.  Once the equipment is installed and working, we pretty much leave it alone.
To the extent your job is a manager/leader, your priorities should be
1) Care and feeding of the people in your group.  I.e., do unto them as you wish someone would do to you if you were in their positions.
2) Working with others at your level in other parts of the company to ensure your group is, and is perceived to be, helpful to the overall company.

If you are expected to do "real work" (i.e., operate/fix/improve the equipment) then you have to weave that into the previous items.

At least, that's my $0.02.  If in doubt, do what your boss (and boss's boss) value.

Scortius

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2017, 04:31:23 PM »
Maybe come at it from a different angle.  Tell your manager that you're aiming for a higher performance review this coming year and that you are starting to think about the steps needed to take towards being a competitive candidate for promotion in the near future. Ask your boss for things you can do over the next year that will provide specific evidence to support a higher evaluation and possible future promotion. Those are the things you want to be spending your time on.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2017, 07:11:49 AM »
I manage a group of people who operate and maintain telecommunications equipment.  If the equipment works reliably, people are happy.  If it doesn't, then we have the whole company breathing down our necks.  I really don't think a person in my role can do a whole lot to improve the reliability of our network, though.  Once the equipment is installed and working, we pretty much leave it alone.
To the extent your job is a manager/leader, your priorities should be
1) Care and feeding of the people in your group.  I.e., do unto them as you wish someone would do to you if you were in their positions.
2) Working with others at your level in other parts of the company to ensure your group is, and is perceived to be, helpful to the overall company.

If you are expected to do "real work" (i.e., operate/fix/improve the equipment) then you have to weave that into the previous items.

At least, that's my $0.02.  If in doubt, do what your boss (and boss's boss) value.

Thanks for the feedback.  I agree about the two priorities for a manager.  I think part of my problem is that I'm not sure if I'm expected to do the hands-on type of work that my group does.  I'm certain I could learn to do it if someone would teach me, but my background is in a different area so I really don't know how to operate most of the equipment that my group maintains.  I also question whether or not someone in a management role needs to be able to do that type of work.  This all goes back to the main problem I have - the expectations for my job have never been clearly explained to me.       

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2017, 07:16:09 AM »
Maybe come at it from a different angle.  Tell your manager that you're aiming for a higher performance review this coming year and that you are starting to think about the steps needed to take towards being a competitive candidate for promotion in the near future. Ask your boss for things you can do over the next year that will provide specific evidence to support a higher evaluation and possible future promotion. Those are the things you want to be spending your time on.

That's a novel approach.  I don't think I can say I'm interested in a promotion (I've already made it fairly clear I don't want one as there's no way I could stomach the politics and bullshit one has to put up with at a higher level of management), but I don't see what it could hurt to ask what types of things I'd need to do to earn a higher grade on my review.  Thanks for the reply.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2017, 07:29:03 AM »
... I'm certain I could learn to do it if someone would teach me, but my background is in a different area so I really don't know how to operate most of the equipment that my group maintains.  I also question whether or not someone in a management role needs to be able to do that type of work.  This all goes back to the main problem I have - the expectations for my job have never been clearly explained to me.       

I would prioritise learning about the work your team does, but not how to do it. It is important that you can identify examples of excellent or shoddy work, or know the difference between a reasonable request and an impossible dream from another department, but operating actual equipment - unlikely to be a priority.

My work suffers when my line manager doesn't have a clue what I'm doing. I end up get praise for the equivalent of tying my shoelaces and none for the equivalent of moving a mountain. On a related note, these managers don't have the ability to distinguish between a real excuse, and me slacking off; so I'm not complaining, but my employer should be.

marielle

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2017, 07:42:32 AM »
I have the same problem, but have only been working a year. I don't really have performance reviews or anything official like that, but my boss and others say good things (as far as I know!).

I'm entry level and not management, but it seems like I almost have to create work for myself a lot of times. Which is pretty difficult, not just on a physical level of actually finding work to do, but mentally as well due to lack of experience. I try to tell myself they pay me for my knowledge, not necessarily hours worked since I'm the only one with a 4 year degree... But I still feel useless many days when I don't really do much.

Plus, some of my work requires waiting around on others to do small things before I can implement what I've done.

I constantly wonder if I should find another job where I can learn from others and be busy (whereas here I almost feel like the 'expert'), or just wait out this for a little bit since it's easy and stress free. I think I would worry more about this if I didn't know about early retirement. Since I don't really care much about my career, I'm kind of okay of just going with the flow. I just signed a year lease at an apartment so I guess I'm somewhat stuck for now anyway.

I like to think my job is fairly safe because it's difficult for my company to find any talent (very poor rural area with low education) and there are several things I've implemented that no one else knows how to do or fix if there are issues. Of course, this doesn't include if the company goes under, which is possible being a fairly new company, but we are in the process of expanding so business is pretty good.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2017, 09:35:04 AM »
I would prioritise learning about the work your team does, but not how to do it. It is important that you can identify examples of excellent or shoddy work, or know the difference between a reasonable request and an impossible dream from another department, but operating actual equipment - unlikely to be a priority.

I agree with this.  I think it's important to know about their work and to know how they're performing, but I don't think I need to know how to do their work.  The thing that troubles me is that I see other managers in my department who are doing the hands on work that their direct reports really should be doing.  Of course, they're also the ones complaining that they can't get approval to hire extra help.  Maybe they should stop doing all the work themselves ;).

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2017, 09:43:58 AM »
One other thing.  We're supposed to be receiving our mid-year reviews now, and the task of writing my review has been delegated to me.  The review form specifically states that the manager/supervisor is supposed to comment on the aspects of the employee's performance that are and are not meeting your expectations.  I'm not sure how I (as the employee) am supposed to complete this form.  I think I'll be perfectly honest and say I can't complete it since I don't know what's expected of me.

MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2017, 09:54:26 AM »
One other thing.  We're supposed to be receiving our mid-year reviews now, and the task of writing my review has been delegated to me.  The review form specifically states that the manager/supervisor is supposed to comment on the aspects of the employee's performance that are and are not meeting your expectations.  I'm not sure how I (as the employee) am supposed to complete this form.  I think I'll be perfectly honest and say I can't complete it since I don't know what's expected of me.
Or can you be perfectly honest and say you are exceeding all expectations - because there were zero expectations, and anything you are doing is greater than zero?

On a more serious note, having the employee write the review while the boss provides the final rating is not uncommon.  You may wish to write the most favorable version of your performance that your ethics allow, in case your boss hasn't been paying enough attention to understand what you are doing.

Roots&Wings

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2017, 11:28:41 AM »
+1 If the guy you replaced was too honest, that might not be the best approach for navigating office politics :)

You've already outlined what you do pretty well: You are successfully managing a group of people who operate and maintain telecommunications equipment.

For metrics, you might consider noting that your group has had X number of reported incidents (assuming this is 0 or a low/good figure), thus contributing to company's overall smooth operation and customer satisfaction. Sounds like you're doing your job!

GuitarStv

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2017, 11:37:09 AM »
A pretty large chunk of my work has always been figuring out what to do.  There's always something new to learn, something that can be optimized, something that we've been thinking about fixing but haven't got around to it yet, something that the client (project manager, tester, end user, upper management) wants done, something that looks like it would be fun to do on your own . . . Once you've nailed that down, doing the work is usually the easy bit.

The best approach to take and most important task to start with is dictated by the company culture.  It seems to change radically depending on who's signing your paychecks.

MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2017, 11:47:18 AM »
A pretty large chunk of my work has always been figuring out what to do.
+1

Those who figure out how to provide more value without needing explicit instructions will almost always prosper ahead of those who complain "nobody tells me what to do."

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2017, 11:58:45 AM »
Or can you be perfectly honest and say you are exceeding all expectations - because there were zero expectations, and anything you are doing is greater than zero?

I like that, but I'm not sure I have the cajones to put it in writing just yet.  Maybe if I had another $300k in savings.

marielle

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2017, 12:07:19 PM »
A pretty large chunk of my work has always been figuring out what to do.
+1

Those who figure out how to provide more value without needing explicit instructions will almost always prosper ahead of those who complain "nobody tells me what to do."

How does this work for entry-level jobs, or where you're new/inexperienced/have no power? My peers that graduated with me don't seem to have a problem of nothing to do. Some travel a lot, some work in companies with really good structure and have many busy days, some get continuous projects and training that keeps them busy even on weekends or overtime, etc.

It's also difficult when you don't have a lot of say to implement something out of the fly or just simply require money/resources to do it. I think my best bet is to go around and figure out ways to improve things and bring the ideas to management, but that won't provide a lot of work until I actually have the resources to be able to put the suggestion into action. There is already a backlog of things I can implement, but waiting for others (e.g. maintenance staff) to be able to work with me to do so. I don't have the say to go around and ask other staff to do X for me so I can implement Y if there are more important things to be done.

Perhaps it's easier in bigger or traditional companies, where there is likely a lot of outdated issues and room for improvement due to new technology and such. Some companies also have a lot of documentation you can go through to learn about the processes or how the overall system works, but at my company there is very little documentation (which actually IS something I'm working on continuously).

MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #19 on: October 02, 2017, 12:35:16 PM »
A pretty large chunk of my work has always been figuring out what to do.
+1

Those who figure out how to provide more value without needing explicit instructions will almost always prosper ahead of those who complain "nobody tells me what to do."

How does this work for entry-level jobs, or where you're new/inexperienced/have no power? My peers that graduated with me don't seem to have a problem of nothing to do. Some travel a lot, some work in companies with really good structure and have many busy days, some get continuous projects and training that keeps them busy even on weekends or overtime, etc.

It's also difficult when you don't have a lot of say to implement something out of the fly or just simply require money/resources to do it. I think my best bet is to go around and figure out ways to improve things and bring the ideas to management, but that won't provide a lot of work until I actually have the resources to be able to put the suggestion into action. There is already a backlog of things I can implement, but waiting for others (e.g. maintenance staff) to be able to work with me to do so. I don't have the say to go around and ask other staff to do X for me so I can implement Y if there are more important things to be done.

Perhaps it's easier in bigger or traditional companies, where there is likely a lot of outdated issues and room for improvement due to new technology and such. Some companies also have a lot of documentation you can go through to learn about the processes or how the overall system works, but at my company there is very little documentation (which actually IS something I'm working on continuously).
Good questions.  And, if one has a terrible boss, there may not be much one can do at all.  But assuming the boss is at least halfway decent...:

1. Take care of the basic requirements.  If you are a shelf stocker, order taker, etc., make sure the shelves get stocked and the orders taken quickly and accurately.  By doing that well, there should be time to...
2. Look around and see what could be done better.  This is what you have already identified as your "best bet".  Well done to have figured that out!  Don't worry about not having the authority now - it's just a fact of life that in most cases new hires aren't given huge budgets to spend. ;)  You may however be able to persuade your boss who may have such authority and be happy to support your idea.
3. Broaden your experience base.  This could mean different roles within the same company, or working for different companies.  The more you know from various perspectives, the more likely you will be able to see things others do not.

Good luck!

GuitarStv

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #20 on: October 02, 2017, 12:39:02 PM »
A pretty large chunk of my work has always been figuring out what to do.
+1

Those who figure out how to provide more value without needing explicit instructions will almost always prosper ahead of those who complain "nobody tells me what to do."

How does this work for entry-level jobs, or where you're new/inexperienced/have no power? My peers that graduated with me don't seem to have a problem of nothing to do. Some travel a lot, some work in companies with really good structure and have many busy days, some get continuous projects and training that keeps them busy even on weekends or overtime, etc.

If you're bored/idle at work it's a serious problem.  At a minimum you should be always be working on your skills (looks good when you've got to go job hopping and can open up new positions for you at the company you're at).  Few companies will ever give you enough time to do this.[/quote]


It's also difficult when you don't have a lot of say to implement something out of the fly or just simply require money/resources to do it. I think my best bet is to go around and figure out ways to improve things and bring the ideas to management, but that won't provide a lot of work until I actually have the resources to be able to put the suggestion into action. There is already a backlog of things I can implement, but waiting for others (e.g. maintenance staff) to be able to work with me to do so. I don't have the say to go around and ask other staff to do X for me so I can implement Y if there are more important things to be done.

Don't bring them ideas, bring them prototypes.  Implement a small mock up in all that spare time you've got and show them why your idea is worthwhile.  If it totally fucks up . . . meh whatever, you staved off boredom.  If it works it's all kudos and accolades for you.

Don't wait to do something if you've got nothing else to do.  Start implementing what you want, and scrap it if your maintenance staff turns up and gives you a reason to.  Again, at least you've staved off boredom and probably learned something.

Perhaps it's easier in bigger or traditional companies, where there is likely a lot of outdated issues and room for improvement due to new technology and such. Some companies also have a lot of documentation you can go through to learn about the processes or how the overall system works, but at my company there is very little documentation (which actually IS something I'm working on continuously).

My experience is that small companies are more likely to authorize a small team to try new stuff and risk failure . . . but big companies tend to have very inefficient systems with lots of room for improvement.  Either way, there's always stuff to do.

Zikoris

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #21 on: October 02, 2017, 01:51:10 PM »
Yes, I have four baskets and two inboxes that I try to keep empty. And I answer the phone when it rings, and help people who walk up to me. I'm a big fan of the structure and clarity.

ender

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #22 on: October 02, 2017, 01:57:12 PM »
A pretty large chunk of my work has always been figuring out what to do.
+1

Those who figure out how to provide more value without needing explicit instructions will almost always prosper ahead of those who complain "nobody tells me what to do."

How does this work for entry-level jobs, or where you're new/inexperienced/have no power? My peers that graduated with me don't seem to have a problem of nothing to do. Some travel a lot, some work in companies with really good structure and have many busy days, some get continuous projects and training that keeps them busy even on weekends or overtime, etc.

It's also difficult when you don't have a lot of say to implement something out of the fly or just simply require money/resources to do it. I think my best bet is to go around and figure out ways to improve things and bring the ideas to management, but that won't provide a lot of work until I actually have the resources to be able to put the suggestion into action. There is already a backlog of things I can implement, but waiting for others (e.g. maintenance staff) to be able to work with me to do so. I don't have the say to go around and ask other staff to do X for me so I can implement Y if there are more important things to be done.

Perhaps it's easier in bigger or traditional companies, where there is likely a lot of outdated issues and room for improvement due to new technology and such. Some companies also have a lot of documentation you can go through to learn about the processes or how the overall system works, but at my company there is very little documentation (which actually IS something I'm working on continuously).

It's a lot easier than you think.

When you have ideas/suggestions and are bored or want something to do, imagine these two different circumstances:

  • Hey boss, I'm bored/dislike what I'm doing now, do you have anything for me to do?
  • Hey boss, I was thinking of doing X because it will do Y and I've got a bit of extra bandwidth, what do you think?

People who do the latter basically end up writing their job description, because most people don't do it. Most companies have an overwhelming quantity of things that could be done.

If your boss is halfway competent the latter will make them LOVE you. If they dislike it they are either totally incompetent or a control freak.

YoungInvestor

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #23 on: October 02, 2017, 09:14:08 PM »
A pretty large chunk of my work has always been figuring out what to do.
+1

Those who figure out how to provide more value without needing explicit instructions will almost always prosper ahead of those who complain "nobody tells me what to do."

How does this work for entry-level jobs, or where you're new/inexperienced/have no power? My peers that graduated with me don't seem to have a problem of nothing to do. Some travel a lot, some work in companies with really good structure and have many busy days, some get continuous projects and training that keeps them busy even on weekends or overtime, etc.

It's also difficult when you don't have a lot of say to implement something out of the fly or just simply require money/resources to do it. I think my best bet is to go around and figure out ways to improve things and bring the ideas to management, but that won't provide a lot of work until I actually have the resources to be able to put the suggestion into action. There is already a backlog of things I can implement, but waiting for others (e.g. maintenance staff) to be able to work with me to do so. I don't have the say to go around and ask other staff to do X for me so I can implement Y if there are more important things to be done.

Perhaps it's easier in bigger or traditional companies, where there is likely a lot of outdated issues and room for improvement due to new technology and such. Some companies also have a lot of documentation you can go through to learn about the processes or how the overall system works, but at my company there is very little documentation (which actually IS something I'm working on continuously).

It's a lot easier than you think.

When you have ideas/suggestions and are bored or want something to do, imagine these two different circumstances:

  • Hey boss, I'm bored/dislike what I'm doing now, do you have anything for me to do?
  • Hey boss, I was thinking of doing X because it will do Y and I've got a bit of extra bandwidth, what do you think?

People who do the latter basically end up writing their job description, because most people don't do it. Most companies have an overwhelming quantity of things that could be done.

If your boss is halfway competent the latter will make them LOVE you. If they dislike it they are either totally incompetent or a control freak.

+1. "I've got as little extra bandwidth" is possibly the best way to say you're not doing anything. It's even better if you manage to have a plan in mind.

APowers

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #24 on: October 02, 2017, 09:14:45 PM »
I feel like I'm just here to enforce the rules and make sure people play nice together.

This is almost precisely the job of middle management. As long as the productive people are being productive, and the visionaries can visionate without worrying about whether the day-to-day grind is happening like it's supposed to, then you're golden. If you want to be loved by your team-- find ways to make their jobs easier, and/or get paid more to do the same amount of work. If you want to be loved by your superiors-- find ways for your team to accomplish the same goals while costing the business less.

Sounds to me like you have a good team under you, so....Yay!

crimwell

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #25 on: October 02, 2017, 09:55:36 PM »
I think I'll be perfectly honest and say I can't complete it since I don't know what's expected of me.

I think this would be a terrible idea. I know someone already said basically this but I don't think they said it strongly enough. Performance self reviews are not the time to be honest and give criticism, they are the time for self promotion.

If you refuse to fill it out or give a "rebellious" answer you're going to make extra work for your boss to complete this bureaucratic requirement, which she or he doesn't want to do in the first place (the whole reason why writing the first draft of the review was delegated to you). If your predecessor couldn't handle office politics and was let go as a result, doing what you're planning might get you in the fast track to being shown the door also.

Marielle, guitarStv, and ender have some fantastic advice above.

Lance Hiruma

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #26 on: October 02, 2017, 10:27:56 PM »
Didn't you apply for the position?
It should come with the description.

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #27 on: October 03, 2017, 12:21:22 AM »
I'm trying very hard to get my head round the concept of having a job and not knowing what you're supposed to do or to be seen to be doing. I can imagine it's quite a surreal experience.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #28 on: October 03, 2017, 07:17:28 AM »
I think I'll be perfectly honest and say I can't complete it since I don't know what's expected of me.

I think this would be a terrible idea. I know someone already said basically this but I don't think they said it strongly enough. Performance self reviews are not the time to be honest and give criticism, they are the time for self promotion.

If you refuse to fill it out or give a "rebellious" answer you're going to make extra work for your boss to complete this bureaucratic requirement, which she or he doesn't want to do in the first place (the whole reason why writing the first draft of the review was delegated to you). If your predecessor couldn't handle office politics and was let go as a result, doing what you're planning might get you in the fast track to being shown the door also.

Marielle, guitarStv, and ender have some fantastic advice above.

Frankly, I think my boss is in the wrong for delegating this task to his subordinates.  This is not a self review.  It explicitly states that the manager is supposed to complete it.  I know it may be common practice to delegate this sort of thing, but that doesn't make it right.  How can your people know what's expected of them if you refuse to give them any feedback?

By the way, my predecessor didn't get let go.  They just gave me his job and now he reports to me (which is awkward).
« Last Edit: October 03, 2017, 08:00:39 AM by Schaefer Light »

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #29 on: October 03, 2017, 07:20:38 AM »
Didn't you apply for the position?
It should come with the description.

No.  I didn't apply for anything.  It was all handled verbally, and I was stupid not to push for a list of expectations before taking the job.  I was also under the impression that I might either lose my job (as the group I managed previously had been sold off) or have to take a big pay cut to remain here if I didn't take the position.

teen persuasion

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #30 on: October 03, 2017, 08:14:35 AM »
I'm trying very hard to get my head round the concept of having a job and not knowing what you're supposed to do or to be seen to be doing. I can imagine it's quite a surreal experience.

Me, too.  I'm one of those front line people who do all the work keeping the place humming along.  I come in and hit the ground running, knocking off my mental this-needs-to-be-done-before-I-open-the-doors list.  Don't know when the boss will arrive, doesn't matter, I can manage everything by myself.  Staff just arrange with each other to cover open hours, if we need to swap days.

I have back-burner projects I plan to get to on a slow day, but day-to-day duties seem to keep me busy enough I can't get to them lately.  I view it as a good thing - busy days mean more patrons, so we are fulfilling our purpose.

dcozad999

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #31 on: October 03, 2017, 10:10:44 AM »
Same here. But that is my company "process". I write requirements and send them off to engineering and then basically dust off my hands. Typical waterfall. But when there is work, there is usually a shit ton of work.

This. I'm a Business/QA Analyst on a long term contract with a federal agency. You either have hardly anything to do (maybe 2 hours of work per day) waiting on the higher ups to give you the go ahead to get started on a project, or they green light a project they've been dragging their feet on for months and suddenly need in production immediately. Which can often require significant overtime. Feast or famine. I can often go several without anything of significance to do besides a little support work.

MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #32 on: October 03, 2017, 11:48:30 AM »
This. I'm a Business/QA Analyst on a long term contract with a federal agency. You either have hardly anything to do (maybe 2 hours of work per day) waiting on the higher ups to give you the go ahead to get started on a project, or they green light a project they've been dragging their feet on for months and suddenly need in production immediately. Which can often require significant overtime. Feast or famine. I can often go several without anything of significance to do besides a little support work.
Any ways to automate/streamline the required work so when the SHTF you don't need to spend so much time on it?

Gondolin

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #33 on: October 03, 2017, 01:57:45 PM »
In threads like these I always see lots of good advice about making your boss love you by bringing them your already started side projects.

But, what if I'm gunning for FI? If I'm 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through what I hope will be a 10 or 12 year career at MegaCorp, remind me again what the incentive is to go above and beyond?

I should do extra work in the hopes that my boss likes it and implements it? With the vague hope that my can-do attitude brings on a monetary reward that somehow isn't tied to a bunch of permanent responsibility I don't want?


MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #34 on: October 03, 2017, 02:05:48 PM »
In threads like these I always see lots of good advice about making your boss love you by bringing them your already started side projects.

But, what if I'm gunning for FI? If I'm 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through what I hope will be a 10 or 12 year career at MegaCorp, remind me again what the incentive is to go above and beyond?
Turn it (voluntarily) into an 8-10 year career.

Quote
I should do extra work in the hopes that my boss likes it and implements it? With the vague hope that my can-do attitude brings on a monetary reward that somehow isn't tied to a bunch of permanent responsibility I don't want?
You don't like having a can-do attitude?  Or those who do?  Basically you want to skate by on the minimum possible because, hey, "they" owe it to you?

Apologies if I've misinterpreted your perspective.

me1

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #35 on: October 03, 2017, 02:32:29 PM »
I've always suspected middle management does nothing. Suspicions confirmed. :)

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #36 on: October 03, 2017, 02:37:06 PM »
I should do extra work in the hopes that my boss likes it and implements it? With the vague hope that my can-do attitude brings on a monetary reward that somehow isn't tied to a bunch of permanent responsibility I don't want?

I get where you're coming from, and I can't say that I totally disagree.  In my position, the issue is that I just can't think of anything useful that I could actually implement.  The changes that I feel could really help the company would all require multiple departments agreeing to either scrap old ways of doing things or prioritizing my ideas over their own.  I have neither the desire nor the energy to fight those types of battles.

MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #37 on: October 03, 2017, 03:20:09 PM »
I have neither the desire nor the energy to fight those types of battles.
A perfectly reasonable position, which may limit advancement and in the extreme, depending on what "wasn't very good at office politics" meant for the former person, lead to the former person's result.  There is often a trade-off between compensation and "work/life balance".  Different people may make different choices, and one can only hope all are satisfied with theirs.

Lance Hiruma

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #38 on: October 03, 2017, 10:14:39 PM »
Didn't you apply for the position?
It should come with the description.

No.  I didn't apply for anything.  It was all handled verbally, and I was stupid not to push for a list of expectations before taking the job.  I was also under the impression that I might either lose my job (as the group I managed previously had been sold off) or have to take a big pay cut to remain here if I didn't take the position.

Then it can be quite exciting. You get to define your mission, visions, and values. I would do that and it may well be exceeding your boss's expectation. More importantly, it gives you a meaningful purpose.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #39 on: October 04, 2017, 06:38:45 AM »
I've always suspected middle management does nothing. Suspicions confirmed. :)

I think middle managers do a lot of things, but few of their activities are actually productive.

Gondolin

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #40 on: October 04, 2017, 07:00:36 AM »
Quote
You don't like having a can-do attitude?  Or those who do?  Basically you want to skate by on the minimum possible because, hey, "they" owe it to you?

Yes, I'd say you missed the point entirely. Having or liking a "can-do" has nothing to do with it. You opine that extra voluntary work will accelerate my FI. How do you square that claim with the constant chorus of complaint that compensation is not generally tied to "hard work" or the value provided?

Your choice of words in the third question are particularly revealing. "Skate by on the minimum" and putting "they" in quotes. I can practically see your lip curling in disgust as you wrote it. "Look at this entitled Millenial, doesn't he know that labor is its own reward?". The very question is predicated on a moral appeal to the sanctity of labor, an outdated notion that corporations routinely to squeeze employees dry.

Tell me, is there anything between "exceeding expectations" and "skating on the minimum"? If I do everything asked of me and it doesn't fill 40 hours, am I good?

This forum is full of people who claim they don't let thier work define them or who rant about having to stay at the office long after their work is done. That's why I'm always surprised that whenever a "bored at work" thread starts people come out of woodwork to tell them they if just work a *little* harder or give a *little* more of themselves to the company, their problems will be solved.

Now, I also apologize if I'm putting words in your mouth. I can get a little defensive since expressing any opinion other than "Work will set you free" usually results in being treated like a leper. As we all know, if you're not constantly busy and producing economic value for someone, you might as well be shot in the head!

I don't ask these questions to push an agenda. I ask because I'm looking to see if anyone can provide a convincing argument that will motivate me to reengage with my corporate career beyond just doing what I'm told. I know lots of people feel the same way but, there are few willing to talk about it due to the stigma of ever being seen as less than 150% busy.

Jouer

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #41 on: October 04, 2017, 07:16:56 AM »
I think I'll be perfectly honest and say I can't complete it since I don't know what's expected of me.

I think this would be a terrible idea. I know someone already said basically this but I don't think they said it strongly enough. Performance self reviews are not the time to be honest and give criticism, they are the time for self promotion.

If you refuse to fill it out or give a "rebellious" answer you're going to make extra work for your boss to complete this bureaucratic requirement, which she or he doesn't want to do in the first place (the whole reason why writing the first draft of the review was delegated to you). If your predecessor couldn't handle office politics and was let go as a result, doing what you're planning might get you in the fast track to being shown the door also.

Marielle, guitarStv, and ender have some fantastic advice above.

Frankly, I think my boss is in the wrong for delegating this task to his subordinates.  This is not a self review.  It explicitly states that the manager is supposed to complete it.  I know it may be common practice to delegate this sort of thing, but that doesn't make it right.  How can your people know what's expected of them if you refuse to give them any feedback?

By the way, my predecessor didn't get let go.  They just gave me his job and now he reports to me (which is awkward).

This isn't just delegating - it's also a test. So why not pass the test?!! Do a great job of writing up your year end. Do such a great job that your boss will be bragging about it/you. "oh man, you should see the kick-ass job Schaefer Light did on his review. I barely had to do anything with it. So much easier to work with than that idiot [not Schaefer Light] who was a pain in the ass about the whole process."


BrakeForTurtles

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #42 on: October 04, 2017, 07:35:14 AM »
I was just fired from a job where feedback/specific direction wasn't initially given, so I can offer a few "lessons learned". I was unqualified for the position (I ticked 2.5 out of the ~6 criteria in the job posting), which I was completely upfront about. I got the job, and for the first three months there was not a word of feedback, and deadlines and outcomes were open ended. I went along with that. Now I have learned that was a mistake.

At the three month mark my supervisor (middle management) tells me I have not been picking things up fast enough, and not competently completing my tasks in the deadlines set. This chat was totally out of the blue for me, to the point that going in to the meeting I was wondering what it was about and the options in my head were "Maybe they're extending my contract" or "Maybe my supervisor is leaving".

We arranged to have bi-weekly performance review sessions, and I worked bloody hard on meeting their expectations. It was super stressful as it felt like every second counted and every action was closely scrutinized (zero autonomy). I assumed my position was safe as it's a highly skilled job in an area where it's difficult/impossible to find highly skilled people. Not the case: after 6 weeks of these performance review sessions my contract was terminated.

If I were in a similar situation again I would actively seek feedback from my superiors, and if they are still unwilling I would go to the staff under me. Having been in a middle management position, my view is that you're there to ensure your staff are set up for success. They can possibly offer more meaningful feedback than your supervisor. Getting it from both directions is ideal though, so I would try to arrange regular (maybe quarterly) performance review sessions and generate some metrics you can improve at. I like the suggestion about pretending you're going for promotion. If they think you're interested in that, they might give you stretch goals etc., and that could make the work more satisfying. Then when a promotion comes up you can always say the timing isn't right, although I guess that could tick them off.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #43 on: October 04, 2017, 07:38:09 AM »
This isn't just delegating - it's also a test. So why not pass the test?!! Do a great job of writing up your year end. Do such a great job that your boss will be bragging about it/you. "oh man, you should see the kick-ass job Schaefer Light did on his review. I barely had to do anything with it. So much easier to work with than that idiot [not Schaefer Light] who was a pain in the ass about the whole process."

Maybe it is a test.  Maybe this whole job is just a test to see how long I can put up with being bored and unproductive before I flip out and tell someone how I really feel.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #44 on: October 04, 2017, 07:50:50 AM »
If I were in a similar situation again I would actively seek feedback from my superiors, and if they are still unwilling I would go to the staff under me. Having been in a middle management position, my view is that you're there to ensure your staff are set up for success. They can possibly offer more meaningful feedback than your supervisor. Getting it from both directions is ideal though, so I would try to arrange regular (maybe quarterly) performance review sessions and generate some metrics you can improve at. I like the suggestion about pretending you're going for promotion. If they think you're interested in that, they might give you stretch goals etc., and that could make the work more satisfying. Then when a promotion comes up you can always say the timing isn't right, although I guess that could tick them off.

I appreciate the feedback.  You've definitely got first hand experience with this sort of thing.  I like your suggestion about talking to the people who report to me.  I'm not getting any useful feedback from above, so maybe I could get some from below.

Schaefer Light

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #45 on: October 04, 2017, 07:53:27 AM »
By the way, this was the article that prompted me to start this topic:

At the end of the meeting, my soon to be ex-colleague sat across the table from me and said something I will never forget “I didn’t know what my job was, why I was doing it and how I was doing.” It was those words that summarized almost exactly why the cliche “People leave managers, not companies” is true. Reality had set in, she was leaving me, not the business.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-people-leave-manager-what-you-can-do-john-eades/?trk=eml-email_feed_ecosystem_digest_01-recommended_articles-9-Unknown&midToken=AQGh-Y8_mvDpqw&fromEmail=fromEmail&ut=06iPk0hzma4DU1

I read this a few weeks ago, and realized it described my situation perfectly.  I'm going through a pretty difficult time in my personal life, and I'm determined to use this time to make some changes that make for a happier and more fulfilling future.  One of those changes is going to be either making my current job more tolerable or finding a new job.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2017, 08:00:36 AM by Schaefer Light »

zinnie

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #46 on: October 04, 2017, 08:00:40 AM »
How many people report to you? I've always found just the management part in itself enough to fill my days. Are you having frequent meetings with your employees? Talking about what they need, their goals, where they feel they need to grow and and how you can support them, etc.?

I've always been in a position where I needed to carve out a place for myself, write my job description, figure out what needed to be done and then implement it. Can you not do any of that here? If you aren't getting it from your boss, why don't you try coming up with it on your own and then showing him for feedback? If the boss is just busy it helps to take the initiative to do it yourself. And in my experience, writing your own performance review is completely acceptable. As is writing your own goals--so if you don't know what is expected of you, look at the company objectives, see where you and your team can add value, and try writing your own goals. Would that work? Good luck!

GuitarStv

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #47 on: October 04, 2017, 08:12:38 AM »
In threads like these I always see lots of good advice about making your boss love you by bringing them your already started side projects.

But, what if I'm gunning for FI? If I'm 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through what I hope will be a 10 or 12 year career at MegaCorp, remind me again what the incentive is to go above and beyond?

I should do extra work in the hopes that my boss likes it and implements it? With the vague hope that my can-do attitude brings on a monetary reward that somehow isn't tied to a bunch of permanent responsibility I don't want?

Because it's not a zero sum game.  Doing work at work is good for you and for your employer.  Even if you're expecting to leave next year, it will be a more enjoyable year for you if you're engaged.

MDM

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #48 on: October 04, 2017, 08:24:38 AM »
Quote
You don't like having a can-do attitude?  Or those who do?  Basically you want to skate by on the minimum possible because, hey, "they" owe it to you?
Yes, I'd say you missed the point entirely. Having or liking a "can-do" has nothing to do with it. You opine that extra voluntary work will accelerate my FI. How do you square that claim with the constant chorus of complaint that compensation is not generally tied to "hard work" or the value provided?
Do two misses make a hit?

Perhaps we are simply talking past each other.  Unfortunately internet forums are fertile ground for that. 

There are no guarantees in life.  Extra voluntary work may or may not accelerate your FI.  Luck (e.g., right time and place for work to pay off) plays a not insignificant role in most career advancements.  The saying that "the harder one works the luckier one becomes" still rings true.  YMMV.

omachi

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Re: Do you really understand what's expected of you at work?
« Reply #49 on: October 04, 2017, 09:46:15 AM »
I manage a group of people who operate and maintain telecommunications equipment.  If the equipment works reliably, people are happy.  If it doesn't, then we have the whole company breathing down our necks.  I really don't think a person in my role can do a whole lot to improve the reliability of our network, though.  Once the equipment is installed and working, we pretty much leave it alone.
To the extent your job is a manager/leader, your priorities should be
1) Care and feeding of the people in your group.  I.e., do unto them as you wish someone would do to you if you were in their positions.
2) Working with others at your level in other parts of the company to ensure your group is, and is perceived to be, helpful to the overall company.

If you are expected to do "real work" (i.e., operate/fix/improve the equipment) then you have to weave that into the previous items.

At least, that's my $0.02.  If in doubt, do what your boss (and boss's boss) value.

Thanks for the feedback.  I agree about the two priorities for a manager.  I think part of my problem is that I'm not sure if I'm expected to do the hands-on type of work that my group does.  I'm certain I could learn to do it if someone would teach me, but my background is in a different area so I really don't know how to operate most of the equipment that my group maintains.  I also question whether or not someone in a management role needs to be able to do that type of work.  This all goes back to the main problem I have - the expectations for my job have never been clearly explained to me.       

I think you've probably figured it out and just don't believe that you can occupy a position that's so unproductive and, in good times, seemingly purposeless. Middle management is a buffer between the labor and the upper management. Things can get to the point where your job is hard, which is when labor and upper management have different ideas as to what the labor should be doing. So congrats on finding a functional place for the moment.

1 and 2 above are helpful, and I advocate that 1 be as high on your list as possible because it will make your life easier when your job starts to get difficult. 2 never hurts. But your real job (if you want to keep it and keep life easy) is to make the upper up, who ousted your predecessor and put you in their place, happy. So what does that mean? Unfortunately, politics.

Make them feel responded to. If they come to you with a request, don't argue with them about how it's impossible. Don't tell them the worker bees aren't going to like it. They either know or are out of touch enough they don't want to hear it. They have pressure from above and shit flows downhill. So it's "yes sir!" and then reports on how you fixed things for them. At worst, "yes, but... ", where what follows is that you need something, money, time, other resources, strings pulled in department X. Never no, though what you ask for might make it a no anyway. Not your no, though, that cursed director of department X's no.

But, pursuant to 1 above, you get to be the umbrella for your little group. If you make sure most of the shit doesn't get to them, they'll like you and work well for you. Never forget that. As much as possible, somebody with your job is to deflect the shit so the people that do work can get it done and the company can make money despite anything happening above. Your true showing of skill in your position will be how well you can keep both sides happy, probably without the resources needed to have any impact above pleading with people. That's where 1 above will save your bacon. And remember to solve the problem, not just do what the boss says blindly.

Make them look good. Your upcoming review is a good place to do that. One of your strengths is probably faithfully implementing all the clear direction that manager gave you. "But omachi," you say, "I have no direction, much less clear! That's the whole point of this thread!" Well, you did implement every last bit of the clear direction you received, didn't you? Congrats, "all" rarely gets to be a weasel word, but it sure is here. If it makes you feel any better, nobody, including your boss, actually cares about the review. They need a way to justify your pending cost of living adjustment. If they actually cared, they sure as hell wouldn't have you write your own review. Talk about letting the fox into the hen house.

Make them know you're on their side. Your predecessor was probably ousted not for honesty but for inability to play politics. There's a time and place for honesty, and it's never when you're going to make your boss look bad. If you're in a meeting and your boss says something obviously wrong, don't correct them in front of everybody. If your boss is wrong, called out on it, and turns to you for backup, you believe what your boss said but don't have the specifics with you. You'd be happy to get them, though. After the meeting, go talk with the boss and gently make the correction. "We only booked all that work, and my team is still completing it. It will be done at such and such a time." That's clear, honest, and shows whose side you're on. Your boss needs allies, and being a good ally is a good way to be valued.