Underemployed

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about disappointment in new job: I feel useless, and dispensable.

I have a PhD. I was recruited, interviewed and hired for a position that advertised for a PhD and postdoctoral experience. The job description was comprehensive, challenging, and PhD level work–a career position. I accepted the job at a lower salary than market value with promises of salary increase in 3 months, then 6 months and after 1 year.I have been at the job a little over a year now. The job duties are diluted and not up to my capacities. I am isolated and left out of the loop. My salary has not increased and I have not had any performance reviews as promised, even though I have requested meetings. These have been put off.

The most demoralizing part is that the authority of the job, the duties and the challenge have not materialized. When I take charge of the duties or follow the job description, I am discouraged by other employees and have no support from management. Management discourages most of the duties; i.e., one job duty is to promote sales. But I am told that sales reps do that and not to interfere. Yet I have the responsibility to increase overall revenue in that business line and am told the security of my position is contingent on increased revenue.

I have no authority or say over how the sales are done, and that I am not to do cold calls, follow-up leads etc. I am told I am the technical expert; yet any technical expertise required is handled by other employees in the business with support of the management. I feel useless, and dispensable. Since I applied for a certain type of position and this is not materializing, nor is the promised pay, I have started to look elsewhere. I did leave a promising career path for this job with promises of growth and salary. I feel duped and used. Do I have any legal recourse?

Signed, Discouraged and Duped

Dear Discouraged and Duped:

Yours is a practical and ethical question, and possibly, but not likely, is it wise to think in terms of legal recourse. Up front you should understand that our site addresses communication-related workplace matters, not legal. To learn if you have a legal case, consult a labor attorney. You should bring together the documents (with duplicate copies) describing the job, and promises of pay increases, and a log of what has transpired and failed to happen in spite of your efforts. Of course you should not inform your employer of this legal inquiry. Should an attorney think you have a case, you might want to get a second opinion, and then weigh the downside of legal recourse and decide if taking action would be the best for your career. Should legal recourse not be advised, the documentation you’ve compiled can still be of value in pursuit of your career within or outside that company. I sense what you really want is a career with purpose and promise, not just a job. And that entails doing work you believe is significant; that produces quality products and service and makes our world better for what you do. That also means it is a career that doesn’t harm the environment in search of short term profits and that doesn’t warp your life by pressures that take from family and community.

Assuming that you saw and see that kind of potential within your firm, would it not be best to pursue why it is not living up to its purpose and promise before looking elsewhere? How?You are correct to request a performance review, but you are justified in doing more since your request has been unanswered and the promises of advancement and pay have not been realized. In written and face-to-face you can reissue your request for a review. You can candidly state that you want work that utilizes the abilities for which you were hired. You can state that your previous request has been ignored and that you want to learn where you stand because you feel like you are treading water. You can ask that review be scheduled like yesterday; that is within a week or two. If it is not, you can tell your superior that you can appreciate she/he is busy, but that you are going to seek advice from Human Resources or up the ladder.

Once you get the review, you can as it seem appropriate present the documentation you’ve prepared. Hopefully, that log will also list what you have accomplished that is well done although less than for what you thought you were hired. Also hopefully, you have become increasingly familiar with your company and have seen ways to cut wasted supplies, time, duplication, energy and/or money and have seen ways to innovate; That is you think “lean management” and quality improvement. Your turn offs by sales and tech are indisputable evidence that your work group is not functioning as a team.

Your question signals that you are no longer willing to feel useless and dispensable. I predict that now is the time you will no longer mark time and that you will assert yourself in a professional fashion. Do that and you will soon learn if you should seek work elsewhere. Please update us on what you elect to do and how it works. So continue to think big; not in a greedy self-serving way because you have a PhD, but because you want to make a career that counts. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is really what you what for your company and self.

William Gorden