Blurred lines of responsibility – advice needed


(Sarah Hawk) #1

I am seeking your advice and ideas on behalf of someone that would prefer to remain anonymous.

Have you ever been in the position where your daily schedule is filled with administration and project management tasks, meaning that you don’t get time to dedicate to community growth or engagement?

In this case, someone else is responsible for those other tasks but they are being dumped on the CM, and complaints are falling on deaf ears.

How would you deal with this?


Anonymous questions
(Richard Millington) #2

I think with most internal challenges it’s very contextual on the relationships s/he has developed within the organisation. The classic case is the community isn’t perceived as a high value task and the person dropping those tasks on him/her believes their time is more important.

If it’s a colleague of equal power, the natural response would be to take it to the boss. If it’s a boss, then the natural response would be to highlight the concerns that the community work won’t get done and ask if they’re happy with that.


(Darren Gough) #3

One successful strategy I’ve used in the past is the in/out approach.

You have these 5 tasks to do which are part of your job remit. Someone tells you that you now have to do task Y also. You remain extremely polite and say “ok, which one of my 5 other tasks would you like me to drop to take this on?” You’re saying that you’re happy to take the task on, but they have to make the decision for you and you let it be known that you’ll communicate to your boss that you were asked to drop Task X to take on Task Y by John Doe.

This tends to work better if the work is being given by someone in a superior role (we actually used it to deal with cross department issues). It’s a nice mechanism because it does several things:

  • Shows that you are currently at capacity
  • Shows you were prepared to take it on
  • Puts the accountability back on the requester which makes them stop and think as to whether their task is actually that important
  • Subtly mentions that if this task isn’t high enough value or made you drop something that your/a boss thought was, this is how you’ll justify it

If everyone then ignores you, frankly you might need to move companies as the respect and trust levels are going to be extremely difficult to change.


(Rebecca Braglio) #4

I have done what @Darren_Gough suggests and it worked quite nicely. However, I did have one manager say, “You just need to learn to multi-task better. It all needs done.” I eventually moved on from that job. I suppose I could have put in extra hours outside of the office to work on the tasks I knew were more important and then taken the results back.

I think as he notes, it’s important to be showing them though what they are missing out on by having you do this administrative stuff.

For example, if I have these 5 x things to do, that’s fine, but then y (which will provide more value) will not get done. And - for real - I go in with abstracts/research articles and wave them around when I advocate for “y” over “x” because “y” provides more value. One, I think it shows I’m really serious. Two, no one will ever sit down and read the damn article or get past the abstract anyway.

I also pull the “the best in class communities” are doing x and I don’t want us to fall behind. If you can use a time tracker to give your boss a clear idea of just how much of your time is being spent on these tasks - he/she may not realize it’s consuming all of your time.

Always tie it back to what is in it for your boss - how will not doing those admin tasks and focusing on growth/engagement make HIM/HER look BETTER? How will they meet the company goals (which makes your boss look better)?

And, most importantly, have some kind of suggestion as to who will do these tasks if your boss agrees with you. Never go in with a problem/question/complaint without having a possible solution/s or way to resolve things. Maybe this means having a college intern do these tasks for credit. Or distributing tasks among other team members (if they exist). Or taking on an entry level employee (if possible). Or a virtual assistant.

If none of that is possible, suggest a compromise - you’ll only spend x amount of your day doing these admin tasks and x amount focusing on growth.

When none of these tactics work, there’s a deeper issue at play (as @richard_millington and @Darren_Gough point out). For your own sanity, it’s critical to recognize this – because the culture won’t change. Don’t hang on and burn yourself out hoping it will get better. Pick up and move on.