Promotion Hinges On Co-worker’s Resignation?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a coworker who is delaying giving notice that he’s leaving:

My department is going through a re-organization. We have been since for six months. Decisions are just now being made with regard to developing new work assignments and implementation of new procedures. I was told that there is a possibility of a promotion for me, however management is reluctant to do that for fear that the other newer employee that does my same job may become upset and leave. I have 2.5 years sonority over this individual.

I am aware that this person is going to give his notice in 6 weeks, which will be a two-week notice for his departure in late April. I have spoken to this employee about my position and asked him nicely to give more notice. He has refused. I am certain that the management would not let him go early if he were to give notice TODAY! There is really no excuse for him to wait so long. It takes quite a while to fill positions here and the learning curve takes 4-6 months. This could very well impact whether or not I will receive a promotion/raise and also impact for sure how the rest of the reorganization will work. Please help! What should I do?

Signed, Frustrated With Co-worker

Dear Frustrated With Co-worker:

This must be frustrating for you. I hope I can share some thoughts that might help.

1. Have you been told for sure that there is a hesitancy to promote you because of potential hard feelings? If that’s the case, do you think your managers are being honest with you about it? I ask that, because when someone is viewed as being the right fit as a supervisor, it is understood that some people may not be happy about having a peer promoted–but that’s just life! When management goes outside a department to promote, almost invariably it’s because they have other reasons for doing so. That may not be the case in your situation–and I’m not implying that you are not well thought of. I’m just questioning if they are using that as an excuse.

2. Have you considered sending an email or talking to your managers and being more direct about the issue? Perhaps you could say that you’ve thought about it and want to know if it is the co-worker issue that is really involved or do they simply want to go outside the section to promote? You could even ask, “If you knew no one minded, then would you consider me for the position?” Or you might ask, “Is there something other than that, which would keep you from promoting me?” An honest manager will say, “Oh, well, if no one minded, of course we would. We’d love to have you as a supervisor, we’re just concerned about morale.” (Or some such thing.) Or, he or she might say, “I think you are doing well where you are and we think a lot of you, but we’d like to get someone else to bring a new viewpoint to the team.” (Or some such thing.) A dishonest manager will stumble around about the value of other perspectives, the fact that people might say they don’t mind but it still could create problems, etc. etc., but will not openly discuss their feelings about you being promoted.

3. Have you considered talking to your co-worker and telling him of your desire to promote? You could express it that you think management won’t promote from within because of a fear of hard feelings, and if they knew he didn’t care it might make a difference. Ask him if he would express to your managers that he understands a promotion might be possible for you and he supports it fully. The fact that you discussed it with him should not cause problems because such things are often talked about in offices. The advantage of this is that he’s not giving away his plans and you aren’t either. Instead, he’s simply saying he wouldn’t mind seeing you promoted.Then, when you talk to your managers, you could say that you’ve discussed this and you have been assured that promoting you would not create any hard feelings.

4. This is my general suggestion: Whatever else you do, write a letter to enclose with your resume and send it to anyone who has to do with upcoming promotions. Even though they may know you very well, treat the issue in the same way that someone from outside the section would, if seeking the position. Be just as careful about discussing your value to the section and what your history shows you can do to make things better. Emphasize anything you have done that shows you work well with others and that you can link to other parts of the organization. If you have a job description for the supervisor’s position, use that to help you format your resume and letter. You likely know this well, but I like to remind people that the supervisor’s job is to do his or her own work AND to work with others to achieve the goals of the section. Many candidates just discuss how well they’ve done their current work.

The key is: What knowledge, skills and attitudes do you have that will help you get work done through others? Also emphasize your tenure, your evaluations, the fact that you are familiar with the work of those you would supervise, and are well thought of by them.Do this to ensure that no one in a decision-making position can doubt that you are interested and have the qualifications. That takes the matter out of the realm of this co-worker’s issues and puts it where it belongs: Your career planning and the response of your manager’s to it, based on their feelings about your work. I hope this helps as you plan your actions. Please let us know what develops if you have time and wish to do so.

Tina Lewis Rowe