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The Slippery Slope of Marginalization

No one wants to be the guy languishing in the basement with a red stapler, but periodically a responsibility reshuffle can show who’s on the way up and who’s on the way out. And for those paying close attention, it can be sobering news.

If you’re on the winning end of the shuffle: Congrats. Use your newfound authority to practice your graciousness and humility. Take time to seek input from the marginalized co-worker and try to keep the crowing to a minimum.

And what happens if you’re on the other end? When YOU are the one who is losing responsibilities without a clear map of what comes next? This week’s Hill Navigator sets out to answer that question.

Q. I am a junior legislative assistant in my office, and I handle a lot of issues for my boss. They aren’t committee issues, but still. Recently the legislative coordinator in my office has been clamoring for more responsibility, and the chief of staff took away some of my issues to give to her. Do you think this is a reflection of my capabilities? 

Find the right time to have that conversation about what additional role you can play. This could be your chance to show your initiative and demonstrate your willingness to learn and take on more. And sometimes just having the conversation can take things in a positive direction for your future career growth.

But sometimes the answer falls in a gray area. If this turns into “let’s wait and see,” then it might be time to start looking for another office. In situations like this, actions speak much louder than words. Even a reassuring pat on the back from your chief might not be enough to know that you’re in an office where they want you to grow into a position of greater responsibility. And if that is the case, then it’s time to move on.

One thing to keep in mind — this is between you and the chief. Don’t take it out on the ambitious LC. The LC is as opportunistic as you are and looking for more ways to expand her portfolio. At the very least, help her succeed in the new role, and you’ll have a valuable relationship once you move on.

Got a question, concern or complaint about navigating life on Capitol Hill? Email us at or submit online at All submissions are treated anonymously.

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