I won’t be considered for a promotion unless I promise not to leave if my coworker gets the job

A reader writes:

I work at a very small organization. Over my time here, I’ve steadily taken on more and more responsibility. I’ve tried to negotiate raises on several occasions, usually just after being assigned a new responsibility. In my opinion, when my job description and level of responsibility change significantly, I should have the opportunity to re-negotiate my salary. My boss had set up a fixed raise schedule (e.g. 5% per year) that’s unrelated to merit or, apparently, scope of duties. So he has denied my requests for raises. On several occasions, he has given me a raise when he sensed I was ready to walk.

Now, the director of my company is retiring and we are in the midst of the hiring process. The director encouraged me to apply and has said I’d be a good candidate. I submitted my application, made it through the first round of interviews, and I thought I knocked it out of the park. I know this organization well, have a clear vision for the future, and feel that I have all the skills and experience to thrive. But my boss told me in confidence that the selection committee is leaning toward an external candidate. The selection committee thinks that I lack the proper risk management experience. Fair enough. I was disappointed, but I began to make peace with it and had begun to get excited about a new boss, one I might communicate better with.

But then! My boss comes to me with a suggestion. One of my coworkers also applied to the position. I am not fond of this coworker. We have vastly different communication styles and work styles. I do not appreciate the way she manages people under her, nor the way she addresses conflict. My boss tells me that the big reason the selection committee will not choose either of us is because they fear that hiring one of us will cause the other one to leave the company. With such a small company, I can see how that would be a real risk. My boss tells me that he wants her and me to get together and draft a proposal to the selection committee about how she and I would work together. He wants both of us to agree that if the board chooses one of us, the other will stay, and to make this statement to the committee. I don’t know what she thinks of this proposal, but she’s agreed to sit down for a conversation about it.

I feel I am in an awful position. It’s true that if the board chooses her to be the new director I will resign. Given our different styles, vision, and priorities, it wouldn’t be beneficial to the company for me to stay on. Maybe she feels the same about my candidacy. But now I am in a position where I am forced to directly acknowledge to my boss, my coworker, and the selection committee that I am not on board with this arrangement. I know that my refusal to make this deal might paint me in a bad light.

My boss has told me pretty directly that if I do not make this agreement with my coworker, then the committee will not consider either of us for the position. I guess that’s the way it has to be. I’m ready to give up the job, even though I truly think I’m a well-qualified candidate.

None of these proclamations have come from the selection committee, but I believe my boss about the way things are shaking out, and I see the logic behind necessitating this internal agreement. I hate that I still have to continue through the rest of the interview process, despite being effectively out of the running. I don’t want the burden of preparing for this interview if I’m not going to be considered. Should I withdraw my candidacy? Is my boss messing with my head and meddling in this process?

I’m ready to resign. I feel so much resentment and bitterness. I feel like I’ve been strung along by my boss with promises of better compensation that never come to fruition. I feel like I’m being manipulated in this hiring process.

It seems like the obvious choice to just walk away, but I really like this job. I like my duties, I like the clients I interact with, I love the work-life balance. I could overlook the paltry salary if it weren’t for all the other scheming and politics that feel like they’re taking place all around me. I keep thinking that if I can hold out till the current director leaves, then maybe I will be happy again with a new boss. What should I do? What factors should I be considering? How do I navigate the conversation with my boss/coworker/selection committee where I’m forced to say to my coworker “I will never work under you”?

You don’t have to say that to your coworker. Totally aside from how you feel about the prospect of working for your coworker, the request that your company is making of you is ridiculous and unreasonable.

You’re supposed to commit to staying for how long? Three months? One year? Three years? Indefinitely?

It’s not a reasonable thing to ask of you, and it’s especially unreasonable if they’re not willing to make some kind of commitment to you in return.

They’re being childish here. They aren’t willing to make the hiring decision that they think is best for the organization and are trying to hedge their bets against totally normal realities of business — like that people leave jobs.

As for what to do, at a minimum I’d say this to your boss: “I don’t know what the future holds, so I can’t make that kind of promise.”

If you want to be pointed about it, you could add, “at least not without negotiating a more formal contract where the organization makes a similar commitment to me and we address my current and future compensation.”

But also, if you want to, there’s nothing wrong with outright saying, “It’s true that I don’t think I’d stay here in the long-term working for Jane. We have very different styles. That’s okay though. If the hiring committee thinks that Jane is the right choice, they should offer her the job. No one stays in a job forever, and they shouldn’t make hiring decisions based on worries about whether one of us will leave. We’ll all leave eventually, and they should make the hire they want.”

I hear you that you’re worried about that getting back to Jane, so you may not want to say this — but know that it’s a very reasonable thing to say. (You could also say to your boss, “I don’t want to cause tension in my working relationship with Jane, so I’d appreciate if you didn’t share this with her, but I wanted to give you a candid answer.”)

As for whether or not you should withdraw from consideration, you could say this: “If this takes me out of the running, it won’t make sense for me to continue through the rest of the interview process, so can you let me know if I should withdraw, or how they’d like me to handle that?”

From there … since you’re otherwise mostly happy with your job, I don’t think it makes sense to resign before you even know how this will play out. Wait and see what happens. If they appoint Jane or someone else who you don’t want to work under, you can resign at that point. But there’s no reason to do it before you even know what will end up happening. (You could start your job search now, though, since searches can take a while and then you’ll have a lot of the groundwork laid if you do decide later that you want to leave. You’re allowed to look around without being fully decided on leaving.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 203 comments… read them below }

  1. Kyrielle*

    I’d hesitate to withdraw from consideration unless the selection committee confirms the issue – I’d hate to find out later that gave up on a small-but-real chance because my boss thought the concern was stronger / firmer than it really was.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      I’m not sure how trustworthy the boss is here, although they may have the best of intentions of helping OP (they’re probably mostly concerned with upheaval in their department, no matter who gets promoted). I’d agree to talk to Jane and agree – verbally only – to play nice, but make no specific commitments. Then see what the committee says directly. Stop letting your boss serve as the go between, I think it’s muddying the issue.

      1. Sandy*

        OP here. Thanks for your comment, Nancy. I’m also not sure how much to trust my boss’ view of the matter. I feel that I’ve been manipulated by him in the past and I’m worried that I’m not seeing it clearly.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Honestly? I would assume he’s wrong, dodge playing as politely as you can in case he’s sorta-right, and continue with the process.

          If he’s wrong, you still have a shot at the job, and it would be a shame to give that up.

          If he’s right, you are probably best served by leaving no matter who is offered the job – including you, if you and Jane came to some such agreement.

        2. Mephyle*

          Worried that you’re not seeing it clearly? I think rather the concern here is that he might be communicating his own take on the situation and not representing the true state of affairs accurately.

        3. politiktity*

          Honestly, I would frame it as a career trajectory issue. You are clearly capable of working at a director level position, or they wouldn’t consider you. If you are passed over, either for an internal or external candidate, you can’t just ignore that information. Maybe they can make it worthwhile to stay in a lower position for a certain amount of time. But eventually you will need to move forward in your career, and by refusing to consider you for this position, they’re making it likely you’ll have to leave the company eventually.

        4. Jaydee*

          If your boss is not on the hiring committee, I would not put much stock in his opinions unless I heard the same from the hiring committee. His suggestion that you and Jane work together on a proposal for how you would play nicely together if one of you got the job is ridiculous. Of course the committee should ask each of you, in confidence during your interviews, how you would work with each of the other candidates if they were hired and how you would work with Jane if you were hired. But that’s totally different from your boss’s suggestion.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          They don’t see it clearly, so they cannot give you a clear idea of what it is they don’t know.

      1. Emi.*

        I agree too. Your boss is acting strangely enough that I don’t think you can consider him fully reliable.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Very much agreed. Maybe the boss is being honest, but it sounds like he’s trying to play OP, and whatever bizarre “solution” he’s come up with is frankly insulting and unreasonable. I like Alison’s scripts, and I agree with Kyrielle that if OP would be happy/interested in the position without the boss’ meddling, then I’d leave my application in the mix. But I would also be actively job searching right now.

    2. Artemesia*

      I’d refuse to play the game and continue with the process. And I would regardless be planning a job search because working for a place that systematically denies me compensation for increased responsibility and then does me like this would make me want to at least see what options there are. To the boss, I would say ‘I don’t think it is realistic to make declarations about the future like this. Who knows how any of us will feel in 6 mos or a year. I’ll make my personal decisions when I see how this process goes.’

      Don’t be bullied into ridiculous commitments or into declaring you won’t work for Jane. Let it all fall out and then decide, but in the meantime have the resume ready and be scanning for options.

  2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I feel like it isn’t a mistake that the first “you may also like” link on this post is ‘my employer […] is staffed by lunatics.’

    Honestly, OP, you sound like you’re trying to talk yourself into not shaking the dust of this place off your feet, and I’m not sure why. They don’t reward merit, they don’t pay you for expanding your responsibility, and the message you’re being handed here is ‘unless you commit to this unreasonable ask, we won’t consider your candidacy.’

    I would not be looking for a promotion with these folks — I would be looking for a sane employer!

    1. J.B.*

      Yes, and OP should also consider – if she were to follow these conditions and get the promotion, would she be able to manage the way she wants/needs to? My guess is that if the board imposed this then they may impose lots of other restrictions that would make it really difficult.

      OP – look around. You don’t have to jump, but maybe you’ll find something and decide it’s time to make a break.

    2. Nonprofit Nancy*

      These guys sound like the classic “have your cake and eat it too” style of management. If I were OP, I’d play along with the understanding that you owe them nothing. Go to the meeting and make mild lip service. If they promote Jane or you don’t like the new boss, quit in good conscience and ignore their shenanigans.

      1. fposte*

        I mean, it’s a legitimate consideration on their side–hey, is there a way we can retain two solid employees–but this is not the way to act on this concern.

        1. Newby*

          The best way to retain solid employees is to make working for them more attractive than working for someone else. I think that this move is making the opposite true.

          1. fposte*

            No disagreement there. Just saying that it’s not invalid to consider retention of unsuccessful candidates when you’re planning–but by, you know, making them want to stay.

            I wonder if they’d learn if they lost them both from this.

            1. Sandy*

              OP Here. I’m on the same page as pretty much all of these comments. I do think there’s a very real risk of losing both of us. I think the organization is in for a major shake-up!

        2. Nonprofit Nancy*

          So glad you asked! There is in fact! It’s called giving OP the raise s/he asked for :D

          (snark not directed at you fposte, you of course are wonderful)

          1. AthenaC*

            I LOL’d when I read this. How many times do employees explicitly (and politely) say, “Here is what it takes to keep me happy here” … and when they get brushed off, employers are shocked – shocked! – when good employees leave.

            1. The OG Anonsie*

              And then they write hot takes about how today’s workers are entitled and out of touch with the job market, schools aren’t preparing their students correctly, kids these days, something something millennials something everyone gets a trophy something.

            2. miss_chevious*

              This happened recently at my office — a high performer had repeated talks over the course of a year with her manager about how she felt she deserved (rightfully so, IMO) an X% raise and an increase in budget to do the level of work she was being asked to do, and was repeatedly put off. So she found another job that paid her more and gave her the budget she asked for, and when she gave notice her boss flipped out over how “ungrateful” she was AND tried to throw money and resources at her. To her credit, she told him calmly that she’d given him all the information he needed six months ago and took the new job.

              I understand if an employer doesn’t want to (or can’t) give the employee what they want, but I will never understand the hostile reaction when the employee moves on.

  3. Jessesgirl72*

    The OP didn’t sound like she is otherwise mostly happy to me. She resents not being able to negotiate raises, despite increased responsibility and tasks, unless her boss is afraid she will leave, and she is fed up with her boss and this mess of a hiring process. She sounds pretty ready to start looking for other jobs to me.

    1. ZenJen*

      2nd this–I’d have a HARD time feeling motivated to show up to that office every day. OP needs to find a new job where they’ll have decent raises and normal promotion procedures!

      1. KarenD*

        Even though I come down on the side of “this marriage probably can’t be saved,” I think this is a little harsh.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think OP’s minimizing—I think they’re trying to conceptualize what their workplace would be like without their current trouble-making boss (unless I’m misreading). If that’s the case, then it’s absolutely possible that things would materially change once that boss is gone.

        I’ve worked at a place I was miserable because I loved my actual day-to-day work and clients, and I just avoided being in the office (it wasn’t necessary for me to do my job well—most of my work was fieldwork, as was the case for my coworkers, too—and the office was full of chicanery and back-stabbing). I worked pretty successfully, beat my targets, had stellar performance reviews, etc., until they changed my reporting structure to a micromanaging boss who revoked my flex schedule and required that I be physically be in the toxic office even though it had no value-added in my job and did not contribute to better communication or teamwork with my coworkers. I quit very shortly thereafter.

        But I probably could have stuck it out for at least 1-2 more years if they hadn’t made those changes, and I may have considered staying for 5+ years if the micromanaging boss had been fired or put in a position where he wasn’t allowed to supervise people (they had done this in the past, and it dramatically improved their retention rates). I suspect the same may be true for OP.

    2. KarenD*

      I do think I know what OP is saying. I have been in the situation where doing the actual mechanics of the job were extremely satisfying and rewarding; I was acquiring critical skills, getting good training and able to help people in a way that made me feel happy too.

      At the same time, my direct supervisor detested me. I was doing a job that was 2-3 levels up from the title on my business card (basically, I was doing his job, while he futzed around and did about half of my old job) and not being compensated in any way for that. And unlike OP, if I had said I was leaving the reaction would not have been to give me a raise but to basically say “Buhbye.”

      At the same time, I agree with Jessesgirl (as usual) that it’s time to look elsewhere. They have shown OP that they only respond in crisis mode, and often that response is silly and actively disadvantageous to OP and her unpleasant coworker. When everything is running along as it should, there is zero thought given to the happiness or well-being of the employees making things hum; they are essentially cogs in a machine. Nothing demonstrates that more clearly than the fact that OP and her coworker are being asked to collaborate and commit to a “solution” that is guaranteed (in management’s best-case scenario, where they both promise and keep their word) to result in one of them being stuck in a miserable situation. And the alternative is that they are BOTH shut out. That is crappy crappy management.

      That said, I would collaborate with co-worker to this extent: A joint “OH HELL NO.” But the reality is that unless the position being sought is one that would give OP the ability to make these deep-seated cultural changes, the externals of this job are never going to be really workable, and OP will be navigating things without the intervention of the boss that’s leaving, who was caught uo in the dysfunction but at least seemed to treat the employees like something better than cogs in a machine. If it’s possible to find a job with the same good parts, and better management, that seems like the smartest way to go.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        Maybe you and co-worker can talk and agree to give each other say… six months to try being in a boss/employee relationship, with an agreement to help each other with a transition out of the job if that doesn’t work. Then the two of you can take that to management. (I suspect that management may be something you and your co-worker have some agreement about.)

    3. Sandy*

      OP here. It’s true that I’m completely disgruntled with my work situation and I’m ready to move on to new work. One thing I didn’t write in my letter is that there are some personal reasons that have contributed to me staying in this job. If I live this job, I’d have to move elsewhere for work and be apart from my longtime partner. And maybe that’s the crux of the matter, that I’ve been staying in less than ideal circumstances because of my personal life.

      1. AthenaC*

        Oh I see. Not that this changes the nature of your workplace (!) but it probably does impact how you navigate everything. If you haven’t recently, it might be worth sitting down and organizing your hierarchy of priorities. I know I’m not you, but if I were you, staying with my longtime partner would definitely be at the top of the list. Then I would think about all the different possibilities that would allow me to fulfill that top priority.

        Things I would explore (just off the top of my head) –

        1) Is there a possibility that you and Jane could retool your professional relationship and work well together?
        2) Would a career change make sense in order to stay in the area?
        3) Any desire to freelance or start a business?
        4) If you can’t see any possibility other than a far-away job, is there a scenario in which you put a time limit on being apart and you come back / partner joins you?

        To be clear, the way you’re being treated is not okay, but I also know what it’s like to choose the not-okay treatment as the best of a bunch of bad options.

        Good luck!

        1. Sandy*

          OP here. Thank you, Athena. I really appreciate your compassionate and thoughtful response. You’ve given me a good path to consider. I think I’m leaning towards #3 and #4. I feel guilty that my dissatisfaction in my work environment may lead to a huge upheaval in my partner’s life, but I’ve stuck it out for a long time.

          1. LizB*

            I think you’re right to be thoughtful and maybe even concerned about the upheaval a move would cause in your partner’s life, but I don’t think you should feel guilty! Partnership means sometimes making sacrifices for the other person, and I’m sure your partner wants you to be in a work environment where your contributions are actually valued and your bosses don’t play stupid games with promotions. You’re not making this decision casually, and you absolutely have a right to be at the end of your rope with this workplace.

      2. KarenD*

        If it helps, Sandy, I can also testify that your hope of things getting better with a new direct manager is not an impossible dream.

        In fact, I’m living that dream right now. Boss who despised me moved on. They hired from outside. I was not optimistic (these were, after all, the same folks who had hired first boss) but from the very first day New Boss was a joy to work with. Having someone who is talented, hardworking, supportive and just as committed to the mission as I am has turned everything else around – even though the madness up the line has not abated , I am very happy.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Yeah, similar experience here, although unfortunately in the opposite direction. My last boss was great, and even though she couldn’t change some of the things about other organization that I really disliked, she tried hard to buffer some of that for me and advocated for me when she could. Unfortunately, she left the organization, so now I am working with New Boss who does none of that. So my satisfaction with my job has really plummeted since New Boss took over, even though my job itself has remained largely the same.

          It sounds to me like a lot of your frustrations might be related to your current boss, so getting a new direct manager might help. Or it might not, but it’s not crazy to wait and see what happens. (Although I would echo the advice to continue looking around and considering alternatives. That way, if things don’t improve you can start putting an exit strategy into place.)

        2. Sandy*

          OP here. Thank you, KarenD. Your response gives me so much hope. This is the exact scenario I’m hoping for. I know I can’t control who ends up being my boss, but hearing your story makes me believe it’s possible that I can come out of this scenario in a better place.

          1. KarenD*

            It is definitely possible. The one major difference is that I adamantly took myself out of the running for the boss role (and that I never would have been a candidate anyway).

            I even had a co-worker who was gunning for the job — actually, felt entitled to it — and yep, that person did high-tail it out of here as soon as it became clear NewBoss was going to be hired. Even though that left our team down one person – and that position was never filled – I have to be honest: Co-Worker’s departure was the cherry on top of the beautiful dream. I will keep my fingers crossed for you!

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP, is the boss who negotiated this bizarre approach the same person you’d be replacing? Or would you be even higher up? I apologize; I’m trying to understand the likelihood of having to continue to work with someone who’s a muppet if you are selected to direct the organization.

          1. NK*

            Oh, interesting. For some reason I thought the boss in the story was above the director, so that you’d still be working with him. It is possible this situation could get better…though I certainly wouldn’t count on that playing out. It also makes it even more interesting that your boss is trying to orchestrate this whole thing, since it’s no skin off his nose if you or your coworker leaves.

            1. Sandy*

              I think part of the reason he’d like to see an internal hire is that he may believe that would be the surest way of continuing his legacy, if you know what I mean. And I think he does believe that Jane and I have the skills necessary to succeed. I think he does support of, even if I disagree with his methods of management and communication.

      4. 2 Cents*

        Being that unhappy in your working situation is bound to carry over into your personal life, no matter how much you try to the contrary. Have you had a frank discussion with your partner about where you see your life / career headed and what it means to stay in this job versus doing something different? Your partner may be aware you dislike your job, but not to the point that you’re nearly despising it. As someone who stayed in a job for too long (I liked the work I was doing, just resented my pay, my boss, the CEO of the company…just about everything else about it), I don’t want this to happen to you!

        1. Sandy*

          Hi, 2 Cents. We have had frank discussions about the different avenues our lives together/apart could take, depending on what happens with this job situation. He’s very supportive about my moving on to new work if I need to.
          If I can’ ask, what finally pushed you to leave your job, if you did like the work?

    4. Jady*

      I disagree, I’m in such a situation now and too am a little torn on it.

      On one hand, the management is crazy and almost self-sabotaging. The office is an uncomfortable place. The compensation is lower than market value and raises are just standard yearly increases. My boss’s boss at least once a quarter gets involved in my team and that man (literally) scares me, he will scream and yell and try to change things in dumb ways, but then he typically just vanishes. It’s like a 48 hour jump-scare.

      But on the other hand, my coworkers are great to work with, my direct boss is laid back and hands-off, I’m neutral on the work I do. I only work the 40-hours a week, I can schedule appointments or vacation anytime, etc.

      The reason the ‘other hand’ wins is simply because (in my experience/position) finding great coworkers, a relaxed boss, and 40-hour workweeks is pretty difficult.

      I’ve worked at places I didn’t like my boss, expected overtime, really shitty co-workers and strictness on using pto.

      While everything above my head is crazy and does effect me/my team… day to day work is good, I can turn off going home, I generally don’t worry about screwing up or fighting with anyone.

      But with all that said, if one specific co-worker resigned tomorrow, I’d start job hunting immediately, and probably ask about applying to wherever they went. That’s seriously how rare good coworkers are for me.

      1. Jady*

        I want to add – the challenge of good coworkers is not due to personality conflicts or me being a terrible person. The nature of the work invites conflict. They aren’t bad coworkers in a typical co-worker sense. Some people just cannot accept things like constructive criticism. And it’s rare to find ones that welcome and encourage it.

      2. Sandy*

        OP here. Thanks for sharing your story, Jady. I agree that there are compromises and grievances with every job. It’s hard to know how to balance unhappiness/anxiety with the really positive parts of my job, and it’s hard to know when to leave.

  4. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Yeah, I would have gone right to “Well, if the company is willing to agree to not fire me for that same term, and guarantee the same raises, then I would seriously consider it!” I’m guessing the boss would walk it back after that, and if not, well, that’s probably a deal you could live with for a while. Five percent raises generally way outpace inflation or cost of living increases, even when those indices are high.

    Of course, you’d have to be happy with the rest of your job, and I don’t know that I would be, given the dysfunction that seems to be lurking below the surface, but the OP didn’t mention dying to get out, it sounded more like they want to make it work there.

    1. LawCat*

      Ehhh, I don’t think the 5% raises provide much of an incentive to stay if OP is underpaid now relative to her job duties. I mean… 5% of what? I was underpaid in my last job and pretty much similarly guaranteed lockstep, 5% raises. I was underpaid there, couldn’t get them to budge, and left for a higher paying job. It would have taken 7 years of 5% raises at OldJob to get me at what I make right now at NewJob.

          1. KarenT*

            I don’t think Lily is saying it means the OP’s salary is good (there isn’t any info to say) but that 5% across the board raises every year is really good. It is! Most companies that do COL increases are giving out a lot less than 5%. My company does 2%.

            1. LawCat*

              Maybe Lily’s comment telling me a 5% raise is fantastic was not meant to be in response to the example I gave where a 5% raise was not fantastic.

              I agree that 5% raises would be fantastic relative to 2% raises in a scenario where employers pay similar, market rates. Where employers underpay market rates, a 5% raise is not fantastic just because it’s more than 2%.

        1. Adam V*

          Not if you’re taking on additional responsibilities every year, such that after a few years, they’re essentially getting VP-level work on mid- or senior-level pay.

          (Granted, I don’t know that that’s the case here, but I know that in the past when I’ve gotten title bumps, it usually kicks me into a higher tier of pay altogether.)

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          Not if you’ve had significant promotions and changes in responsibility. You’d have to look at market rates.

          1. Nonprofit Nancy*

            +1. It may be fantastic, it may not be especially – if OP was underpaid to start with and has taken on significant new responsibilities that have brought them into senior leadership roles.

        3. CrazyEngineerGirl*

          It’s really too hard to tell. I once got a 30% raise. Awesome, right? Nope. Even after the 30% raise I was still only at 65-70% of the market rate in my area. (It was a tough time recession wise, I took what work I could get.)

          1. Nonprofit Nancy*

            Yeah back when I was making very little, a 10% raise was less than the annual bonus I get automatically now.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I got my pay quadrupled once. It’s important to remember that 1 cent times 4 is 4 cents. Since I almost never hear of people getting their pay quadrupled I said simply said, “thank you.” They did recognize there is a problem. They just failed to grasp how large a problem.

        4. Hera*

          5% isn’t actually the OP’s raise. The letter just says that as an example. It could be 1% for all we know.

        5. Justme*

          I got a zero percent COLA raise last year (it was across the board for classified employees), so 5% seems fantastic.

          1. Justme*

            Replying to self: We did get merit bonuses, which are a percentage of your pay. But when you receive yearly raises, the bonuses are more the next year.

      1. Sandy*

        OP heer. The job started at 27k. I have a Masters degree. I took the job despite the position wildly underpaid because I wanted the experience. I thought I’d be here for only one year but have loved the work. I know I put myself in a disadvantageous situation by staying in the position and accepting the salary for so long. For me, the bigger issue isn’t that I haven’t been getting significant pay increases, it’s that they change my responsibilities without increases in pay.

      2. Sandy*

        OP here. The job started at 27k and the raises have been based on that. I have a Masters degree. I took the job despite the position wildly underpaid because I wanted the experience. I thought I’d be here for only one year but have loved the work. I know I put myself in a disadvantageous situation by staying in the position and accepting the salary for so long. For me, the bigger issue isn’t that I haven’t been getting significant pay increases, it’s that they change my responsibilities without increases in pay. My title/role has completely changed since I started working here.

        1. 2 Cents*

          I don’t think you’ve sunk yourself then by staying that long. You can show growth in your role as you’ve taken on different responsibilities. Did they ever change your title with the added responsibilities? I’d ask for that, regardless of anything else in this situation so that you can put on your resume:
          Senior Social Worker 2016-present
          Social worker 2013-2016

          1. Sandy*

            OP here. Thanks, 2 Cents. You’r right that I at least have title changes to show advancement in my resumé.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Well, I know there are a lot of other factors, but even if the OP is underpaid, due to compounding a 5% raise for 8 years will mean you’re making 50% more than your first year’s pay.

      I’m just saying, if you can lock that in, it’s a very good deal, all else aside.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think the math is quite accurate, and of course, that analysis doesn’t really account for compensation for taking on substantially different job responsibilities. If OP earned 27K in year one, by year eight she’ll earn ~ $37,991, which is about 40% more than her first year of pay. But divorcing that from local COL, the expansion in responsibilities, the market rate for comparable jobs, etc., doesn’t really give us useful information on whether it’s a “good” or “bad” annual adjustment.

        1. Almoa*

          Cosmic Avenger’s math is correct — 1.05^8 = 1.48. Looks like you did 1.05^7 = 1.41 instead.

          I agree with many of the commenters that 5% is great compared to a typical raise (that’s about the largest raise I’ve gotten without switching jobs). But it’s also true that if you’re paid drastically below market rate, it can take many, many years for 5% raises to cancel that out.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This assumes that they don’t use base rate, the rate you started at when you got hired. When this is used you don’t get the benefits of compounding.

        I used to get standard raises of 3% of base. So this meant roughly 10 bucks a week more in my check each year because they used 3% times base pay. Yes, a slightly different use of the term “base pay”, too.

  5. Marzipan*

    They’re attempting to have their cake and eat it in a way that just isn’t possible. (I mean, apart from anything else, if they went with an external candidate, both the OP AND Jane might leave.) Nor, really, is it desirable – I mean, why would you *want* to force an employee to stay and work under a manager they knew they wouldn’t respond well to? What possible good can come of it? How would they even enforce it?

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      That was the exact phrase that came to my mind too. They want OP to live with the insecurity of their current position, but they’re not willing for insecurity to go both ways. If they don’t want to promote OP – or give them reasonable raises – they have to live with the reality that OP may walk. That’s what “employment at will” means.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Same here. They’ve basically realized that this hiring process comes with some risk… as do all hiring processes, but especially when you’re hiring someone to be the new boss (even if it weren’t for the pre-existing personality conflicts in play here, there’s always risk that the new boss won’t mesh with existing subordinates, that existing subordinates may take it as a sign that they don’t have a chance of upward mobility unless they go elsewhere, etc.). And instead of accepting that risk as part of the deal and handling themselves accordingly, they’re trying to shove it onto their employees.

        There’s simply no good reason to take on all the risk of this decision without getting something (and IMHO it’d have to be something pretty good) in return for it.

        1. Sandy*

          Thank you, Nonprofit Nancy and Turtle Candle. This is a really good way for me to look at the situation.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Right on. This leadership has the strength of a mash potato statue. I hope they don’t make all business decisions this way, but I bet they make a lot of their decisions this way.
          They have turn the work place into a game show. “We can’t decide so the two of you need to duke it out and who ever is left standing is the winner.”

  6. Trout 'Waver*

    I’d say something like, “If you want to negotiate a contract, I’m open for that. But I think it is unreasonable to ask only one side to make commitments.”

    1. SarcasticFringehead*

      I*’m not a lawyer, but I do work with employment attorneys, and there are definitely legal complications around fundamentally changing the terms of someone’s employment (i.e., you were at-will, but now we want you to sign a contract to stay here for [x] years) without some kind of additional consideration (a commitment from the employer, a raise, etc.). Doesn’t sound like OP is going to go this route, but if she does, I would strongly suggest checking in with an attorney.

  7. Aunt Margie at Work*

    I think you are writing for two reasons. 1) to confirm that this is not normal or typical of companies who hire from within. It is not. No. No way. Uh huh. Forget it. With that confirmed, you can now, in good faith to you and your company, step away from your boss’ interference in this. If it is your boss’ interpretation or simply an interpretation, do not get caught up in this weird game.

  8. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

    “My boss tells me that he wants her and me to get together and draft a proposal to the selection committee about how she and I would work together. He wants both of us to agree that if the board chooses one of us, the other will stay, and to make this statement to the committee. ”

    I would be very leery of making any sort of unilateral commitment to the company. Even if that were for a defined term (for example, one year), and even if it were not legally enforceable (not being in writing and with no consideration for it), there’s no reason to risk your good name by making a commitment to stay there for nothing in return.

    Allison’s advice is great, but if you want to avoid the whole “who to hire” drama that your boss has ginned up*, you can focus on that. “Hi, boss. I understand the desire to have both of us work well with each other. However, I am not going to make a commitment to a company – verbal or otherwise – to stay there absent a commitment from the company in return. Typically, these types of things come with a retention bonus from the company, a raise, or other benefits. Absent that, I don’t feel comfortable doing this.”

    *Hey, you have a boss who gins up drama, doesn’t give you raises appropriate to your position and responsibilities, and might mess with your head. That’s reason enough to put out feelers for another role.

    1. Emi.*

      I wanna highlight this:

      you have a boss who gins up drama, doesn’t give you raises appropriate to your position and responsibilities, and might mess with your head. That’s reason enough to put out feelers for another role.

    2. sstabeler*

      It’s not actually enforceable anyway- this is most common in situations like tuition reimbursement, where what happens if you leave is you have to repay the tuition reimbursement. Since no court would order you to return your salary for work already completed, there’s no actual damage done.

  9. MuseumChick*

    I like Alison’s language here for what to say to your boss. As others have said confirm with the board that this is accurate and then decide what you want to do. If I were in your position I would be polishing up my resume.

    1. INFJ*

      I like the option in which OP basically says, I can’t make any promises for the future, but you should really make the hiring decision on who you think will be the best fit.

      This whole situation is manipulative and looney.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It designed to make OP and Cohort feel like crap about themselves and tear down their sense of self-worth so they can be further manipulated in the future.

        In my mind I have this delightful image of both of them quitting and the boss/board spending weeks trying to figure out what went wrong.

  10. Snarkus Aurelius*

    There’s so much wrong here, but the good news is, OP, it’s not your fault.

    1) Does everyone get that annual 5% raise regardless of employee performance? I couldn’t tell from what you wrote, but it sounds like it. If so, this is terrible management that removes any incentive to go above and beyond.

    2) As AAM said, you hire a candidate because she is the most qualified independent of any other circumstances. Not because others promise to make nice with her. Not became you’re promising not to leave. Not because Christmas falls in December.

    3) Hiring committees don’t put the burden of decision-making on the candidates because that’s not the candidates’ job. If you don’t swear you won’t leave, then whatever happens as a result of that isn’t on your shoulders. If they choose not to hire either one of you then, that’s THEIR decision. If they want to base it on what you said, it’s still their decision.

    4) It would be one thing if you were to collaborate on a major project with this coworker and the committee needs to see a proposal from you on how to achieve those goals. But having you two come together and write up a proposal about how you’re going to get along because you don’t mesh well in the workplace? No. What do they expect you to say? “I’m going make Jane my new work BFF.”

    I’m also confused. You say that none of these proclamations came from the committee, yet if you both don’t agree to one of these proclamations, the committee won’t hire either one of you. Are you sure your boss isn’t BSing you? Why would the hiring committee hold you to something they didn’t state a preference for and mandate a course of action from you?

    Regardless, this is a job you don’t want because the people making the decision are doing a poor job. Remember, this isn’t slavery, and they can’t make you stay at this job if you don’t want to. If you want to go, then go. If they truly want you to stay, then they’ll lock you both into a contract that offers you some nice incentive$ to stay for a definite period of time. (I’m betting this won’t happen though because they clearly want to have it both ways, and an employment contract won’t allow for it.)

    1. Ugh*

      Please, can you write the first point in flashing lights on a billboard by my company’s HQ? They do not get why all their best people leave. Well, you underpay and don’t give merit based increases- what did you expect?

      They act like is a a BETRAYAL to leave the WONDERFUL company, but everyone who is there long term is either stuck or doing the work out of altruism. Of course, my boss says stuff to me like “Isn’t it wonderful our spouses have jobs that pay well so we can afford to do this work?” No, it isn’t wonderful. Our company does not feel the poor/act like Mother Theresa. Your comment reeks of sexism and is classist.

        1. Ugh*

          Yeah. And then she tells the company is a “great place to have a baby” because “you can use your sick time and vacation time to get paid during your 6-week maternity leave.” No boss, just, no. That is not a good benefit. At all.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        Well, having a COL increase annually should be a standard deal that every employer does- and then also do merit-based raises/bonuses/whatever based on performance.

        I also worked somewhere that dramatically underpaid, did a standard COL increase, but would never ever give anyone a merit-based raise or consider increasing salary when responsibilities changed. I actually got moved to an entirely new role, new title, new responsibilities once during a reorganization and they refused to even have a conversation about my compensation at all. I left shortly afterwards and they were just shocked.

        1. Sandy*

          Thanks for this response, OG Anonsie. It’s good to know that other people have faced similar policies. And leaving is likely the best choice for me too….

    2. Sandy*

      OP here. Thanks for all these level-headed comments. Yes, everyone gets 5% raises, regardless of performance or merit or changes in position. The job has other perks, which is why I think people stay with the company, despite uncompetitive pay and some dysfunction.

    3. Troutwaxer*

      After reading a little further, I think the employee needs to go over her boss’s head on this and speak to someone from the hiring committee.

      1. Sandy*

        OP here. I’ve had the same thought, Troutwaxer. I know Jane has spoken to the hiring committee. I feel like both my boss and Jane are trying to manipulate the process. I wanted to just give great interviews and present myself as the best candidate and let them make the choice based on the “official” part of the interview process. I guess I thought I was taking the high road, but you might be right.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Is there hope that taking the high road will be appreciated/respected?

          You have taken the high road by doing whatever additional responsibilities they wanted and yet, here you are.

  11. BizzieLizzie*

    So, I would say something like “I’m fully committed to this company, and while i would love this position – I am a professional and am fully prepared to work with & support whoever is appointed be successful…..so I of course would not be resigning just because I didn’t get the position’… AND ‘here’s how I would support the winning candidate’

    that is not a lie, as maybe it would not be just because the other candidate was appointed, but the behaviour of the other candidate after being hired that would cause you to leave.
    If by some miracle the other candidate was appointed but behaved very well & you saw your fears were unfounded maybe you would not leave. But if whoever is appointed (your nemesis or an external) turns out to be an a**hole then you have no obligation to stay.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why should he have to give this sort of loyalty pledge to begin with? She’s just one step shy on bending the knee and kissing rings at this point.

      Furthermore, how can you even begin to talk about “how to support the winning candidate” when you don’t know who that person is nor the direction they want to take the organization?

      1. Nonprofit Nancy*

        Hehe because it’s the kind of thing you can say that sounds good and addresses the concern, without being anything specific enough that they can pin you down later. I like BizzieLizzie’s script personally.

        1. Mike C.*

          But they’re still going to demand that the OP pledge that they’ll stay when that won’t be the case.

          1. NW Mossy*

            I’m reminded of that Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin says “I pledge allegiance, to Queen Fragg, and her United States of Hysteria.”

          2. Christine*

            I would pledge whatever I needed to keep my current job, you can still job hunt, find something else and say I changed my mind. The boss is stirring up a great deal of resentment, if they hire an external candidate, both individuals may walk after this. You own the the same respect or lack of that they have given you.

      2. Jaydee*

        Sometimes I think you go a bit overboard in your descriptors but here I think you are spot-on, Mike. I think Alison’s wording is excellent because it reassures the employer that OP isn’t going to rage-quit and walk out instantly if she isn’t hired for this job but doesn’t even hint at a promise she will stay for any particular length of time. It also allows her to politely and professionally state her concerns about Jane’s leadership style and how it might impact her job. Basically, it is possible to show that you are looking out for the best interests of the company without making or hinting at promises you aren’t necessarily willing to keep and while showing the ability to politely disagree with others in a professional way. Basically all things the hiring committee should be looking for in a director (and if they aren’t, that’s a flag of a reddish color).

    2. Emmie*

      It’s realistic for a hiring committee to ask how you would manage her in the promotion, and how you would work under her if she was promoted. The committee is way off in how they handle this question. I assume OP would not walk right away of her coworker was promoted. I suggest this:
      – Discuss how you would manage her if promoted w/ examples of how you’ve managed differing leadership philosophies.
      – Discuss how you would work for her if you had to (presumably while you job search, but that’s none of their business.)
      – I would also explain that key knowledge holders leaving is always a concern, and discuss ways in which you’ve mitigated these concerns previously (i.e. creating job aids to perform critical tasks; having already trained back ups for key parts of the job.) I do these things already b/c I like to plan my staff to be promoted, or make a lateral internal move if they so desire.

      1. Nonprofit Nancy*

        Well, and what are the chances this IS what the committee is saying, and OP’s boss is making it weirder?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        If this is the hiring committee’s real concern, though, they should ask OP during her interview. I’m having a hard time believing this is coming from them, but if it is, frankly, I’d leave. It’s one thing to have a horrible boss, and it’s another thing to have a horrible hiring committee and board.

    3. Sandy*

      OP here. Thanks, BizzieLizzie. I really appreciate this wording. And I agree that that’s a tactful way to cover myself to make the best decision after they’ve chosen their candidate.

  12. LuvzALaugh*

    How did your boss become a boss…..? That is the most ludicrous wimpy non leader suggestion I have ever heard.
    A better suggestion, to the board not you, would be choose the best candidate!!!!!!!!!!!! Who will leave if not promoted is not part of the equation. Who is all over the best. Assuming you are an at will employee, you could leave next week because you got a better offer and meanwhile the company did itself a huge disservice selecting the second best person for the job.
    Not selecting he best candidate for the position is a no win situation that can even lead to disparate impact.
    I think he gave you bad bad bad advice. If I were on the commity and you came to me with this AGREEMENT, I would find you to be tone deaf and wimpy, sorry.

  13. Kathleen Adams*

    Would it be bad to just say something like, “Jane and I have our differences, but I am a professional, and if she is promoted I’ll do my best to work with her in a productive way”? In other words, don’t make any promises about how long you plan to do this, but offer some assurance that you understand how things work.

    And then leave as soon as you find it necessary. Because this *is* silly. They are just over-thinking and over-managing this situation. They’re the board of directors – not a kindergarten teacher. You can’t make employees make up and become friends.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I can’t tell from the letter if the boss is aware the OP doesn’t get along with Jane, or if he’s just afraid the OP will leave due to being passed over in favor of Jane without being aware of their clash. If it’s B, I wouldn’t reveal that I have differences with Jane.

      1. Nonprofit Nancy*

        That’s true maybe you can go one step more neutral: Jane and I sometimes approach the work differently, but I respect her accomplishments and of course I’m a professional blah blah blah. There’s nothing they can make you sign that you will be Queen Jane’s faithful servant forever. You are an at will employee presumably.

      2. AthenaC*

        Yes, that’s an excellent catch.

        Also, at the risk of second-guessing the OP, I’m wondering whether it’s possible to use the meeting with Jane productively – to talk openly about their respective different communication styles and how they can better work together.

        Granted, based on my experience, it doesn’t seem likely to improve anything, but surely there’s a very small percentage of situations where it would help.

    2. Elizabeth*

      How about amending this to “Jane and I have our differences, but I am a professional, and if she is promoted I’ll do my best to work with her in a productive way, just as I will if I am promoted”?

  14. Hera*

    This boss sounds totally unreasonable, and like he has no idea how to manage people or make difficult decisions. That’s a totally absurd request for them to make– if they want to hire one of you, they should make a hard decision and live with the consequences.

    If you feel confident that once this boss leaves there will be less drama and you can go back to enjoying the things you love about the job, then just tell the boss you don’t feel comfortable committing to staying until you see what the board’s offer is, and that would apply regardless of whether they hire an external or internal candidate. Make it less about “I won’t stay if you hire this other person specifically” but and more about “I’m not sure what my plans are regardless of who you hire.” Then you can wait and see, and keep the job if it’s going to be enjoyable again, or leave if it won’t be. That’s a totally reasonable position to put yourself in, and make them deal with it.

    Think of it this way– even if they offer YOU the job, you’d have a right to decline it and move on.

  15. Katie the Fed*

    What abysmal managers involved here! You don’t get to have assurance that everyone is going to be just fine and happy with your management decisions. That’s not how any of this works! If the decisions were easy, they wouldn’t need us to make them.

    What a mess!

      1. Sandy*

        OP here. Thanks for this, Mike. I have asked for raises based on my managerial responsibilities. I’ve received token raises, but only when it’s gotten to the point where it was obvious to my boss that I was about to walk. The other issue is that each time I’ve asked for a raise, I’ve laid out in writing how my duties have changed and why that increase in duties merits a raise. I always ask for a written response to my request, and he ALWAYS responds verbally. On one occasion, this led to him misquoting a raise and a huge misunderstanding. So there’s some built up resentment here.

        1. 2 Cents*

          It’s in the past now, but after you have these chats with him, you can send an email with “Just so I have a record of what we discussed today about XYZ, you will research the possibility of a $10,000 raise in the next 3 months” so that he can’t come back and be like, “It was $1,000 in the next 13 months.”

        2. Antilles*

          Even if you *were* inclined to promise to stick around, I’d advise against it based on this background. Let’s break this down:
          -They aren’t really valuing your contributions, because they’ve delayed giving you raises until they had no other choice.
          -They respond verbally to your written requests. This is especially concerning when combined with…
          -They haven’t lived up to their word before. While mistakes happen, if it was a true mistake in quoting your raise, they’d have been legitimately horrified and fallen all over themselves apologizing (possibly even finding a way to compromise somehow) – but your phrasing doesn’t sound like that was the case.
          This is not the behavior of a manager and company who you can make this promise with. In fact, smart odds are that if you made this promise, they’d intentionally keep it open-ended (or a nebulous “until everything’s settled” timeframe) and drag it on until long past a reasonable expiration date. Even a year from now, they’d still try to pull out the “but you said…” card.

          1. Sandy*

            Hi, Antilles. Thanks for these points. All excellent. I agree that I don’t feel comfortable making promises with this person who’s repeatedly gone back on his word.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              OP, every time you say something about this place it just seems worse and worse to me.

              Please leave before you forget what “normal” and “professional” look like.

    1. KarenT*

      Agreed. This actually reminds me of an older letter (question in an open thread?) about someone who was competing with a co-worker for something big (I think it was to go to a conference they both really wanted to attend) and the boss told them they had to work it out amongst themselves. Umm, make a decision, pal!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It also reminds me of the boss who tried to abdicate her responsibility for letting 3 coworkers take off the same week and failing to notice that it left them without coverage. (I think Alison called it “Hunger Games,” vacation edition?)

  16. DCompliance*

    I wonder if your boss and the committee have considered that both of you may leave if an external candidate is chosen.
    I would polish up your resume and leave when a better opportunity comes along.

  17. LawCat*

    Totally agree with Alison and especially her final parenthetical point.

    You’ve got nothing to lose by job searching and may find a position that provides you not only satisfaction, but also reasonable management and an improved salary.

  18. JoJo*

    I’d go along with the boss, and start looking ASAP. Don’t feel guilty about jumping ship. They’re being completely ridiculous and you owe them nothing.

  19. Mazzy*

    At least they’re being honest here I’ve had such conversations go on behind closed doors without every getting the applicants a change to respond or react, so I everything was based on conjecture about who would be unhappy. Glad I’m not there anymore! I think a blanket “I will support whoever is in this role” would be good. The raise thing bothers me more, even though it is common

  20. animaniactoo*

    I would not trust the advice or proclamations of a person who won’t discuss raises based on actual scope of work.

    Go start your job search, figure out what else is out there, and tell your boss that you aren’t withdrawing from consideration and you aren’t guaranteeing that you will stay no matter what happens. If forced to discuss this with Jane, tell Jane that you feel it’s unfair of the company to put both of you in this position and you aren’t playing, and you hope that she won’t play either. While obviously you’d love it if she dropped out to leave the field clear for you, if she wants the job she should keep her candidacy without promising anything other than that she will do the job to the best of her ability if she is selected. Which is what you’ll be doing on your end.

  21. Malibu Stacey*

    Would this proposal also mean that you couldn’t discipline or fire Jane if need be or vice versa?

  22. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I’m confused about if your boss is the director who is retiring or if they are the hiring manager for that position or what his official role is in regards to this decision. Are you and Jane on the same level currently? Is Jane qualified for the position? If your boss is not the person who is retiring, would it be possible for you to speak with that person?

    I think Alison’s scripts are great and if this is genuinely coming from the selection committee and not just something your boss made up, you probably should be looking at outside opportunities.

    1. Sandy*

      OP here. My boss is the director who is retiring. I am applying for his job. He is not the hiring manager. I didn’t think he was taking part in the hiring process, but it turns out he’s much more involved than I thought. For instance, he was sitting in on a skype interview I had, and I didn’t know he was there until after the interview.

      I used to be higher than Jane in terms of title, and she was in a position I previously held, but she didn’t exactly report to me. Then our director rearranged all our titles, and now we’re lateral.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Thanks for the clarifications!

        I think you should definitely try to speak to someone on the selection committee to see if this is actually coming from them or if it’s your boss.

      2. Cassandra*

        Wait, wait, he was part of an interview and nobody had the basic courtesy to introduce who-all was there?

        Wow, that’s a major whiff of evil bees right there.

        1. Sandy*

          OP. I agree, no one told us he was listening in until the end. Of course I didn’t say anything negative about him, but I do think it was an unfair position to put me in.

          1. Cassandra*

            It also suggests that even when this bozo leaves, he won’t be all the way gone. He’s overinvolved in the hiring process, he’s lied about stuff before, he seems pretty power-trippy, and the board is letting him get away with it all!

            If he were leaving for another job, that’d be one thing, but this guy seems really likely to turn into the non-retired retiree — which given what you’ve told us about him would not make you happy no matter who gets his job.

            1. Sandy*

              Very good point, Cassandra, and one I hadn’t given much thought to. I think it’s likely he’ll join the board of directors when he’s retired from the position….

          2. No Name Yet*

            As someone who does nearly all my work interactions on Skype, that is as sketchy as all get-out. I cannot even imagine being in a regular meeting (much less an interview!!) without knowing exactly who is in the room. You mentioned up-thread that getting a new job would mean moving/living apart from your partner, which is obviously a really difficult decision. But honestly, this type of behavior from the board makes me question them even more – some of the other things could be the board and/or current boss, but clearly whoever was doing the interview was comfortable deceiving you.

  23. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    Ah, the “we want to make as few actual decisions as possible, and when we do, we want as few changes as possible to result” school of management.

      1. Sandy*

        OP here. This gave me a good chuckle. It’s comforting to think that other people have encountered these same problems.

  24. BBBizAnalyst*

    I feel like OP should start looking for another job. I think they’re subtling telling you they’re not giving you the role.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I disagree, only because we know OP’s boss has a history of being manipulative, and because OP hasn’t heard anything along these lines from the hiring committee. I would still start job searching, but I don’t think we can say these are subtle cues, yet.

  25. Merida May*

    This kind of reminds me of the Rock of Love season 1 finale when Bret Michaels paused before announcing the winner to ask both the finalists if they’d be cool with him picking both of them. This situation is nearing that level of cheesy. Don’t withdraw your canididacy, and don’t feel pressured to swear loyalty to a company that, in its actions, hasn’t been terribly loyal to you in return. If they want to reject you the onus is on them to do that.

  26. Rusty Shackelford*

    This is crazy. I prefer the “I can’t make any guarantees because I don’t know what life holds” response, because I don’t see any reason to put all your cards on the table. But also, since you say your boss has a history of giving you a raise when you’re ready to walk, maybe you can use this to your advantage. “Of course I don’t know what the future holds, so I can’t guarantee my continued employment here any more than YOU can guarantee it. I will say, however, that I don’t feel I’m being fairly compensated for my current duties, and if there’s no hope of promotion, well…” {sad face}

  27. Tertia*

    I agree about not getting sucked into the scheme that the boss is suggesting, but is it possible that the 5% annual raise is built on the presumption of continually increasing performance/duties? 5% is well above the normal COLA raise at my workplace.

    1. Sandy*

      OP here. Thanks for your thoughts, Tertia. I don’t think the annual raise is built on the presumption of increasing duties, though that might be the case and I’ve considered that possibility. I’ve been assuming more tasks as the director prepares to retire, so it’s not a normal circumstance within the company.

  28. Delta Delta*

    The first thing that jumped into my head was that the boss probably had this same conversation with Jane. And it doesn’t sound like Jane has gone to OP with a proposal of “let’s be friends and work together even if one of us gets promoted and the other doesn’t.” I’m guessing what will happen is the hiring committee will ultimately go for an external hire and both OP and Jane will leave, having been sufficiently irritated by the whole situation. Way to shoot yourself in the foot, boss!

    1. Sandy*

      OP here. Thanks for your thoughts, Delta Delta. And I agree that he went to her with this idea and she did not approach me with the conversation, so I’m assuming she’s on the same page as me.

      The other thing I’ve considered is that Jane explicitly told someone on the search committee that she would quit if I were hired, which has instigated this whole set of negotiations and backroom scheming. But who knows.

      1. Observer*

        Does it really matter? Your boss is being unreasonable. If Jane told the board she would leave if you were hired, she’s unreasonable, too. But the key unreasonableness here is your boss, because even if she did do that, he was an idiot fro bringing this to you.

  29. Uzumaki Naruto*

    I kind of feel like their request is so absurd that it’s okay to tell them what they want to hear. “I’d love to be considered for this position, and I don’t have any plans to leave — no matter who is hired.”

    Then see how it plays out. At the same time, work on a job search and see what comes of that. Make the right decision for yourself when it’s actually time to make a decision.

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      +1 this is actually the approach I’d recommend. See how it falls out and then leave if you want, but don’t take yourself out of the running now OP if a little finesse can side-step this issue.

    2. Sandy*

      OP here. I’ve definitely considered this approach, but I’m worried that if I leave and they feel like I’ve misled them, I won’t get a reference from the company. This company constitutes all my recent work experience after school.

      1. Nonprofit Nancy*

        Most companies understand that people leave eventually, though. Even if you honestly do think you’ll stay for a while, stuff happens (partner’s job gets transferred, parents back home get sick, amazing new opportunity falls into your lap). This gives you plausible deniability unless you actually sign a weird pledge thing, which I DON’T think you should do if they actually did try to make you (but I also don’t think they will).

        If they’re going to take it super personally when you leave and be weird about it – and hold it against you in a reference! – that would be very out of step with professional norms, and they’re going to do it to you anyway no matter when it happens. If you’ve stayed a year or two already, and they KNOW you’re underpaid, they can’t be at all surprised if you move on sooner rather than later. Also, worst comes to worst, Alison does have scripts for what to do when your old company goes nuts when you leave and tries to screw up your references. Good companies understand that it happens sometimes in hiring.

        1. Sandy*

          Thank you for this reassurance, Nancy. I love Alison’s scripts. And all this feedback in the forums has been really helpful. Plus it’s really wonderful to hear compassionate perspectives.

  30. Christine*

    OP, I would be tempted to do what they want. But start your job search. You need to protect your current job, and resign after you find omething else. I would be afraid to be honest about your thoughts regarding this request (bad one at that) that they wouldn’t decide to push you out later.

    I can understand wanting two employees that do not like working together to sit down and find a way to work together, but not as part of being a candidate for a job promotion. You’re going have to learn how to work with that person on a closer basis if you become their supervisor. If it’s going be part of the job application, it should be done individually … that each candidate is forced to recognize the weaknesses & strengths of their team (not a particular individual) if they are planning to hire in-house. But if they are leaning towards an outside candidate the boss should have kept his mouth shut.

  31. Chickaletta*

    So much is about to change in this organization that I would stick it out until you see how the cards fall. What if you leave, but coworker leaves also, new boss turns out to be great, your replacement is offered a higher salary? I’ve seen similar things happen. Wait it out!

    As for handling your boss’s request to meet with coworker and agree to stay if she’s hired, I bet between the two of you, you could come up with some wording on that document that confirms your commitment to the company but stops just short of explicitly agreeing to stay if the other person is promoted.

    Good luck, I hope that you are happy in the end.

  32. Gene*

    “Sure, I’ll commit to staying for a minimum of one year. Here are my requirements for that commitment:
    An immediate raise to 5% above market salary.
    An extra week of paid vacation time.
    And all of that will be in the 1-year, renewable contract signed by both parties. I’m not committing to you unless you commit to me.”

  33. AJAX*

    I think I missed something. The committee was going to go with an external candidate but then OP is back in the running only because Jane, another internal applicant applied? It sounds like of the three candidates, OP is the third pick.

    It seems like you’ve been at this organization for a while and so you’ve likely had to deal with other degrees of company shenanigans. So how much do you want to jump through another hoop, especially if they’re track record of reward is less than stellar?

    1. Kyrielle*

      If I read it right, both OP and Jane applied initially. The committee is, *according to OP’s boss*, leaning toward an external hire because they fear hiring either of the internal candidates would cause the other one to leave. Therefore, if the two internal candidates could agree not to leave if the other one got the job, they’d both have a shot at the position after all (since hiring them wouldn’t drive away another employee).

      Since all this comes from OP’s boss (who as far as I can tell isn’t part of the committee?), and since it’s whackadoodle (not the “maybe we won’t hire internally” part but the “unless they pledge SOLIDARITY with each other” part), I’m not sure how much credence I place on that being true, but that’s what’s being claimed.

      1. Sandy*

        OP here. Kyrielle’s assessment of the situation is also my understanding, that the two of us making an alliance would make one of us the clear choice.
        I am weary of my boss’ assessment. He’s officially not part of the hiring committee but he’s heavily involved in the process.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          He’s not even on the committee?! So he’s just stirring the pot and throwing monkey wrenches because he can? I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, especially without any direct communication with/from the hiring committee.

    2. Grits McGee*

      I think the situation is that Jane and OP both applied for this job at the same time. Management (not sure whether it’s actually the committee or if this is purely conjecture on the OP’s manager’s part) are afraid that if OP gets the job Jane will quit, and if Jane gets the job OP will quit. The committee doesn’t want to lose either, so they are planning to hire an external candidate.

  34. Mongoose*

    Decline the meeting and say something along the lines of, I’m excited to be considered for the position. Regardless of who is selected, I will continue to conduct myself as a professional and do my best for the organization. If they press for a commitment, use Alison’s script regarding the unknown future and switch immediately to all the things you are looking forward to doing with your organization, regardless if you get the role.

  35. emma2*

    Um, this boss is a bad boss. A really skeevy, selfish, shortchanging boss. Using your status as an employer to discourage employees from making choices – even if it is legal – is just a slimy thing to do. I know it can be a pain to up and change employers, but this is one of those situations where, if this guy were my boss, I would definitely be job hunting.

  36. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    This situation is

    a) weird and
    b) not unlike others that I’ve seen or personally encountered.

    What happens in my field – if you are in one position and they don’t want to promote you out of it, they sometimes ask “if you don’t get this promotion, what are you going to do?” (read = “will you quit if we pass you over?”)

    That’s a WEIRD opening question. I reply with “I don’t know, I’ll worry about that if and when that might happen, but I really want this position and I think I’m qualified for it”…..

    Turn the tables – let THEM guess the outcome of a decision.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, OP, definitely look for openings where you can turn the tables. You have just as much right to be respected as they do.

  37. Allypopx*

    I would be very, very cautious about the fact their trying to get you to make formal statements and put something in writing. I would outright refuse that piece, even if it costs you the promotion.

    Alison’s wording is a good approach. You should definitely be job hunting. This whole thing doesn’t pass the smell test and you want to be prepared no matter how it shakes out.

    1. Allypopx*

      To expand, I did that. I was in a similar situation and said I hoped they made the decision that was best for the company, but that I didn’t forsee staying if that person was going to be my boss. And actively started job hunting. They restructured so we were on the same level and she eventually left. But if something your company is doing doesn’t sit right with you, please be exploring other options.

  38. jv*

    They are playing games with the two of you. Whatever you do… do not walk away… and do not be the first one to answer first. Let your competitor make those first steps.

    If you really want to stay there you need to remain open and listen. But don’t agree to anything… and don’t be combative. “it depends upon this”… “It needs to be negotiated”… “I need time to think about this”… etc.

    Be careful and use your cunning. They are trying to manipulate this outcome and pit you two against each other.

    If it were me I’d be running out that door. There’s no way I would work for a company that would play those kind of games with my professional progression. Wrong in so many ways.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      The question is whether “the company” is playing games, or whether “the outgoing Director” is playing games. Getting a good answer to this question is essential to the OP making plans going forward, so going over the current Director’s head is essential. It may be that the hiring committee is very unhappy that the current Director is playing games. It may be that the current Director is accurately relaying the hiring committee’s concerns. Unfortunately, the OP won’t know what’s really going on unless she goes to the source.

  39. I'm Not Phyllis*

    This strikes me as so odd. If they are leaning toward the external candidate, the OP and Jane would continue to work together as they always have, no? Which makes me think they’ve either changed their minds about the external or they backed out, leading me to believe they do plan on hiring either the OP or Jane for the job (otherwise this makes literally no sense at all). Even still, they should choose the candidate they want and let them work out how they manage their relationships with other people. Yes, one may leave but that’s not in their control. OP this is such an odd position you’re in! I’d love to know how it plays out.

    1. Sandy*

      OP here. Thanks for your thoughts, I’m Not Phyllis. I think my boss is pushing for us to make a presentation to the hiring committee right now because they’re about to start spending money to fly external candidates out here. And the implication from my boss is that if Jane and I agree we’ll both stay on, they’ll focus less on external candidates I think that if they have the agreement from us, they will very seriously consider hiring one of us.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Please allow me to translate this for you:

        “We want to guarantee that whatever happens is in our best interest, regardless of whether it is in your best interest.

        Due to our concerns, we were willing to give it our best shot by not talking to either of you about this AND not allowing either of you to move up to that next level here at our organization. Which is a reasonable move on our part with the best risk assessment of getting what we wanted, but no guarantee, and left you free to pursue what would be in your own best interest if you weren’t satisfied with that.

        But since the next stage will cost money and we’d be happy not to spend that money if we don’t have to, if you can give us a guarantee, we will save money and one of you (instead of both of you) will essentially get the shaft, having committed to staying when your best move for your career may well be to leave and build to the next level elsewhere.

        Now that we’ve made this clear to both of you, we’ve probably shot ourselves in the foot and you both may be thinking about leaving when you would have accepted the external candidate at least long enough to see how it was going to work out – because we obviously don’t respect that for you, what is in your best interest should come before that of the company.”

  40. LuvThePets*

    Personally, I see several red flags here: A dysfunctional Exec. Director with some long-term poor management and what looks like is a weak board who may or may not be following poor hiring practices (because we don’t know if this idea is the boards or the ED’s). Think long and hard if you want to work in a dynamic that may have you trying to overcome mismanagement from a previous ED and having to fight the weaknesses of a Board. This is not the way to start a new position and experience success. Boards should offer way more than rubber stamps. They should offer support, fiscal oversight, and stability. This smells bad to me.

  41. Workfromhome*

    I think I’d simply ignore the boss’s suggesting that I meet with the other candidate and make some kind of presentation. “Along the lines of good to know boss I’ll taker your advice about what the hiring committee will do under advisement ” and then let the process play out. It would be different if the hiring committee came out and made a statement that this was a required thing for consideration for an internal promotion (I’d be shocked if they would).
    Thing is even if you did make this arrangement and proposal there is nothing stopping them from making an external hire and claiming “they were better qualified” .
    I’d start looking for a new job ASAP no matter what. If you get the promotion great you have a better starting position to negotiate your next new job. If you don’t get the job it seems unlikely would force you out very quickly given how concerned they seem to be about losing either one of the two internal candidates.

    In my head I’d be thinking “I promise not to leave because you hired my other coworker…I’ll leave because you guys are insane and won’t pay me or promote me based on what I’ve earned with my work”.

  42. Rusty Shackelford*

    If you or Jane get the job, will your old position be filled, or will you be expected to assume your new duties along with your existing job? And will you get a raise?

    1. Sandy*

      Both good questions. I believe that if they choose an internal candidate, we won’t hire someone to replace us, so we’d probably rearrange duties a bit amongst the staff. There would be a raise but I’m not sure what that figure would be.

  43. Worker Bee (Germany)*

    I have nothing to add to the wonderful advice already given. Just want to say Sandy please let us know how it played out in the end. I keep my fingers crossed for a happy ending for you.. which ever shape or form it may have..

  44. Not So NewReader*

    Banking off of what Alison said, you could lay it on thick, OP. You could tell the hiring committee that you have been with the company for a while, You want them to make the best choice for the company that is possible. It’s your preference that you be promoted because of your skills, demonstrated ability and because they feel you personally will be an asset to the company because of what you bring to the table. That is something that only they can figure out from their position.

    Continue on to say, “Out of respect for my cohort I will not be negotiating with her for a position that a) the decision should be in the hands of the leadership of the company and b) would force her into agreeing to work here should I quit. If I do quit then the claim can be made that I knew I was going to quit and I knew I could force her in a contract that may or may not be something she wants. Don’t forget we do not have all the details of the position or how the spot left empty by one of us will be fill, therefore we truly do not know what we are agreeing to. You know yourself, you would never agree to something that you did not know the full details to.”

    Land on, “If you would like me to move to this position, I would be absolutely delighted to consider the details of your offer. I would be happy to discuss it with you. However I must consider the effect of my actions on others, so I will not be negotiating with my cohort.”

  45. Darrow*

    I’m struggling to see the downside of just verbally agreeing to stay on if the coworker gets the position. If the OP gets the position due to being willing to make this agreement, then she benefits by getting the position anyway and no harm done. But if the coworker gets the position instead, OP already knows she is not willing to stay in her position and would end up leaving anyway, which would put her in no different of a position than if the coworker got the position without OP ‘consenting’ to it.

    Not to mention the company and situation she is in is terrible to begin with, so leaving them does not sound like much of a large loss either.

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