Why does "How much time do you spend on task XYZ?" always feel like a trick question?
July 14,2021 at 3:22PM UTC
I've been asked this question a few times from managers throughout my 7+ years with my current employer, and regardless of how I answer it, management always seems to think it confirms their pre-determined conclusions.
I've been highly involved with my firm's DEI efforts, and have prioritized my 8-5 time to focus on my "day job" and have used nights and weekends to get the more "volunteer" work done, even though my manager said I could do the volunteer work during the day. When my department got a new manager, he asked me how much time I spent on my regular job vs. the extra-curriculars. I told him it was about a 30 hr / 20 hr split. He acted shocked like I was spending too much time on the extra-curriculars and it was detracting from my "day job" (even though my direct supervisor had never given me this feedback, I am one of the higher performing people on my team, and my supervisor heavily relies on me for support). Soon afterwards, I was removed from my volunteer position.
A second example happened yesterday. I was on a call with a couple supervisors from different groups within our department. I'm currently the informal project manager for our department. Management would like me to split the responsibilities with another co-worker. I was making the pitch that it would make more sense for all those responsibilities to reside under one hat because, in my experience, they were very integrated. I explained that I was flexible as to whether this went to me or my co-worker, but that I was making this pitch in order to increase efficiencies. One of the newer supervisors asked how much time I currently spent on the portion they'd carved out for me. I HATE being put on the spot like that and not having the time to carefully answer the question (especially because I don't work in blocked out time like that), but I gave it some thought and said that I focused on those tasks about 10 hours out of a month. He acted shocked that I would spend that much time on maintaining our project management system and said that it just proved his point... I felt like 10 hours out of 160 was not as significant as he made it out to be, and I felt tricked into giving him any answer that he could then use to make his argument.
Because these questions come from management and the power dynamic is weighted in their favor, I feel manipulated because we're not on the same playing field. They seem to read whatever conclusions they want out of my responses and I don't feel like we can have an actual conversation.
Have you all experienced this? How do you respond when management asks you questions and you get the sense they're not wanting to have a conversation, they just want to prove their points?
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