Hi Liz, I am a Project Manager at a creative agency and work as part of a small team of 3 which includes another project manager and our line manager. I’ve been with the agency for 2 years while the other project manager and line manager have been working together for 5 years. Unfortunately it is beginning to feel like my line manager favours my colleague and they end up getting all the great projects and accompanying praise. Any ideas how I can address this issue with my boss without sounding bitter?
It could just be that your line manager is just not aware of your time availability and capacity. I don't know what team meetings and status updates you have in place as a team or how work flow is monitored and allocated. I would suggest that if you have a weekly status meeting that you flag your availability and interest in particular projects coming up with your manager and the team. Perhaps also reminding your manager and team of your experience, passions and interests so they can think of you more easily next time round.
There is probably also the balance of you needing to address your current clients and workload and not just abandoning these for something a bit more glamorous or interesting. It's not always possible to keep changing tasks, clients and projects around, as there is always the general workload to keep servicing. So there might be a current client workload issue that means that you can't be diverted to new work at this time.
Sometimes just being direct around what you want is the quickest way to see the change you seek. You know the characters in your team and agency better than me, but think about just saying, " I know X has been given y project, but next time can we have a chat about the projects coming up as I'd really like to get more involved." Unless you say it, they won't know. And if you don't say it you are just thinking things that may or may not be true.
You may also want to think about your objectives with both a task and development focus. If you have objectives in place, get them out and review them with your manager. This could be another way to start a conversation with them about what you want from your work.
If you don't have objectives in place, there is nothing stopping you from writing these and then discussing them with your manager. This way you could also set out the type of experience, projects and clients you would like to be exposed to.
Perhaps you could also think about your network across the agency and build some more relationships outside of your immediate team. Spend some time with the different departments and client leads so that they too know of your interests and desire to be involved. In my experience agencies seem to appreciate a "hand raiser", so let it be known, in a non irritating way, that you are willing, able and available with the interest and desire to get more involved.
If you are a manager reading this you may want to consider how you allocate work to the team; is it an even spread, do you have favourites in your team, are you fairly distributing the more interesting stuff? How do you communicate with your team what's coming up and discuss with them who you select and why? We know that agency folk are keen for development and experiences. As managers we need to make sure we are addressing career development and personal ambitions and expectations. If these aren't seem to be fairly addressed your team could end up being disaffected. Talk to the individuals, know what they want from work and where possible match that with the potential provided with the fair allocation of work. At the end of the day folk want to do a good job, get some development and have a great experience. Agencies provide these opportunities ever day. As managers it's about nimbly managing the task, the team and the individual.