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For some odd ball reason, my manager is giving me grunt work which no one wants to do. Currently he is working on a Flex/AS project, which I have previous experience with and he does not, but is unwilling to put me on that project. He cites other project needs and keeps me on them..

is it time to get out or talk to him or his boss???

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closed as off topic by Anna Lear Aug 10 '11 at 17:40

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Maybe he just wants to learn Flex and ActionScript himself? If you can help him do that, maybe that'll get you on his good side? In any case, grunt work is one of the unavoidable realities of software development - being able to get the boring stuff done efficiently is important. Though of course it's demotivating if there's never any interesting work to look forward to. –  Steve314 Aug 10 '11 at 2:26
I understand that grunt work is unavoidable. When i started with this company, i did that grunt work paid my dues to move up the chain to get choice projects. we did hire noobies who I feel should be doing the grunt work rather than working on choice projects. I was not hired by him but by his predecessor –  iciw Aug 10 '11 at 2:32
How many programmers are on your team? If the manager is doing the "cool" projects himself, the answer may simply be RHIP, sorry. If the manager's friends are getting the peachy projects, go golfing with him. –  Sean McMillan Aug 10 '11 at 12:45
@Sean You have a typo, go golfing with him should be go drinking with him. –  Marcelo Aug 10 '11 at 17:39
This doesn't look like an issue unique to the software development profession. Anybody with a boss could have grunt work assigned to them. There is no Stack Exchange for general work issues yet, but there are a few proposals out on Area 51, such as Professional Matters and Professional Careers and Advice. –  Anna Lear Aug 10 '11 at 17:41

6 Answers 6

Bad luck bud. I would just go talk to him and express an interest in the projects that you wish to work on and ask him outright is there any chance of this occuring. Explain you are finding the current workload not vary challenging and feel you would be able to both contribute best for the team and find it more enjoyable on said projects.

Once you have explicitly stated that and it's still occuring then perhaps say it again in an email. Politely of course expressing the reasons why it would benefit the company and your own development.

If still nothing you have some tough decisions to make. Good luck.

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I would not talk to his boss, that usually ends badly. I would certainly talk to him and find out why he will not put you on any good projects. Many times there are ego reasons why managers will do this. Perhaps you can keep doing exemplary work and make some contacts in different departments. Eventually an opportunity will arise. Anyhow, most of the time a boss will not be friendly to you going over your manager's head.

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I agree that it is his ego that is doing this but i guess as a developer this defies logic in the fact that since being the only developer with flex/as experience he is yet to utilize me but instead he is trying to solve that issue - which I know makes him look good to his boss.. unfortunately we have no other departments, guess best thing to do is the dirty grunt work, i was given good projects before he came over –  iciw Aug 10 '11 at 2:20
@iciw, it certainly is a difficult situation. If it doesn't improve over the next year or so, I would begin looking for a new job. Anyhow, these things tend to sort themselves out over time. Pride and ego are self-destructive, and if he doesn't perform as well because of it his days will be numbered. If they aren't then that isn't a corporate culture that you want to be a part of anyways. Someone will eventually recognize your hard work. If they don't, go somewhere where they do. –  Jonathan Henson Aug 10 '11 at 2:26
@iciw, if he's doing this to look good to his boss, and if it works, then they're BOTH bad managers. Their job is to use the resources on hand to get things done. His manager shouldn't be rating him on whether he can do hands-on work when he has a team that can do it. –  Alger Aug 10 '11 at 3:45

The first thing you need to figure out is why you are getting all the grunt work. Several possibilities come to mind, in order from least to most unfavorable:

  1. You are the junior team member, and will have to do the grunt work until someone more junior joins the team. You have to decide whether the upside is worth the wait.
  2. Your manager is nice, but clueless and doesn't know that these tasks are odious. There may be some hope if you tell him nicely, but it seems you have tried that.
  3. No one else will do them, and he considers them more important than you.
  4. Your manager does not believe you can contribute to more interesting work, and hopes you will voluntarily leave his team. There is little hope here if his opinion is based on your past performance. If it's based on some prejudice, you may be able to change his mind.
  5. Your manager feels threatened by you, and hopes you will voluntarily leave his team. You definitely don't want to stay.

If you are unsure which of these applies, you could ask a senior colleague for advice, someone you can trust to keep your conversation private.

I don't have much patience with situations like this. I would try to improve my relationship with the manager, but I would also be looking for a more satisfying position.

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#5 is way off base. If he is getting real work then I doubt this is the case. You also failed to consider that the work needs to get done and he is someone they trust to get it done. –  Chad Aug 10 '11 at 17:08
@Chad: it's rare, but it happens. I think "The work needs to get done" is covered by 1, 2, or 3. –  kevin cline Aug 10 '11 at 17:58
Actually the threatened guys get put into teams lead by those who pose on threat and put on projects that have no desire or drive to be successful. When you get put on the dog project no one wants and they do not let you ever finish it then you might be right. Grunt work is not this. –  Chad Aug 10 '11 at 18:01
@Chad: not sure what you are saying here, but incompetent managers usually drive off employees who ask embarrassing questions by giving them unpleasant work or otherwise making it impossible for them to succeed. –  kevin cline Aug 12 '11 at 3:08
that may be that that is not at all what is described here. Grunt work may not be glamorous and fun but it pays the bills and it needs to get done. He is putting him on other projects not putting him doing meantless tasks that result in no output or value. Not giving someone the project they want to be on does not mean the manager is incompetent. –  Chad Aug 12 '11 at 14:14

1) Over deliver on your current project. Exceed expectations, help others be successful, go above and beyond with quality.

2) If you really want to be on the Flex/AS project, consider playing with those technologies in your spare time. If you have a few spare minutes and are able to chat about your side project work or can help your boss with a particularly hard problem, it will be a great chance to prove that you deserve a shot.

3) See 1).

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I do have the Flex/AS skill set having worked on for over a year.. –  iciw Aug 10 '11 at 2:55
Have you chatted him up about a hard problem? See if you can engage in conversation that lets him know how strong you are and helps him with something important. –  Jimmy Lyke Aug 16 '11 at 3:16

That work needs to get done. It is your managers job to see that it gets done. Assuming you ascend to that level in your career you will have to make those choices too. And yes with Great power comes Great Responsibility, but it does have some perks like picking the projects you want to work on. In the end if the work needs to get done and it doesnt get done he will also probably be the one staying late and helping to make sure it gets done or fixed. Take that he trusts you to get it done right so that doesnt happen as a positive.

Managers need to develop their skills too. Your manager needs to develop his skill set to continue to grow. The project may be one he feels comfortable starting out with. He needs to learn for himself what works what doesnt so that he can mentor others. A good manager will also ask for help if they need it. Instead of asking to join the project ask if there is anything you can do to help. Let him know you have some experience in Flex(if he doesnt know already) and that you would be glad to help out any way you can.

Do those "Grunt" projects to the best of your abilities. Show him you are a team player and can be counted on. Your manager will reward you eventually. You may not even know that he has done it already. A good programmer that is a bad employee is not what a business needs. Be a good employee and a good programmer. Then those projects will come. But you will never get them all.

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You're getting the grunt work because you're doing it and not complaining. Start complaining!

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This is really a comment, not an answer to the question. Please use "add comment" to leave feedback for the author. –  Matthieu Aug 22 '12 at 17:06

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