What Can I Do About Not Getting A Promotion?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling betrayed by boss: She praised my attitude and encouraged me to apply. Not only did I feel that I won her vote, but that the position would definitely be mine.

I find myself in quite the workplace dilemma recently. An internal job posting from my department at work had gone up and I decided to take interest. The new role would’ve kept me within my department as the #2 guy, only behind my boss. Now, mind you, my boss and I had what I thought was a great working relationship. One of the requirements was to seek approval from my current supervisor. I prepared my application and met with my boss to discuss my intentions. She praised my attitude and encouraged me to apply. Not only did I feel that I won her vote, but that the position would definitely be mine.

A couple of months go by and I brought up it up with her. She said that our bank (specifically, our CEO) did not think I was qualified. Dumbfounded, I thought it would be good for all of us to meet and discuss this. I was hoping my boss could have my back, just like she conveyed previously. I knew there was trouble once she did not want to join and that by requesting the meeting, she felt I was going over her head (although those were not my intentions).

At this point, I knew something weird was going on: either she lied to me or she was completely senile. The next thing I did I do regret: I emailed the CEO, explaining the (not entire) situation. I was very careful with my words not to indicate anything negative (a challenge indeed). I thought that by winning his admiration he could reconsider. I didn’t even mention what my boss told me about his decision.

Next thing you know, my boss and HR wanted to meet with me. It was a very awkward situation. My boss said that she never said I was qualified, that my work doesn’t correlate with the job functions, that she had made the decision clear and I went over her head again by writing the email (although it was her idea and said I should talk to him) and brought up my recently used sick days. The HR manager said that by me writing the e-mail made it more of an incentive for me not to be hired for the position. She spoke to me slowly and carefully while reading the specifications of the job, like a schoolteacher to a child with learning disabilities, finishing with “Have you ever done this before?” I was shocked because I did, why would I apply for something I had no knowledge of?

Although it was mentioned that my deadlines are always met, that my work is solid, that I am valuable. I can’t stop thinking how she just threw me under the bus like that. I see now that perhaps she was just trying to save her own arse; I just tried to play it cool even though I felt my reputation was severely damaged.

And so did they; “It was all just water under the bridge.” I feel as if I am now being perceived as a liar and am on thin ice. Worst of all is the fact that I can’t really do anything about it besides sucking it up or retreating. Our bank is the head office for a foreign bank, where mostly everyone here comes from their native country. I am just disgusted how everyone can praise about being open unless of course you’re part of the local staff. That my boss can just easily play with my fate so cold-heartedly I already know I can’t work with people like this that don’t even respect me. So I find myself asking is my dignity worth it, but more importantly, is there anything else I can do about it?

Signed, Feeling Betrayed

Dear Feeling Betrayed:

Right now your emotions are very active, so you see this in the most negative possible light. That’s normal, but it may also push you to doing something that won’t be good for your overall financial or work situation. Perhaps you can take a few weeks to consider the totality of the situation before you feel that your only options are to either suck it up or retreat; which are essentially the same thing.Here are some things to consider:1. Before you feel too negative about your supervisor, keep in mind that unless you were asked to apply for the position and told the date your promotion would happen, you were just one applicant among others. (I gather that you weren’t approached and asked to apply or that the application wasn’t written with you in mind as the sole person they wanted for it.)It could be that your boss never thought you were appropriate for the job but is prohibited from telling internal applicants they don’t stand a chance. Or, maybe she likes you and wanted to avoid an unpleasant conversation, so she said all the right thingswhich in this case gave you false hopes. OR, she may have been sincere about wanting you in the job and someone else decided you weren’t right for the job. What could she do then? It wouldn’t have been appropriate for her to tell you that she didn’t agree with the decision by the CEO or others, so she just stated the bare facts. OR maybe the truth is a mixture of all of those things.The bottom line is that the company has no obligation to promote you and they don’t even need to give you a reason. So, getting angry to the point of quitting is a bit extreme, if everything else about work is congenial.2. I wonder if there are other things going on anyway. Maybe some of your feelings come through on the job and you don’t realize it. I left your message just as you wrote it, rather than editing it. If you look back over it you’ll see some of the tell-tale indicators that you don’t feel very positive about work or your supervisor. You wonder if your boss is senile. You attribute what happened as her “throwing you under the bus” or covering her behind at your expense. You wonder about how the bank can say they have an open work environment, but locals aren’t treated the same as those from other countries. You try to manipulate the CEO a bit, hoping he’ll buy it, but he doesn’t and now you feel that you aren’t respected. You think they view you as a liar. See what I mean?I’m not saying that your behavior or performance are problematic, but that’s always something to consider. Some day; not now, probably; maybe you can express your honest feelings of disillusionment and ask for some insight into how others see you. 3. If you leave now, you’ll be leaving under a cloud, which is never a good thing. If you stay for a few more months you will be able to rebuild and feel better about things before you go; and you may decide by then that things have changed enough you don’t want to go.Consider if it would be possible for you to focus on your work and your team for awhile, until time, work, life and other events smooth the memory of this out a bit. When there are upsetting situations like this, most supervisors are just anxious for things to get back to normal. I’m sure you’d like the same thing. If you had it to do over again, you’d probably handle things differently, indicating that there were several mishandled components to this situation.Your supervisor may be wishing she had done things differently as well. The CEO may have chided her about some aspect of it. HR may have corrected her actions about it too. You probably are not the only one going home and fretting about it. So, if you formerly had a good working relationship, maybe it would be nice to have it again instead of letting one foul-up cause you to reject your supervisor forever and the job forever, too.You feel that you are not respected as much now. But, you acknowledge that your work was complimented. The fact that you’re doing good work in your current job doesn’t mean you’re right for the job you sought, but it shows that you have value. Maybe you can build on that by looking at the job descriptions for other jobs you want and purposely working to gain the knowledge and skills described.You know the work culture best and you know how likely it would be for you to get another job at the level you need. You would have to start all over probably, which would be a shame since you’ve been building experiences where you are. On the other hand, you also know what has been going on before this happened. If this is just the last thing in a series of really bad feeling situations, maybe it IS time for you to leave and find work where you are more respected and appreciated. I just want you to be sure you are leaving for something better.Perhaps you know someone else in the bank who you could talk to about this. They are closer to the totality of things and they may have a completely different perspective that would help you in your thought processes. I’ll bet though that anyone would counsel you to not act while you’re feeling so freshly upset.Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide.

William Gorden