The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 5, 2013

Your Office Coach: Complaints won’t get you a promotion

By Marie G. McIntyre
McClatchy-Tribune News Services (MCT)

— QUESTION: After working at an amusement park for three years, I am hoping for a promotion to supervisor. My last attempt, however, was a fiasco. When my supervisor quit, I told our manager, “Bob,“ that I was interested in the position. Bob gave me an application and said he would keep me in mind.

Two weeks later, before going on vacation, I reminded Bob of my interest in the supervisory job. When I returned, a co-worker informed me that an outside applicant had been hired. I immediately asked Bob why I had not been given an interview.

Bob initially said that he forgot I was interested, but probably would have given me the job if he had remembered. When I reminded him about our previous conversations, he said he “vaguely“ recalled them, but that the other applicant was more qualified.

I’m planning to send a written complaint to the general manager, because I don’t want to be overlooked again. Do you think this will help?

ANSWER: Despite the fact that your bumbling boss can’t keep his own story straight, complaining is not a wise move. Your objective is not to overturn the previous decision, but to influence the next one. Sounding resentful or dissatisfied might actually keep you from being promoted, so let’s consider a different strategy.

Since Bob’s opinion is important, arrange a meeting with him to discuss your career goals. Without mentioning his previous blunder, ask what he looks for in a supervisor, request suggestions for strengthening your qualifications, and express appreciation for his advice. Follow up with a thank-you email and copy the general manager.

For example: “Bob, I just wanted to thank you for taking time to talk with me about my career. Your advice was very helpful. I have enjoyed working at the park for the past three years and would certainly like to be considered if a supervisory position becomes available.“

This approach has several benefits. You can remind Bob of your interest in a promotion, learn more about how he evaluates candidates, and gain some good will by sharing a compliment with his boss. At the same time, you are tactfully advising the general manager of your desire to move up.

Q: “Beth“ and “Marcia“ both work for me. Recently, I made the mistake of telling Beth that I was unhappy with Marcia’s performance. She repeated my comments, and now Marcia is justifiably angry. How can I recover from this screw-up?

A: First, kudos to you for recognizing that managers should never discuss one employee with another. But if you also failed to tell Marcia about these issues directly, then you owe her both an apology and some feedback.

For example: “Marcia, I want to apologize for discussing my concerns about your project with Beth instead of talking to you. That was inexcusable, and it won’t happen again. However, we do need to figure out why this project is behind schedule.“

Your lapse in judgment, while unfortunate, does not exempt Marcia from having a necessary performance discussion.



Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.“ Send in questions and get free coaching tips at http://www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter officecoach.