A promotion that vanished

Question:

Four months ago, two people from my organization suddenly left, both for understandable reasons. One moved out of state. The other learned her daughter had an illness requiring home care.

I was last person standing in my department. My boss came to me and asked me to “dig in” and work extra hours, to help train the new people we’d need to hire. He said, “as soon as the new employees were solidly on board,” I’d be promoted to lead.

We hired them, I trained them and both passed their three-month probationary period. They each got raises. I’m still waiting for my, “promotion to lead.” I asked my boss about it and he said, “The situation is fluid.” What the heck does that mean?

Answer:

Four months ago, your boss needed you. He gave you what you thought was a promise. You relied on it and did your part.

Two possibilities exist:
He made you a promise and once he no longer needed your extra effort, he welched on it. Or, you heard what you wanted to hear, not what he said.
If the former is true, you have two options.

You can let the situation go, realizing you work for a boss who holds out imaginary carrots. This presents you with two additional choices. You can feel shafted, remain in your job and resolve never again to give extra effort. In the long run, this strategy backfires, as you marginalize yourself.

Or, you can continue to work with reasonable effort while looking for a new employer, one who keeps his promises. Although you’ve been burned and that hurts, in the long run you win, because you find a better employer.

Alternatively, you can meet a second time with your boss and ask “What does fluid mean?” If he wants to keep you, he’ll give you an answer that offers you a more definitive promise. Follow this meeting up with an email confirming your understanding. This can force your boss to make good on his promise.

If he welshed on his promise because he now values one or both of the new hires more than you, your boss may react as if you’re backing him into a corner. If so, do you want this job or would you be better off looking for a boss who honors promises?

If, however, you heard you’d be “promoted” to a lead position, when your boss only said, “I’d like you to act as the leader,” you have a way forward. You’ve just worked hours and proved your worth by training two new employees. Now’s a good time to ask your boss what you can do to gain a promotion in title and salary. If he again says, “the situation is fluid,” ask what that means in your case. You deserve to know, and the answer may tell you whether you want to remain with this company or seek a new position.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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