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Publicly discussed promotion might not happen. What next?
October 19, 2012 1:55 PM   Subscribe

Can I stay on at a job when promised promotion is being withdrawn?

Over the past year, I have been very stressed at work. Basically, I have been doing the work of a project manager (in addition to my basic duties) without getting the recognition, benefits, or pay of the position. Everything essential has been completed, but I have not been able to do either the manager tasks or the basic tasks at the level I would like. I have talked extensively with my supervisor (who, on paper, is responsible for the management tasks) about this. I very much enjoy my work and get great satisfaction from the impact this work has in the world. If this were not true, I would not have stayed in the situation as long as I have.

My supervisor has numerous times promised over the last six months that the situation would change. The change that I expected was that he would clear some of his other projects and start taking over the management tasks for the project I work on. Three week ago, I was asked by my supervisor and his supervisor if I would be willing to take a new position which would include all the management tasks I am currently doing and a few additional responsiblities, if someone new was hired to do the basic tasks. This was clearly presented to me as just a possiblity. I said that I would be interested. After this, I participated in a couple of meetings about the logistics and timing of this change. I still did not consider it a done deal because there were a number of items that needed approvals.

Last week at a staff meeting that included all of my team members as well as about 20 other co-workers who work on other projetcs, my boss's boss discussed that there were going to be personnel changes in my team. Then, my supervisor stated that I would be moving into a management only position and someone new would be hired to do the basic tasks. I was pleasantly surprised that this was being presented openly at a meeting as I did not think that everything was settled.

I have been organizing and running our team meetings for the past year. Yesterday, as I was heading into that meeting, my supervisor asked me to remove the item about 'changes in the team structure' because, "My promotion was was just one possiblity." I was truly shocked. But, feeling at a loss for words, I just said, "I'll remove the item from the agenda." Of course, it came up in the meeting, since it had been discussed in the larger meeting just last week. I did my best to attempt face-saving with "the details are still being worked out, and we will discuss it at a future meeting."

Today, I am trying to decide the best course of action. I feel that, given the open discussion of the change last week, I can not continue to work for this organization if the change doesn't happen. I have not been directly told, "It is not going to happen." But, should I share my concerns before I am told that?

Am I over-reacting?

I actually enjoy all of the tasks. If my job had been returned to basic tasks only (as I expected it to) that would have been fine with me. However, now that pretty much everyone in the organization has been told that I would be getting a promotion, I feel like anything else will greatly diminish my ability to function effectively. (Status is fairly important in our organization.)

My financial position is such that I could leave my current job at anytime and spend 6 - 12 months finding a new position with no financial strain. My skills are good, and I am recognized locally as a subject matter expert in my field. If I took on consulting work, I could be out of a full-time job even longer.

Where do I go from here?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You've been really stressed over the last year, your supervisor has promised things will get better and they haven't, they announce a promotion and then take it back, and you can leave without financial hardship.

Does this say "stay in current job" to you, because it sure as hell doesn't for me.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 2:05 PM on October 19, 2012 [14 favorites]


Tell them to go fuck themselves, once you have a better job lined up. Sounds like you couldn't do that much worse.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:07 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would recommend calling a meeting with your boss and your boss's boss. Keep it vague in the meeting invitation. Start the meeting with "Since the meeting on [date] when you announced my promotion, there has understandably been a lot of talk around the office and I've been fielding questions I don't have the answers to. Can we discuss the timeline for this transition, as well as the hiring timeline for the new person who will take over my previous non-management tasks?" Basically, approach it like it really is a done deal. The previous public statement, followed by your confident (but not pushy) demeanor will push everyone in the right direction if they are still a bit on the fence. Part of management is being proactive about things, so show that side of yourself now.

Don't address it in an email, wait until both managers are in the room. My interpretation is that boss's boss wants this to happen, but that your boss is less enthusiastic and so is trying to delay everything. Perhaps your boss is afraid of losing power, or is just unsure of what the new management structure will look like and thus has anxiety about it. If you say too much in an email or hallway conversation, it only gives your boss time to stall before the meeting actually gets onto everyone's calendar.

You can also speak privately with your boss's boss, if things don't go well, and express your displeasure at being publicly promoted then having it taken away. Express that you enjoy your work, but that you aren't willing to either continue to do two jobs for the price of one, or go back to the lower job after such a public announcement stating otherwise. You can explain how that scenario would imply a failing on your part that isn't really there and it will affect your professional relationships in and out of the office. Put it on them to find a way to make things right.
posted by trivia genius at 2:08 PM on October 19, 2012 [24 favorites]


I think you are worried that somehow you are not communicating well wilth upper management and that this is your fault.

In fact, it seems they know exactly what they are doing - they've gotten a project manager for free!

Quit and move on. Even if they came back with some sort of explanation and offer I think they have poisoned the well sufficiently that you could never ever trust them again. It is almost certain that whatever they keep promising won't materialize, or it won't be as they've led you to believe.

You might not, but I consider this sort of thing stealing, when a employer cons you into doing extra work or increasing your responsibilities without compensation.

Move on with your head held high.
posted by jbenben at 2:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


You're right that you can't continue at the organization without the announced change happening soon. It cripples you in your role. You can call it 'status' or something else, but it means that effectively, you look like you were demoted (because your promotion was yanked back), with corresponding loss of respect by other employees.

At this point, it's worth a direct question to your boss or your boss's boss if the change will happen as already described, in the very short term. Anything less than a very affirmative answer should be met with a letter of resignation. It can be a positive, "exploring new opportunities" letter--it should be, in fact. They'll get the message that they lost you because they screwed up, and you're moving on to better things.

Because really, that's what this should be about. The saying "On their deathbed, no one wished they'd spent more time in the office" means, in your case, "no one wishes they'd stuck it out longer in a crappy situation." You have the wherewithal to take a step up in your career and your happiness. What are you waiting for?
posted by fatbird at 2:43 PM on October 19, 2012


They announced a long promised and long delayed change of role in a "public" venue without first letting you know, and making sure you were on board. Then, they backtracked at the last minute, and in an insufficient manner, and now you are still hanging.

Your superiors either mean well and are bad at important aspects of their jobs, or they are good at those aspects of their jobs but feel no qualms about using underhanded means to achieve their goals.

An obvious answer is you should leave, ASAP. Less obvious is that you quietly prepare to leave, while at the same time, negotiating with them for whatever it is you think you'll need to stay. If they come through, you'll be in the happy position of being able to consider their offer in the context of other leads. If you fail to negotiate with them, you'll have gained some experience, and you'll have other options lined up.
posted by Good Brain at 2:43 PM on October 19, 2012


They're jerking you around and they owe you an explanation.
posted by rhizome at 3:04 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You leave because they've just royally fucked you over.
posted by heyjude at 3:16 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a really terrible economy to quit a job in, so don't do that.
posted by schmod at 3:53 PM on October 19, 2012


I have not been directly told, "It is not going to happen."

At my workplace, every HR change involves a dozen signatures and several months of dicking around and 'don't tell anyone'. In my world, that is fairly commonplace and might have been due to the different people in one meeting versus the other -- meaning there's someone in the second meeting who might have otherwise had the job, but hasn't been told yet that it's going to you.

So I'd stay cool.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:19 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another thought: if you never discussed salary numbers, maybe they're still figuring out a 2013 budget and don't want to add any complexity to the discussion, and then someone finds out about this and goes 'you're hiring Anonymous, well, I wanted $$$ for a wall of printers' or whatever the deal is in your particular organization.

Or maybe someone found out you were getting it, had a shit fit, and demanded an opportunity to apply for this job which it sounds like did not previously exist, and for whatever reason they are required to go through the motions so that person can be dealt with according to protocol, even if they still intend to give it to you.

I guess I'm saying it's pretty weird that you'd have been semi-publicly handed the job and then semi-publicly not handed the job, and your supervisor sounds like someone who is sort of lacks dexterity in the whole diplomacy thing and the upshot might be that you work for someone who lacks managerial skill.

Alternatively, they might be a huge pack of assholes but I don't think that's necessarily true.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:36 PM on October 19, 2012


I'm parsing your narrative and here are the parts that are jumping out at me:

I have talked extensively with my supervisor (who, on paper, is responsible for the management tasks)

My supervisor has numerous times promised over the last six months that the situation would change.

This was clearly presented to me as just a possiblity

I still did not consider it a done deal because there were a number of items that needed approvals.

my boss's boss discussed that there were going to be personnel changes in my team. Then, my supervisor stated that I would be moving into a management only position


Your supervisor has been ineffective at solving the workload problem. His boss gets involved and the position is presented as a possibility. Then, in a meeting your supervisor blurts out that you are moving into a management only position, only to then try and take it back later.

The consistent theme I'm seeing here isn't the company as a whole, but rather your supervisor. Many of the posters in the thread are using words like "they" and "they've", but the only person in the story that is making promises and not delivering is your direct supervisor. Every organization has some checks and balances in place around promoting people (e.g. you may have to compete the position internally, or even compete it outside). The bigger the organization, the more checks and balances. Those checks and balances also involve multiple people signing off on the promotion through a formal approval process -- this is HR 101. For this reason, a careful manager isn't going to make any promises until they've secured all of those approvals and certainly won't mention it in a public setting.

One interpretation here is that your boss's boss was only committing to go work the process in the private meeting, while your direct boss the jumped the gun and presented the promotion as already done. Your boss's boss didn't contradict him in a public setting, but pulled him aside after and told him to go unwind that right now, leading to the hallway conversation about removing the agenda item on team changes. If this is how it played out, then you don't necessarily want to leave a company just because you had an ineffective or inexperienced manager. As several others have suggested, I would seek an informal meeting with your boss *and* his boss and ask them to explain.
posted by kovacs at 4:47 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This can play out in many different ways, but it's really difficult to gauge since you haven't confronted your boss and confirmed that your promotion is off the table.

That's step one. Once you do that and if you're really getting the blow off, you can quit, find another job, whatever you want really, OR, you can stick your hand in the bee hive and see if you get honey or get stung. If you're management material, you should be demanding answers and respect. Is this a test?

Maybe, maybe not. My best promotions over the years have come because I was pissed and forced the issue. This is a challenge, don't back down.

One more thing. Like you, I've been a non-complaining work horse and have been taken advantage of a couple of times. When that happens two things come to mind. 1. How can I turn this into an opportunity? (Engage in conversation.) 2. How do I maintain and promote my personal integrity? (Don't quit, back down or runaway.) #2 doesn't mean you can quit, but do so under protest for bad business practice and poor management.

Good luck, and stick with it until you get things figured out. Take your time.
posted by snsranch at 5:16 PM on October 19, 2012


anonymous posted">> Last week at a staff meeting that included all of my team members as well as about 20 other co-workers who work on other projetcs, my boss's boss discussed that there were going to be personnel changes in my team. Then, my supervisor stated that I would be moving into a management only position and someone new would be hired to do the basic tasks. I was pleasantly surprised that this was being presented openly at a meeting as I did not think that everything was settled. I have been organizing and running our team meetings for the past year. Yesterday, as I was heading into that meeting, my supervisor asked me to remove the item about 'changes in the team structure' because, "My promotion was was just one possiblity."

I'm reading this situation very differently than pretty much everyone else. (Would you happen to work for a nonprofit?) The answer that seems totally obvious to me is that your supervisor opened his big mouth in that larger meeting when he shouldn't have and he got spanked for it. Now he has to backpedal and he may have even fucked it up.

So, you were all in the big meeting, the boss says something about personnel changes on your team but doesn't go any further, your supervisor takes that as his cue to go ahead and announce that you've been promoted, and it turns out that uh, really, no, it really wasn't okay for him to blurt that out yet. Like you said, it wasn't a done deal yet.

Maybe the boss is simply cranky at your supervisor's bad judgement in jumping the gun like that. Or maybe the boss is irritated because it seemed that your supervisor was trying to one-up him in front of the staff. Or hell, what if something had changed unbeknownst to both of them and you were going to have to turn the promotion down, ooh, kinda embarrassing for all of you.

The boss might have felt that your supervisor was being crass, or worse, trying to push his own agenda. Your promotion is, in a manner of speaking, solving the problem of your supervisor not taking responsibility for tasks technically assigned to him, which may not be not so cool with everyone. Perhaps there are some people in your company who might even see your promotion as being kind of like a secret little unnamed but de facto promotion for your supervisor (e.g., you're more important so he's more important, or it shows that he can get his way, or something.)

Possibly there are even politics or budget issues still to be resolved that have little to do with you directly. I had a promotion delayed for six months once because of a smelly mess caused by a promotion in another department -- kerfuffles over parity and precedent and gods know what else reverberating all over the office.
posted by desuetude at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


(On non-preview, I see that the like-minded folks all showed up right before I did.)
posted by desuetude at 5:26 PM on October 19, 2012


Even if it's the boss' fault for opening his mouth, the end result is that you are not getting promoted. You've been overworked for quite a while and you are not getting results. If I were you I would do my best to line up another position regardless of the end result....take your time looking for a job and do not take the first thing that comes along, but from experience I doubt that things will get better.
posted by The1andonly at 6:14 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think you have enough information yet to take any action. Your next step should be to request an update from your supervisor, as they really do owe you an explanation. You should be able to read between the lines and figure out where you stand after that. If you get the runaround, then it's time to polish up your résumé and start looking. I don't think you should quit until you find another job, which is much easier to do when you already HAVE a job. In this economy, it's become very important to show that you are employable while job-hunting.
posted by raisingsand at 6:51 PM on October 19, 2012


Hang tight, but start looking for something out if you are that stressed. Don't count on your immediate supervisor to solve your problems. Be a good, team player for a while so you don't burn your bridges, and apply elsewhere.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:18 PM on October 19, 2012


In your position, I would focus on obtaining documented clarity regarding the situation, even if that means finding out definitively that the promised promotion is not going to happen.

It should really be a simple matter of sending an email to your supervisor with CC to your supervisor's supervisor, simply asking for the clarity you are seeking: "I am following up regarding my oft-discussed (more than six months, now) potential move to a management position. I had been under the impression that it was a potential option, and so was pleasantly surprised when you announced in the meeting on [date] that I would indeed be moving into the position. Since that time, we have not taken any firm steps in that direction, and have not set any milestones. Can you please advise on the status of my potential promotion, including an approximate timeframe if possible?"

A good supervisor will have kept their supervisor in the loop, and will respond in writing with the answers you seek, or with something like "I have no answers for you yet, and I apologize for the uncertainty surrounding this. I will attempt to have answers for you by [date.]"

A bad supervisor will freak out that you CCd their supervisor, because they've been playing fast and loose and their supervisor has no idea about any of this, and they'll backpedal or try to obfuscate things or deny or -- the worst -- give you one answer verbally, and (probably) send an email to their supervisor saying something else.

Might as well ask in good faith, and based on the response you get, you'll know the situation you're in.
posted by davejay at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2012


Bus. You just got thrown under it. The Bosses did something beyond their power, and you get to cash the check their asses wrote.

Find a new job that appreciates you - And don't hesitate to use your project management experience to get it. Although other comments have good suggestions if you really want to not change employers, you won't ever fix your current work environment. Companies just don't change like that (at least, not over a span measured in mere years). Trying to make things better will just make you the first one they cut in the next downturn.
posted by pla at 11:44 PM on October 19, 2012


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