Q: I used to be on the fast track for promotion, but now I seem to be going nowhere. About two years ago, our company was purchased by a large corporation, and my manager was replaced. My new boss says I'm a valuable employee, but seems to have no interest in my advancement.
Although I'm still on the management team, I am no longer invited to important meetings or informed of new business developments. Other people have been promoted, but I never hear about these opportunities. I have finally concluded that my manager just doesn't like me. Do you think I have any future here?
A: You appear to be suffering from post-acquisition syndrome. Following an acquisition, the arrival of new management immediately resets everyone's perceived value to zero, creating opportunities for some and pitfalls for others. For those who are well-established, the need to prove themselves all over again can be quite distressing.
Some people respond to this challenge by becoming oppositional or resistant, while others never seem to realize that objectives and priorities have changed. Either way, the result can be career suicide. Wise employees, on the other hand, make a concerted effort to understand management's goals and show how they can contribute.
Given the situation, your manager's indifference is probably caused not by personal animosity, but by concerns about your effectiveness in the new corporate culture. To learn how she views your strengths and weaknesses, ask for an assessment of your promotional potential. You will then be in a better position to evaluate your future prospects.
Employee is stubborn but sly
Q: One of my employees is extremely stubborn. Regardless of the topic, "Paul" refuses to consider other opinions and always insists that he is right. Needless to say, this creates problems with his co-workers.
Unfortunately, Paul is also very adept at promoting his own interests. After learning that my boss belonged to a certain professional association, he immediately became a member himself. My manager is now saying that Paul should be promoted. How can I convince him that this would be a mistake?
A: The sad truth is that your headstrong employee has outmaneuvered you politically. By developing a relationship with your boss, Paul has gained influence and shifted the leverage equation in his favor. If this continues, you will never be able to manage him.
To restore the normal managerial order, you need to bring your boss' view of Paul into alignment with your own. Directly challenging his opinion will only lead to an argument, so you must take a more balanced approach.
For example: "I agree that Paul may have leadership potential, but I do have a couple of concerns. Other team members sometimes have trouble working with him because he refuses to collaborate or consider their views. To prepare him for promotion, I believe we need a development plan that will target these issues."
Then, if you have an ounce of political intelligence, you will immediately take a page from Paul's playbook and become an active member of your manager's professional group.
Tell the boss about other job? When?
Q: Although I enjoy my current job, I'm ready for some new challenges. I recently learned about an internal position which sounds very interesting, but I'm not sure when to tell my manager that I'm planning to apply. What's the best time to let him know I might be leaving?
A: When applying for external jobs, it's best not to tell anyone until you have an offer in hand. But with an internal position, your boss is likely to be a required reference, so you need to inform him before you submit the application. Most managers find it extremely annoying to hear about employee departures through the grapevine.
The specific timing of this revelation depends in part upon your boss' personality. If he is a supportive manager who could help you strategize the application process, then an early conversation might be best. But if he's an insecure soul who will consider this a defection, you may want to wait until the last possible minute.