BLUF: Federal employee managing projects, but not people.

As a senior editor, I frequently manage publications projects. I typically coordinate the work of multiple contributors--mainly the other editors I work with. I do not have any direct reports.

Barriers, in brief:
I'm a newer employee, charged with "raising the game" and managing projects. I'm supposed to lead other editors by example and shift editorial toward better practices and quality. I need to balance these charges against trying to not seem to my peers like a know-it-all, but my peers are generally underqualified as editors. I'm trying to fit in (per Mark and Mike's credo), but I was specifically hired because I don't fit in to the status quo. I feel like I'm here for damage control, not growth. What to do?

In not-so-brief:
1. I manage projects, but not the people. I've been told I have "a future in leadership" based on my performance, communication, decision making, and poise in difficult situations. I'm hopeful because I feel like I can do good things here, but I also feel like I'm being had.
2. I work for the Fed, and the consensus is that it's not only impossible to fire people but also impossible to set standards for their performance. We have union staff and staff members with disabilities, so people are overly cautious about anything resembling correction, or even assessment.
3. My colleagues who contribute to the projects I manage have a general background in publications, but are not editors. Several are conventionally competent writers and do an okay job copy editing, but it's like the difference between data analytics and making an Excel spreadsheet.
4. "Editorial" in my branch has long been a convenient place to stick employees who people can't figure out what do with. This again contributes to the competence problem. It's also skewed the division's concept of what editors actually do.
5. Leadership does not have sufficient technical knowledge to recognize gaps in skills and abilities. This is so extreme that non-native speakers with obvious deficiencies in grammar and usage are given editor positions. So extreme that no one realized for years that we were not fulfilling certain federally mandated publications requirements.
6. I enjoy training and helping staff build skills--I have absolutely no problem supporting my peers. But it's out of scope for me to teach Standard English grammar to other editors. I said this (tactfully) to my manager in a fit of pique, and she basically shrugged.
7. I've been with the branch for less than a year. My manager and her boss brought me on to shake things up. Flattering, but not helpful in terms of my capacity to implement change.

I love the work I do. I love the people I work with. But I do not love the work they do. How can I best navigate this, stay effective, and deliver what leadership is asking for when my project management toolbelt feels half empty?

bdhaas's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I think that it would be best to listen to "Project Manager One on Ones." Start those and begin building relationships with your colleagues.  Later you can start "Project Manager Feedback" to help them improve.


You aren't going to ba able shake things up right away.  As they say, "You have to go slow to go fast" so build relationships first.

Jollymom's picture

Have you had Team Coordination Meetings where you brain storm inputs and outputs? And since their outputs affect your work, did you give feedback for improvement? If yeah, is there a relative training done for those individuals? If yes and still no improvement and effort done to enhance then you should trim down the team. Responsiblity wise, they should also give excellent work.