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  • Writer's picturePeter Yawitz

How do I accept a role I don't want?

Dear Someone Else’s Dad,

I’m an associate at a management consulting firm. I really enjoy the work, especially because I have gotten to work on assignments that challenge me and help me enhance my skills. Recently though, I was given an additional role called “Industry Trend Specialist,” where I am supposed to write updates on several industries for our website and in emails to clients. No one asked me if I wanted to do this, and no one has given me any direction. I’m upset because 1) I fear I’ve been downgraded to some kind of admin role and off the consultant track, 2) I worry I won’t be given new consulting assignments, and 3) I think the role will be time consuming with no payoff. Any ideas about how I can handle this? Thanks,


Dear Confused,

I think all of us can relate to situations where we were suddenly pulled in a new direction when things seemed to have been going so well. Yes, some us of liked being the hall monitor in high school, especially when we got to tell the popular kids to keep their voices down and obey the rules, but then were disappointed when the powers that be moved us to cafeteria clean-up because of reports of abuse of power. But I digress.

All of your very valid concerns come under the umbrella of bad communication about what this role is supposed to be for the firm, for clients, and most importantly, for you. You should talk to the appropriate manager as soon as possible about all of these issues or else your current confusion may turn to hostility, which doesn’t benefit anyone.

Here’s a cheat sheet for you when you talk to the appropriate people—and remember, you should schedule a time for a face-to-face meeting or, if your manager is a different location, a call. Do not communicate over email or text.

  1. I was flattered to haven been chosen for this role, but I would like to know why you chose me. Is this a temporary, rotational role or a permanent one?

  2. I enjoy consulting work, so I want to know whether this role takes me off the consulting track because I don’t see how I can do both roles effectively.

  3. How can we measure whether the industry trend updates benefit clients and the firm?

  4. How can I make sure that the manager for the trends project knows that I would prefer to be on the consulting track?

Make sure your manager answers your questions and addresses your concerns appropriately. If people promise that you’ll still be on the consultant track, I’d suggest that you get something in writing about future plans.

Best, SED

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