A reader writes:
I am an aspiring manager in the organization I work for. I have been there for three years and have repeatedly acted as the deputy manager within my section (my boss was on the verge of retirement, so was out a lot) and have handled some very stressful and high-profile situations. Basically, I feel like I have proven myself and have become an invaluable member of the organization.
Recently, my supervisor’s position came open and I applied for it. After two interviews, I was informed that I was the first choice but because I had never had a formal management position before (I’m relatively young), I could not be placed in the position. The hiring manager expressed a desire the help me move toward that goal, but now I feel as if I am essentially stuck unless I somehow get my job description changed and become a manager of some temporary employees (albeit, for less pay and less benefits that the job I was up for).
So basically, how can I handle this gracefully? My new supervisor has way less experience than I do and I have been asked to still perform the duties, however he would have the pay increase and benefits. I feel like I should basically take this as a sign to move on to greener pastures. Should I believe the hiring manager when they say they want to keep me and help develop my professional experience, or are they just telling me that to soften the blow? Truthfully, I’ve never been rejected for a promotion before (I’ve had three within this organization) and it’s hard to put aside my disappointment!
Any advice would help! I plan on working within the same industry for awhile, so I don’t want to burn any bridges or make myself seem unprofessional!
You should ask for specific help in formulating a professional development plan that will allow you to get the sort of experience they’ve said you’d need. Ask what you need to do to get a management position the next time one is open, and what they can do to help you get that experience. Whether and how they follow through will tell you a ton.
At the same time, there’s no reason you shouldn’t also explore what opportunities might be available to you outside your company. Identify and apply for jobs that seem like the right next step for you. There’s nothing that says you have to take a new job if offered, but you might as well know what your options are.
You can pursue these two tracks simultaneously; you don’t need to pick one over the other.
There’s one thing in your letter that’s potentially troubling, although I’m not positive what you mean by it. You wrote: “I have been asked to still perform the duties, however he would have the pay increase and benefits.” Do you mean that you’re being asked to perform the duties of a manager without the pay or title? Are you talking about mundane administrative tasks like scheduling employees or signing time cards, or real management fundamentals — like setting expectations, giving feedback, and addressing performance problems? If you’re being asked to do the latter, that worries me — not just because of fairness but because it is difficult to manage people without actual authority to set consequences, and you’d be being put in a very hard position if that’s the case.
Again, I’m not sure if that’s the case here or not. If it is, it might be something you want to address, by pointing out that you’re being asked to do the work of a manager without any of the rewards, or even credit for the experience when seeking a promotion. Of course, if you point that out, their reaction may be to stop having you serve those functions, which may not be the outcome you want (particularly if you want to parlay that experience into a management role somewhere else), so you want to assess risks and likely outcomes as you proceed. Good luck!