Acting Position For A Year, Not Hired Permanently

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about not being hired after a year in a job:

I was placed in a higher position for one year where I conducted all aspects of the position. I was not given any training or a transition of duties and responsibilities with the person who was leaving. On my own I learned the different aspects and challenging day to day operations which impact the entire work structure based on my decisions. The job opened up and I was recommended by my immediate boss for the position but was denied. The position was again opened and I submitted an application, was interviewed and passed over again. What are my options? This is a high stress and very pivotal position in our organization.

Signed, Feeling Overlooked

DearĀ Feeling Overlooked:

It must seem very unfair to have served in a position on an interim basis, then not be selected for it permanently! There may be a number of reasons for that decision. Let me mention some possible explanations, as well as some options for action now, and see if you can apply or adapt them to your situation. Employers will promote existing employees into recently vacated positions or new roles on an interim or trial basis for several reasons: A vacancy or new role happens quickly and the employer responds by filling the position with at least a viable employee. This gives management the time to consider what to do next.

Sometimes, it has to do with money and not wanting to commit to funding a new person or position. Employers also may use a promotion like this to further assess an employee’s skills and abilities. Employees see the temporary promotion as an opportunity to advance and potentially increase their incomes. Since the promotion at that point is not part of the competitive process it may lead an employee to believe she is qualified when she may or may not be. That is especially true if the promotion decision was solely to provide a place-holder for the position–someone to keep things going until the permanent replacement could be found.Those organizational realities shouldn’t diminish the pride you feel in being asked to take extra responsibility.

After all, there were likely others who could have been given your interim job, but YOU were picked. That is a tremendous show of appreciation for your work in the past and your potential for the future.Unfortunately, what often happens is that the employer in these cases may not do a thorough job of training the interim person, figuring that person won’t have the position for long anyway. (But, as you have discovered, sometimes interim positions last for years!) The employee will continue to work as long as the interim position is needed, even though his or her performance or behavior is not ideal in the minds of those higher in the company.

The employee may not be told about the perceived weak areas, because managers and executives realize they can’t expect the same level of performance from an interim employee as they would from the permanent replacement.It is a sad fact that many employers do not tell any employees, at any level, what is viewed as being successful in a job. If that happened to you, it may be that you were being judged less than positively in some areas, based on something you might have done differently if only you had been told up front what was necessary for maximum success in the position.As you mentioned, you had to learn it all yourself! Who knows whether you learned it the way others in the management team would have taught it or think it should be done? Apparently you have gotten very little help in this area!

What is particularly bad is when those filling interim positions are not told that the organization has definite plans to hire from outside or to promote from candidates possessing very specific backgrounds, so the interim person will never be given the permanent job no matter how well she performs. That may not have been the case in your situation, but it has happened many times.You also say that your manager recommended you but others were the decision makers who passed over your application. It could be that the others value different aspects of work than your boss does. Or, it could be that your boss wants to show you he is supportive, but he knows someone else will have the final say anyway. Or, it could be that the recommendation of your boss works against you for one reason or another!

This all brings us to a point where an existing employee in an interim role and the employer are in what I call the “gray space of perceptions.” Time has passed, the position may be better understood, the employee has or has not demonstrated the “right fit”, and now a new phase is in progress–the time to fill the position. The interim person becomes frustrated that he or she is not automatically chosen after doing what seemed to be an acceptable job.It sounds like you were relieved of the new duties and re-assigned to your old position. I may have misunderstood that and you may be still filling in. In either case, it makes me think about a couple of possible situations:It may be that because you weren’t given training, someone, at some level, doesn’t think you were performing as they desired or expected and they do not think you are likely to gain the needed knowledge or skills in the future. It may also be that there is some political or personal issue that is affecting the decision. For example, the position will interact with some other position and the person in that position feels that the person in your job should have some specific characteristic.

The organization may desire a specific knowledge or skill level for the job, or a specific type of personality, traits, organizational history or some other attribute.Or, it may be that some specific characteristic or training is desired for the position in order to develop it in the future. For example, there may be a desire to have the position expand and have more status or a higher organizational level. Thus, they may be looking for someone with an advanced degree, training in some specific area, a particular kind of background and so forth. Whatever the reasons for what has happened, now you want to know what to do to get past this personal and professional hurdle. One thing you could do would be to identify the key person who could give you feedback about why you have not been chosen for the job. This may be the HR director, your boss or someone else in the company.

Approach that person or group from the viewpoint that you want to know how to best develop your career in the future. Don’t argue about their reasoning, just listen and think about it. You may find that there are objections or issues that you can counter with a resume or a follow-up letter showing that those concerns are answered in your work history and experiences in the last year.Or, you may find that the criteria for the permanent position includes some component that you don’t possess at this time; but that you can aim for. If you had conflicts with employees for whom you were responsible, you may find some of that is having an impact and you can show what you have done to resolve that conflict. Or, you may find there is nothing concrete, only some consideration that is part of organizational politics or perceived needs, as mentioned above. In that case there may be little you can do.Once you learn if there is some aspect of your knowledge and skills that are creating a barrier to the new position, you can purposely develop further in those areas. For example, an employee thrust in to a project management role is not retained in that role because there is a perception that he or she has not done as well as hoped.

The employee may choose to learn from the experience by being self-reflective and honest about the experience and take some classes or seminars to develop the necessary skills to be successful next time. In addition to seeking insight from HR, your boss or others who have something to do with the promotional process, I would suggest working with a mentor, or someone who will give you honest professional feedback on your abilities. Of course, this could have upset you so much that you decide you don’t want to stay with the company. It sounds like you have been successful there, so hopefully you will choose to stay and see what develops. You may find you enjoy having the pressure off from the high-stress position! And, you will have gained tremendous insight into many aspects of the work that will help you in your former role. You may find that you continue to be a strong resource because of your experiences.Let your employer know that you are disappointed that you were not selected to advance and that you are taking personal and professional responsibility to ensure that you will continue to learn and grow. When the position is filled permanently you can get to know the person who filled it and may have an even better indication of the criteria that was used.You also have the option of fully supporting the new person or only half-heartedly doing so. I hope you will opt to be a strong support.

You might want to produce a document to give the new person, outlining key issues, providing resources and discussing ongoing concerns. You may find that those gestures of support and goodwill will build your reputation in some very positive ways.The company had confidence in you enough to promote you into the position on an interim basis. Based on many factors it just didn’t work out this time. Don’t give up! And purposely work to avoid placing blame. Work on yourself, take classes and continue to seek opportunities to challenge yourself and grow. Those positive actions will help fulfill the spirit of WEGO that this site encourages: Looking for ways each of us as individuals can contribute to the team. That not only helps the team, it helps us in many more ways than focusing only on ourselves would have done. Best wishes!

Angela Setter, HR Director and Coach