Am I being ushered out the door?
December 1, 2009 2:40 AM   Subscribe

Am I (nicely) being shown the door? I'm getting very mixed signals from my boss.

For the last few months, I've been trying for a job grade increase--one that my boss supports and agrees that I deserve. (I work in the corporate head office as an administration manager). My position has changed significantly since I started 5 years ago, with a much bigger scope and many more responsibilities. Human Resources asked for an updated job description, then evaluated it and concluded that my job grade would not change. I was very disappointed, but I accepted their decision.

In the meantime, a co-worker who started several grades below me in a junior position, has leapfrogged over me (and over several others in the department) to a management position, in under three years--seemingly solely because she supervises several part time staff (I supervise three full time staff). The complexity, scope and level of responsibility in her position is much lower than mine (and other positions she has also eclipsed), and the staff she supervises are all the same position: entry-level data entry. She is a good worker, but not a superstar by any means. I am getting bitter about what feels unfair, and it's making me miserable and stressed out.

At my review, when I approached the subject of career development opportunities, my boss basically admitted that my position is probably a dead end. Many of the positions in the department are quite specialized (i.e. involving years of specific training)--and there is not a lot of potential for promotions into other department positions. Therefore, the only way to move up in the department is to grow the scope and responsibilities within the same position--which I have deliberately worked very hard to do.

Today, my boss suggested that, considering all of the above, I might want to pursue the option of contract work (with this department). He will be retiring in a few years and has reiterated many times that he does not want me to leave, and that he REALLY doesn't want me to leave before he retires. But, contract work? This is a Big Red Flag in my mind. Is he (or HR) nicely trying to usher me out the door?

I have many golden handcuffs holding me to the company, including a staff mortgage with 28 years left on it. My husband and I need to make at least as much money than we do now, just to maintain a modest lifestyle and not lose our modest home (we live in an expensive city). I feel trapped and angry about what feels like doors slamming in my face every time I try to open one. A grade increase/raise would go a long way to make me feel as though I am valued and respected at the company. Any suggestions about how I might be more successful with this pursuit? Or is this a lost cause?
posted by parkerama to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is contract work potentially better paid? Maybe that's why your boss recommends it, assuming he has your interests in mind. It might be a trade of security for money, though.
posted by alexei at 3:07 AM on December 1, 2009

It doesn't sound like you are being shown the door.

It sounds like your boss appreciates you but fully acknowledges that your job isn't one where you will be able to grow.
posted by marimeko at 3:09 AM on December 1, 2009

You're not being shown the door. You're being taken advantage of because you're perceived as vulnerable. The company has no reason to pay you more unless they believe you can and will leave for a better offer elsewhere. Negotiating position is more important here than how hard you work or how much responsibility you carry. If you simply say, "Look at how productive I am,' then the company's response will be, 'That's great. Keep it up.' Virtue gets you into heaven, if you're into that sort of worldview, but it doesn't get you paid.
posted by jon1270 at 4:30 AM on December 1, 2009 [8 favorites]

What jon1270 is saying is true for many, many jobs. I worked at a place where I was told point blank that the only way I could get a raise outside of the normal annual increases was to either change jobs within the company, or to have a competing offer from another company. If I took on additional duties for my current job, I was still not eligible for a raise. I went route B, they couldn't match the offer, and now I'm much better off.

Start interviewing. It sounds like you're trying to justify staying, but if you want more money and growth, then you need to start making moves. Once you have a written offer in hand from another company, then and only then do you go to your boss and say 'I have this offer, I want x% over this offer, or I will submit my two weeks.'
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:38 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're not being shown the door. They love you. You work real hard on the cheap. They will keep you as long as you are willing to stay in the dead end job or until your boss retires and the new boss simply wants to make changes for change sake. If you want to feel the love, seek another job offer at another company. Then you will feel wanted. And get better paid most likely. What happens to the company mortgage if you leave?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:07 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with what the others have said. You're not being shown the door, you're just being told that there's no real chance of a raise or promotion. I'd start interviewing- you may end up with some offers worth considering. It's nice to feel wanted, and it sounds like you're never going to get a salary bump unless you shake things up a bit.
posted by emd3737 at 6:14 AM on December 1, 2009

You're not being shown the door by any means, but your boss is aware of your frustrations and the limitations of this company. He's hinting that you may need to look elsewhere (for your own good) if you want to have a position where you are paid what you're worth.

I am in a very, very similar situation.
posted by desuetude at 6:15 AM on December 1, 2009

It sounds like the real issue here is the leapfrogging. You said you were accepting the decision until this came along. One thing I'm noticing is that you're trying to couch the leapfrogging as less than equitable because of job responsibilities. As a manager, I really don't care what your responsibilities are. I care about your results and accomplishments. As a peer, you aren't in a position to assess this coworker's results and accomplishments.

Do you get bonuses? Make a case for a larger one to compensate for the lack of a grade change. Brush off your resume. Be ready to leave if the company won't compensate you.
posted by bfranklin at 6:15 AM on December 1, 2009

Notice that you boss has actually said that he "really does not want you to leave." It seems to me that this is a hint that you have some negotiating power. He's basically saying "I don't want you to leave, and if I think you are leaving, I'll do what I can to keep you around. (Likely including giving you a raise if I need to.)"

The suggestion of the contract work is just one attempt to get you to stay.

They will fight to keep you, if they think you might actually leave the company.
posted by oddman at 6:59 AM on December 1, 2009

Once you reach a certain level in any job, you aren't going to get any farther until you start looking around for lateral hops on your way up. The way management candidates are groomed, in my experience, is to put them in different departments for a year or two and then move them to another one, to get a varied experience. Each hop should be a grade increase, but not necessarily or even likely in a straight line up from where you are now.

It sounds to me, based on the way my workplace works, that they are not showing you the door. They're hinting that you need to get around in the company more, because you've gotten all you're going to get out of what your technical area is for now. You've maxed out being a technician, and need to become management. Once you've been "supervisor" of Y, and "branch head" or whatever of Z, then maybe you can go back to being "supreme allied commander" of X, what you're doing now (if you're even still interested in X after being exposed to Y and Z).

At least, that's what I'm used to seeing.
posted by ctmf at 7:46 AM on December 1, 2009

Chiming in to agree with some of the above. You seem to be angry about the other person being promoted, but you need to realize that it was very likely because of their lesser responsibilities. Right now your boss has a good person (you) in a supervisory position with many responsibilities. Your boss is leaving in a few years and has zero incentive to move you out of that spot and try to find & train someone competent to replace you in that time frame, especially when you make your boss look good to their superiors now.

You also need to consider that it's possible that the other person who was promoted did what you also should do - they got some leverage by securing other job offers. Right now you have no leverage. Go get some.
posted by empyrean at 7:49 AM on December 1, 2009

Ah, the staff mortgage. You work for a company that takes the advice of I/O psychologists, I see.

They see you have 28 years left on your staff mortgage (HR, not necessarily your direct boss), they know how much income you have and how much income you need to keep to maintain your life, they know how much your husband makes.

Therefore, they know that they can fuck with you, and exactly how much they can fuck with you before you leave. Excuse my profanity, but that's what's going on. HR knows you're stuck. So you feel hopeless and like you can't leave, you feel like you're being manipulated. That's because you are being manipulated. If I am guessing the company right, they even have a point system in place to determine how much they can get away with before you'll crack.

Don't blame your boss, he has probably seen that people with FEWER ties to your company are treated better. Your company realizes that if they treat those people poorly they will lose them. They can treat you poorly because they know they won't lose you. Now, for your particular position, switching to contracting might not be the best thing, but I don't think you should be paranoid about your boss.

Solutions (may or may not apply):

--Lower your cost of living so you have more options, save money

--Find another job that has similar pay and benefits and a healthier environment

--Sell your home/refinance your home so you're not shackled to it--warning, when HR sees this they will know you're ready to jump ship so if you can switch jobs first it's probably better

Whatever you do, remember that HR is trying to increase your dependence on the company and do your best to work against that.
posted by kathrineg at 8:24 AM on December 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for some great feedback! A few bits of info:

What happens to the company mortgage if you leave?
JohnnyGunn, essentially, it means we would have had to (already) secure the mortgage elsewhere, and then completely pay off the staff mortgage at the current company. It's possible we may be able to retain half of the staff mortgage (since my husband would still be staff), but in any case, it can be very difficult to secure what amounts to a second mortgage (from the second financial institution's point of view), even though we'd be turning around and paying one of them off.

kathrineg: We are seriously considering selling our little condo, although it would be very sad, after spending many years scrabbling to finally get a foot in the door of the real estate market. But, it would give us more freedom.
posted by parkerama at 9:36 AM on December 1, 2009

It sounds to me like the staff mortgage may be the reason they *know* they don't have to treat you well. Get rid of it, even if you stay in the same job, and I'd lay good odds you'll see better treatment.
posted by Invoke at 10:02 AM on December 1, 2009

you may possibly make more as a contractor, but the flip side is that you are viewed as an expendable resource that can be dropped at any time. this is why companies hire contractors. right now, it sounds like job security may be more important to you.

i think your boss is saying that you are not going to get a raise and there's no chance of moving up the ladder. either move to a different department or look for other work. right now, don't burn bridges and keep your cool.
posted by xammerboy at 10:13 AM on December 1, 2009

In your shoes, I would be more than upset at this point. In similar situations, I've found it helpful to take back some control by steadying my mind/emotions, making a plan, and arming myself with facts. Keep doing your job, but detach from this office. Connect more with your husband, health, family, friends, life outside work. xammerboy's words are a mantra: keep your cool, don't burn bridges.

I wouldn't make any decisions about contract work or selling the condo, nor would I have any more discussions with my boss (or HR or anyone else at the office). I would discreetly start looking into 1. other job prospects and 2. ditching that staff mortgage.

I would immediately update my resume (on my personal home computer), as both a practical measure and for the mental shift it would provide. It will be good to focus on and document the last five years' progress.

If you don't want to sell the condo -- and if freedom from the loan isn't the most compelling issue -- look to refinance ASAP. Start shopping lenders for a new loan. Take a personal or sick day, or spend a few evenings during the week or a Saturday morning, to make calls.

parkerama, I have to say that I admire your approach and attitude. If your post is any indication, you're handling a very difficult situation with professionalism and restraint.
posted by Majorita at 10:56 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. I feel a renewed sense of purpose--I've been feeling quite downtrodden from this situation (after working through bouts of anger, frustration, despair, and resignation--thankfully, I've managed to keep it together while at work).

Xammerboy: Majorita is right, that really is a great mantra--don't burn bridges and keep my cool. Good way to live life, actually.

Majorita: thanks for your practical suggestions. Believe me, I have been very angry about it--fortunately, I've managed to keep it bottled while at work. I know I need to explore my job options elsewhere (for many reasons), but lack of confidence, fear, and good-old-fashioned procrastination have plagued me. Ditto approaching other financial institutions for the possibility of moving the mortgage. I promise I am going to do both.

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by parkerama at 11:46 AM on December 2, 2009

For somebody who doesn't want you to leave he sure talks a lot about you leaving.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:36 PM on December 2, 2009

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