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Ask L2: Setting boundaries with an outside manager

"I raised this issue to my manager the first time it happened, and he didn't support me ... Is there anything else I can do to resolve this issue, short of leaving?"

Disclaimer: Identities are kept confidential. The advice given here should be taken at your own risk. If you are having true mental or physical issues, please seek professional assistance.

I'm an individual contributor who reports to a manager in Florida, while my location is in Ohio (I work remotely 90% of the time). Another manager over a similar function in Ohio has been assigning me work—let's call her Manager 2—without discussing it with me or my manager. The matrix reporting structure was never discussed in my interview, nor is it in the job description. The tasks that Manager 2 assigns are very tactical in nature, and that function is also not part of the job description. The team reporting to Manager 2 is fully staffed, although several team members are not very capable.

This has become a significant dissatisfier to me. I raised this issue to my manager the first time it happened, and he didn't support me. I have a performance review scheduled with my manager at the end of January and in my input document I explained that this situation is dissatisfying and I want to discuss not being part of the matrix organization. Is there anything else I can do to resolve this issue, short of leaving?


Additional information: My manager is a new-ish manager, promoted in October 2021 from an individual contributor role. Manager 2 has no experience in the function she's currently managing, she was moved into the role from a completely different function. I get the sense that because she's a woman of color and the business unit doesn't have good representation, she's in the "untouchable" category.


So, there is a good question here, but I’m not going to answer it. There is a pretty direct solution to your problem. Whether your employer does anything about it or not is up to them.

That being said, I’m a little troubled by your “additional information.” Okay, more than a little troubled. I would find it very hard to believe that the other manager is untouchable. In fact, the data shows that Women of Color are historically disenfranchised and overly managed in the workplace. Are there people who are kept as "diversity hires" to save the company trouble? I'm sure. Is that often the reality? Not according lots of data on this. I would need more detail to really understand what this means, but my instinct tells me that it's really unlikely to find that kind of protection for a middle manager. I don't want to make a mistake and assume you're saying something that you're not. I will say that you’re putting the blame on the WOC but not the leader that didn’t support you in your concerns OR the higher level management that you don’t feel comfortable addressing this issue with. She’s not your manager, so she is not the person to complain to, but I also find it hard to believe that she is permitted to act out of line considering her place in the bigger organization. It sounds like the management around you is failing you, and I'm not likely to put the blame on the person who may also be in that situation.

Is it possible that no one has told her that there isn’t an overlap between the teams? That's more likely than someone just massively overstepping and getting away with it because no one wants to say anything. This could be a total misread, but the otherwise irrelevant call out to the situation very much has me wondering.




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