tldr I told my bosses boss I was unhappy. My peers then told me that my manager was asking leading questions about me. I told HR which told me that's retaliation and they should investigate. I declined. In the next 1:1 I got negative feedback from my manager about an apparently rude email I sent two weeks ago (I asked the new resource if he was familiar with my project area and what projects he worked for in the past in the company which I think was super reasonable).

HR followed up again asking if they should investigate. My main goal at this point is just to change orgs. Should I let HR investigate? What would that look like and what are the odds of the success?

mmcconkie's picture

Can you give any additional context? I feel like I got like 3 headlines, but I didn't get any details. It's hard for me to give recommendations with such serious ramifications without having a solid understanding of the situation. I'd love to see things like: 

-What was the conversation like when you told your boss you were unhappy?

-What were the questions your manager asked your peers? Be specific here, exact words if possible (not just sentiments - sentiments cannot be investigated, but words can). 

-Can you give us the exact wording in your email to the new resource? 

-Can you give us the wording your boss used in the negative feedback? 

Understanding these things will help as we try to give recommendations on the HR investigation. 



SiliconGuy's picture

Thanks Mark.  The more I think about it, the more hopeless it is :( There's a lot of context, so apologies for the long message.

(1) When I joined the company, my team recently went over a large amount of HC loss.  As a result the original project I was hired for couldn't be staffed. The person who hired me switched orgs also.  After some investigation I found another project area that was in bad shape.  I took the project area with the understanding that my main interest at the company lay elsewhere.  

And I made a single additional headcount in addition to the person on another team who was working part time on the project.

(2) We got a new director who got a PM from another part of the org to prioritize my project.  I repeated my headcount ask.

(3) I got a new manager who did a reorg.  As of Monday

  (a) Moved the part time resource to my org

  (b) Assigned a new Team Lead who reports directly to the director.  And added two head counts to the TL to work on related projects

  (c) We spent a large amount of time recreating JIRAs, milestones and metrics for the new overall area. Our project was slated for 9 weeks

Then everything went south.  This was what happened with the Data Science resource

IM Convo With Boss

boss: yo just got off the <codename> planning meeting
you'll get a ton of help from X's data science team on anything FLAP
should be a lot of fun!
me: Awesome. Do you have a sense of how capable X's data science team is?  Are they mostly food for one off analysis
Or can they build more complicated things, like an AB test analyzers
boss: let's assume they are good to begin with
me: Fair enough :) I don't mean good or bad.  Just how they can best be utilized
Email to DS Resource Afterwards

Thanks <DS Manager>, look forward to working with you. I'll send you some documentation about the pacing problem for context before the meeting.  For my benifit
(1) How much do you know about <subject area>?
(2) What kind of help have you provided teams at <company> in the past?

The answer to (1) was no and the answer to (2) was that his team was capable of both Data Science and coding.  At the end of the first sync the DS manager said we're smart people we'll figure it out.  I said it would be easy if it wasn't for milestones.  He said he did not believe in milestones
In the next DS sync on Monday we spent an hour explaining our subject area.  At the end of the meeting he asked what our teams plan was.  We mentioned it for a few minutes.  And the DS manager said the PM asked him to approve our plan.  And based on what we said he could not.

In a seperate thread, on Friday I gave an infrastructure requirements document to the infra team.  The infra team said they couldn't make sense of the requirements and asked me to come up with a design doc.  I did not have enough context about the company to make a design doc.
I also felt that the top-level goal for our project was incorrect.   I was oncall.  And the new resource hadn't finished his work from his previous project yet.
At this point I was probably incorrectly panicked.  I ran into the Director on Monday.  He asked me how I was doing and I said I felt like everything was chaos.
I met with the Director again on Tuesday after a drinking event and did not think through what to say.  I said that I thought the project was already behind, was not properly resourced, I did not want to lead it, and that we should get all the stakeholders in a room to rethink what the project parameters were.  Which is what I would have done at my old company when resources were misaligned.
He said he'd get me, him, and my manager in a room together to discuss
Instead, I met with my manager the next day who immediately entered into a career conversation.  His feedback in the meeting was
(1) I was hired to lead this project.  I told him I was not
(2) That I had defined the project-parameters and they didn't really matter.  I told him that it was still worth correcting
(3) We discussed a transition plan that was very short.  He told me that I should discuss with the TL as soon as possible
Immediately after that meeting I went to the TL.  The TL told me
(1) He remembered that the project was not my long-term interest, and would help me transition off
(2) Asked me to stay on until the end of the quarter to help transition the work I had already done
(3) Would help me come up with a compromise doc with the DS resource
(4) Would take over the infra side of the design doc
(5) Would attend certain meetings on my behalf to free up my time for doing coding
I was pretty happy with this arrangement.  The root of the problem is neither me nor the TL told my boss about it.
The next Monday the main resource told me that my boss was asking if I was "hard to work with" and "uncooperative."  He told me that he told my boss that I was the best person on <subject area>.
On Tuesday, I ran into the person who hired me about my situation.  She told me that if there was a hint of retaliation for my saying that I was unhappy I should talk to human resources.  She also told me that I was hired as a generalist not a specailist and I should be allowed to transfer off my project.
I talked to human resources on Wednesday.  They asked if they could investigate and I said to hold off on that.  They then counciled me to see things from my bosses point of view.
Later that Wednesday I was called into a meeting with the Director and my Manager.  I apologized for going directly to the Director and told them I would try to communicate through the correct chain of command in the future and I just thought it was worth communicating with all stakeholders in one place.
They then gave me negative feedback about not having a transition plan.  And for the rude email to the DS Resource and asked what I intended by it.  I told them that my intent was to best understand how the DS Resource could contribute to my subject area and that I had worked with the TL to come up with a transition plan.  They told me I should not work with the TL but should communicate only through my manager.
The next day I apologized to the DS resource.  And then had lunch with my manager where I told him I really appreciated his feedback.  He was the first manager to take an interest in me.  We agreed that the TL should assign my work items for the rest of the quarter. He told me that everyone considered my email a borderline HR violation and he reiterated that I shouldn't communicate concerns with anyone else at the company because then he can't protect me.
My head is spinning!  This doesn't even cover all the meetings I had in a three week period.  All I know is that I tried to do the right thing by the company.  I know that I failed to meet expectations but nobody defined expectations.  And that my and my team got almost no work done in the last few days.
My friends say that even though I messed up my not communicating things clearly to my manager that I should still defend my record.  They say my line should be that I was a high performer and then became a low performer because I was mismanaged.  And it doesn't matter if I failed to communicate clearly to my direct manager.  It was his job to help manage the chaos.
I don't know what to do!!!!!!!!  But HR is probably not the answer.  Sorry for the long thread

mmcconkie's picture

Thanks for the clarification. The short answer is that I don't think you should have an HR investigation. Based on the conversations above, I don't see any strong evidence of retaliation. I think that if you were to go down that path that you wouldn't be improving your career or your relationships at this company. Now let's take a look at this piece by piece:

Looking at your original post, it sounded like the possibility for retaliation was in how your manager questioned your peer. In my eyes, that was not a leading question. Asking if you are dificult to work with isn't leading, that seems fairly straight forward. A leading question on that would be to ask something like, "How difficult is it to work with SiliconGuy?" That would be pretty leading. But asking if you are uncooperative or hard to work with seems straight forward. 

I would recommend a change in mindset. Looking at your second to last paragraph in your second post, you talk about how your friends seem to think that your low performance is due to your being mismanaged, but also that your direct should be giving high performance regardless of his being mismanaged by you. That does jive in my eyes. It looks like there are 2 separate standards there (one for you toward your manager, and a separate one for you toward your direct), both of them pointing responsibility for outcomes away from you. If anything, you should be taking responsibility both for your performance and for your direct's performance. 

Now what to do from here - that's the question. Start by listening to the career tool casts on having O3's with your boss: That will help you start to fix that relationship with your boss, as well as make sure that you're on the right track. In these O3's (and everywhere else) you should start documenting EVERYTHING. You should know the goal, deadline, scope, budget, and deliverables for every project you have. If you don't know them, then go over them with your boss. You can bring that up easily enough. You can say something along the lines of, "Hey, Boss. I want to make sure that I am meeting your expectations on project X. By what date should this project be complete? And I want to make sure that I really understand the goal of this project so that I can find any additional roadblocks that I can't see in the parameters or metrics right now, can you help me understand that goal? Lastly, when this project is complete, how are you going to use these deliverables? I want to make sure that I can present the end product in a way that makes sense to you and other stakeholders." If you present it like that, it won't come off as nagging, or as being nosy or disruptive. 

While I know this isn't your first job, I actually really recommend purchasing the First Job Fundamentals series here at MT. While it's marketed as a way to succeed in your first position, it really is applicable to every position. It talks a lot about managing your relationships with peers and your managers very well in addition to guidance on how to acheive top results. It's a less expensive product as well, so it won't break the bank (honestly I would recommend to Mark and Mike to triple it's cost because it would still deliver way more value than it would cost in that scenario - but I know that they aren't just doing this to make a buck, they are wanting to help as many professionals as possible). 

All in all, I'm sorry that this has been such a difficult situation. You've made some mistakes in communication and deliverables which is frustrating, but not so bad that I would consider them career limiting. Your relationships and reputation can be repaired if you bring it back to basics and really take time to cultivate the relationship with you manager using the Boss O3 (professional updates) format, as well as through documentation and better understanding your tasks/projects. Again, I really don't recommend using an HR investigation at this time. I don't see it helping you long-term. I hope that you can be successful in this postion or that you can be transitioned to a position that fits you better. 

Good luck!

SiliconGuy's picture

I think the issue here is that my boss refuses to give me new work assignments.  So its unclear what I can do that's worth anything

tabitharizzio's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Sounds like you are a high D.  

From one high D to another sometimes our conversation styles can be very off pointing.

For example your initial ask about the data science organization & initial email to DS manager you would be working with could be be interpreted as hostile.

I have found the podcasts ob DISC and specfiic profiles information extremely helpful when engaging w/other folks.

Many times basic re-phrasing can do wonders.  

Perhaps instead of phrasing your inquires in such as manner try re-phrasing to promote dialogue and discussion.

For example, when meeting w/new DS manager inform them you would be very interested to learn more about their background and their particular areas of interest and focus w/in the DS space. 

I agree it doesn't sound like retaliation, just probing to see how "diffcult" you are working w/all these people.

I'd suggest listening to or perhaps refreshing podcasts on all the DISC profiles, and perhaps if you haven't already attend one of the effective communication seminars by MT.

Just some helpful tips from one high to another :-)