‘Af­ter years of hard work I didn’t get pro­moted and now I’m dev­as­tated’

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Thebackpage - Tell Me About It Tr­ish Mur­phy email: tellme­aboutit@irish­times.com

QI am a sin­gle woman in my 40s. I am ded­i­cated to my ca­reer and have worked very hard over the past 30 years to bring the de­part­ment that I work in to a very high stan­dard. I be­lieve the area I work in makes a real dif­fer­ence to a very vul­ner­a­ble group in so­ci­ety and I am com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing I can to make life bet­ter for them.

I am usu­ally the last to leave work in the evenings and I al­ways put my­self for­ward for new projects, if I think I have the right skills to bring them to fruition. Six months ago our de­part­ment head died sud­denly and I and all of my col­leagues were dev­as­tated. Re­cently, his job was ad­ver­tised and most of my col­leagues sug­gested that I ap­ply.

I was ini­tially ret­i­cent as I was still griev­ing my col­league and I did not want to be seen to be jump­ing into his shoes. But I am pas­sion­ate about the area I work in and have some ideas on how the work could be en­hanced even more, so I ap­plied. I was dev­as­tated when I heard that I was un­suc­cess­ful and even more ir­ri­tated when I met the young man in his early 30s who is now my boss.

Sev­eral of my col­leagues sug­gested there was sex­ism in­volved; oth­ers men­tioned ageism. I just don’t like his style. He keeps us­ing buzz­words and thank­ing peo­ple for their hard work, even though I don’t think he re­ally un­der­stands it. He also speaks about chang­ing the cul­ture of the or­gan­i­sa­tion em­pha­sis­ing a work-life bal­ance, es­sen­tially mean­ing he wants peo­ple to stop work­ing late, so that money can be saved on ad­min­is­tra­tive and se­cu­rity staff while oth­ers burn the mid­night oil.

I am wor­ried that these changes will di­min­ish the great work that we have col­lec­tively achieved. I do not want to start look­ing for an­other job at this stage in my life, but I know that this change has had an im­pact on my work; I am achiev­ing much less than pre­vi­ously and I have started to call in sick to work, some­thing I had never done be­fore.

AYou sound pas­sion­ate about what you do and it is won­der­ful to have such mean­ing and sat­is­fac­tion in what you are spend­ing your life do­ing. Clearly, you are very up­set at be­ing passed over for pro­mo­tion and I won­der if you need to give your­self time to re­cover from this blow be­fore de­cid­ing what your fu­ture holds for you. You and oth­ers in your work­place may be judg­ing your new boss with­out giv­ing him enough time to demon­strate his value, and there is a dan­ger that you might with­hold your con­tri­bu­tion and sup­port, and the whole or­gan­i­sa­tion might then suf­fer.

Han­dling fail­ure or de­feat is a dif­fi­cult hu­man chal­lenge and yet most peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence dis­ap­point­ment in some form many times in their lives. We can learn a huge amount from this and it might be worth tak­ing this cri­sis as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine your life and per­haps make some strate­gic de­ci­sions.

You say that work has been the ma­jor fo­cus of your life and per­haps this ex­plains why you are so dev­as­tated at the mo­ment, but it is worth­while ques­tion­ing this and tak­ing some time to con­sider if this is how you want to con­tinue.

Of course you should de­rive huge mean­ing and value from work but per­haps you would be less dam­aged if you had other very im­por­tant things in your life also, and now may be the time to ex­plore this. Your re­ac­tion to the change in the work-life bal­ance cul­ture sug­gests that this change cre­ates un­ease in you but in­stead of chan­nelling this into crit­i­cism of your boss, per­haps it says more about how your life is very tilted to­wards work. If we feel sick when some­thing changes or is taken away from us, it is time to ex­am­ine that thing and its part in our lives.

You are in only your 40s, and this is of­ten a great time to move into man­age­ment or se­nior po­si­tions so do not write off this pos­si­bil­ity in your life so sharply. You can start by ask­ing for some feed­back on your in­ter­view, and then en­gage a pro­fes­sional coach to help you ad­dress your in­ter­view skills and other mat­ters. You, and your col­leagues, be­lieve that you have a lot to of­fer and it is not okay to start set­tling for less than the best at this stage in your ca­reer, it is too early and more ex­plo­ration is needed to see if other pro­mo­tional op­tions are open to you.

Your boss is now in situ and the start­ing point for a work­ing re­la­tion­ship is ac­cept­ing this as a fact. He may be young but it is also ageism to sug­gest that be­cause he is in his early 30s, he is not boss ma­te­rial.

Tell him that you are pas­sion­ate about the or­gan­i­sa­tion and that you would like to be in­volved in its de­vel­op­ment and per­haps you could ask how you can help. When you feel your skills and ex­pe­ri­ence are be­ing val­ued again, your con­fi­dence will rise and per­haps you will look around for open­ings in the in­dus­try for your ad­vance­ment.

This up­set is the op­por­tu­nity to change di­rec­tion.

As an In­dian philoso­pher said: “Up­sets in life are op­por­tu­ni­ties which are mis­un­der­stood.”

Clearly, you are very up­set at be­ing passed over for pro­mo­tion and I won­der if you need to give your­self time to re­cover from this blow be­fore de­cid­ing what your fu­ture holds for you

PHO­TO­GRAPH: IS­TOCK

Han­dling fail­ure or de­feat is a dif­fi­cult hu­man chal­lenge and yet most peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence dis­ap­point­ment in some form many times in their lives.

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