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drClaw's avatar

How would you handle losing a promotion because of an exec's snap judgment?

Asked by drClaw (4437 points ) June 26th, 2009

Okay, so obviously there is a story that goes along with this question, read it or just answer, either way you will be helping me out.

Last week a senior member of my department was “let go” for various reasons and instead of promoting from within the department our Director is hiring someone outside for the roll.

I was angry and confused when I heard that I would be passed up. I may not have been as angry if the person they were hiring had more experience than me, but they don’t. In fact they barely have 1/2 of my experience and as if to add insult to injury I know this person and was giving them career advice not 2 weeks ago.

After confronting my director on the issue I was informed that he was going to look to me for the position, but was stifled by our EVP because he felt I may not be able to give orders. Now if you have ever met me you would know that I do have a quite streak at times, but an introvert I am not and orders and/or confrontation I do not avoid. I was also told that despite my Directors objections that our EVP does not back down on snap judgments and that right or wrong it was his way.

I’m f*cking pissed off, our EVP made a decision without knowing my work history or really anything about me at all. I want to make everyone involved in this fiasco feel stupid by showing that I am the right choice and getting the second senior position on my yearly review (October) anyway. How would you handle a stubborn judgment like this when it starts effecting your career and income?

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34 Answers

RedPowerLady's avatar

Sorry you are having to deal with this. How frustrating! I believe you are rightly upset and I would be as well.

I think you took the first correct step. You discussed it with your Director. I would then talk with the EVP. I would absolutely not confront him but I would let him know that you desired the position and were quite ready to take on that responsibility, also that you were quite disappointed when you did not get it. The EVP thinks you can’t give orders so it isn’t a far reach to assume that he doesn’t think you will stand up for yourself. So by talking with him, in a non-confrontational manner, you will be proving that you can, in fact, stand up for yourself (which isn’t a far reach from giving orders). I would also ask him very clearly what can you do to show him that you are ready for a higher position so that you can work on these skills.

The best thing you can do is set yourself up for the next promotion. Prove them wrong that you weren’t the right guy this time. Your motivation isn’t to be angry and get their goat, or it shouldn’t be, because that’ll make the workplace no fun to be in. But instead show that you are emotionally stable, that you can take this in stride, and that you do have the skills so they won’t pass you up next go-around.

YARNLADY's avatar

A similar thing happened to my son, and he is taking it all wrong. He cut his hair, shaved off his beard, and bought some new clothes when he was told he was in line for a promotion. The person who made the choice doesn’t like him because he keeps coming up with ideas to improve their work, and doesn’t give her credit for it. Someone else got the promotion, and now he has let his hair and beard grow back.

My advice is to talk to several people who are in a position to make a difference. Show them the description of several interpersonal classes at your local college and ask them which ones they would recommend. That will show them you are working on improving your contribution to the company.

wundayatta's avatar

YOu couldtake @RedPowerLady‘s suggestions, which are good, or you could take another tactic, which is to find another job in another firm. Managers make snap decisions all the time and that is what they are paid to do—make decisions without all the information. TIme is of the essence. So, if they guess right more often than not, they get promoted, and otherwise, not.

If you are passed over you can try to do what @RedPowerLady said, or you could leave. I’m sure you have other options, too. However, in my experience, once you’ve been pigeonholed in an organization, you’re screwed. Most people get significant raises and promotions by going elsewhere, I believe.

There are probably also gender differences in this advice. Women, on average, are more loyal to organizations, and expect organizations to be loyal to them. When women run organizations, they often behave with more loyalty. Men tend to be less loyal. They tend to jump ship instead of trying to work things out.

Whatever you do, good luck, but my advice is to go west, young man!

drClaw's avatar

I would jump ship, it is always an option for me, but I am a fighter to a fault and sometimes tend to lean towards the uphill battles. I think I will see fight for the position until my review and if that doesn’t go my way then off I will go.

drClaw's avatar

Sorry about grammar, I am typing this on my phone.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

What @daloon says about Mgrs. is correct, they get paid to make sometimes quick or uncomfortable decisions and they are expected to stick by them if their past decisions have brought success. The way I see it, you have until October to size up the person picked for the position you wanted, see what it is about them that got them the notice of the EVP and also you have this time to ensure by your own merit that you will indeed land the second Senior position. Don’t count your chickens before the eggs hatch.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Staying until Oct isn’t that long anyway. I’m always a big fan of “the best win/revenge is a better job somewhere else” idea, though in this economy that may be harder than usual.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

You have little power over the decisions of others.

Sorry you didn’t get what you wanted and worked for this time. Try not to let this situation make you bitter.

drClaw's avatar

@hhh they didn’t get the notice of the EVP, they are being hired from outside of the company and the only reason they are getting the senior position is because the EVP denied me. If there was currently a senior on the team there would be no way this kid would get the position, he has zero management experience and only about 6 months more experience than our entry level team members.

Also how am I supposed to react to this person when I have little to no professional respect for them?

EmpressPixie's avatar

That’s something you have to weigh for yourself, but if you do leave the company, you should be very clear that it was not beacause you were passedover (sour grapes) but because it was given to someone so unqualified.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

The new person may not live up to the job, mgt. will have to carry that weight. You react to this person as though they are a tool for your purpose (they really are), if you are promoted then you will have shown professional behavior and if you get disappointed again, you need smoothed feathers all around in order to have a few solid references for the next place you move onto. People say don’t burn bridges but it’s more than that, you clean and tidy as you go whether it be forward or lateral moves. Good luck, October isn’t a long way off at all, get your game plans in order and see how much you can get for yourself.

Jeruba's avatar

I would take that as a message and immediately look around for an opportunity to transfer within the organization. I would also bring my resume up to date and start looking outside. In your place I would move faster rather than slower, saying that I consider myself ready to move up and I am not seeing the expected opportunities for advancement in my group. If you weren’t Mr. EVP’s first choice, you may not be his second or third either. There doesn’t have to be any correlation between the reason for his decision and the reason that he gave. I’d say you’re unlikely to advance under him, and other conditions around you are suddenly looking less appealing, so you might want to consider whether this battle is worth your fight.

How much confidence do you have in the word of your director? This is company politics. People lie.

In your place I believe I might also consider getting in touch with the person who was “let go” just to see if I could get another perspective on the situation. Is he on LinkedIn?

People will never thank you for making them feel stupid. A display of anger, however subtle and however justified, will probably seal the judgment against you, as in, “See? He’s not mature enough/positive enough/enough of a team player/<favorite corporate buzzword> to move up.”

Darwin's avatar

@drClaw – You said “how am I supposed to react to this person when I have little to no professional respect for them”

If you want to change anyone’s mind about your abilities, then you will treat this person with politeness and respect, no matter what is going on in your mind about him/her.

As long as the EVP is there you probably won’t get the promotions you want simply because you would have to do a great deal of successful work in order for him to change his mind. Certainly taking courses to improve your value to the company are a good idea, but it will take much more than that.

If I were you I would dust off my resume and spruce it up, and then use it to work on either a lateral transfer within your company, or a new position that will let you grow.

srmorgan's avatar

I can’t add much to the excellent advice given here except to reinforce that you should never act in anger or in retaliation. You are very young and just starting out in business, even though you may see your lmited experience as substantial, I look at it from a perspective of 35 years of corporate life and you have a lot of these decisions both to make in the future and to live with and deal with in the future.
Anger is self-destructive and nothing is more evident to your peers than showing your co-workers you have a chip on your shoulder, so cool it.

It is not a good time to go looking for a job, especially if you feel secure where you are TODAY, when so many other people are nervously and tenuously hanging on to their own jobs.

The least productive thing for you to do is go to the EVP and confront him or her with an attitude, but it is permissible, if not admirable, to ask what you need to do in the next 4 or 5 months to be perceived as able to handle the next promotion that is coming up. You show the EVP that you are ambitious and goal-oriented and with a great deal of subtlety you are challenging the prior decision, but you are not saying ” I am gong to prove you wrong and show that you made a dumb move”, you are saying that you are prepared to achieve what needs to be done, to complete what needs to be completed and to acquire any skills where the EVP may consider you deficient. Unless the EVP is a complete jackass (these things do occur <sigh>, your ambition should be appreciated and even cultivated.

I am going on longer than intended. The other truism is that “cream always rises to the top”. If you are good and you continue to believe that you are good, you will get to the place in business where you want to be.

Don’t blow it by getting angry or perpetually pissed, it doesn’t work and it pays no dividends to you.

SRM

drClaw's avatar

Another thing I guess I need to get over is self grandeur, I am in a unique position with my career as I do online marketing and have been for 6 years, which makes me a veteran when it comes to online/interactive marketing (a young industry). The flip side of this as @srmorgan points out is that I am young and while I am qualified as a marketer 6 years in business as whole is really not that much time, especially when the position I seek is the #2 spot to the director.

I am just really competitive and never feel as if things are moving as quickly as they should.

Thank you everyone for your great advice and putting up with my venting.

jumpo7's avatar

I agree with the “it’s time to move on”. My 20+ years of experience has shown me that waiting is for nothing. If you already do a great job, how much harder are you going to have to bust *ss to get that promotion?

It seems when you are too good, management does not want you to move. Been there done that. Waited multiple years in one case. Finally caught on that they liked me just where I was… so I had reached my level at that organization. Assess how likely it is for them to really give you the 2nd senior position in October in this economy. If you really think they will do it, then sure, hang in there. However, in this economy they are likely say that they can’t promote because of budget cuts or whatever.

In the meanwhile, Mr inexperienced is either going to screw things up making your group look bad or you will spend your time helping him get ahead showing him everything you know. This is not self grandeur this is crap. Also if the director really wanted you but could not promote you, then that is a problem too. Whether it is a lie or they don’t have control, it’s not good. Unless you are really committed to the organization and are willing to wait decades possibly, best to move on because you will become bitter over time as things are out of your control.

Jeruba's avatar

I suspect that the newly promoted junior is a woman.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

@drClaw, as frustrating as the situation is, look upon it as a call to action with respect to personal branding.

srmorgan's avatar

A couple of other points:
following the comment by @jumpo7. there is nothing wrong with testing the job market if you really feel that your options are limited but right now you do have the chance to get the other position and October is four short months away. Whether you are a superstar or not, in this economy four months could be par for the course in a serious job search.
So this does keep your options open,
From your original posting you do not appear to be the type who will be happy tied to one company or to one job. We have seen younger employees circulate in and out, fully planning to get 18 to 24 month’s experience and then moving on. In a better economy this might not be such a bad idea.

I would also add emphatically that if you decide to job hunt, do the best work you can for your current employer. In other words, do not slack off because you are job hunting and don’t tell anyone that you are job hunting. Attitude shows. If you are slacking off at work that attitude will come through in a phone interview or a face-to-face interview. Your co-workers and the Director will notice your lack of diligence in performing your job which could put your CURRENT job in jeopardy and close off any chance you have of getting position #2.

If you are fortunate enough to get promoted and feel that the EVP is an asshole and you can’t work for him or her, you would be job hunting with a more highly desirable title that will enhance your opportunities to move on.

If you bust your ass, make your desires known to your Director and the EVP that you want position # 2 and you don’t get it, then I would start circulating the resume.

Concerning your “protege” who got the job, under no circumstances should you go stabbing him or her in the back. He needed a job and he did not get it to spite you or to beat you in a competition. He has rent to pay and kids to feed or loans to pay or whatever.

If you do superior work for this individual make sure you get credit as it passes up the line. The EVP saw something in this person that made him want to hire him. Even if the protege does a middling job, he or she will be consulted as to who deserves the promotion, especially if the two jobs interface. But make sure that he or she does not surf on top of your wave. IF you see something like that happen go to the Director and politely inform him that you are not getting credit for your innovation or your creativity or your hard work.

One last thing to remember that also dovetails with @jumpo7‘s point. You do not get promoted because you are doing a good job NOW, you get promoted because you can do the next job.

Jeruba's avatar

@srmorgan, you have excellent and well-considered advice to offer. I’d like to ask you how to reconcile these two things:

> go to the Director and politely inform him that you are not getting credit for your innovation or your creativity or your hard work.

> under no circumstances should you go stabbing him or her in the back.

How do you claim your own credit for your ideas and solutions without implicitly or explicitly calling out a colleague? I have been stumped by that one myself before. For example, I was a member of a four-person team charged with coming up with some innovative approaches to a problem of information delivery. I put on the table a fresh notion that had not been discussed or considered before and that had obvious far-reaching benefits both internally and externally. The very next day in a large assemblage, another one of the four, a blustery, self-important favorite of the director, spoke up and said “I am calling for a new approach…” and proceeded to outline my idea.

I was shocked but contained my impulse to a public outburst because I knew that nothing I could say would reflect well on me. Instead it would brand me as a troublemaker, not a team player. I made sure my boss knew right away. But I don’t think she ever defended me. She had a folder full of records of my innovations and suggestions, some of which are now department policy and none of which have my name on them. She is gone now, victim of a layoff, and I’m on my way out. Mr. Bluster is a department star.

Unfortunately the same action on your part can be perceived differently depending on where both you and the other person already stand in the favor of management. If you take on someone who’s in favor, it doesn’t matter what your case is or what evidence you have, you are the bad guy.

What would your advice be when those two principles conflict?

drClaw's avatar

@Jeruba Actually the person getting the job is male

Also just as an update I just found out that neither the Director nor the EVP has met this guy they are giving the job to. I also learned that they are offering this kid less money then they pay me (maybe pay is there reason for passing me up) to leave his current company which he just so happened to start at about 2–3 weeks ago. To top it off a buddy of mine who currently works with this guy just told me that he is barely treading water at the entry level position he currently holds.

At first I wanted to pass this information along, but I feel like it might be a bad move since everyone knows I want the position.

BTW this is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten on Fluther!

Jeruba's avatar

@drClaw, in light of all that, and if it was all so evident to your buddy in 3 weeks or less, just keep your mouth shut and smile. This is a time to showcase your professionalism, your team spirit, your ability to take the high road, your discretion, and your good judgment—everything this youngster probably can’t do. In fact, you may want to be seen bending over backwards to help him (a skill that a real manager should have on tap). And bide your time.

If nothing happens in October, go to plan B at full speed.

jumpo7's avatar

Ok, I totally agree with @Jeruba‘s last comment… but one thing that bothers me is how they can hire someone without having met them. This tells me something is really messed up here. It also does not say a lot of good about this company that they will pay them less, but give them the senior title.

srmorgan's avatar

@Jeruba As far as I know I have never been in that position, with the exception of a couple of situations at my first job after I earned MBA when one of my bosses liked to present ideas to the VP Finance as coming “out of the department” or “from the accounting team” when, at least in my own eyes, I was responsible for a good portion of the better ideas. Kind of knocks the wind out of your sails.

Since moving further up the ladder, so to speak, I try to make sure that people on my teams have gotten credit for a particularly good solution or for working far ahead or above the rest of the team. Six or seven years ago we had to do a presentation for the suits from HQ in Germany and an administrative assistant who was attached to the team took it upon herself to learn some add-ins to Powerpoint and she jazzed up the presentation at the last minute, helping us to sell another dumb idea. She did not work in accounting for me but I made sure that my boss knew that Melissa had done the extra work that dazzled the Germans.

As to @drClaw and my inconsistencies, let me rephrase my advice. I would not be overtly political in this situation and act as a snitch as I have seen people do. Undermining whomever you are working for is never a good idea. But if he is openly pitching for the October position then he is not screwing his boss by going to the director and saying, “this is what I can do”. But it should not be phrased “that SOB stole my ideas and did not give me proper credit for it” or saying “you know that change in the marketing plan for XYZ controls, well that was MY idea”. However it is permissible in selling oneself for the promotion to pick out what his specific contributions to the team effort were.

I don’t know if I am clarifying my suggestions as articulately as I see them or feel them.

Unless the Director or the EVP are in above their heads themselves – and for the EVP I might just delete the word unless – they will quickly recognize that our “tenderfoot” is in over his head and it will not be necessary to point it out to them.

I have never liked overt manipulation or overtly political colleagues. At General MiIls there was one guy whose office was two doors down from the new VP Finance and he would go in and shut the door and establish a relationship with the guy while the line controllers, divisional controllers, were across the street without the easy privilege of “dropping” in on the VP on the way back from the washroom. This guy got a plum promotion but the VP lost someone else who was stronger but wasn’t about to hang around while this guy was up another level bad-mouthing everyone else.

ME? My wife worked for the same company and she was pregnant with our first child and I just kept my head down for a while. I outlasted the VP and the other guy until I was down-sized when the division was sold.

I never win awards for brevity but I hope that this reconciles my two statements for you and provides some easy advice for @drClaw;

But as I reread this, the most important piece of advice is to play it by ear. Stay on top of the situation, keep your ducks in a row, help out when help is needed and if your efforts do not appear to be bearing fruit, look for a way out of there.

Sorry for going on so long but I like to watch myself write.

SRM

wundayatta's avatar

This suggests to me that they were told to hire the guy. They may not have had a choice.

Another thought I had is that they put some people (usually with professional degrees like an MBA) on a fast track. They rotate them in and out of departments in order to learn about the various aspects of the business. The people come in, and they really do know less than the people they are supervising, but management is willing to put up with this to give them exposure to the work.

I don’t know how big your company is. This is the kind of thing the larger companies do. Maybe a thousand employees or more (just a wild guess).

@Jeruba There can be an argument made that companies want managers who know how to recognize good ideas and get them implemented, rather than managers who come up with good ideas on their own. They may want the idea people to stay in the area they know the best, while people with good organizing or project skills get promoted.

drClaw's avatar

@daloon those are pretty good points, but the EVP is top dog on the west coast and while the position is important it doesn’t warrant attention from our CEO who would be the only one to “tell” our EVP anything. Also our company isn’t big enough to fast track employees in the manner you mentioned and on top of that the guy getting the job only has a BA in a irrelevant subject.

I think this is simply a case of snap judgments and/or an attempt to hire a senior at low low pay. Were talking about 20k less than our other senior level team members.

Jeruba's avatar

@daloon, that is quite a likely possibility. I’d just like to clarify, though, that I was not looking for a management position. I had one back in my twenties and have ducked and dodged them ever since. No, I was simply talking about the matter of getting credit for your own ideas, as srmorgan recommended. Mine have routinely been appropriated in various work settings, including, for a time, by a manager I reported to. I was asking how you speak up for your own credit without stabbing the other guy in the back—no talk of promotions in my question.

wundayatta's avatar

Credit is nice, but the result, in my opinion, is more important. I am perfectly happy for bosses to take credit for my ideas. I suppose if I were more aggressive about this, I’d be making more money, but I’ve pretty much always given away my ideas for free. However, since I don’t value them, I don’t keep track of them, and I have no idea which ones, if any, other people value.

Jeruba's avatar

Well, that’s what I’ve always done, too, @daloon. But I now work in an environment where people are ranked—literally put on a list from most to least valuable. It’s a corrupt system that encourages back-stabbing and rewards dishonesty, and in that setting seeing someone go up with your ideas in his pocket while you go down because no one knows they were yours can be galling. I’m getting out voluntarily, and not a moment too soon, but I’d have liked to leave on a high note.

I don’t mean to hijack drClaw’s thread. I just saw what looked like a contradiction among srmorgan’s outstanding suggestions and wondered how it might be resolved.

drClaw's avatar

No worries, I got what I needed. This is interesting, please proceed….

wundayatta's avatar

@Jeruba I’m glad you’re getting out. That sounds like a miserable place to work. I hope you are set for what you’re going to do next.

Jeruba's avatar

Thanks, @daloon. I am resisting the urge (bordering on a full-blown OCD compulsion) to make too many decisions too fast. Instead I’ll take a little time to chill and think about things.

My employer, a major high-tech corporation, is offering a considerable incentive to qualified employees to take early retirement. I am seizing the opportunity. So by fall I will begin a new stage of life. I intend to do some freelance work of the kind I’ve been turning down for years, more writing, a little volunteer work, and an exercise and fitness program to try to overcome some neglect.

It has been my experience, in a very existential way, that just as you can see the essence of a person’s life only after that life is ended, so also the minute you walk away from a job, a relationship, or other situation, you can begin to see it from a perspective that was simply impossible while you were in it. It may take a while before you can really look back and understand what you see, but as soon as you leave, it is frozen, nothing new to add, and so its essence begins to be seen. I expect that a year from now I will be amazed to have stood this as long as I did.

wundayatta's avatar

It can be freaky to go, suddenly, to an unscheduled life, although, given the amount of time you are here, I wonder how scheduled you are? I should talk!

I found out last night that that’s especially true for people who have disorders where consistent schedules are very important for a healthy life. But that’s another story.

I have always stayed too long in jobs. I think I’m in that phase now, but due to the economy, my wife’s job situation, the the impending arrival of college age for our kids, I will probably have to stick it out for a while longer. ‘Course, it does allow me to be paid for fluthering a good four hours a day. Well, if I ever do write my book, and it sells well, then maybe….

NewZen's avatar

Every door closed is a window of opportunity opening, or something like that. I’m old and forget the exact copy.

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