Help, I'm the victim of a hostile takeover of my job!
January 30, 2013 3:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm not her assistant but she's treating me like I am. Frankly I'm ready to just quit but I can't afford it without another job lined up. To rub salt in that wound, she's micromanaging and professionally lazy and generally gets under my skin... Help me stick it out while I look for another job!

I've worked for this consulting company's business development group since summer '11, and was made marketing coordinator, given an office-cubicle around the executive area. M was hired on a few months later as the friend of an exec, and has transitioned into our BD group, given an exec office (not the title though). Neither of us had formal job descriptions. Our mutual manager told me his intent was for M and I to have parallel roles in BD and marketing, with separate responsibilities and focuses, often collaborating together. He's done this with another pair of people, at our head office where he's based (in another city across the country). Sounded good, but this did not come to fruition - he left the company on short notice just last week. His temporary replacement has no idea who I am.

In the meantime, things have gotten out of hand with M, who was very recently and quietly promoted to BD manager. She's been treating me like her employee, and this perception has spread to the rest of the office. Part of my duties were originally to help develop and execute certain BD objectives, and I was ok with that at first - I'm a team player and will help out when needed. But I was not hired to be an admin assistant. Sadly, BD has been so busy lately that M has steamrolled me into spending 90% of my time on her proposals, and I haven't been able to do any marketing-specific work to make myself shine with my own accomplishments. I'm feeling like I've been inadvertently down-graded to her assistant, which is incredibly frustrating and depressing. And we're putting in tons of extra hours on her stuff, so I've been left too exhausted to work as hard as I'd like on getting the heck out of there and landing a new job. I can't afford to just quit though.

I wouldn't mind the situation so much if she wasn't so awful to work with. I feel like she's having me do all her work for her, and making it appear like it's all her, I do nothing (because i'm marketing and just lending a hand). She gets requests from the execs and delegates every last bit of it that she possibly can to her admin assistant and me, micromanaging us and preferring to stand over our shoulders and describe what she wants in vague terms (not literally - she's more likely to do a telecon while sitting at her desk though we're just a few meters away). Then she'll redline stuff and have us rework it until it's more to her liking, never making the simple effort to do the rewrites herself. Sometimes she'll hand something over to me completely, trusting in my ability to do it, but then checks in constantly to see what i'm doing and comment. Or something she's supposedly taken on for her own responsibility gets several sections handed off to me. She's even been wanting to review what I've been doing for marketing lately (back off, lady!).

Mild example: Last week I was due to go to an event at 4 pm with a colleague. It's 4, my colleague's here to collect me, and I'm trying to make an exit... but suddenly M's calling to me to hunt down a safety slide from 2012 for a presentation due at 5 pm (first I've heard of it). Thinking this will be quick, I look online, finding only a presentation from 2011. I send it to her. She calls that she wants just the one slide, I tell her to cut it from the presentation, she ignores that and asks for the slide again. I tell her this is all we've got, take the slide from that presentation, it's easy. This goes back and forth, moving on to looking in other places online, me telling her that's all I've got and we're heading out, her telling me to keep looking (because i haven't found a perfect slide yet), contact some other people and ask them, find out from any available source. Finally at 4:30 my colleague's asked a top exec if he's seen this mythical slide (no), we've emailed the safety person to request something from 2012. My colleague simply tells M we have to go, safety person will just have to get back to her or she'll have to make do with that one slide from 2011. Not once has M actually gone online to look for herself or call this person. M is still asking me to just look around online or try to reach safety person again as I'm finally getting my jacket on to go. The next week I get chewed out by M for leaving, being told I should have gotten my colleague to leave without me and not involved them in our work because it's confidential.

I don't like to think of myself as a pushover, or a person that avoids confrontation. I try my best to be polite but firm with her, but she just brushes it off and disregards what I've said. I've tried having a serious talk with her about this situation and she's completely brushed me off. I tried engaging HR on this situation but they're useless, and I'd go talk to the other execs but they adore her and don't think highly of me for reasons beyond my control. So yes, I'm looking for another job asap, but I have to stick it out for the foreseeable future. I'm tearing my hair out.

I need help understanding what it is I'm doing that's letting her walk all over me, what I can do to curb it. I want to work reasonable hours again so that I can spend more effort on my job hunt. I want to bring my stress levels down. And I want to preferably not burn all my bridges doing it. How???
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You are in a shitty position and it is not your fault. Unfortunately, you're not in a great position to fix it. This should be your manager's problem, and you should immediately make it so.

Go to your manager (temp or not, whatever) and say "I have these responsibilities in Marketing, but M over in bizdev has been tasking me with a bunch of her stuff. I need guidance on how to prioritize her requests with my regular tasks." And then sit back and listen to what your manager has to say.

It can be helpful to go in to a meeting like this with a breakdown of your hours spent on various tasks over the last month, and/or deadlines made or missed, or some other concrete visualization of what's on your plate and why it's overfull now - especially if your manager is new. (It is always a good idea to have a list like this on hand anyway - it's a godsend at review time.)

The thing is, though, you have to be prepared for the response to be "Yeah, bizdev's a mess right now, take care of your x project but then do whatever they say because that's the business priority," and then you have to suck it up and do it. Especially if your previous manager was the person you both reported to, then his loss is probably causing backups and snarls all over.

Your example is kind of a mess. Really, what should have happened there is you should have said "I'm out the door, check in the widget folder" and then walk on out to the event you had scheduled. Don't engage. If she then freaks out that you didn't miss your event to help her, send an email to her and your manager and ask for clarification on your priorities. (This is actually a good example to use in that aforementioned meeting - but frame it as "M told me that I should have skipped this event to assist her with this administrative task - what's your take on that?")
posted by restless_nomad at 3:50 PM on January 30, 2013 [11 favorites]

She was promoted to Manager of your department and you are complaining she treats you like her employee? It sounds like you ARE her employee. Am I misunderstanding the hierchy of your organisation?

With new bosses come new expectations (especially if you don't have a job description). This sounds like this is your new role (sadly, I have seen the merging of marketing/admin roles before). It sounds like you need to be firmer in saying no. You know nothing is ever a simple answer with her so when she asked you to do something when you were leaving you should have said no. Stop working the extra hours and focus on getting another job. I wouldn't relay on her for a good reference anyway so put your energy towards your own career goals.
posted by saucysault at 3:54 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

She is the Manager of the BD department, but she isn't your boss? Then why are you working so hard for her?

There's something wonky here, too. Your old Manager had this plan for you two to coexist, but he left last week... how long ago was she promoted? It sounds like this has been going on for longer than that, which makes me think that at some point, your marketing specific role was merged into this BD support-type role. You need to find out if that's true, and why, and what your responsibilities/priorities are. I'm somewhat confused as to why you haven't been following up on this with the higher ups already.

I hope you are putting all this BD stuff on your resume, though.
posted by sm1tten at 4:17 PM on January 30, 2013

Yeah, it is confusing as to whether she's your boss or not. From your post I gather that she used to be a colleague, on more or less equal footing, but then she got promoted. Maybe that promotion was unfair, maybe you should've gotten it, but that's kind of another issue.

Who's the boss? You both have a mutual boss, yes? You say he is temporary, but so what; it's his job to deal with situations like this. Give him documentation of all this, so it doesn't sound like rank whining. Show him how all of this extra work is hurting your other projects. And perhaps most importantly, ask point blank: what is my job here? Specifically? It seems there are differing opinions on that. Get that part straight, but be prepared for an answer you might not like.

Ultimately it all comes down to what the hierarchy in your organization is like.
posted by zardoz at 4:34 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

May I sensitively ask if your marketing work was really standing out before this? I think that if your old work was really compelling to you, then you'd have an easier time drawing the line. I wonder if M simply filled a vacuum and if your managers don't miss your work too much in addition to liking M. I bring this up not to criticize you but to suggest an expansive re-ignition of your marketing work that will greatly assist your ability to proactively, habitually make time for it.
posted by michaelh at 5:15 PM on January 30, 2013

Echoing others in that it sounds like she may actually be your boss. If this is not the case, there are a few things you can do to start nipping this behaviour in the bud. For a start, stop being so accommodating. She keeps asking you to do things because... You keep doing them. There's a difference between lending a hand and being her dogsbody. If she needs to find a slide last minute and you have a meeting, tell her you're terribly sorry, you have an appointment and you think she should try looking here, here or here. Or remind her that's really her assistants job, maybe she should ask her as you're busy with your own stuff. Just because she tries to make it your responsibility, doesn't mean you have to accept it.

I would tell her that as long as you keep doing her job and yours, you can't do your own job effectively. Maybe even subtly suggest that people are noticing that she's struggling to manage her workload as she's constantly having to give it to you, and it's not a great look for her. Yes, it's narky and passive aggressive but you need to reframe this in her head instead of "Hey I can offload everything I don't want to do" to become "People don't think I'm capable of doing my job because I need everyone else to cover for me."

Stop being polite and firm, and just stop doing her work. If she can't find a slide and her presentation falls over, well, sucks to be her. Stop giving in and she will stop asking once she realises its getting her nowhere. She's taking advantage of your niceness. Stop being nice.
posted by Jubey at 5:33 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if she complains to her boss about you, tell him she seems to have an issue managing her workload but you simply can't be responsibly for running to save her every 5 minutes. Otherwise your own projects will be in jeopardy and then you'll have two lots of unhappy clients. You have to focus on your own work.
posted by Jubey at 5:37 PM on January 30, 2013

Start thinking of yourself as a pushover.
posted by rhizome at 7:00 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the OP's business structure has BD and Marketing as two separate departments, working in parallel and occasionally collaborating, so M really isn't her boss, she was just promoted within the BD area, not OP's marketing dept.

Do you have a recent job description for yourself? You say there was no formal description, but if you were focused on marketing, you should be able to create one based on the work you did before she started steamrolling you. I would start there - use your job description, and itemize all your ongoing projects, new projects you're trying to get off the ground, etc. Outline how much time you need to be spending on each of your official duties, then create a second outline showing how much time you are actually spending on them and how much time you spend doing stuff for her instead.

Then, next time she asks for you to do something (i.e. pushes off her own projects) sit down and show her everything you've compiled. Use the following script.
"You know that I'm a team player, and I have been helping you out for a while now. But you can clearly see that continuing to spend time on BD projects, which are outside the scope of my role in marketing, is no longer viable. I'm happy to provide all this information to our manager and to HR to support your request for additional headcount in your own department."

When she balks and says she needs you to help her, stand firm. Say "I'm happy to help once I have accomplished my high priority marketing tasks. I'll be sure to let you know when I have some free time. I don't want to leave you in a tight spot if something unexpected comes up in Marketing, therefore it won't be possible to guarantee you any of my time in the near future."

Finally - if your temporary manager doesn't know you, he can't dislike you. When M continues to make a stink, be cool and calm as you request a meeting with the temp boss. Present all the data you've collected, and take emotion out of it. If he doesn't know you he can't (as easily) play favorites, so make it all about the business decision, i.e. pushing off important marketing tasks so you can instead perform the role of a second assistant for M isn't a good use of company resources.
posted by trivia genius at 7:31 PM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Say this to her, "I'll be happy to help you once you convince my boss it's a priority for me".
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:52 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Before you speak with your own boss about this, inoculate yourself. Be sure your boss has a high opinion of you. Brief the boss on what very important marketing work you are doing, what new projects you have your hands on, and the benefits to the company.

Only they, after treating your boss all boss-like, do you say, "Can you clarify my position in regards to Ms. Bossy? She sometimes acts like my supervisor, but I thought that was you?"
posted by LarryC at 9:30 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

BD takes precedence over Marketing, Marketing gets combined with Admin, this is what happens.

She is now your boss (because BD is taking precedence over Marketing) and she's putting you in your place and pulling rank (making you Admin). Maybe you're a threat, maybe not, but this is her time to shine, and shine she will, dammit (particularly when there's an interim boss around).

Of course the other Execs love her! In such a short time she's made everything about BD and she's sorted you and her assistant out.

Get out as soon as you can.
posted by heyjude at 12:21 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need to get a job description.

I'd just write one and bring it to my boss, but if this is a dangerous path for you for whatever reason, then the safe way to do it is to bring it up to your boss in the interest of "clarifying your current position and understanding your opportunities for future growth/contribution." When is your next performance review?
posted by juliplease at 6:58 AM on January 31, 2013

"I'd go talk to the other execs but they adore her and don't think highly of me for reasons beyond my control."

this smells fishy to me. it sounds like she's producing good work product (and part of producing good work product is delegating what can be delegated) and your higher-ups don't think highly of you because...why? in my experience, there are rarely situations where managers don't think highly of subordinates unless their work isn't up to par, unless this is a personal politics-type situation.

sorry to say, but if you want to stay in this job it sounds like your option here is to suck it up and do good work for her, AND take initiative on your own department's projects until your execs eventually think highly enough of you for you to make the case for no longer supporting her role.

but if this is, in fact, about personal politics, then you just need to leave.
posted by dynamiiiite at 9:55 AM on January 31, 2013

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