Q: My boss keeps making promises about new roles, promotions, etc., and then she doesn’t come through. I feel like I’m just being strung along, and what’s worse is I’ve passed on other opportunities because I trusted her. What should I do? I’m pretty early in my career and don’t want to get stuck.
Bob, 26, junior salesman
A: It’s a shame to work for someone who lets you down, especially when you are just starting out.
One risk is that it will give you a cynical view about the business world based on a limited, and unfortunate, experience. Be careful to guard against this; it’s within your control to continue to expect positive leadership from your bosses and others around you. If you succumb to negativity, you will be at even more risk of generating the type of environment you’re reacting against now.
Now think about your vision and goals for your career. Rather than thinking in terms of positions you would like to hold, consider the skills you’d like to acquire and the experiences you would like to have.
From this point of view, how well is your current position serving you?
Realistically, entry-level jobs often have a fair amount of repetitive work, getting the labor of business done. While some of it may be mundane, it goes with the territory. The key is having enough new tasks salted into the workload so that you keep learning.
If these have been promised and withheld, then you are being sidelined at yet another level.
Take a dispassionate look at your own performance. If you were assessing someone else rather than looking in a mirror, what would you say? If there are gaps in motivation or performance, own up to them, as they could also be playing a part in your boss’ behavior.
With all this in mind, make a plan to communicate with your boss. If you don’t already have regular one-on-one meetings, this is part of the problem. If you do, request to focus on your future growth and opportunities in an upcoming meeting.
Then, do your preparation. Make a list of the unfulfilled promises and refresh your memory on the other opportunities you’ve passed on.
Know what you want to accomplish. Presumably you want to get her on board with coming through for you. Keep your end game in mind, and be ready to manage your emotions in the conversation. Consider role playing how the conversation could go with a friend, looking at all the issues that may surface. You will be more effective as you’ll be less apt to be blindsided by an unexpected reaction.
Be ready to hold her accountable. The problem with her past promises may have been that they were vague, “someday” statements. Now it’s time to pin her down. Be positive and proactive (what manager can argue with that) but very, very persistent.
Then face it. She may be a dead end for you. Consider ways to find new roles at your current company if you like it there, or start taking steps to look elsewhere. Again, positivity will serve you well, as no one wants to hire someone leaving with a grievance.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.