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Please help me deal with this promotion issue - it's really eating away at me and I hate it (long and dull)

(5 Posts)
spicemonster Wed 01-Jul-09 21:30:29

Sorry this is going to be long but I need to explain the background. I have worked in the same sector for about 20 years. I started off at a fairly low grade then eventually became a senior manager in the first company I worked for (higher grades are manager, senior manager, director, then partner). I won't ever make partner because I don't work in a client facing role and that's fine - it's never been my ambition.

Anyway, left that job and went to a different company, still on the same grade. Then I took a career break for a year and just really needed a job so I took one at a grade below the one I had been at before ie manager level. I stayed in that company for four years and because my boss was an arse, really struggled to get promoted. Finally my promotion was in the bag but I went on maternity leave when my forms should have been submitted so it never went through. I have since found out this is discrimination but all irrelevant now. Anyway, came back from maternity leave and last summer got offered a job at a competitor. Initially they said it was senior manager grade so I thought I would take it because I was finally getting my promotion. Then they told me they'd made a mistake and it was a manager level job and they couldn't offer it to me at a senior manager level. I had masses of discussions with my line manager and the senior guy who said that there was no reason why I couldn't be promoted at the beginning of 2009 or at the latest summmer 2009. Because I was so pissed off about the lack of promotion at my current job, I decided to take it. But 6 weeks later, they fired my boss. When I spoke to my new boss about promotion he told me that things had changed in the current environment, we were just about staving off redundancies and there were to be no promotions. Lots of my colleagues in my previous company had been made redundant so I felt like I'd just mistimed things and I should sit tight and push again in a year's time when (hopefully) the economy starts to pick up.

But on Monday I found out that a colleague who does the same job as me but is 12 years younger (so much less experienced) has been promoted to senior manager. I comforted myself by telling myself she's worked here for a few years longer than me. But today I found out that an ex-colleague of mine from my previous job who joined about 6 months after I did (on the same grade as me), has also been promoted! She is in pretty much the same role as me and is younger and less experienced too.

I hate feeling bitter or jealous or any of that stuff - it makes me really uncomfortable because I want to be pleased when people I like succeed. And I don't begrudge her the promotion - she deserves it. I am just wondering a) how I deal with it with my boss and b) how I cope with it mentally. I would normally email someone to congratulate them but I'm so pissed off I'm struggling with it (even though I'm not cross with her, I'm cross with myself/the system/something).

Sorry, that's all terribly garbled but any words of wisdom would be gratefully received.

flowerybeanbag Thu 02-Jul-09 09:13:04

Hi spicemonster.

Well I don't blame you for being cross!

Although actually the reason you were given by your new boss for not being promoted sounds perfectly reasonable, evidently it's not quite as clear cut as that, as other people are being promoted in this climate despite being less experienced that you in one case.

I think you need to arrange a meeting with your direct boss and get some answers. You obviously have plenty of experience, including having worked at that level before. So there must be a reason you haven't been promoted. Clearly the economic climate is not the reason. You need to be prepared that the reason might be more to do with you and perhaps your boss was uncomfortable making it personal and preferred blaming it on external factors. But if the reason is you, you need to know where you stand, so that, if it's for example performance related, you can address it.

It might be to do with how pushy and demanding these other individuals are. If it's the kind of place where individual negotiation is important when it comes to salaries, promotions and similar, that might be it.

Or, depending on your job, the company and the market, there may well be other factors beyond your control, perhaps to do with clients, or the specific activities these people are involved in, or budgets, or something.

Regardless of what it is, you are entitled to know as you have been misled and a firm meeting with your boss is the starting point. You could go prepared with evidence of your experience and performance as well. You need to come away with some actual reasons I think before you can work out how to deal with it both practically and also mentally, because at the moment you don't really know what you're dealing with.

spicemonster Thu 02-Jul-09 21:18:07

Thank you so, so much for that response flowerly - it's really helpful to know I'm not going a bit dotty! I don't think there are any performance issues - I got rated 'excellent' in my recent appraisal but I am now in a regional role rather than a London one (unlike my ex-colleague) and unfortunately life is very London-centric.

But you've given me some really good ideas to help my structure my conversation calmly - I am not brilliant at being assertive when it comes to these things hence my being in the position I'm in - unless my boss is pushing me forward, it doesn't happen.

Right, I will gird my loins. And I'm so, so glad you've come back - your advice on MN is absolutely invaluable

OnceWasSquiffy Fri 03-Jul-09 05:50:48

A big 4 accounting, or legal firm?

London makes a big difference. I would guess that turnover rates in London are much higher than the regional offices; doens't mean that London staff are at the centre of the universe, but does mean that HR in London will be more on their toes when it comes to annual promotions and the like - they need to be, in order to stop people moving to competitors. Regionally, things just don't need to have the same drive, so they generally go slower. That is nothing to do with you and you cannot influence it, but you just have to accept it and work out how to deal with it.

You have to discount the 12 years younger thing as well. Not just because this is now the law (you rate/promote totally on ability to do job and suchlike - it doesn't matter how many years experience you have) but because promotion is all about the ability to do the next job up, and not about the ability to do the current job. Your experience does count to you and shoudl be a factor, but you want to be rated on your abilities and not just on the fact you have 'done the time'.

You also need to put away all the stuff about your previous roles: they are the reason that the company wanted to hire you in the first place but are now less relevant. Try to trust in karma that the people who messed up your previous promotions will get their just dues in some way, just leave all that annoyance behind (I have been there myself, I do sympathise, but you really need to accept that all that went on before doesn't matter).

So, where you are is in a new job, where you have completed 12 months employment. You have done a great job, and you know you are ready to go up. Other people are going up and you need to make that happen.

And where is the firm in all of this? They like you obviously, but don't know you that well. And your new boss has taken over a team and needs to perform well in order to make sure he doesn't get fired like his predecessor (Sp?). The last thing your boss wants to do is rock the boat by going out on a limb for you I guess. What's in it for him? If he keeps you in the current role then you will be an outperforming manager, which reflects well on him. If he tries to get you promoted your cost to the firm goes up and he gets no benefit from it himself. In an ideal world we all have great bosses, but here in the real world there are many many bosses who want to keep the best peple around them and they can only do that by holding them donw and not letting them bubble up to the top. It's a crap strategy and doesn't work but I have seen it loads of times. And in an environment like we have at the moment, even good bosses are a bit scared of putting their heads over the parapet to support their staff at the moment.

What to do about it? Fortunately, if it is a big professional firm, there are plenty of avenues. Legally the firm has to treat people fairly, and if it is a large org it knows the law (might not follow it all the time, mind you). Treating peple fairly doesn;t always mean mean treating them equally, though, and a promotion freeze in the regions but not London would be fair (so long as all the people in the same level and same office as you are affected by this). A simple question into HR will establish if something like this is the root cause (if so, nothing really you can do, TBH). Don't ask your boss because he may say this is the case even if it isn't and you will have put yourself in a cul de sac as you will then be 'crossing' him if you go to HR to double-check.

If there is no such freeze then you need to ask for a meeting with your direct boss, the partner in charge of your area, or HR. your call on who you talk to. Set out clearly that you have excellent experience, were led to believe when you were hired that you would be promoted witin the year, and now that you are seeing your colleagues being promoted around you, you are struggling to see what it is you are doing wrong, given that your colleagues all agree you are doing a great job and your ratings are outstanding. Could they please explain what it is that you need to change to achieve the same promotion that is being handed out to others? I think that approach is not so assertive and puts the ball in their court. And then see what they say.

flowerybeanbag Fri 03-Jul-09 09:24:18

thanks spicemonster

I agree that being out of London may well be a significant factor here, that combined with possibly a tendency not to be assertive could well be it. Have the meeting, get your information about what's going on, then you can work out how best to deal with it.

best of luck!

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