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Male colleagues tasking me: how to handle them?

Hi everyone,

Firstly I would like to say how much I've learnt even from module 1 of the power university (I'm waiting for module 2 to unlock) and the website itself - it has been invaluable.

A bit of context around my question: I am employed as a essentially a cost optimisation manager where I analyse data and processes to find opportunities to more effectively deploy fleet teams in a logistics company.

I have the ability to query data out of the database directly, due to my training and job position.

I provide weekly insight reports and due to Covid - need to be provide timely and useful information which is above and beyond normal analysis.

What I am struggling with (I am a woman) is that 2 peers of mine, who are male, try and tell me what additional analysis I need to do and always provide short timelines and high pressure. Last week, I wasted hours of time, as the General Manager basically had me and these 2 off on a merry waste of time all answering the same questions. The 2 peers use the GM's instruction as license to then tell me what's required and change my prioritisation and put the pressure on (I'm guessing the judge), I also find that people are quite quick to act to the GM's requests without considering the best way to go about the work.

This morning, I provided some high quality work around day by day insight which has not been done before. I then had one of the peers write this afterwards:

"This is just Northern volumes right? Curious if Central/Southern had an uplift in acceptances too for items destined for Auckland?"

I am really sensitive to people telling me what to do, but I want to work on a less tantrumy way of taking back some power. I had the idea of doing what he's said in the email, but don't want to be a geek for hire working off to the side. I want to understand what they are doing in the crisis room and then have ability to add value, with what makes the most sense to provide.

I'm thinking that I should talk to my manager about what analysis they need in the crisis room and ask him if there's any analysis they would require and just ignore the colleagues email.

This has been a common issue for me, I think because I am intelligent and have the ability to answer questions, but I don't want to be dominated by others.



Hello Eleanor,

This is an example of "tasking", which in simple terms means: assigning tasks to others.

Tasking empowers the person who tasks others (tasker) and disempowers the person who is tasked (taskee).

But while tasking is expected and normal when people with higher ranks task people with lower ranks (downward tasking), tasking becomes a major win-lose power move when tasking happens from people who are theoretically on the same level (lateral tasking).

That's how sometimes promotions are decided: a same-rank individual starts tasking another one, and he becomes the de-facto leader/boss.
The tasker acts and looks leader-like and higher competence, while the taskee looks like the report / follower.
When it's promotion time (or payrise negotiation time), the tasker becomes the natural choice for promotion since he is already acting like the leader and the taskee is already acting like the report.

So my main question here is: how do those two colleagues relate to you in terms of official ranks and in terms of experience/skills?
The way you describe it, it sounds like you two are on the same rank, right? If you are also comparable in terms of experience/knowledge/skills, then I would definitely recommend you strategize and plan against their tasking. You definitely don't want to end up in a loop where you execute on their "insights".

You will see some strategies on tasking in the workplace module.
But, based on your own solution that you proposed here, I like them both:

1. Talking to your managers directly: perfect, a win on all fronts.

It improves your relationship with the boss, it provides you more visibility, and it gives you direct access to the source of power, cutting off the other two, who will have less room of playing their tasking game. If you can manage, for example, to give a quick call to the GM without bothering him while you're at work, you can always reply to the other two something like "thanks for your input, it's not a bad idea, but I spoke to the GM, and this is how we agreed to do it"

2. Ignoring their tasks: I like it. Ignoring is a powerful, nonverbal way of saying "you don't have the authority for tasking". Any time you ignore their tasks, you naturally take back power and disempower them.

BUT,  you must be careful that you can't be negatively framed later on.
For example, if what they suggest are good ideas, they might later frame you in front of the boss like someone who didn't want to do the work, or didn't want to go the extra mile.
For example, they might say "that's why I suggested her to also do X analysis" in front of the boss, implying that you didn't do in spite it was going to provide valuable insights

Another idea might be:

  • Take their idea and change it: if it was a good idea, do it, but add a little extra, or do something slightly different

You can also combine this technique with ignoring.
You ignore their task, then you share the report saying "I've also done XYZ", with "XYZ" being what they originally suggested, with a slight extra or a slight difference.


Maxim Levinsky has reacted to this post.
Maxim Levinsky
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