New boss: "Create your own role!" Uh oh.

This is the second, maybe third time I’ve been in this situation. I was looking for a job a few months ago, and the prospective boss at this small company saw that I’m a pretty intelligent guy with strong credentials (experience in his industry + an advanced degree).

So he hires me, saying he wants me to be a “project manager” for something he’s been trying to get off the ground.

So I relocate with the family, start work two months ago, and have hardly ever heard anything about the ostensible “project”. The big boss I had interviewed with only flies in once a month, and in the meantime I’ve been working with a senior VP on site who has put me on some relatively low-level stuff for half the day, and for the other half I’m . . . well, I’m not doing much, but I try to keep busy. The VP seems kind of at a loss of what to do with me.

The big boss flew in for a monthly departmental meeting today, and afterward I had my first real chance to talk with him since coming on board

Not a word about the original “project” but now I find out that the big boss wants me to “create my own role” after I get to “understand [his] company more.” His attitude was kind of dour, like I had let him down in some way even though this was the first time I had spoken with him. He wants to talk with me again next week after I get myself up to speed (on what, I’m not quite sure).

I asked the big boss whether I should be taking my cue from the senior VP I’ve been working with. He kind of sniffed and said “not necessarily”. Great, so while he’s out of town, I’m “creating my own role” while reporting to nobody and doing nothing substantial?

Big alarms are going off in my mind about this, obviously. Does the guy regret hiring me? Is he looking for me to aggressively shoulder my way past the VP or disregard what the VP is asking me to do? In getting to “understand” his business, am I supposed to come up with some grand strategic vision to justify my role?

Any thoughts? Ever been in this situation? What did you do?

Thanks much,


Sorry, I mis-typed. He wants to speak with me again next month when he flies in again, not next week.

Huh. I have no suggestions, but lots of sympathy. Sounds like he didn’t really have a plan and now doesn’t know what to do with you himself.

Let me suggest this:

Mostly, he’s disappointed. He hired you because he has a vague idea of where the company should be going and what it should be doing, but it isn’t necessarily going there or doing that. So he saw your credentials, was really impressed, and thought you’d be able to magically use your expertise to give his company the guidance and sense of mission it appears to lack. It never occurred to him that his own lack of vision or leadership is the cause of his disappointment. You cannot just surround yourself with good people and expect good things to happen. You have to give them direction and clear goals, which he obviously has failed to do.

I could be wrong, but it’s a possibility. In any event, get out as fast as you can. And as a guy who has been there, done that and has the scars to show for it, a piece of advice: Never move your family until AFTER you have established yourself for the long term.

well… this personifies the old (false) saying that the chinese character for crises is also the same symbol for oportinity.

You should contact they guy… Be thankful that he saw the oportunity toi see the value you represent. Ask him what he thinks the “role” you create should be worth. If he can not answer, realise this: 1) He is speaking corporate babble gab, 2)He has no idea what your section does, 3) He is a short timer
4)Anything that goes wrong will not be his fault
My anaylsys… RUN!

Start looking for a new job… You have been Dilberted


This the the first time I ever thought this is Dilbert.

On the other hand, you could (and should) try to spin this into something cool. So, what do you think the company should be doing? Everyone has an opinion on it, you have the unleashed enablement (apologies for the buzzwordiness) to start something good.

Preferably a “big vision” project.

Preferably a long term project.

In a way, I sympathize with the guy who hired you. “Why haven’t you come to me with ideas and project proposals yet?”

If you only report to a site VP, and an offsite P, then you should be already hatching your world domination schemes and plans. Request some budget. Hire some underlings (or hijack them internally). Reassign resources.

A new project manager should never be asking for direction or desiring micromanagement oversight. You should only be asking for more and more budget :slight_smile:

This is easy.

Create your own role = go out and get some clients and manage their accounts.

This guy is an idiot who wants you to read his mind and run his company for him. I’m guessing create your own role means find out how to make him more money.

Bingo. Sage advice. Always wait several MONTHS before moving the family/permanent relocation. Live like a pauper as cheaply as possible if need be in your new town while your family is back in the old town.

All jobs can turn out to be the suck and you’ll never know and it could be nothing you’ve done.

My only advice is to take him at his word. Go nuts. Define your new role and pursue it aggresively. Use the original project as your guide:)