New job was misrepresented

Dear Joan:
I recently started my new job in marketing. My previous job was similar, but with more high-level responsibilities, however in a bigger company (one of the top 3 in its industry). When I joined this new company, I compromised with the opportunity of working with a smaller company and was excited to bring my skills and experience to the [new] table. I also consider myself a good interviewee and therefore ask many questions to make sure I understand expectations and job responsibilities well.

In my new job, I'm working very closely with the senior marketing manager, since I'm in the learning phase. However, I'm realizing that this job is more tactical than it was presented to me. The senior marketing manager has been telling me that she is frustrated with some of the day-to-day stuff and is eagerly waiting for me to take on those responsibilities so that she can give more time to thinking and strategy related stuff. When I told her that I would like to work with her on those strategic initiatives (part of my earlier job) as well, she hinted that my responsibilities were made clear to me during the interview process (which was not really exactly the case).

What should I do in this situation? Just give my best performance for things that I've been asked to do, or, down the road talk to my manager and let him know what I'm really interested in working on? Or just wait for the right time to come? I don't want to step on anyone's shoes but at the same time I want to do quality work.  Any suggestions would be highly appreciated. Thanks!


Making a move from a large company to a smaller one is usually a shock. It’s a bit like moving from New York City to a small town. Usually there is less infrastructure, fewer resources, less staff and less sophistication. In a smaller company you also get many non-monetary perks—broader scope of responsibilities, more flexibility, more room to innovate and be creative, and often a friendlier atmosphere. Depending on how you look at it, all of these things can be either positives or negatives—it depends on the work environment you prefer.

I’m not surprised that your current marketing efforts seem more tactical than in your previous big-company job. Regardless of what they said during the interview, what they may have categorized as “strategic” is actually block and tackle compared what you’re used to. They may not have even realized they were misrepresenting the duties, since they don’t have your experience with which to compare it.

It sounds as if the senior marketing manager is eager to get involved in more strategic initiatives, but you mention that you also have a manager to whom you report. The first thing I’d recommend is to have a conversation with him and clarify your duties and level of responsibility and authority. Ask some specific questions about what the senior person is going to be working on and how that contrasts with what he wants you to work on. If it’s clear that he sees things differently than she does, you need to repeat to him what she said to you.

Since this could potentially create a rift between you and the senior marketing person, suggest to your manager that you intend to earn your stripes in the tactical areas first. Explain that you realize that the senior marketing manager has earned the right to work on strategic initiatives, since she has put in her time on tactical matters and you have a lot to learn before you can contribute in a strategic way. Explain that you are willing to contribute to any strategic work but you will focus on lower level duties first. Ask for confirmation that this approach meets his approval.

This will have several outcomes. Your manager will become aware of the senior manager’s desire to keep the strategic work for herself; and he will also be impressed with your mature approach to this potential misalignment. In addition, he will be cued in to the fact that you won’t be happy in a tactical role indefinitely and you are able to contribute at a higher level.

Several months from now, if she is incapable of being strategic, or he feels that you could contribute much more based on your experience, he will begin to push you into more high level work.

Let things evolve for at least nine months before reevaluating the situation. You will likely be involved in strategic matters faster by demonstrating your expertise and getting results in your tactical duties than by pushing for too much before proving yourself.

One of the benefits of working for a small company is that they want maximum contribution from a minimum number of employees, so I suspect you will be tapped quickly if you first show them what you can do.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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