How To Avoid Being Black-Balled For Promotion

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being blackballed:

Approximately 6 mos ago, I was moved into an interim mgmt position to be transitioned to a permanent mgmt position. Before agreeing to the interim position, I confirmed w/the director that I would be maintaining ‘status quo’ until the new mgr for this team of employees (who were my peers) was onboarded (approx. 6 wks). 3 days into the interim position (which I was expected to do in addition to my former job), the director came to me and asked that I go to my team and let them know their productivity standards were being increased (a deviation from the status quo we had agreed on).

I felt lied to and a bit angry she had ‘reneged’ on the agreement and expected me to drop the hammer on my immediate peers when it was a mere 6 wks until new mgmt and there was no need to change productivity standards that had been in place for 2 yrs right at that moment (and cause more dissension w/the team of peers).

I s/w director to let her know my concerns and withdrew from the interim position when she wouldn’t back off her demand. In fact, she was a bit condescending when she stated “well, maybe there’s a way we can make them think it’s their idea (my peers) to increase the prod. standards”. S

ince then I’ve rec’d a glowing annual review from my new mgt and have been recommended for another mgmt position. The director is still in place and I feel that, due to our prior conflict, I’m not going to be seriously considered for another mgmt position w/this company. Is there anyway to rectify this situation other than leaving the company?

Signed, Wanting to Move Up

Dear Wanting to Move Up:

If I understand it correctly, you were going to be promoted to manager, so were asked to be the short-term manager for your group until the new manager arrived in a little over a month. At that time you would go to another group as their full-time manager. In the meantime, you were a “working manager” in that you still had your line level tasks to do but also did basic management tasks such as scheduling, organizing work, directing new work and reporting to your director about status of work or concerns.Within a few days you were directed to announce new performance standards.

You felt your Director broke her promise that there would be no big changes while you were the manager and you didn’t want to do that unpleasant task. (You apparently preferred for the new manager to have to do it, which you must admit was not fair to him or her, either!) So, you gave up your management promotion in protest.

There are some gaps in the description you provide, primarily about relationships before all of this and about the kind of communication that was done about your role. The key to your situation is probably in those gaps. However, let me provide some thoughts from an outsider’s perspective and perhaps you can adapt them with your insider’s knowledge

1. There was probably something negative going on between you and your Director and the Director and your group and you and your group, before this happened. The upheaval it caused seems far out of proportion to the situation. That nearly always indicates ongoing personality conflicts, communication problems and/or problems about knowing or accepting organizational roles.Now that it’s over, some may view you as a hero for standing up to the Director and not requiring employees to increase their productivity. (You don’t say if they had to anyway.) Others may view that you created unnecessary upset, paperwork and organizational adjustments over a grievance with your Director. Others may view that you had your opportunity as a manager and didn’t want to do it–or didn’t have the courage or skills to do it.So, you are correct to worry about your chances for getting another opportunity in the immediate future. There are some things you might be able to do to lessen that concern, but some things will probably not be mended easily if at all until time has allowed this to fade in organizational memory. It WILL fade over time though, so you should not give up on it so quickly that you would leave your job.

2. Consider talking with your Director about your recent evaluation and the recommendation by your manager about your management future. Try the approach of honestly telling her that you can see how it might be viewed, but you would like to explain your thoughts about what happened a few months ago. Talk to her in a sincere way about why you were so taken aback when she asked you to do something you viewed as not appropriate for a peer, even one in a management position at the time.You may need to humble yourself about this situation, since she probably will not agree with your reasoning. But, if you can convey, honestly, that you simply did not know how to handle that kind of a management challenge at that time and hadn’t thought you would need to do so, maybe she will soften her view about it. She didn’t communicate with you about it in the best way, at least from your viewpoint, and she may have realized that now. She also expected you to do something that would require coaching and support for someone without management skills and experience. If she made no effort to help you in that way, she may realize that she failed as much as she thinks you did.You may find that she can be accepting of what happened and will understand that your performance as a manager would be different if you were in a group that were not your peers to begin with. (Although, in most places people manage former peers immediately and you may need to do so again at some point.)

3. Talk to your current manager about the situation, if you have not already done so. Ask for his or her advice about the matter, since he or she might understand the dynamics better.

4. Look for chances to show your higher level, big-picture thinking; the mark of role readiness for a management position. It’s not enough to be good at line work, whatever that is in your job. You need to be able to show that you have developed ways to improve work and your own performance and know how to apply that to others. Maybe you can informally talk to coworkers and look for ways to improve work for all of you.Support management efforts and make an effort to understand better about why things are directed as they are. Look for increased responsibility. All of those activities can be used to show your growth in management thinking. Those may be the things your current manager has noticed and is commending, so you will have documentation of your efforts.

5. If you have a working relationship with HR or the person or unit who arranges for personnel actions, consider talking to them about the situation and your hopes for a fair opportunity. You wouldn’t want to speak negatively about your Director, but you could say that you regret the way things happened a few months ago and hope to have other chances in the future. They may have advice for you.You can bet they are well aware of the situation and will have their own views, which might be more supportive of you than you realize. If not, they might at least get a new view of you and your thoughts.

6. Finally, let me encourage you to fully examine the management role and realize it is, after all, subordinate still. Managers are expected to achieve what they have been directed to achieve, no matter how unpleasant it is to tell employees about it or how unfair it seems to be asked to do it. They can represent the employees and explain reasons for not doing the directed task, but ultimately they are not in charge of the decision, they achieve it through others.

Looking back I hope you can see that it would have been a great opportunity for you to show your ability to work with your own team to help them accept their new performance standards and find ways to achieve it. It would have also been the way to clearly show your readiness for the role of a manager.

If you now are genuinely prepared to accept the role and then to gain the knowledge and skills needed for it, make sure you convey that thought fully, sincerely and with examples, as you talk to your own manager, your Director and others. That may allow you to once again be placed in line for a management position.As I mentioned at the beginning, this recent incident will fade from memory at some point. The Director may change. Work may change. And while that is happening you will have continued to build your reputation and be ready to move forward and be a success as a manager. Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe