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I have a manager that is aware of my career objective to transition to her (managerial) role.
In our one on one meetings she was encouraging the idea but I noticed that no real progress in any meaningful way really happened as time passed.
Originally I didn't know what to make out of this, thinking that perhaps she is not really as supporting as I once thought.
Our one on one meetings stopped for quite some time suddenly and we had no real interaction. So in essence my career conversations froze.
I was confused but I also noticed that she also was not involved much with the team either, so thought maybe she was overloaded with some work I wasn't aware etc.
Finally she announced that she went after a higher role to another department and got the job so she is moving out.
It became clear (this has been confirmed by another conversation I was part of) that her absence etc was due to her just pursuing her career plans and ignoring the team and myself.
I guess that's corporate life but I don't know what am I supposed to do now.
It is not clear if her position has been filled and might be looking for a replacement but I don't trust her anymore to ask on the topic and I don't know if it is a good idea to ask her skip manager and tell him about my career objectives.
I have the impression that the latter could also be a bad idea since it could be considered as negative feedback for my manager.
What could I do?

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    Why not just go to her current manager and say "X is going to be leaving her position soon are you are aware, in my exchanges with her I showed interest to become the team manager. If the position is available I would like to be considered as a candidate as ..."
    – Al rl
    May 11 '21 at 22:52
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    Why do you consider her pursuing her career goals as somehow detrimental and negative to you? Why do you perceive this as negative behavior on her part? Her job was/is to manage you, not to manage your career. Did she provide adequate management to her direct reports? Sure, it's great when a manager helps his/her employees to grow and flourish, but at the end of the day that isn't their job and you shouldn't expect or assume that they'll assist you in achieving your career goals.
    – joeqwerty
    May 11 '21 at 23:13
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    @PeteW: same comment as above.
    – smith
    May 12 '21 at 7:20
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    Maybe just ask your manager. From the story you have presented, I don't think you have any good reason to distrust her on the topic...
    – E.Aigle
    May 12 '21 at 9:33
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    You shouldn't expect someone else to take the lead in your career. If a manager is open to you taking on more responsibility to seek a higher position then that's great, but it's still your responsibility to seek it out specifically by asking to do specific things. Everyone is almost always going to be looking out for their own career first. Would you put your career on hold to boost someone else up? If you see a situation where you think you can take control and be in charge, ask to specifically be in charge of it and use it as proof towards you willingness to move up the ladder.
    – BobKayser
    May 17 '21 at 8:17
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I'll approach this question from my own viewpoint and experience, so some of my comments may be considered aggressive. Keep in mind, these are thoughts and suggestions that I level at myself. The first thing that caught my eye was near the top:

In our one on one meetings she was encouraging the idea but I noticed that no real progress in any meaningful way really happened as time passed.

What have you done towards the progress? Are you expecting her to do it for you? What is your progress on any of this? How are you holding her accountable for her role in it? You are responsible for your own training and advancement. No one can do it for you. If you want other people to invest in you, then you have to demonstrate that you're investing in yourself. Start with these tips:

  1. Create a growth plan that has 3-4 targets/objectives. Each target should have a task breakdown for achievement and a metric plan for understanding it is complete. Not all objectives can have both, identify methods that demonstrate progress in some fashion.
  2. Visit this plan with your manager often. I do weekly. Adopt a cadence that matches your schedule and your manager's schedule.
  3. Write down action items and establish a time for completion of those actions. Make sure the action items contain a name attached to them. Who is responsible for it? What result do they need to produce? When do they need to have it by?

If your manager is cancelling your one on ones, find another manager to help you. It doesn't have to be your manager. Seek out someone who is willing to help you. If you can't find someone, contact your manager's manager or your training/development coordinator (usually HR). Let them know your goal and what assistance you need. It is up to YOU to make sure you are getting the support you need.

Assume positive intent. In most cases, people are just busy or potentially careless. This doesn't mean they're doing things to hold you back or malign you. Keep in mind Hanlon's Razor: "Never ascribe to malice that which is more adequately explained by incompetency|stupidity|laziness." Other people aren't invested in your success, so you must be completely invested in it.

It is only bad idea to contact a skip level manager if you have not communicated your intention to your manager. Simply inform her that you intend to have such a communication, and emphasize that you are doing it in pursuit of your own growth. Don't focus on the positional aspect (becoming a manager, entering a position in the company or advancement in stature). Focus entirely on your growth and development as a function of being better for your teammates and the organization. If there is resistance to this concept, document that resistance.

In my past, I've done this. I've had resistance and been told I was not to contact that person under any circumstance. My response to my manager at the time was, "I'm not asking permission. I'm keeping you informed of my intention." Your mileage may vary. Not everyone has my attitude of "Get on board or get out of my way", and it's not always healthy in every corporate environment.

One personal tactic I have for governing my own growth is the use of index cards. As a part of my growth plan, I think of the 5-10 habits/thought patterns that I need to change to move into my new role. Some role changes are minor and there may only be a couple. However, when I went from individual contributor to leader, it occurred to me that a number of my socialization habits, initial thought patterns (reactions) and questions needed to change in order to be effective in the new role.

I created a selection of 12 index cards. On each card was a comment reminding me to think a certain way, engage in a specific behavior, eliminate a behavior, and other philosophical mantras. I would shuffle them and read them each day at the beginning of the day. At the end of the day, I consider all of my interactions against my cards, and I write down any failures and what I need to do differently. Eventually, my habits and thoughts will match the expectations against the cards, and I will be prepared for the new role (if I'm not already in it). If I'm in the role, I will just be getting better and better at it. As I complete a card (it becomes habit), I replace it with a card that has feedback from a peer or leader that can help me in the next stage of my growth plan.

The end result of all this: Only you can be counted upon to complete the actions necessary to advance yourself.

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I am relatively new to a managerial role (in the corporate world, been there in the military) and remember similar situations from previous roles, but also find this question interesting because of how I see it as a manager now. I can't speak for your manager, so I'll answer this as if I were in her position.

I have a manager that is aware of my career objective to transition to her (managerial) role.

This is the most important statement here. We need to come back to this, but if I were interested in moving up a level, I would be extremely encouraged if I knew that there was someone good following behind me to fill my role. Moving on only to have your team collapse behind you is a very bad look.

In our one on one meetings she was encouraging the idea but I noticed that no real progress in any meaningful way really happened as time passed.

This has been addressed by Joel. You don't state your level of effort, so I can't assess that but it's important to reiterate that "progress" is something you make, not something that happens to you. This is a big difference between junior and senior level employees. Junior level employees wait to be told what to do and expect stuff to happen to them, while senior level employees take the initiative to make stuff happen.

It's also important to note that there is a cognitive shift required for this. When I was more junior, I actually couldn't understand how other senior developers made stuff happen. How did they get permission? How did they do that and also do the work they were told to do? How did they know that was a good decision and wouldn't be smacked down? At some point when changing to a different company, I made a cognitive shift and those questions either went away or the answers became obvious. That's a major difference between a junior and senior person in any role.

Originally I didn't know what to make out of this, thinking that perhaps she is not really as supporting as I once thought.

Our one on one meetings stopped for quite some time suddenly and we had no real interaction. So in essence my career conversations froze.

It's important to realize that you chose to see this negatively. You told yourself a story that she was not supportive and then chose to believe that story, rather than asking yourself--or, importantly, asking her --why she would step back.

Again, I don't know your actions, but I have had experiences with people who wanted to be a manager, but didn't want to work to become a manager. They expected management to happen to them instead of growing themselves into that role. When someone expresses a desire for leadership, I don't hold their hand because that would hamstring their ability to grow into the leadership position and become the leader they want to be. Rather, I step back and support them while they take ownership of their growth, mentoring them as much as they want. But I allow them to drive the mentorship. I'm available to them, but not necessarily demanding the meetings or forcing the communication because that would make it my style, not theirs.

If the person shows no ability to grow themselves into that position, then I would either need to hold their hand and make it happen to them, or I would have to think they either do not want it or are not ready. In the former case, I'd have to consider whether they would then be appropriate for the leadership role, and in the latter, the compassionate thing to do is to let them drift back into their non-leadership role.

I was confused but I also noticed that she also was not involved much with the team either, so thought maybe she was overloaded with some work I wasn't aware etc.

Finally she announced that she went after a higher role to another department and got the job so she is moving out.

It became clear (this has been confirmed by another conversation I was part of) that her absence etc was due to her just pursuing her career plans and ignoring the team and myself.

Again, addressed elsewhere, but "not involved much with the team either" is judgemental if her involvement is simply "different than you expected/desired." The reality is that this view is probably shaded by your later experience and desire for the management role to happen to you. The role of a manager is, fundamentally, to ensure the productivity and health of her team. If her team were being productive during that time, then stepping back was likely not a negative action. The involvement of managers naturally ebbs and flows over time. If the outcome was you getting what you want, this ebb would probably be viewed as a positive thing. You told yourself the story that she was not supportive, so it fits the story that it's a negative thing.

Furthermore, if she were not as involved with the team, and you previously expressed a management desire, I have every reason to believe her (possibly unconscious) thought process was that she could give you space to fill that void while she was still manager, effectively letting you swim in the shallow end for a while while she could lifeguard. Or possibly she just thought she could lean on you while she pursued her goals because you were pursuing your goals which were in complete alignment with one another. Assume positive intent. You were literally trying to move to advance your position during this time, how could you fault her for doing the same?

Finally, on that point, I'd ask that if you saw she was not involved with the team why did you not fill that gap? Sometimes people get bogged down with work, and--as you should know if you were trying to advance your career--trying to move into a higher job while doing your job is a lot of work. Sometimes things slip. This is called "life."

Someone ready for management would say (possibly unconsciously) "There's a gap here, it's not my role to take over her job, but I can at least help fill the gaps to ensure the stability of the team and bring that information up a level." That's a critical skill. Sitting back and watching things fall apart is not how a manager behaves. If she backed off, whether intentionally or accidentally, and it damaged your team, and you just watched it happen, I'd say you're not ready for management.

I guess that's corporate life but I don't know what am I supposed to do now.

It is not clear if her position has been filled and might be looking for a replacement but I don't trust her anymore to ask on the topic and I don't know if it is a good idea to ask her skip manager and tell him about my career objectives.

I have the impression that the latter could also be a bad idea since it could be considered as negative feedback for my manager.

Again, "that's corporate life" is extremely judgemental, and puts you in a moral high position so it feels good, but remember you were trying to advance your career at the same time. That's a big stone to cast. These are the facts I see:

  1. She was positive about your intentions
  2. She gave you space to develop
  3. She allowed her role to be filled by you while she stepped back
  4. She moved onto another role thereby emptying that role for you without the threat of her competition

When I see that, I see someone who, yes, was trying to advance her career. But I also see someone who was saying "Here's a way I can help someone else advance their career at the same time." That's huge.

You don't trust her because she didn't make a promotion happen to you while you sat around waiting for her to do it for you. It looks like you have every opportunity to step right into that management role. My question is: "Why didn't you?"

What could I do?

Choose compassion instead of animosity! Congratulate her! Buy her a cup of coffee! Actually talk to her! Seek her mentorship, she obviously knows what she's doing. But know you have to drive because it doesn't happen to you. Learn to be a better senior employee. Grow yourself into a manager. Make the decisions.

Why would you "do" anything about her doing exactly what is expected of her? If you want to be a manager, it's time to grow up. Stop telling yourself stories about how mean people are when you don't get what you want. You can always write those stories in your head, and if you don't do the hard work of actual communication with other people, the facts will always support the story of other people's meanness.

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