Help me deal with a difficult situation at work.
February 14, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I need the job, but am feeling unappreciated. How can I explain my situation to management without jeopardizing my career?

Long story short: I’m an entry-level employee who in the past months covered for someone in a higher position while a replacement was found.
During this time there was constant talk that I would land a new position in this group – which was/is very much what I wanted. My performance was complimented many times.

Now that someone has been hired to take on the job, I’ve been forgotten. There are clear talks about me regressing to my other position, which is entry-level and does not make use of my skills – it is something that I no longer have interest on.

Financially I could use my savings (enough for about a year) while I look for another job. But this would be irresponsible, and I also face other challenges:
I am still in school. I can’t work full time (which employer has always been aware). Although I do have the skills/training that can assist me in getting a better position elsewhere, I don’t think there are enough jobs out there right now.

I’m feeling underappreciated and somewhat tricked. I’ve worked really hard for months to cover until the replacement was hired (and was paid less than 1/3 of the position’s salary). I did this because I trusted/believed on what know seems to be empty promises from people above me. I heard a few times that they will try to work something out, but how can I trust them after all this?

How do I approach management? I appreciate the opportunity given to me to learn and get experience in another team, but upper management knows I’m not interested in going back to the old team.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would take it in a positive direction by saying something like, "I really enjoyed my time working on {better team}. I think it's where I want my career to go. What would be the best steps to make me a strong candidate for that type of position?"
posted by christinetheslp at 6:41 PM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

How do I approach management?

With another job offer in hand.
posted by pompomtom at 6:41 PM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Ah. This exact same thing happened to me when I was in my first corporate job. I was competent, so I got "rewarded" by taking over for the head of my department for 6 months without additional pay. All it proved, despite many promises to the contrary, was that my employers did not value my work. My solution? I found a new job. What makes you think that people who would take advantage of you will stop doing so?
posted by mynameisluka at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Find another job.
posted by mleigh at 6:49 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some employers see students, especially part time workers, as having one foot out the door and will be hesitant to invest too much in them. Make sure that isn't happening before you decide to quit.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:02 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

You smile, you do your work well, and you follow the suggestions above.

"Being appreciated" is fine in grade school. You will not get them to appreciate you. Move on.
posted by megatherium at 7:04 PM on February 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Quitting your job without a safety net is irresponsible - I'm not sure that quitting your job with a year's living expenses saved up falls under that category.

Yes, it's ideal to wait until you have something else, but if your current job doesn't really leave you with the time to seriously look for another one, and you have a nice cushion, you may just want to leave now.

But whatever you do, don't count on things changing where you are - it sounds like a fundamental problem with the company you're working for and even if you can convince them to find you a better position, some version of the same thing is going to happen again.
posted by scrute at 7:07 PM on February 14, 2012

The fact that you are a student is a huge red flag for employers. I would understand why they wouldn't promote you, since you can't work full time and you may very well be looking for another job when you leave school. I would take this a a learning experience.

I would also talk to the management, tell them you want to move forward since you really enjoyed what you were doing, and ask them how you should go about doing that. They may very well tell you that until you are out of school there isn't much they can do for you, but it can't hurt to ask.
posted by markblasco at 7:18 PM on February 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am still in school. I can’t work full time (which employer has always been aware).

What's your endgame here? Why do you want to feel more appreciated at work? Are you working at this job because you need money while you're in school, or is this part of your career path where you expect to ramp up to full time at your job once you graduate?

I think your best bet is to finish school and take a full time job where you'll be assumed to be on a long-term career and advancement track. That's really not going to be the expectation of an employee who's a student working part time.
posted by deanc at 7:24 PM on February 14, 2012

Depends on if you are planning on staying with the company once you finish school. If you are open to that, I would definitely go to your manager and say, "Working on xyz was really interesting. I got good feedback and I really appreciate the opportunity to stretch myself, especially since I'm not a full-time employee. However, the experience has got me thinking about how I'm going to transition into a full-time position after graduation. I'd love to stay here if there's a place for me when the time comes, of course, but even if that doesn't work out, I'd like to make the most of my time here and, I hope, vice-versa. So if there are any projects on the horizon I could be helping out with, I would very much appreciate the opportunity."

I don't know how much turnover they have, but I'm sure they would be pleased to move you into a permanent position (assuming you are qualified for it) after graduation, since you already know the company, know the business, know the workflows, etc.

Don't tell them you're feeling underappreciated or anything like that. Just focus on the positive.
posted by elizeh at 8:31 PM on February 14, 2012

Are you missing one of the key requirements of the position -- primarily the ability to work full-time?

From an employer's perspective, students are a mixed-bag. For most FTEs, job roles are people' first priority. For students, jobs are maybe secondary (after school), maybe tertiary (after school and sport), maybe otherwise. Students are great because they are enthusiastic and experimental -- after all, school is about learning, growing, and changing. Students are not great because often they are more enthusiastic about learning, growing, and changing than doing the job that needs to be done. As an employer, students are often a flight risk. You are defining yourself, your ambitions, and soon your career. If something else comes along, I expect your loyalties may be quite low -- which they should be.

I doubt you were tricked. Perhaps you mistook praise for promises. You may be making a common mistake I see students make often (I source a lot of interns and mentor a few chaps and ladies), which is assuming that job roles are primarily about specific role-related capabilities. There are many people with those capabilities. Job roles include concerns about team fit, reliability, longevity, and a whole host of factor outside specific capabilities.

The short of it is remember why you took the job. Probably for cash-flow. Often informal promotions get us invested in new possibilities, but we must make sure it's not an escalation of commitment situation. That is, you are now more committed to this role because you had an opportunity. If you were the right person for the job, so to speak, this conversation may go very differently. Perhaps your question would have been, "I was informally promoted for a few months. Now there's been a hire into that role. How do I approach my superiors to create a development plan that will move me ahead and take advantage of my skills"

But that wasn't the question, because you want short-term results -- which is very student-oriented thinking.

All that being said, I don't see why you cannot look for a job elsewhere. You have now achieved a new level of operation in terms of your performance, thus that can be reflected on your CV. Something else very valuable to know is that often in your early career, the big jumps are going to come from changing companies.
posted by nickrussell at 12:17 AM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

In the same boat regarding being under utilized and unappreciated by management.

I've come to the conclusion since this isn't a career path for me to simply shut up and do my job. I hate to sound cynical but I've been stuck in this rut and have come to the conclusion to simply find another job. I am a graduate student and have to work.

When I've approached management, I've gotten no where. They like the job I do, and since its entry level and I am a student, I won't go anywhere in the company despite praise, good reviews and a proven track record.

So dust off that resume, and hit the ground running.
posted by handbanana at 7:03 AM on February 15, 2012

The second you have to ask for respect is the moment you should realize you won't get it.

Find another job.
posted by PsuDab93 at 7:59 AM on February 15, 2012

These people above you who made empty promises, perhaps they've rationalized it away by thinking they gave you a great opportunity to get some valuable experience. Perhaps they're unware of the pay differential. Give them an opportunity to make good on those promises. Catch them in the elevator, or walking out to the parking lot one evening, or ask them to chat, say "You know, when I covered for manager, I made less than 1/3 of the going rate; how 'bout a bonus equalling that missing 2/3?"
posted by at at 1:06 PM on February 15, 2012

"You know, when I covered for manager, I made less than 1/3 of the going rate; how 'bout a bonus equalling that missing 2/3?"

That is called a loyalty test and it's a great idea. "I saved you a lot of money when I filled in as x. In return, I'd like the balance of the market rate." If they want to keep you, they'll make a counter offer. If they laugh it off, you know where you stand.
posted by nickrussell at 2:09 PM on February 15, 2012

Have you spoken to the recent hire about opportunities in their group, or is most of this coming from just your managment? If you can get that person on your side, it might go a ways to getting the higher ups to see some value in moving you over.

The thing is that with your part time availability and student status, it does put you in a weak-spot with the company (and many others) as they may be unsure whether to invest in you. Or... they may not have a need for you in that group, but do in your current position that you dislike. Or... even though you did a good job "covering" for the person, you didn't show something they wanted to see. Or... they just don't value you. I've been deliberately mislead by a company myself, and in my case they simply didn't want to pay market value for my services, in part because they wanted to allot that money elsewhere so... yeah. It burned bitterly, because I liked the job, but I moved on. You will too, if you have to.

Anyway, my advice would be to wait and see. Make it clear you don't want to go back and see what they come up with. Set an internal deadline. Start looking for a new job, too.
posted by sm1tten at 5:06 PM on February 15, 2012

You are in a great position right now, this early in your career, to choose *not* to fall into the common trap of many workers.

You can decide that it's not ok for an employer to basically string you along and then "forget" to do what they have strongly implied they would do. You can decide to value your contributions and speak up reminding others of what they have been. You can request compensation and career advancement that is commensurate with your contribution, and leave gracefully if that is denied, moving on to the better situation that is waiting out there for you to claim it, and leaving the jackasses behind.

Or, you can huddle in the corner with those who whisper in fearful tones about the bad economy, with those who focus on their inabilities and imperfections and use them as an excuse never to ask for more. You can rationalize about why it's "responsible" to accept crumbs.

You don't like the way you are being treated. Don't second-guess yourself, don't find reasons to cave in and accept poor treatment. Give your employer one (1) chance to make things right, but firmly but politely stating that you were lead to believe that you would find a position in group A, and that you don't wish to go back to group B. If they try to string you along, leave.
posted by parrot_person at 2:35 AM on February 16, 2012

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