I’m running my department but can’t get promoted into the director role

A reader writes:

I am at a crossroads right now. I joined a small nonprofit organization with about 25 employees in September 2015. When I accepted the job, I knew I was taking a step down from my position as a development director at another organization, and I ignored some red flags in my hiring manager because I was so excited about the mission. Six months later, my director resigned (in other words, got pushed out). But, rather than replace him immediately, my executive director tabled the position because she was considering reorganizing my department.

In the meantime, while we were absent a director, I took on many leadership responsibilities.

Finally, after five months with no director, my ED decided to repost the position, keeping the department as it was. She dropped several hints that I was a contender for the position, and even gave me paperwork to enroll in new supervisor training. I was one of the final candidates for the position, and I treated the interview with the same respect I would an outside company.

They wound up offering the position to an external candidate with more experience. Though I was heartbroken, I recognized the value she could bring and prepared to support her hire. However, she wound up turning down the position.

But to my dismay, the position was reopened and I wasn’t even considered for the next round of interviews. It has now been over nine months since my director left and I have been holding things together, with perfect qualifications for the job and proven success implementing elements of our strategic plan for other organizations.

I am a very self-reflective person, so I have asked for feedback on things I need to work on and legitimate reasons I have not been hired for the position, but the senior leadership team basically keeps telling me I need to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I feel like I’m being yanked around and taken advantage of and that they are capitalizing off an excellent employee stepping up and managing things during the leadership transition and hoping to “double down.” I think they know it would be harder to replace someone with my skills in my current position rather than find someone with my skills in a higher position, and that makes me very angry.

My question is, when do put your foot down and determine if you are being taken advantage of? Isn’t that crazy to go nine months without a director when there is a qualified person in a support role who has received exemplary reviews? I get doing what is best for the organization, but when is it a red flag you are dealing with poor leadership and a dead-end wall for growth opportunities?

It’s hard to say what’s going on without knowing more.

It’s possible that they have legitimate reasons for not wanting to promote you into the position. They might think you’re good at the development work, but not have confidence in your management skills or your ability to build relationships with other departments. Or they might think that you’re good at executing the basics (which is what you’ve probably been doing) but not as strong as they want on bigger-picture strategy. Or they might think you’re perfectly competent but that your vision for the department or the work just doesn’t line up with what they want. Or who knows — my point is that there are lots of reasons why they could legitimately conclude that you’re doing a good job of keeping the department running while it’s without a director, but still not think that you’re the right hire for the head position.

However, they absolutely should give you more feedback about their decision than what it sounds like they’ve given you. “Keep doing what you’ve been doing” is in no way an answer to “can you give me some insight into why I’m not the right candidate for the director role?”

That assumes, of course, that you asked the question that explicitly. If you haven’t, it’s worth doing that now.

You asked if this is a red flag that you’re dealing with poor leadership and a dead-end wall for growth opportunities. The lack of explanation and feedback to you is poor leadership; the decision not to promote you may or may not be, for the reasons above. But yeah, it does sound like you’re looking at a dead-end here as far as promotions, and I’d assume that you’ll need to look outside the organization when you want to move up. They’re indicating pretty loudly that they’re not going to move you into that director role anytime soon.

{ 66 comments… read them below }

  1. Adam V*

    Yeah, I’d definitely be looking elsewhere. The ED doesn’t sound like someone I’d want to work for anymore.

  2. Ann O'Nemity*

    Sounds like the OP isn’t what they’re looking for in the director role. Or maybe they’d rather keep the OP where they’re at, and hire for the director position.

    Awhile back we had a similar thread. I wanted to copy my comment here because it seems relevant:

    It’s entirely possible that the OP’s company wants to expand the new position beyond the work that the OP is currently doing. And it’s also possible that while the OP is currently doing the work and doing enough to keep the balls in the air, the OP’s company actually wants to see better results. I’ve seen this play out first hand.

    Several years ago, a colleague started taking on a lot of additional responsibilities associated with a new client. The new responsibilities were higher level, and should have come with a bump in salary. The colleague kept things afloat for awhile. Then, a new position was created to take over these responsibilities. My colleague applied but was not hired. He was Pissed, and really felt like he had already earned the job since he’d been doing the work. The new hire had a lot of experience and she started getting WAY better results almost immediately, which is exactly what management had been hoping for. Seeing the new hire perform so well mollified the old colleague and he finally understood why he hadn’t been given the job. (It also helped that the colleague received a year-end bonus in acknowledgement of their hard work.)

    Still, as an internal candidate, I think the OP is owed an explanation of why they are no longer being considered.

    1. Adam V*

      I agree. My issue is not that they don’t want to replace OP, or that they don’t think OP could do the job the way they’re envisioning it for the future – my issue is solely on not sitting her down and saying “we’ve decided we’re keeping you where you are. Here’s why – [reasons A, B, and C]. Here’s what you’d have to do to be considered the next time this opened back up – [requirements D, E, and F]. We hope you understand, but we understand if you want to look elsewhere for that level of promotion, and we’d be more than happy to serve as a great reference for you.”

      1. the_scientist*

        There are so many good reasons why they may be keeping OP where she is, but I agree that she is owed a more complete, concrete explanation of why and also of what she needs to do to be eligible for the role.

        I hope this isn’t a situation where they are simply keeping OP there because they don’t want to lose someone competent in her role – I’ve certainly seen this play out many times at nonprofit organizations. Especially in small teams or small orgs, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of “too valuable to be promoted”, unfortunately. Added bonus when the same organization complains about their high rate of employee turnover.

        1. Sharon*

          Heck, that’s happened to me in corporate environments, too. I get consistent “exceeds expectations” and am frequently told that I’m too valuable to lose. So no promotions or transfers to other teams for me. So I stagnate in the job until I get fed up and leave.

        2. Delta Delta*

          This just happened to me. I was too valued to be promoted but I was unhappy with where I was. So I left. Now people in the organization are Very Sad. Oh well!

        3. Lynxa*

          I had a supervisor tell me in an evaluation, “Well, of course we don’t promote our best! We want to keep them doing a good job where they are!”

          Guess how motivated I was to succeed after that talk.

      2. The Supreme Troll*

        Yes, this is very true, especially the “requirements D,E, and F”. The company really owes a thoughtful, uncanned explanation to a very thoughtful employee who so far has worn many hats about why she cannot move into the director role.

        Letting her know what she needs to do or what she must have achieved in order to be considered for the director role would be a sign of appreciation and respect for the OP and I’m sure would be much valued.

    2. OhNo*

      That’s the key that I’m seeing here – the organization really should have given the OP more useful feedback about why they weren’t chosen. Not doing will just breeds resentment and a lack of faith in the organization’s leadership over time.

      It does sound like they want to department to shift direction – at least that’s what I’m assuming, based on the mention of “reorganizing the department” – so it’s a fair guess that that’s the driving force behind seeking an external candidate. But they really ought to say so directly.

      1. Insensate*

        Sometimes nonprofit executive teams will get it in their heads that external candidates will infuse the organization with new “energy”, “ideas”, “potential” etc. Once that seed gets planted it’s hard to un-sow.

    3. MuseumChick*

      I agree, this is entirely possible. I remember a letter from way back (not sure what year) where a younger person got promoted over several people older than her in her organization because the role was being expended to included social media/other tech skills (I think it was something like that) that the letter written had been steadily learning whereas her colleagues didn’t.

      The OP’s situation could be different and I do get the sense that this place of work has some dysfunction but they could have legit reasons for not promoting her.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      The excellent results on the part of the new hire need to come up quick in order for people to settle down and realize that a good decision was made.

      I have a situation here where a new leader was hired and people were quite upset, “why, why, why.” Six months in this new leader is absolutely rocking it. The people who were asking why are now saying,”I get this, now. It was a good decision and TPTB DO have the org’s best interests at heart.” The new person has been in place for six short months.

      Unlike OP’s setting, people in this setting were offered the opportunity to get up to speed on A, B, C and D. Those people said, “No, thanks, I am good here.” So an outsider had to be hired in order to move in the direction of A, B, C and D. No employee has said it directly but there seems to be relief on people’s faces that A, B, C and D are being taken care of finally.

      OP, I am kind of disgusted with your company because I believe that part of leadership is telling people the truth. Sometimes this is hard and people do not like having the difficult conversation. Too bad!, I say, because it is part of the job of leading. I know how hard I have worked to find the wording to tell people things they need to know. It’s not easy and it gets even harder if you avoid doing it entirely. I had to examine myself in the process. Eh, I can remember some conversations my heart was pounding, literally. This is how we learn.

      If we put this situation in the Best Possible Light, you have a boss who is Unwilling to tell you what the barriers are for you to be promoted. I would feel safe in assuming that this means no more progression for me, if I were in your shoes.

      Don’t let it eat you, I know it’s really easy to get totally ticked off in these settings. Think of everything you do at your job now as a resume builder. Each project, activity holds the possibility of becoming something to talk about on a resume. Get that resume out there and start looking around. On interviews you can be sure to ask how the employer handles employee development.

      1. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious*

        NSNR, nice work! You’ve clearly stated
        – why a manager should tell their reports what they need to hear even if the reports won’t want to hear it and/or will have their feelings hurt in the short term
        – how a manager should start to find the right words
        – why a manager should kkeep going even if the conversation feels impossible
        – how a report should respond–not with frozen inaction (because “I’m hopeless forever”) but with inspiration for action (because “here’s a list of skills I can learn”)

        Allison, is there any way to flag this thread for people searching for information about how to give good feedback as a manager?

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Your organization clearly doesn’t know what it’s doing with this position, and they’re not in a hurry to change that arrangement. That’s clear no matter what they tell you.

    I was a little surprised you never mentioned pay in your letter. My hunch is that you’re doing all these added responsibilities with no change in pay. I’m assuming that because you’ve had no change in title or position. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) I’d also bet that the salary they offered the other candidate was on par or near yours.

    Regardless, you’re doing the work of two people for the price of one. I know they’re taking advantage of you because all you’re getting is vague answers to substantive questions. Yes, they owe you a lot more than “keep doing what you’re doing.” No wonder your employer is reluctant to change the status quo.

    They wouldn’t be the first employer who didn’t want to rehire and redistribute duties to save some cash and they won’t be the last. But employers who do this need to suffer the consequences: losing good people.

    That means you need to look elsewhere for job advancement. I suggest this not only because they’re enjoying paying one employee to do two jobs but also because it’s not okay to treat you the way that they are. Even if they did come back and offer you what you want, I don’t think you should take it.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      Agree! If you’re not going to be promoted, that’s one thing … but OP I hope you’re negotiating hard for a raise / one time bonus / something for the hard work you’ve already done for the last year. They should want to do this to keep you happy and they’re basically daring you to quit if they don’t. Nobody would question your decision to look elsewhere at this point.

    2. Peter the Bubblehead*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. The higher-ups will be in no hurry to hire a new manager if they have someone willing to do the manager’s job plus her own for the same money as she made simply performing her own job.
      Were I in this situation, I would make it clear that if I am not being considered for the higher position, don’t expect me to be doing the greater work-load. Go bac to simply dong your own job as best you can and watch how fast a new manager gets hired!

  4. MsCHX*

    “I was a little surprised you never mentioned pay in your letter. My hunch is that you’re doing all these added responsibilities with no change in pay…Regardless, you’re doing the work of two people for the price of one. I know they’re taking advantage of you because all you’re getting is vague answers to substantive questions. ”

    Snarkus said exactly what I was thinking and I’m surprised AAM didn’t mention at all that it is unfair to be doing the work of 2 people, including a position senior to yours, with no change in pay or title.

    I think it’s time to look elsewhere OP.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, because unless she’s working 70+ hours a week, she’s probably not doing the work of two people.

      She’s doing work from two different roles, yes, but if two people were doing the work, there would be more work, it would be more in-depth, and there would be more responsibilities. It’s perfectly possible to take some tasks from Job A and some from Job B and combine them into one full-time job, which is often what happens when you cover for someone.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        And that’s where I’ve been screwed in this situation in the past — it turns out that I’m not doing the parts of Big Job the higher-ups are most invested in, because the other parts (along with the parts of Current Job I can manage) feel more critical! So higher-ups don’t see me as “Big Job material,” when maybe I would be with sufficient resources.

        1. also in nonprofits*

          I’ve been screwed this way, too. Honestly, I’m not super satisfied with Alison’s answer. My hunch is that OP is probably trying doing too much with too little time/resources. Even though she’s keeping the department afloat, of course she can’t devote all her time to the high-level duties that would make her stand out in the exec director’s eyes.

          OP, if you’re not getting a real explanation for why you keep getting overlooked, leave. Seriously. They are taking advantage of you.

          1. Newby*

            I think the feedback part is key. If they can’t give a concrete reason for why the OP isn’t being promoted (preferably including specific areas that she can focus on improving) then at the very least there is no potential for growth and she should be looking elsewhere. If they can give a good reason, then the job might still work out.

          2. MsCHX*

            Exactly. I think it goes too far in supporting employers who dump extra work on one person for an extended period of time (to me, ‘covering’ would mean while someone was on extended PTO or perhaps a leave with a foreseeable end like maternity leave). 9 months and counting feels like a jab.

            Is OP able to perform the aspects of her role adequately while she’s also being tasked with parts of this additional role? And like you and others have said, they’re giving her the runaround on their responses. THAT doesn’t bode well for OP.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Nine months is a long time to work and NOT know why you are ineligible for promotion. And worse yet, this on the heals of being passed over once already. If this had been going on for a month or two I would be more willing to say, “TPTB are clarifying what they want in the position and person first.”
              Given the time frame and given the non-existent reason for not promoting OP, I am concerned about the management in this place.

          3. kay*

            “Even though she’s keeping the department afloat, of course she can’t devote all her time to the high-level duties that would make her stand out in the exec director’s eyes”

            This is critical and has happened to be before as well.

        2. Uzumaki Naruto*

          Yeah, this seems like a potential structural problem that comes from wearing two hats. You’re doing the right thing for the organization, but the right thing for the organization given these resource constraints isn’t something that showcases your ability to do higher-level work. It’s another reason that you may need to leave to get promoted.

      2. MsCHX*

        Well is she working 70 hours a week? That’s not entirely unfeasible; especially if a lot of things can be done remotely.

      3. animaniactoo*

        This was me. I was averaging 60-70 hours a week. I was doing *all* of one job, and oh, about 80% of the other. They did replace me with two people. Because at some point, they’d decided that they didn’t need to replace anyone in one of the roles as long as I was on top of it. Now that I think about it – when I went away, there really wasn’t even an applicant pool for people with enough knowledge to hold down both roles.

        1. MsCHX*

          Exactly. I’ve seen it too often and have also been affected. So I am always a bit put-off by AAM’s assertions that a person isn’t “really” doing two jobs. I feel that VERY often it is at least 1.5 jobs. And when it goes for more than a short period of time AND doesn’t include increased pay; your company is taking advantage of you.

          In my last position my cohort unexpectedly went out on medical leave. I performed my job and at least 60% of hers for a few months. I got a hefty bonus that year and a raise and additional training the next year.

          1. Seattle Writer Gal*

            When I went on maternity leave, my employer had to hire 1.75 people to cover for me BOTH TIMES.

            It is entirely possible for 1 person to do the work of 2 people.

      4. Brett*

        I found out not long ago that at last job, they eliminated my position and two people have been working 60+ hr weeks for the last year to cover the workload, with no promotion or pay increases. (One of them they even converted from an hourly to an equivalent salary after the first person left.)

        1. Brett*

          Well, I mangled that. Edited out the part where it was originally a four person cross-department team.

      5. The Supreme Troll*

        Alison, I agree with you to a certain point. The OP probably isn’t working 80 hours a week every single week, doing the job of two human beings in two particular roles to their fullest possible productivity.

        However, I’m sure that the OP is working longer than normal hours most of the time in order to get the added work completed. There are goals & deadlines that have to be met for these things. She probably has to skip some work breaks, going out with friends after work, delaying some personal errands, etc…because of the extra responsibilities. So there is an opportunity cost involved. I agree with Snarkus Aurelius and MsCHX that, at the very least, the OP is entitled to a well-deserve raise/bonus.

      6. ArtsNerd*

        I’ve been the resentful employee covering roles and though I WAS working 70+ hour weeks for a bit, I most certainly was not performing at the high level I would want to see from those roles when fully staffed. Burnout doesn’t mess around.

        Now that I’m out of that situation with a bit more experience and emotional distance, I can see that there’s no way I earned the salary of the higher level role. I earned the HELL out of that tiny bonus and extra leave I negotiated, though!

        On the whole, stepping up was valuable in several ways:
        a) keeping the work I cared about moving;
        b) getting reallllly good at my job really fast, and getting a bigger picture view of how my department worked; and
        c) getting a widespread reputation as someone who can get results in tough circumstances that still benefits me today.

        Also, it’s much more fun to set up networking meetings on the pretext of ‘swapping war stories’ than maintaining the fiction that employment in our field doesn’t inevitably lead to some kind of absurd scenario worth sharing.

      7. sstabeler*

        while true, that doesn’t mean that OP doesn’t deserve at least a bump in pay to cover the fact that she IS doing more work. I’d say it’s more an argument as to why she shouldn’t ask to get the director’s pay on top of her pay.

  5. Andy*

    I was in a very similar position. I was a former engineering VP for over 20 years. When our company was acquired by a larger one, I was kept on but as a non management Principal Engineer. I retained my VP salary and most of my percs however.

    Now an engineering Director position opened up. I was interested but they went outside. I complained to the department VP and he showed me his paperwork for the director position. It paid 25% less than I am making! He went on to say my technical skills is what the company valued. He didn’t want me saddled with employee development tasks and other administrative minutia.

    So even though it’s looks like you may have been passed over, you could be far more valuable than you think.

    1. Delta Delta*

      But, you ended up getting an explanation about why the company did what they did and how you were truly valued. If they had just said, “yeah, well, we decided to do it this way” you’d have felt like you got a non-answer, which could have made you unhappy.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Ah well, the problem with your VP’s argument was that while the director position paid less than your current salary, it was on a track up to higher paying jobs, and your technical SME job was probably a terminal position.

      I do appreciate that you got an explanation, though. In my 17 yr career, I have never had someone tell me why I wasn’t getting a position, title, promotion, etc.

      1. Andy*

        But keep in mind with 35 years experience and 20 of those years in a VP capacity, I can always leave and take a VP or SVP, or even CTO job elsewhere.

        Your management experience doesn’t evaporate just because you now work in a non-management position.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This is good, it’s how things should be.
      It gives the employee a chance to have some say in deciding “Is this how I want my career to play out?”

      It sounds like you were okay with their reasoning, but someone who had different goals may not have been okay. You and the employer matched up well. They took a chance telling you this, you could have quit, but they were honest and it worked out to be a win for you and for them. This is what OP should have.

  6. DCompliance*

    I don’t know how you are asking for feedback, but maybe try asking differently. Instead of asking “what do I need to work on?”, ask “what can I do to prepare myself to get to the next level?” I don’t know if that will help, but it is worth a shot.

  7. Virgylooloo*

    The same exact thing happened to my husband. His position was then eliminated and he had to take a demotion and a pay cut so that he could finish out 4 years and retire. If he was younger and didn’t already the years in, he would’ve left. It’s hard, and it was a hard thing for him to get past.

  8. DaniCalifornia*

    I did this once. And the company took complete advantage of me. And I let them (I was young.) They took our manager to open a new office + her husband had cancer so she was never in the office. She trained me on everything she did and I did my job plus her job. Constant overtime, staying late, “comp time.” I dealt with every aspect of being the manager. When she finally officially left, our company had a rotating temp manger come into the office. She was surprised that all paperwork and financials had been kept up with and there were no outstanding issues. I asked to interview for the manager job and they sat me down and said that they were restructuring how our offices worked. When I was hired I was just hired as “Office staff” but now I would be classified as “Receptionist” and would have to work 6 months under this classification, then apply to be a “Treatment Coordinator” for 2 years, then I could apply to be a manager. Every single person in the office was as mad as I was. I left 6 months later, I had already been at that job for 2.5 years too long.

  9. A.*

    I went through something similar and the feedback I got was that while I had the most knowledge, they wanted someone with more management experience in the role, but I should keep doing everything I was doing and another opportunity would open up. They eventually hired someone who had previously worked with the next level manager and I had to train that person while fending off sympathy from people who knew I was passed over. Another opportunity did open up but it went to another external hire who had previously worked with the next level manager. I noticed the trend and am now looking to move on.

    It’s hard to stay when you’re passed over and it can be a blow to your confidence but it’s really not about you, it’s about the needs of the director and/or organization. You may find a better fit somewhere else so it doesn’t hurt to look.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Training the person is The Worst. I get the reasons TPTB say for why the Guy Who Was A Senior Manager before is more qualified than you, but I have had this happen a couple times in my current role, too, and these senior guys don’t always live up to their hype. The last one seemed a little unbalanced and quit without notice after 8 months. While he was here, he didn’t do anything I couldn’t do. In fact, he did a lot of weird, dumb stuff, and I had to stay involved on a project that they were going to take from me and give to him (even though it was going very well, just so that he had something to do) because he scared our client the first week he was there. He also took regular naps, which is not allowed here. But I still wasn’t able to be promoted to his level.

      1. A.*

        Yeah for that reason alone I would encourage the letter writer to start looking for a new opportunity. My new manager constantly brings up in meetings that he was hired for his great management skills and publicly overcommits our team to projects without fully understanding the scope, expecting me to handle the work. I don’t think it gets better.

  10. Jen*

    I was the manager passing over the employee in this scenario. Good employee. Met/exceeded expectations for her role, which was tactical/operational. I gave her stretch assignments that were more management/strategic and it was a huge flop every time. When it came time to fill a management vacancy, she wanted it and I have it to someone else- and explained while she is very strong operationally, she wasn’t at the level I needed for the leadership role w/r/t management experience and strategy. I have her small management opportunities (a direct report, for example) and it was such a failure I ended up re orging and took away her report because the report was so miserable/not getting any kind of leadership.

    But at least we had the convo. She resigned 8 months later and truthfully, it was exactly what she should have done. If I were her mentor and not her boss I’d have advised exactly that.

    1. A.*

      Giving someone a chance to stretch and providing feedback like this is a lot more than some managers will do. It’s much more frustrating to be told you can’t be a manager because you’ve never been a manager, but we can’t give you an employee to manage to get management experience because you’ve never been a manager, etc.

  11. Bwmn*

    Not to be overly hard on nonprofits or development teams – but I’ve seen this happen more than once. Unfortunately, a lot of nonprofits let staff become over qualified or maxed out at their present positions and are yet reluctant to promote from within due to a “lack of experience”. I’ve even heard one explanation for a lack of promotion being that years of development experience weren’t cumulative from organization to organization but that the clock went back to zero at each new nonprofit.

    Soooooo…..while there are many potentially reasonable and understandable reasons why you’re not going to be promoted, I think it’s probably also fair to assume that there’s not going to be much opportunity for promotion under the current structure. Perhaps when (if) a new director is hired, they will value the OP’s contribution and push for a change in title/raise. Determine how many years you’re happy staying with the organization at your level with minimal expectations of promotion, and then plan accordingly.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      On the flip side, I have seen the Peter Principle in action way too many times in Development offices. Just because someone is a great fundraiser doesn’t mean they are a great manager! Or even a half-decent manager!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, I have seen a similar thing in retail.

      The best explanation I ever had was from one boss who said, “You are on The Radar. If you do X or Y, you will fall off The Radar, permanently.”

      In my case, I could fall off the radar by failing to take a job opening that had been offered to me through the grapevine. Good thing my boss was coaching me, because I would not have understood that subtlety. I did not realize that being told about an opening was on a par with being told I would get the job if I applied, but I had to apply.

      The uninformed me, would have not been interested in that position and I would not have applied, thus unwittingly causing myself to fall off The Radar. Yeah, I took a job I did not want. It would have been okay, except for Toxic Boss from H3ll. I lasted a year. My stomach ulcers lasted longer than that.

  12. NonProfit Nancy*

    I think anytime an employee is passed over for a promotion, especially if there wasn’t a conversation about future opportunities and how they could advance, management has to anticipate that the employee will start looking. I’d be surprised if management hadn’t anticipated this fairly obvious outcome of their decision – which would suggest to me that I wasn’t particularly valued, if there wasn’t either a raise in my current role or a discussion of my future at the company. This might just be me, but I’d see this as a sign to explore my options other places … and if I can’t get a better job, I might have to revise my estimation of my own value and accept I’m reasonably compensated in my current role.

  13. Paloma Pigeon*

    I could have written this letter except that I’ve been serving as Interim ED AND Director of Development for longer than a year. True, I did get a salary bump from DoD to ED, but it was $20K less than what the ED was making. Now they are hiring someone to be ED and are offering $20K more than last ED was making. Of course, it will be my job to make up the shortfall with fundraising…..

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      But that might not necessarily be true. I don’t think it is a good idea for the OP to be pessimistic about this. The OP, though, should ask point blank about what she has that are being seen as shortcomings (and ask in a curious, non-defensive way) and specifically how she can go about on improving these things. It’s OK for her to be a little stubborn here: the specific part is important, and she should press for that if she is getting generalities from TPTB.

      If, by that point, she is still getting pat, canned responses to her very reasonable questions, then yes, it is time to start looking outside of this company.

  14. Channel Z*

    I wonder did something happen at the interview to change their minds? OP made it to the final cut the first time, but wasn’t called for an interview the second time. Maybe the interview highlighted a weakness, or an incompatibility with OPs skill sets and the needs for the position. The message is clear that OP has been removed from consideration for promotion.

    1. CAinUK*

      This is a really good point. And I suspect OP may not be qualified in some component (as Alison says: covering the job isn’t always the same as doing the full job). But regardless it sucks that the employer can’t give OP that valuable feedback so she can make her own choices!

  15. NW Mossy*

    I applied to a managerial role a few times under the same director, and I got a similar response from her about “just keep doing what you’re doing.” Ultimately, I realized that the only way I was going to determine her objectives in hiring was to look at her behavior and decision-making rather than listen to her words. It went beyond seeing who she hired instead – I started looking really critically at how she managed the department and the types of choices she made on projects as well as people. I also talked extensively with people closer to her to get their take on her priorities.

    What I ended up learning was that she really valued stability and managers with extensive experience, and also that she was highly risk-averse. Once I figured that out, I knew that the solution would be to move departments because it wouldn’t be possible for me to meet those requirements without her being willing to take on more risk than it seemed she was comfortable with. I ultimately ended up transitioning into a totally different management structure and launched into management from there.

    Interestingly, I’ve now been tapped on the shoulder to return to my old department by its new director, who was the one to originally hire me away from it. It’s a funny sort of full circle, and while it was frustrating at the time to be passed over, I’m actually much better placed to succeed in the role after a few years away.

  16. climbing the ladder...again*

    I’ve been passed over for promotions for new challenges that I knew I ws able to meet and would get the “oh, you are too valuable in your current position” & “we couldn’t possibly find someone who could do your job as well as you do if we promoted you”. Funny how they forgot all about how “irreplaceable” I was when they had to lay off staff and I was one of the two who got the axe.

    In my business too often the only way to get ahead is to change employers.

  17. Green Goose*

    I’m going through something similar to the OP, where my managers are leaving and I will be taking on more responsibilities but leadership is trying to phrase it like my duties are shifting instead of “taking on a lot more”. Same excuse of re-org so they are not planning on promoting or hiring a replacement, but at the end of the day I definitely will be taking on a significant amount of extra work.

    I saw that quite a few PPs encouraged the OP to ask for a raise, and I’m curious when should the raise be mentioned? Have others successfully gotten a raise when their department downsized and they were taking on new responsibilities while not being promoted? If yes, how did you frame it?

  18. Winger*

    This exact same situation happened to me at a previous job. The previous development director was just a major gift officer (I did all the annual fund stuff and all the institutional fundraising) but she had the DD title and salary to match. When she left, I spent a year doing her job too, with no change to my own salary or title. I eventually quit and took a job as an actual development director elsewhere.

  19. Marcy Marketer*

    Something similar happened/is happening at our non-profit. An associate director came in with the expectation of becoming a director in a planned transition, but after she arrived management felt she was not quite right for the position. Instead of telling her explicitly why she isn’t a good fit or giving her the professional development/feedback she might need to become a good fit, management keeps giving her half-baked reasons (too young, etc) while giving her excellent performance reviews and saying there is nothing she can do to improve. It’s been really frustrating to watch and makes me feel like I don’t have room to grow here because management isn’t willing to be honest about places where employees need to improve. It’s like you just have to have “it”, whatever “it” is, to be promoted, and management won’t verbalize “it” directly.

    1. Seattle Writer Gal*

      OMG are you me? But not only did I receive the “you don’t have ‘it'” speech at the END of what had, up until that point, been a glowing performance review, but the speech was concluded with an extra dash of “no one should expect to be handed anything in life.”

      This from an Ivy League, trust-bund baby whose friends and family were financially supporting his business…

  20. ilikeaskamanager*

    you should ask for an interim pay increase retroactive to the first day you started doing the work.

  21. emma2*

    It’s hard to tell without knowing more (or being in the situation) whether it is the OP or management that is the problem (well, not problem exactly, but reason for not getting promoted). However, if the OP had a director role in the past, and is doing her current job well but not getting feedback as to why they are not moving up, things sound sketchy on the management’s part. There is also a lot of possibility that even if she isn’t seen as a good fit for the director role in her current organization, she might succeed in another one, so job hunting seems like not a bad idea at this point.

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