I am a senior manager in a global company and have been here fourteen years. About two years ago, I spoke with my boss about being promoted to director level. She told me neither she nor her boss thought I was ready for promotion because I had some areas that needed improvement. They arranged for me to do a 360° feedback online survey and the results came back with some good stuff for me to work on. They even gave me a coach to help me put my plan together and get started.
I have become a much better listener and have also learned to self regulate more effectively under stress. My direct reports tell me they can see the changes I have made, and they have said good things about me to my boss.
One of my peers, though, let’s call her Marina, told my boss some bad things about me. I have no idea where she got the stuff she reported. It seemed like she was making up stories to make me look bad.
My boss took it all with a grain of salt, so it wouldn’t matter that much—except that there recently has been some organizational shuffling, Marina has been promoted, and I will now be reporting to her.
I just don’t know how I can work for someone who badmouthed me like she did. I brought it up to her and she said she only had my best interests at heart, but I don’t trust her. Is my only option to leave?
What to do?
Dear What to Do,
What a rotten situation this is. It doesn’t sound like you were expecting Marina to end up as your boss. I have seen a lot of this lately—the people you least expect all of sudden having so much power in your life.
You actually have two options here. You can stick it out and see if Marina shapes up her act and really does have your best interests at heart. She very well might—who knows what the heck she was thinking when she was telling your boss bad things about you? Maybe now that she got what she wanted (a promotion), she will be a better boss than she was a peer. It could happen. If you go with this option, I suggest that you give it a time limit, pay careful attention to how she treats you, and then make a decision once you have a couple of data points.
Your second option is to start looking now for your next gig. We are living in the era of tours of duty in different organizations. The days of sticking in one place and hacking your way to top are gone. You complied with the organization by doing the 360° feedback and you have made some substantial changes. Two years have gone by and a peer was promoted over you. It doesn’t sound as if your boss even discussed it with you. So it appears that a promotion is not in the cards for you in the near future.
It has been my experience that it is hard for people to register changes in others. People tend to see you the way they have always seen you, no matter how much you improve. So you might be better served by leaving your current spot and trying to create a great, fresh impression elsewhere.
It never hurts to start looking—you never know what wonderful possibilities are waiting for you out there!
About the author
Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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