How Can I Deal With Being Overlooked In My Work?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being passed by:

I have been working as an Underwriter Assistant in an Insurance Company for the past two years. My goal has been to eventually become an Underwriter. So I take notes, remember what I learn, and do my best to observe how the Underwriter does things. I ask a lot of questions to gain a good grasp of what I am doing. There has been a need for an Underwriter in my department for over a year. I have felt that I wasn’t ready to take on the role and that I needed more training and would rather work in the assistant role to gain more experience.

As a result, I never voiced that I was interested in becoming an Underwriter. But, my Manager has never suggested that I become an Underwriter either. Over the past several months they have been interviewing several candidates for the Underwriting position. I thought they would hire someone with experience. As it turns out, they hired a 25 year old who worked as an Underwriter in a different type of coverage and has no experience in the type of Underwriting where I work! I have made myself available to help this person transition into the role. This person has been condescending and has assumed an air of authrity over me which I am really resenting.

I know so much more than him and I have a better attitude. He feels that doing the work I do is beneath him and he doesn’t realize that he has to learn what I do so he can understand the job. At this point I don’t want to deal with him any more because I refuse to be insulted by this kid. I thought that I had to be this expert at underwriting in order to do the underwriting role. But seeing this guy who has no experience just automatically get the title of Underwriter makes me feel like hey, I can do the Underwriting job.

What really hurt me is that this guy was invited to attend a leadership training class and I was never invited. I want to take leadership classes and further my career and become an Underwriter. Why am I being passed over? I spoke to my Manager and expressed that I want to be an Underwriter. I told him that I have been comparing myself to this new person and I feel that I would like to be an Underwriter because I have experience and I want to take classes and get my insurance designation. I told him that maybe I have not expressed this in the past, but now I am letting him know.

He told me there is opportunity for me to do Underwriting but these things take a plan and he said he would formulate something and get back to me. He said the best way to move up in anything is to do a great job in your current job. I kinda of felt like he was just appeasing me and bull sh**ing me a little bit. The way I feel is that I am not subordinating myself to some guy who knows less than I do. I just won’t do it. I’m not going to listen to this new guy. I’m feeling a lot of resentment and anger right now.

Can you give me some perspective of what’s going on and how I should get a grip on things. I’m feeling everything from quitting to finding another job to rebelling. I just feel that nothing is invested in my development and I’m doing a lot of work just to be overlooked and passed over. I don’t want to leave because the economy isn’t the greatest right now and I need the money. But I also don’t want to be humiliated in my job and made to feel insignificant by someone new. Help!!!

Signed, Hurt and Resentful

Dear Hurt and Resentful:

I’m so very sorry things happened this way for you, this time around. I can imagine how shocked you were at the person they hired–and how much you have mentally shaken yourself for not trying for it at the time. Before I make a couple of suggestions for finding a way to feel better about this now, let me comment on a couple of things that may help you as you plan for the future with your work.You repeatedly mention in your letter that you want to be an Underwriter. Yet, in the two years in which you have been an assistant, working closely with an Underwriter and taking notes, asking questions and thinking about the job, you apparently never wrote a letter, had an interview or conversation, or mentioned during performance evaluation conversations (if there were those) that you one day wanted to be an Underwriter.

You say you didn’t think you were ready and you thought someone with more experience would be hired. But, you don’t mention that you got a copy of the job description or looked at the application form or talked to your manager or HR about the experience levels and education they were looking for. Now, your manager has said you need a plan, and he’ll put something together and get back to you, but you don’t suggest that you work out a plan and submit it to him for ideas. The new Underwriter was invited to a leadership class–which would probably be appropriate given his level in the company. You weren’t invited, but you don’t say if other assistant positions were invited, or if you have submitted a request in the past, with an explanation of how you would use the leadership training.

You ask why you are being passed over and I can sense how hurt and angry you feel about it and how unjust it seems. I realize your letter to us was brief and did not give all the details of the last two years. But, if it is correct about how you have been hesitant to seek the Underwriter job in the past, can you see how it might appear that you are either not interested, not confident or assertive enough or not prepared enough, to be thought of as Underwriter level yet?Careers like the ones involved in your line of work have to be built from day one until they are done. Every day is a chance to move forward, build a reputation and show your savvy as well as your knowledge.While I can understand your desire to be ready before you try for the promotion, it would have benefited you to find out what “ready” was from the viewpoint of your bosses, not just from your viewpoint.

Keep in mind too, that if you had said you wanted to be made the new Underwriter, you might not have been. So, even though it is sad that you didn’t give it a try this time, that doesn’t mean the results would have been different if you had.I’m glad you spoke to your boss about the situation. But I believe you should consider developing your own plan for achieving what you want to achieve in your industry.You probably will need to talk to your boss or someone else about it, but one way to start is to get the job description I mentioned, from HR or another source. Compare it with your own qualifications and see where you stand.

Then, consider the personal style, communication methods and approaches, appearance, demeanor and overall knowledge, skills and abilities that seem to be possessed by most of the Underwriters you have known. Are there common elements? Often personal presentation is as important as knowledge and skills. That may be why they hired the person they hired, even though he is not as knowledgeable as he could be or should be.What about him would have appealed to those doing the hiring? Did you observe any of the other candidates before or after they were interviewed? What were they like and how were they different than the person who was hired.You think the new person is not as qualified, but could it be that there are some qualifications or needs expressed by the company that this person had and others did not? What did he offer the company?

All of those actions will help you see what you need to do if you want to move into a new position as an Underwriter one day. It starts with letting people know, in an appropriate, non-confrontational way, that you want to be one! Soon!Consider joining an Underwriter’s Association in your state or within your insurance industry. Often you do not need to be one yet, just interested and supportive. Consider identifying Underwriters in your company but outside your office, or in another company but not a competitor. Correspond briefly to find out how they solidified their positions. If you aren’t excessive, they will enjoy sharing what they know. You can mention conversations with them and what you have learned, as you talk to people in your own company.(Consider too that there may be positions other than being an Underwriter for which you would be well-suited…maybe even better.)

Find your own leadership courses. Look at those offered by free schools, churches, or other resources. If you know who is producing the one you wanted to go to, maybe they are doing another one in the area and you could attend that one. If it’s an expensive class, maybe you could at least find some material they produce and study that.I realize that isn’t the same as being invited by your company, but it would show that you are determined to get the information.

Next, start being a leader in your own life and in your own work. How would a leader handle your current situation? What would a leader say and do? If you believe the concept that one can be a leader in any rank or position, now is the time to show that leadership.One thing is for sure, a leader does not become a doormat but neither does a leader pull the rug out from others. So, you should focus on doing your job well but also expecting to be treated with respect and appreciation for what you offer.

This is a situation in which your boss should be involved. Talk to him and explain your frustration, leaving out the fact that you think you would have been a better choice. Ask him if he will help you by making it clear that you have experience and that you can be a great resource.You may also need to talk directly to the new person. It might be uncomfortable, but you may need to say, “Todd, I get the feeling that you think my work is unimportant. That’s really frustrating to me, and a bit insulting too. Would you please just accept that there are parts of my work you don’t understand?”(You would use your own words of course, but you could still speak up and let him know you will treat him courteously if he will treat you courteously too.)

I’m not suggesting that you get in his face or become angry. But you can be smilingly insistent that he listen to you and respond appropriately. As you are deciding how you want to react–quitting and finding another job, rebelling, not working with the new person, or finding a leadership role for yourself as you continue to develop, think about this:

Your job is apparently not much different than it was before, except for the new person. You apparently were enjoying your work before, so look for the elements you enjoyed and focus on them.Be confident in your steady insistence upon being treated with value. If you feel you have no standing to insist with the new employee, seek help from your boss. You have surely shown enough loyalty and hard work in the last two years that they would not want you to feel so badly.

Explain your thoughts and ask him for advice and assistance or ask him to please say something to the new person to get him to act better around you.Then, just get the new person’s orientation over with and move on. You don’t say that he has become your new immediate boss, so you probably won’t be dealing with him as much as with others. Find enjoyment in working with them, as you did before.

Also keep in mind that the new employee may realize he is not as knowledgeable and is acting unpleasant in an effort to show he is confident. I don’t think that’s an excuse, but it might be a reason. Which means, as he gets more comfortable and sure of himself maybe he will change his behavior.I often mention about how to have influence: Be credible (knowledge and capable).

Be valuable (give people something that makes them want to stay on your good side!). Be an effective communicator. (Express through your words and actions the things you have to offer and the things you need from others. Try working at gaining and using influence with everyone at work, from the janitor to the CEO, but especially in your own office.One final note. You are grieving now for several reasons. I wish I could help that, but I know it will take time. You may always look back on this as some really bad few months. But, you will have your day yet, if you get prepared, live prepared and grab your opportunities.In this situation, no one did anything wrong, it was just a matter of miscommunication and no communication.

No one was purposely trying to harm you or your career, they just didn’t think about it. Things will be different next time.In the meantime you can show them what they were missing and pave the way to what you want to achieve. I’m confident you can do that! You can also focus on enjoying life away from work. Clearly you like your work and want to be successful. But, you can benefit by keeping it in balance with other parts of your life. You may already be doing that, but it will help to reinforce it. You seem to be the kind of person who gives your all to the things you are interested in. Maybe you can enjoy a variety of things moderately, as a way to add interest and fun to your life. Please keep in touch if you wish to, and let us know how things work out. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.