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If I could play golf, I'd probably have been hired
February 24, 2014 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Is this just "jobs for the boys" or do I have a legitimate employment gripe worthy of lawyering up?

I work for a large company in Queensland, Australia, as a middle manager.

A year ago, the position directly above mine became available unexpectedly and I filled in for the higher role for four months with hope I would be hired permanently (at no extra pay - although the higher position does pay more, I felt it might adversely affect my employment chances if I asked for the money).

The position was advertised, I applied, was interviewed, and was told I did not get the job because I did not have sufficient leadership experience or training, although my other skills in the job were sound. The manager told me I was "second choice" and would have been hired except the person they chose had 20 years more experience than me. In the past year, I have regularly filled in for the position when the man they hired then was on leave, and have been praised for several key projects.

All this was fair enough. So I repeatedly requested leadership, management and other training to enable me to fulfill the top job should the position become available, which has not been provided despite assurances.

But last week, the person they hired last year for that role was "moved to a different role" (ie, demoted to another position and office), and it was announced that a new person had already been hired for the top job.

I was not given an opportunity to apply, and the position was not advertised - it was simply announced that our former competitor would be our new boss.

He has come from a company with a significantly smaller product output than ours, and is not trained in any of our IT systems, however my manager has praised his "business connections" (this is not a sales role BTW so "connections" are certainly not the be-all and end-all).

When I asked, the manager told me I still did not have the leadership skills required to take over our office, which is in a delicate situation (not doing well at all, due to a multitude of factors, one of which led to the removal of the former head), but I would be recommended for the top role in a different office.

The *new* person they have hired is close friends with the manager, and regularly is seen out and about with him and one of the other seniors in our office (call her X). The manager really values being able to socialise - play cricket, golf etc, with his staff and business contacts. I'm not a sporting type but I am good at my job and absolutely dedicated to the company, representing it unpaid at community and business events, off my own back.

As I am married, female, in my 30s and thus far child-free, I am starting to question whether there's something more to it - at our recent Christmas party, X asked me several times when my husband and I were planning on having children, and I stupidly said I wasn't sure but I liked the idea - it's just that my career has always come first.

While I have been very loyal to the company for many years, I am starting to question how much I am valued given I have been passed over twice, and never given a concrete reason why except that I am "not a strong enough leader", or given any training to address that issue.
I feel pretty hard done by, as I have regularly requested the training, and also because I have the support of my team.

There is nothing else out there in my specialist field - about 1/5 of my industry has been laid off in the past few years but I have always believed I've got a good career path with my company. Clearly, I don't.

FWIW - the original person hired above me and I got on really well, and he actually recommended I look into my legal options after he was demoted, as he'd recommended me for his job and told the manager "I can't believe you hired me instead of her in the first place"...

Is it worth consulting a lawyer, or should I just chalk it up to "jobs for the boys" and just continue to look for other work? Even without the "baby factor"... this hiring decision just seems plain fishy.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should consult an employment lawyer if you want to.

If the department isn't doing well, you should consider whether hiring you wouldn't have been placing you on a "glass cliff".

You should also consider applying elsewhere because you may never get the job you want out of these people.
posted by tel3path at 11:16 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Well, I'd definitely look for a new job, because this place seems to suck, and you can do better. And if you take legal action your place there will be pretty untenable.

It won't take much time or money for a quick consultation with an employment lawyer who is familiar with the laws and tribunals in Queensland and maybe even the large company you work for. Given that you don't have any proof of illegal discrimination, I doubt much will come of it, but you really shouldn't take my word for it. Talk to an expert.
posted by grouse at 11:18 AM on February 24


Why not apply for the job that the new guy left?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:19 AM on February 24 [2 favorites]


What do you want?

Do you want the higher role? If so, a lawyer will either tell you that you have no case, send a threatening letter, or sue your employer. The first option doesn't get you where you want to be (and will cost money due to the lawyer's fees) and the latter two options might get you the job, but won't make your employer happy. You won't be able to stay comfortably in the job for long since your employer will know that you are willing to take legal action to keep your job. Whether this legal or not is somewhat irrelevant; laws are not self-enforcing and require action on your part for your desired outcome.

Do you want more pay/more responsibility? Then ask for that so that your employer has multiple ways of achieving that goal. Asking for a particular job limits the options to one; asking for a different job has multiple options.

There is nothing else out there in my specialist field

This is really the crux of your problem - you have no leverage. You either need to find leverage (relocate to a different area or redouble your searches locally). Until then, your employer realizes your situation and is acting accordingly.
posted by saeculorum at 11:20 AM on February 24 [5 favorites]


It's not that fishy. If you are a specialist and good at your job, they probably want you to keep doing your specialist job. It's generally easier to find generic manager type people than it is to find specialists.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:29 AM on February 24 [4 favorites]


Hard to tell if this is discrimination for being a woman; they may just not like you. They have a different vision for the company than the one they see you providing. Maybe they just want fresh blood (not someone who 'grew up' in the company). Your subordinates may like you but the higher ups don't want you to grow to their level. This is clear because they haven't been grooming you for any higher positions. So I would polish up my resume and hit the streets.

A year ago, the position directly above mine became available unexpectedly and I filled in for the higher role for four months with hope I would be hired permanently (at no extra pay - although the higher position does pay more, I felt it might adversely affect my employment chances if I asked for the money).

This was the sign - HR should have made it clear that you were getting a 'acting director' position or something like this. But they didn't give you a title - a clear sign they want someone else. But you did the work without the formal acknowledgement of some kind of title. Next time, hold out doing the work until you get the title. Even if it is "acting." Don't do the work and hope for the reward.

So I repeatedly requested leadership, management and other training to enable me to fulfill the top job should the position become available, which has not been provided despite assurances.

I've learned in business they really don't care about you. They want the work done, they don't care if you grow. If they're not growing you, you either grow yourself (find the training yourself & write a proposal, make it impossible for them to say no) or leave. Right now they see you as being happy with empty promises, since you haven't done anything else. I know. it sucks. You really have to take the bull by the horns.

So as to your specific question, I think that if discrimination was happening here, your specific case would be hard to prove. I've seen much more obvious versions of it (woman got the role with title, then told it was provisional when she revealed she was 3 mo pregnant. I told her to lawyer up stat.)

You could work with your manager 'how do I get to that role' and if it means learning to schmooze then you do that. But personally I wouldn't bother.

Add'l: BabeTheBlueOx has it; they like to keep specialists right where they are doing good work.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:36 AM on February 24 [3 favorites]


I still did not have the leadership skills required to take over our office, which is in a delicate situation (not doing well at all, due to a multitude of factors, one of which led to the removal of the former head), but I would be recommended for the top role in a different office.

This could go two ways. It certainly could be that they don't want to move you up because of your gender. But the "not doing well at all" part could be more of an issue than you realize.

Toward the end of her career, my mother was in a very similar situation. After a LONG time as second fiddle, she was passed over for the head job, then passed over again when the guy they hired quit. Shortly after the second guy came on, it became apparent they'd hired him specifically because he had experience in dismantling companies, which is what happened: they closed her branch (she was the last one kept), and shortly thereafter moved her into a leadership role in another branch. Afterwards, she was told (sincerely or not) that they had wanted to hire her earlier, but that senior leadership felt it was better if the person who took the branch apart came in from the outside vs. being anyone within the organization.

Based on my experience watching that unfold, I might take the "recommend for the top job at another office" as a very subtle hint, and I'd do everything in my power to get out now.

Also, the recommendation of the now-demoted guy is still very valuable; do everything you can to use that.

Good luck.
posted by anastasiav at 11:47 AM on February 24 [5 favorites]


Let me save you years of frustration and heartbreak.

This company is not ever going to promote you. So, go out and find a gig where you can get the development and a career path that will take you where you want to go.

I'm not that surprised that they brought in the competitor dude. You'd be amazed at how much industry contacts are valued, even outside of sales roles.

Your hard work and loyalty don't mean all that much to managers. You are pretty much valued the same as the person with your same title who does about 85% of what you do.

That's just the way it is.

You can't force your company to give you what you want. They're not descriminating against you per se, it's just that there will always be a reason not to send you for development training, or to promote you or whatever.

You can spend years embroiled in being angry about it, and trying to compel them to give them the respect you deserve. Or, you can take that energy and get a better job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:49 AM on February 24 [9 favorites]


Don't bother. Keep the job and start looking elsewhere. Other than vindictive fulfillment, you have nothing to gain.

Plus, in the end being able to make money is the most important skill. If that means being good at golf... well... so be it. I'm not good at golf, and a man I hate sports (except electronic sports...). Will that work against me? Well, it would have if I entered an industry where that type of conversation provided the foundation which business is built. But that would be, well, my fault. Your employer isn't charged with offering the best product from the best people, they care about making money. The former is only pursued in so far as it's correlated with the latter
posted by jjmoney at 12:23 PM on February 24


I agree with many above - they want to keep you where you are.

When this happened to me, it took me a while to figure it out. They said I couldn't move up because I didn't have management skills. I entered a masters degree program for management. Then it was because I didn't know all of the job duties of the people below the position. So I applied for a position in a different department. They offered it to me, but for significantly less pay than I was making. This was a place that routinely promoted buddies over better qualified people.

So I started looking for a new job and found one. I found a better job with better coworkers and a better boss. And I haven't regretted it yet.

My mother ran into this same situation in a different industry. She switched companies in order to move up in ranks. Then, when she hit another ceiling at that company, she switched back - but higher still on the corporate ladder. And then again.

Some companies want to help their employees move up. Some don't. Sometimes you have to jump ship a couple of times just to get higher in your current ship.
posted by jillithd at 12:46 PM on February 24 [2 favorites]


Seconding look elsewhere. It's often (maybe usually) a waste of time to try and figure out the rational reasons behind hiring and promotion decisions, because there often aren't any. It sounds to me like the guy making the decisions doesn't like you. This is not something you should feel bad about, but don't continue expending effort trying to make him decide to promote you. If you find another job, odds are very good that the people there will like you (or they would not hire you), and that would make you more upwardly mobile there.

I think consulting a lawyer is also a waste of time in your case. You'll never recover for management's bad decision-making, unless you can prove bias based on gender, or age, or ethnicity, or something, and it doesn't sound like your manager has been stupid enough to leave proof of that lying around.

Move on.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:50 PM on February 24 [1 favorite]


You're getting great advice here. IANAL but based on what you've said here there's no case to be made that gender discrimination is an issue. (You may be being discriminated against because of your gender: I'm saying it doesn't look like you have any way of proving it, if so.) It definitely looks like for whatever reason your company isn't interested in promoting you, and I doubt there's anything you can do to change that.

So yeah. If you want leadership training, you will need to seek it out and pay for it yourself. Or you could hire a career coach. Or just start applying for other jobs. Either way, it looks like you will not advance at your current firm, and that may or may not be related specifically to you and your skills. Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 6:23 PM on February 24


If I'm reading this correctly, the first person had 20 years more experience than you do. The second person is a peer of your senior leaders so I'm going to guess that person also had more experience than you do.

I'm not sure that training is what you're lacking to make career progress. It sounds like you need experience and good business relationships. Do you have leadership roles in your professional society? Have you presented at conferences? Do you publish in business journals? Start doing that.

Making yourself more marketable to outside firms may break something loose where you work now. If not, then you're ready to go.
posted by 26.2 at 6:34 PM on February 24


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