June 14, 2011 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I've just been told to expect a promotion over a good work friend that has been working there longer than me. Feeling put in a difficult position and seeking advice.

I work in a very small department. There are 5 of us and a supervisor. There are essentially 2 positions in my job, the entry level position, which I'll call "associate," and the more senior position, let's say "executive."

Of the five of us that work there, there are two executive positions available. One has just been vacated, and I assumed that it would go to my good friend Bob, who has been at the job for 2 and 1/2 years as opposed to my having been there only 1 and 1/2.

However, our supervisor very casually told me yesterday that she was going to recommend me for the promotion. Part of this is a perception on her behalf that Bob isn't as good an employee as me. In some respects that may be true -- he's a little scatterbrained, and he can be forgetful, which I'm sure can be frustrating as a supervisor. However, he's incredibly creative, and his work is, I think invaluable to our office's functionality. As such, I'm not so convinced that of the two of us, I'm clearly the better candidate. Besides, he's my friend, and he's been there longer. I just feel like he deserves it.

When she told me, I actually said to her "I am very flattered, but Bob's been here longer, and I think that it's going to cause static. I think it will cause real morale problems in the office, and I think he deserves it as much as I do." My supervisor's response was basically "Well, he'll get used to it or he'll quit."

I know that getting a promotion and a raise is essentially a non-problem -- I just think that this is going to cause unnecessary problems, and our workplace would be worse off if he ended up quitting over it.


1.) This isn't happening until August. Should I warn colleague in advance?

2.) Should I try talking to my boss again about how uncomfortable this makes me?

Thanks everyone
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Promotions happen not necesarily because of seniority or lenght of time at a position.
Your supervisor happens to see more potential in you. Be glad. be flattered they're looking at you.

Things like this happen.
Maybe this is what Bob needs as a nudge to present himself better....
posted by theKik at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2011

You don't know what will actually happen, so don't say anything to him in advance - it only unloads your conscience, and won't bring him any benefit.
posted by lizbunny at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Do not warn your colleague in advance. Do not torpedo yourself by creating a negative work situation both between you and Bob and between Bob and your supervisor. If you are uncomfortable with the situation, ask for a meeting with your supervisor and ask her why she is recommending you for the promotion. Don't even bring Bob into the picture. All you are lacking right now are more concrete reasons why you would make a good executive, which she could provide for you. Also, the description you provide of Bob makes him sound like a good employee but would make a horrible manager of others. A scatterbrained and forgetful manager is not a thing that helps maintain office equilibrium.
posted by Osrinith at 8:44 AM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

No to both questions. I'm sure you understand that in this fallen world post credit crunch you have to look out for yourself at work. It is a tragedy that you can't practice human kindness in the way that you would wish but it is just too risky. If you have or want a family in future you have to be responsible for your career growth first, not your friend's.
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:45 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Until you have the job, don't say anything. Lots can happen before you actually have the promotion offer.

I wouldn't say anything else to your boss; she's clearly stated that she doesn't care about the dynamics this creates.

At the end of the day, the business of business is business, as the saying goes. The boss thinks you're a better fit for the job. You don't earn a promotion by hanging around, you earn a promotion by showing you can do the job. You've established this qualification, Bob has not. If it makes you uncomfortable to accept the position, decline it, by all means--but what does that serve? You don't have the job you're suited for, and there's no guarantee that Bob gets the job, since he's apparently unqualified. If he does get the job, what kind of superior will he be to you, knowing that you were the first choice? I'd be pissed if I were Bob, even if I got the job.

On the other hand, maybe Bob doesn't want the job. Who knows?

This is why I like to be friendly with colleagues, but not friends. It's lovely to have a little chat while you're waiting for the elevator, but there is no one at work I would cross the street to say hello to.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:45 AM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Bob's scatter-brained nature is possibly more of a detriment to the executive position than the associate position. It's not your call. You were well within bounds to state your unease to your supervisor, but the decision has been made. I wouldn't follow up again, and I definitely wouldn't warn Bob (especially since you have no guarantee this will actually happen).

From my own experience: I have both been promoted more quickly than friends with more experience at a company, and less quickly than friends with less. I've generally agreed with the decisions - seniority is a crappy way to determine promotions in many jobs.
posted by flipper at 8:46 AM on June 14, 2011

People aren't usually promoted based simply on how long they have been there. Your boss thinks that you are the best candidate for the job. Giving your friend the job because you feel conflicted isn't a good solution; how is he going to feel when he finds out (and he will find out) that he didn't earn the job, but only got it because you refused the promotion? I wouldn't say anything to your friend in advance, as this isn't a sure-thing. When you get the promotion, you can honestly tell your friend that you are as surprised as he is, and that you value his work and assumed it would have meant that he was promoted first. There will probably be some hard feelings at first, but if your friend is professional, he'll get over it.
posted by Nightman at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2011

Don't forget as well, she said she'd recommend you for the position, not that you will definitely get it. It's sweet that she's indicated her intentions to you, but a lot can happen between now and the time the position is filled. Just don't put all your eggs in one basket by assuming that it's a done deal.
posted by LN at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Absolutely not.

2. In the words of Mr. Potter, "Confound it, man, are you afraid of success?" Don't overthink this. You can't reasonably predict what will or won't happen to the office or morale if you take the promotion. Also, 1.5 years versus 2.5 years doesn't mean much in terms of seniority. Stop second-guessing your boss.
posted by BurntHombre at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've known people who have gotten promotions from Associate Blahblah to Senior Blahblah or Blahblah Manager and subsequently hated their new roles. Bob might have zero desire to take on additional responsibilities. You never know.

If you think Bob does a great job and deserves recognition for it, make sure that comes across when you talk to him or his supervisors. If you do get promoted, the day may come when you can recommend him for something.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:15 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) Definitely not. It's not a sure thing yet. Say nothing.

2) "Scatterbrained and forgetful" is a deal-breaker for a leadership position. They're a sign that this person, despite being a valuable contributor, needs to be managed rather than be a manager.

Keep your mouth shut, until the papers are signed, accept, and be forthright and magnanimous about it.
posted by mhoye at 9:20 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

In this world you get what is given to you, and many times that may not be what you deserve. Keep that in mind. Many times you will see a person get elevated that you believe should not be, your work friend may feel this way, but I don't think you should let it cast a shadow over your career. You can absolutely voice that you feel comfortable about this, and they may end up given the job to your friend, and you may then realize that he didn't have the needed character or qualities needed for the position, but you did, and that is why they looked to you to begin with. Sometimes the better worker is not the better executive.
posted by zombieApoc at 9:28 AM on June 14, 2011

Thinking out of the box: You have between now and August to look for a new job where you get all the benefits of your alleged about-to-be-promoted-to position, and quite likely better compensation, without the tension of feeling like you hosed your friend. You win, Bob... loses less, and the company will deal with the results of their blindness to office dynamics.

It certainly never hurts to test your worth in the marketplace.
posted by Citrus at 9:32 AM on June 14, 2011

1. Don't say a word. Not your news to tell, especially since it's not official (and who knows, things can change in 2 months, and them saying "hey, Anon would be good for this job" is no guarantee....they'd be silly not to consider others for the position). Thank your supervisor for the recommendation and keep doing your job.

Even if you and Bob are will create problems between the two of you, and's just not worth it, especially since your boss essentially said that if Bob doesn't like it, he can quit.

2. Your emotions have nothing to do with them recommending you for a position. Let them do their thing, you just keep doing your job.
posted by AlisonM at 9:47 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Senior management positions are not really created for those who are most creative and excel at producing great work. While you may get the better pay and career options, he may be best suited to doing the work he is doing now and not becoming a manager. He may have already indicated this to someone at your company.

It is an uncomfortable interpersonal situation but I think it can, in the long term, make a more successful working relationship if you approach it that way.
posted by amanda at 10:15 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

IF you do get the promotion, I would sit down with your supervisor and find out what qualities she identified that convinced her to recommend you. Then, when the conversation happens with your co-worker, you can pass that information along. It's not a case of "Bob, you are not x", but more "these are the qualities they were looking for". Helpful to Bob, helpful to you.
posted by raisingsand at 10:55 AM on June 14, 2011

I guess you can't answer this question, but I wonder how old you both are. At 45, I'm pretty comfortable with my job, and don't progress further up the chain out of choice, not out of lack of opportunity, mostly. I'm sort of like Bob, I guess, and know that it means I get passed over for promotion. I also know that my day-to-day life is much, much happier in a non-supervisory position, and have deliberately forgone promotion to a job I would hate.

I think maybe you should give Bob a little warning, just before it's announced, if you can time it that way. I'd rather hear the news from a friend than a supervisor.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:50 AM on June 14, 2011

Sorry to stereotype, but are you a woman? I think you're more worried with Bob being "mad at you" as a friend than you are concerned about any effect this is going to have on your workplace. This seems to me to be a characteristically female mistake. Why are you valuing your relationship with Bob over your career advancement?

Think about it objectively -- choosing Bob over you would mean that your supervisor was going against her own perception of the best candidate and ignoring what she sees as your greater management potential in favor of Bob's "creativity" and is (very slight) longer tenure than you at the company. Who would say this is fair to you?

If you intend to keep on working and keep on progressing, you're going to have to learn to be comfortable with your authority.
posted by yarly at 1:37 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

No to both questions - he's a work friend, this is a work place, these things happen at work all the time. Your boss is right when she says he'll either get used to the idea or he'll quit. As others have said maybe he's already used to the idea because there are quite a few people who are very comfortable in their little niche and don't want to be promoted.

It's up to your boss to manage this transition including any resentment. Should your friend feel resentment it's up to him to get a grip and draw whatever conclusions he feels are appropriate. And it's down to you to do your job well - nothing else.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:39 AM on June 15, 2011

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