When your manager says “I don’t know what you do”


  • “The more your manager knows and understands what you’re doing, the better they will be able to support you”.
  • I was so proud of being able to work independently that I had forgotten that my manager still needed to a recap about what I was doing… not having to put it together himself in a piecemeal manner.

  • Are you ready to help your supervisor understand your work ? In this episode, learn what to include in the weekly recap of your activities !

  • Watch the video to get the full training, or read the transcript below.

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Hello and welcome to this episode of Compensation Insider. Today, I want to tell you about a personal story, which happened to me when I started to get a little bit more experienced technically in terms of C&B.

I was in my second international role. At the time, I was an EMEA Compensation & Benefits Consultant, and I was reporting directly to the Director of EMEA Compensation & Benefits.

From sitting in the same office to “I don’t know what you do”.

There were a number of us on the team. We had sub-regions assigned to us as well as functional specialties across the whole region. My functional specialty was the sales population across EMEA, which represented over 50% or 60% of the overall head count in EMEA.

I spent the first six months of my job based in Milan, in Italy, because my boss was there and when I took the job, I asked to spend some time with him. I was initially due to be based in Paris, but I wanted to spend some time with him in order to learn the company culture, the specific processes that were taking place, and so on.

I ended up literally sitting in his office because we didn’t have enough space. I was sitting on his meeting table, and I would sometimes leave when he would have a really personal conversation with someone. But most of the time, I was sitting in his office.

After six months had passed, I went back to France and I started to work in my office there.

At the end of the first year, we had the year-end evaluation. My boss said to me something which I hadn’t anticipated. He said to me, “I don’t know what you do.”

That was a shock.

The directors and other HR staff were consistently saying that I was doing a great job, that the Comp & Ben team was the best team, that I had put in place new ways of delivering on some of our annual processes that were saving time, making it easier for local HR to understand and participate to salary surveys for us as Compensation & Benefits experts to check the quality of the data estimation, and so on.

So it came as a surprise for me because we were also participating in a lot of conference calls on a regular basis as well.

Opening a transparent communication process

I couldn’t understand how my boss was saying, “I don’t know what you’re doing,” but I had to admit that it was my manager’s reality. That even though I felt that he knew what I was doing, clearly he wasn’t.

That was a big learning point for me. I had to implement some solutions that would ensure that what I did was recognized not just by my clients, in my part of the world, but also by him. So one of the first few things that I did is ask him if he wanted me to report to him more often, and whether he would prefer for me to send him an email that he could go through at his own time, or if he would prefer for me to give him a call or do a video conference.

I’m talking about 14, 15 years ago. Video conferencing was not as common as it is today, but that was a tech organization. It was the tool that we were using all the time. He told me that he preferred email because for him that wasn’t a synchronous conversation. He could look at it in his own time, instead of having another call blocked with me. So I started to do that, and to give him frequent reports on what I had been doing, and also sharing with him the feedback that I was receiving from our internal clients.

I also made a point to keep him informed of when I was struggling.

That’s one of the things that I had not been doing too much before. Not that I wanted to hide the struggle, but first and foremost, I was always trying to find out a solution by myself. I was very proud that most of the time, if I was giving a call to colleagues inside the company or to some of my friends in Compensation & Benefits in other organizations, I would find a way to handle the situation.

But I realized that if I didn’t tell my boss about some of the challenges that were popping up in my day-to-day life, he would not understand the impact it could have on my workload, on sometimes my availability to deliver on other things.

So I started to make sure that I was telling him of those things as well, reporting on the positive and the achievements, and what I had done and the progress, but also reporting on things that were either unexpected, or things where I needed his support more. Also, I made sure that I was asking for his opinion more often, if only for him to understand that I was confronting a certain number of situations from time to time that he might not be aware of.

This system of reporting to him on a more regular basis really helped.

Applying this lesson when I became a people manager

If you think about it, nowadays, when we think of performance management, a lot of organizations are saying that there should be a weekly conversation with the manager and employee.

This helps a lot, not just the employee, but also the manager. By the way, later on, when I became a team manager and had 13 people reporting to me, I made sure that I was sitting down with every single one of them on a one-on-one basis for at least half an hour each week, above and beyond the team meetings and the work assignment, just to make sure that I knew what they were planning to work on. I knew what were some of their challenges, if they had a planned day off that I had approved, but I might not remember etc.

I wanted to share that experience with you, just to highlight that really, it’s important to share information on your progress and your questions, and that is not going to reflect badly on you. Actually, the more your manager knows and understand what you’re doing, the better he or she will be able to support you.

Thank you so much. I hope that I will see you next week in the next episode.

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