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For the past four years, I have been a back end developer in a small, UK-based software development team in a large organization. I have been at this company for 7 years.

Last year, I raised several concerns with my supervisor, Alex, who was a senior developer at the time. There was a lack of training, progression opportunities, and appraisals were pushed back or no lacked feedback upon completion. He acknowledged and stated he'd look into the concerns and get back to me. I asked for feedback several times, hearing only, "we're looking at XYZ, I'll get back to you."

A few months later, Alex was promoted to senior developer manager (with very little management experience) with the provison that he continue his backend development responsibilities. A few weeks into his new job, Alex stopped doing the majority of the backend work and passed most of it (existing/new projects, bug fixes, and ad-hoc requests) to me. While I have managed to pick up the workload it added a significant amount of work for me.

I met with Alex to discuss my previous concerns, and also discuss a contract amendment to reflect my new responsibilities. Alex had told me that the concerns raised were fully justified, I'd been doing the work/role of a senior developer for several years, and I'd relieved a lot of the responsibility/pressure he was under for which he was appreciative. He said that he'd give it some thought and get back to me on next steps. I've asked for updates numerous times, receiving none.

I hoped to raise these concerns a third time at my appraisal this month, but it has been indefinitely delayed.

I have spoken to other managers asking for advice, but I am conscious to limit what I say so that it doesn't look like I'm undermining Alex.

I'm unsure what next steps I can take to try and get some meaningful feedback and guidance. While I am trying to remain professional, I'm becoming resentful about the job/Alex and struggling to muster enthusiasm for any work as I feel I'm being taken advantage of.

Is there much else I can do to try and get some appropriate feedback and action on the concerns I've raised?

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  • @JoeStrazzere Or he can be more forceful.
    – DaveG
    Oct 19 at 20:59
  • Can you clarify, "While I have managed to pick up the workload it added a significant amount of work for me", do you mean you have to work more hours a day now, or just that you backlog has changed? If it's the later, it happens all the time, stuff happens and work gets re-prioritized and added on a regular basis. Oct 19 at 23:17
  • Hmmm...as far as progression opportunities it sounds as if you're the new head of Back-end Design, right? (just w/o a title or raise) Oct 19 at 23:48
  • Wait, so in a team of 2, the Senior "left", a reduction of 50%, and you were not made a Senior? Did they hire a replacement for the headcount?
    – Nelson
    Oct 20 at 3:13
  • @AndrewSavinykh, sure, typically the work items are split 50/50. I focus on 1 or 2 major projects and Alex will do the same with but with separate projects. His role change has meant that I have had to also work on those additional 2 major projects, along with having to pick up ALL business as usual issues such as bug fixes, feature enchantments etc.
    – JWS
    Oct 20 at 7:49
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First of all, in your situation I would still assume good faith. It appears that your manager genuinely recognises your contributions and skills and wants you to do well. Unfortunately he does not really help you advance, might very well be because his lack of experience or him being overworked. What you can do is to try to both make it easy to help you by doing as many things you can do yourself already and then manage up a little bit. Things you can do on your own:

  • Ask colleagues that were promoted within the company on how their career procession went, figure out what role might be the next step
  • Check the careers website for internal and external job descriptions and see if you fit the bill anywhere
  • Ask HR or search the company wiki for the promotion process. Identify the next step that needs to be taken for a promotion and who needs to do it
  • Ask your peers for feedback about your work and how they think what you can do more do be more effective in your role. Find out know what others would say about you when they were asked by a promotion committee
  • Act on the feedback you are getting

Some things where you can do to manage up:

  • Be empathetic with his situation, acknowledge that he is busy and new to his role.
  • Tell you manager that you are ready for the next step and mention the good feedback you got from your peers.
  • Tell your manager what role you want to move into and what timeframe you think is realistic
  • Ask your manager specifically whether he thinks you are ready for the new role. If he says yes ask, ask him whether he will initiate the next step necessary from him, e.g. initiate the promotion process, suggest you for promotion to his manager etc. If neither you or him know the next step in the promotion step, the next step is him talking to his manager and ask him about it. Make him commit to a specific date. E.g. he says "beginning of next Month" ask him whether he can initiate the next step by Monday 10th
  • If your manager doesn't think you are ready for the position ask him for feedback on what is missing (after all you have all the evidence from your peers suggesting that you are doing well). Make sure the feedback comes from the actual decision makers. It isn't helpful if your get only your managers feedback, but the decision making interview committee has a very different view.
  • Tell your manager that it is important to you that you get meaningful from him and ask him when you can expect it. Make him commit to a specific date. E.g. he says "beginning of next Month" ask him whether you would have your feedback by Monday 10th
  • If you don't do it yet, write a summary of the meetings with your manager and send him a copy. Make sure it contains any commitments from his or your side.
  • Keep reminding your manager of his commitments

This should lead to manager give you some kind of response, and if not at least you have some evidence that he is not doing his job, which will allow you to go over his head, but hopefully this is not needed. Be prepared that this will lead to another outcome than you hope for, that is you get feedback that you are not ready. It can be very frustrating to push for an answer for several month, only to hear that you are not ready. But as long as you get concrete feedback on why you are not ready, you should see it as a success: You have made the next step to a promotion and the ball is back in your field. Don't get demotivated and keep pushing.

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  • 1
    Lots of good suggestions here and plenty I can act upon. You're correct in your assumption of good faith, perhaps I have not been specific enough in this situation, especially as he is new to management. I especially like placing deadlines on feedback. I'm going to vote this as the correct answer, as I think both suggestions of managing the situation and seeking advice from various resources will help clarify whether I'm being fobbed off or there are actual solutions are my current employers.
    – JWS
    Oct 19 at 14:11
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    The only thing I'd add to this is to give yourself a deadline for when you will move on if you don't get the promotion, regardless of what excuses Alex gives. Whether Alex is struggling to help or just doesn't care to, you can't wait around forever. It's an excellent time to switch jobs, don't waste that opportunity by waiting on this manager forever.
    – Kat
    Oct 20 at 18:41
  • @JWS This is not good faith. Good faith is when Alex comes back to you with an appropriate promotion and raise, or else with the news that management will not see reason, and says he'll give you a glowing recommendation. In business, the only recognition of your contributions that means anything is money. Anything else, they're taking you for a sucker and they know it. Kind words are nice, but they're only sincere if they come with money. This is a financial arrangement, first last and always. Oct 20 at 18:43
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You've already got your answer multiple time. It's "no".

Or more precise: "you are not enough of a flight risk to warrant career development or raises". Either because Alex thinks you are easily replaceable or you are not going to walk over this.

It's time to polish your resume and start looking. Maybe there is different role in the same company, but you probably will need to look somewhere else. Once you have some traction and are fairly confident you can land a new job you can make one more attempt

Hi Alex. We've been talking about my next career step for years now and nothing has come of it even though I've taken on a lot more responsibility and work. It would help me a lot if we could agree on a plan with specific actions, metrics, timelines and milestones that we can track properly. Do you agree?

Then take your cues from your his answer.

3
  • 10
    "you are not enough of a flight risk to warrant career development or raise" - This is a fair assumption, I've been at the company since I graduated from University. I think Alex probably assumes I'll be patient on the matter rather than he could easily replace me. He has mentioned numerous times that the backend team would be in trouble if I were to leave, and that he categorically doesn't want that to happen. I was offered a role with a client that we were working with, but unfortunately I'd turned it down, based on the promises made in the previous conversations.
    – JWS
    Oct 19 at 13:39
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    @JWS your comment sheds further light on it. Alex is trying to get you to feel guilty for even thinking of leaving. Nothing will change as long as you work for that company, unfortunately you need to search elsewhere. And don't give Alex the heads up, he will either try to guilt trip you, drag it out or simply fire you. Don't say anything until you've got a written signed contract from your next employer.
    – Polygorial
    Oct 19 at 22:26
  • This really seems like the best answer. It's probably not Alex's fault, and he probably does appreciate your work. But this seems to be how companies are operating these days. They do not want to promote anyone.
    – ribs2spare
    Oct 20 at 14:34
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I am not sure what "feedback" you want from the concerns you are raising. In general I think what you really want is something to happen. Perhaps you want some training. Perhaps you want a raise. Perhaps you want to feel that the company cares about your career and is willing to invest (in various ways) to make you better at your job. Some of these wants are reasonable and some are not. But it's not surprising to me that Alex is not getting around to them. Managers are busy and some do not understand the importance of making time for things like reviews.

You can make Alex's job easier by asking for smaller and more specific things. Not "I think I should get some training" but "here is a course on XYZ being offered [time, place etc] for this price. Can I sign up for it? Will the company cover the travel costs?" Not "I would like an appraisal" but "I think it's time I had a raise." Not "I am concerned about a lack of career progression" but "I think I would like a junior developer I can mentor" or "I would like a promotion to [whatever Alex used to be, or team lead, or whatever.]

In addition to making it easier for Alex to give you what you want, a list of small, crisp desires will make it easier for you to see if this job is meeting your needs, and to evaluate other jobs you may consider taking. A vague blobby thing like "training" or "career progression" is tough to evaluate. A specific thing like a list of topics you want to learn, conferences you want to attend, opportunities you want to be offered: you can run down it like a checklist and see which things you are getting. Putting the time in to know what you want will increase the chances that Alex gives you those things, but will serve you well in other ways as well.

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  • You're not wrong in saying "I want something to happen", but I think if someone is directly under your leadership and you don't provide ANY feedback for numerous discussions then that is unprofessional and I'm justified in feeling unhappy at a lack of response. While I hadn't made it clear in the post re. training, I had asked specifically about course XYZ or doing my postgraduate degree. I do really like your idea about creating a list of small list of desires, and I will definitely be taking that on board, thank you! Some good advice here. :)
    – JWS
    Oct 19 at 13:44
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    Sure, many managers are not very good. New ones especially may be coping with a lot of demands: they are going to tackle the job-critical ones first, then the ones from those above them, and eventually the ones from those below them. The easier you make it for Alex, the more likely it is to happen -- or the more likely you are to realize Alex isn't going to be able to do what you want. Oct 19 at 14:48
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You have a lot of concerns. I'll focus on one.

You are doing the work of a senior developer and not getting the position or title. Your manager recognizes this, and the review process is an endless hamster-wheel of "it will happen one day".

You also seem to have a good relationship with your manager and want to keep working there. The existing process has not delivered on what you want in a timely manner. There is basically one faint hope.

You need to schedule a meeting with your manager, calmly raise the issue, and state that this is simply taking too long. You understand that processes are hard, and sympathize. And while you enjoy working here and enjoy your job, unless something concrete and substantial happens in the next handful of weeks, you are going to have to start applying elsewhere for a job that reflects your current skills and accomplishments.

Stress this isn't goodbye, yet. Nor is it an ultimatum; your choice was to bring it up with your manager, or just do it, and you figured your manager deserved the heads-up. You aren't angry or upset. But you can't stay in this limbo forever. And you hope that if the process can't manage what is needed, you can use them as a reference.

Keep working at your job. Do good work. But at the same time, allocate an hour a day to polishing up your resume. When finished, start sending it out. If you get a good bite, go interview. In the interview, be clear about your salary expectations and position you want; when asked about your current job, answer honestly that you are looking for new challenges and advancement.

The results could be

  1. Your manager continues to be able to not deliver
  2. Your manager delivers
  3. Your manager gets angry and fires or undermines you

3 seems unlikely given your current relationship, and would be a sign of a toxic manager.

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  • This doesn't seem like a good idea. If you give them the hint that you're thinking of leaving over this, they might let you go immediately. I've seen it happen. Never even suggest such a thing until you have an appealing offer in hand that you can either take or use as leverage.
    – ribs2spare
    Oct 20 at 14:35
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    @ribs2spare Yes, a toxic boss may respond to any hint of "look you promised X, I need X, and you aren't delivering. I will start looking for another job shortly if you continue to not deliver on the promise." with firing you. The OP happens to be a software developer in the UK, where getting a software development job isn't exactly hard. And honestly, if the only way to get your current job to deliver on its promises is another job offer (which they suddenly can fullfill the promises?!) get the hell out of your current job.
    – Yakk
    Oct 20 at 14:40
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    The threat to leave is a really bad idea. Never threaten to leave. Tell him that you love working there, but you deserve a raise and a promotion. He already knows that if you're sufficiently unhappy, you'll eventually leave (and before that, your morale will collapse and you'll do poor work). An explicit ultimatum is always a bad idea with a manager or employer, because you're trying to push him around. Don't try to push him around. Ask him to help you. The two are pretty much isomorphic in this case, but only one of them antagonizes and alienates the guy whose help you need. Oct 20 at 18:52
  • And yeah, it's probably a lost cause. But while you're polishing your resume and contacting recruiters, give the guy one last chance. Oct 20 at 18:52

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