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Last year I started an opportunity with a well known company (fortune 100) with much excitement since it was THE JOB I was looking for after my graduation from business school (I bring prior domain oriented work experience). I interviewed with the partner (the 'company' is actually a partnership) and was hired straightaway since he mentioned how much he liked my resume/experience and how he was looking to grow the business/team as he himself had recently joined the firm. Slowly, over the year the team has grown to a two dozen people of various ranks.

My relationship with the partner seemed, until now, very cosy - he always treated with much respect and has always seemed invested in my personal growth/career guiding me at each occasion to do better and upskill myself. So cosy that I have visited his house many a times and am very familiar with his family etc.

Another part of this equation is another guy (similar age group) but with no prior corporate experience (worked for small startups) and none of which was relevant to the firm. This individual is a very close friend of the partner and had always been shown around to others as the "right hand" man of the partner by the partner himself. Most people in the team understood this distinction. Without doubt this was a personal preference which nobody has openly opposed or questioned including myself.

As we went through the process of annual appraisal recently, the partner while citing that I had made improvements per his suggestions/feedback over the course of the year, mentioned that he downgraded my mid-year rating one notch for the overall performance.

When i questioned him about various aspects of the discussion and in particular the rating process, he mentioned how he had little bargaining power with respect to how many people could be rated top performers etc. and that he was able to only squeeze through 'a couple of promotions'.Not surprisingly, the 'right hand man' was one of those guys. Another guy who started 3 months ago was also handed in a promotion - both of these guys my age group, lesser qualification (I hold a graduate degree) and no more of work experience (one of them as I mentioned with no prior relevant work experience).

Naturally, I was very stunned at this revelation. Throughout the year, I had been a very vocal supporter of the partner's vision for the team so much so that he compared me with the Godfather character Luca Brasi !

The partner, to this day, seemed like a very honest, humble and a reliable person and remains intellectually smart nonetheless. These were the very reasons I had decided to opt for this opportunity in his team, but suddenly everything seems to have been a fluke all along.

I told him, without pointing a finger at the other two, that I did not feel that there was anyone else more qualified than myself for the sort of business we carry out at my level/stature and that I surely feel I undersold myself to the firm at my current designation. He mentioned that he will push to get me promoted 'next year'.

Very honestly, I do not trust him anymore. I do not have the same level of respect I had for him until the moment he revealed all that to me. I do not wish to carry out the same level of loyalty like I did previously. During the conversation, he also happened to mention that he never begged for a promotion in his life. While initially I ignored that comment, rethinking about the conversation makes me feel as if it was directed towards me. Either way, I don't have similar emotions for him anymore.

That being said, my options are:

  1. I carry on as-is : not likely since this is clearly my acceptance of status-quo and invitation for being taken for granted.
  2. Wait and see if I get the promotion. I don't like this idea 1.) because I don't have anymore faith in him 2.)I do not see a well justified reason as to why a less qualified candidate can be promoted now and I cannot be.
  3. I go look for another job. How do I tell the new employer why I'm looking for another job and why I couldn't get a promotion here. I just cannot make myself lie (i.e. I really want people to know how badly I have been treated)

I'm pretty furious from within about such a treatment because this was the last thing I was expecting. This has clearly taken away my trust in being a dedicated loyal employee. I also want to challenge this "injustice" but I feel it will be go in vain since ultimately, him being a partner - he can do whatever he wants.

Questions:

  1. How do I respond to a boss who've reacted/acted in the manner described above(with regards to the performance review)
  2. How do I respond to him given my personal relations that I developed although considering all of it seems as a fluke now.
  3. How do I reason out my 'looking for a fresh opportunity' with a new employer given 1 year in the current role and not longer term
  4. Should I clearly state why I am looking for a new role ? i.e. state I was overlooked for a promotion for a deceitful boss?

I truly welcome thoughts from others who've dealt with similar experiences or anyone with some thoughtful suggestions/ideas.

Update:

Thank you everyone for your comments/reviews. While these are valuable insights and perspectives that I sought, I'd like to clarify for those in similar situation that calls for "its about you" and "work hard" and "stop being jealous" and "get over yourself" are typically thrown at those at the receiving end because the tendency of the audience to invariably view the one seeking remedy as the one serious lacking capabilities is very common. Sure, its about me and that I need to work hard - but ofcourse I did, only that the rating does not in the end reflect it and that is essentially the issue here. It's difficult to be jealous of incompetent people, atleast for me. But it is very appropriate, in my eyes, to do a peer-comparison to evaluate yourself and your career in a team/company -impossible to ignore the other individual when it is all about team work and when the ratings are driven by the notion of percentiles of people (see the plural form) being graded at a certain level. People often fail to genuinely recognize the issue, capabilities, skills and align it with the futuristic view of how a business needs to be run. These are some of the primary traits of failed leadership, in my opinion.

That being said, the way I seek to resolve this is:

  1. Have an open conversation with the boss at some point. I'm still
    evaluating how to have a conversation with controlled emotion, given that my relationship with the boss was not so much that of a "lap dog" but more like a friend/mentor, given how the relationship has evolved since its inception. He has, on multiple times indicated, that he wishes to keep me on his team, mentor me and help me grow since he sees significant potential in me. All this was said prior to what was revealed at the performance review (a one notch downgrade in rating despite, in his own words, my successful attempt at accepting his feedback and making the necessary changes)

  2. One bitten, twice shy. I certainly don't feel that I carry the same level of trust as I did previously. Ultimately, no one else will have as much investment in my goodwill as myself. So, I'm going to evaluate the best possible path for me going forward - and hope to do so very objectively !

Thanks for everyone's input again - there are multiple answers that I like but I cannot uptick all unfortunately.

Update 2018: I'd like to post this update so others who may be in similar situations and those who judged and/or fairly assessed this situation and responded know the next phase of this story:

Since I first asked this question, I decided to hold onto the job and give the partner/company and the job another chance.

The year after this appraisal in question, I was promoted. To put it in perspective - my performance in that year, in my opinion, was much less critical (i worked on low impact projects, mostly with folks/teams other than my own - meaning my facetime with the Partner was lesser than the year prior where I worked with him, for him and delivered high impact projects) and yet a promotion go through. The same year, the other individual in question got a successive promotion (a rank higher than me). I'd reiterate here - this is not about jealousy, but about fairness, nepotism and cronyism that I see on a daily basis and something I am strongly opposed to. I'm not the only one who observes this - there is atleast one other team member who has opened up to me about this. That team member has similar background as I do (age group, qualification, experience etc.)

This also has got more to do with trust and relationship (the Partner has said a few things to me over the years since I've taken this job - "Love you like a brother", "You have more industry knowledge than others", "There are not many like you out there" etc. etc.).

With such emotions in play and the verbal appreciation that was communicated both formally and informally, the real challenge becomes distinguishing real emotions versus not so real ones. Perhaps a lesson that I keep on learning (and forgetting) is that 100% trust at workplace is not good.

Another aspect that I've observed over the last 3 years since taking this job is that the Boss (and his circle of trust that he has created) is focused on furthering his career (and rightly so) and visibility in the firm. And to that effect, he appears to have chosen those who would agree/listen to him blindly. Unfortunately, my blunt personality and approach (to have open conversations) is not required/appreciated atleast in this team. The promotions of those less qualified (than me, and I continue to maintain this belief) has come about due to constant visibility the folks were provided to the upper ranks. Who was made visible and how is entirely in the hands of my Boss (this leads to another topic of positional authority and the rampant abuse of it in the corporate world).

Nevertheless, I wanted to provide an update (and a sense of discovery on my part since the last time i posted here) for the benefit of others. Hopefully this adds to this conversation.

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    I'm sorry, but I'm struggling to find an answerable question in your detailed background story. – Jane S Sep 10 '15 at 4:37
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    "How do I tell the new employer why I'm looking for another job and why I couldn't get a promotion here. I just cannot make myself lie (i.e. I really want people to know how badly I have been treated)" - There are similar questions on this site (search for 'reasons for leaving'). When you interview, don't be negative about your current employer. This is not "lying". You could just say something straight like "limited opportunity for advancement at current employer". – Brandin Sep 10 '15 at 5:35
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    Suggestion - get over yourself. Injustice, fluke now, deceitful? None of that happened - you simply did not get rated as high. Tone down the emotions and just do your job. – paparazzo Sep 10 '15 at 7:24
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    Not sure how to say this politely: It's hard for me to imagine a professional environment where the "Luca Brasi" comparison would be considered a compliment. Luca Brasi was loyal alright but also a ruthless and brutal killer with limited intelligence. That's a deeply disturbing comment, and it might be useful to reflect on this a bit and try find out what it really means, – Hilmar Sep 10 '15 at 13:29
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    Honestly, it looks like you just learned lesson number one about the corporate world. After you're hired no one cares about what you did in the past or about whatever your qualifications are. They care about what you are doing now. You say you had a great personal relationship with the partner, but how does that help the company? You don't mention how your contributions stack up against the others that got promoted and it seems at least one of them had a similar relationship to the boss as you. – Jake Sep 10 '15 at 14:20
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You've made some mistakes in this position and probably the best thing you can do is to learn from it.

Transparency You didn't realize your boss wasn't being completely open and honest with you. It was to his benefit to not tell you about the limited number of possible promotions. You would have realized you had no shot a lot sooner.

Evaluation When you start to work for a new person/company, you need to have a conversation about: What do I need to do to get the promotion, rating, bonus, etc. I want? And second, How will that be determined? And finally, how and how often will this be conveyed to me? Annual bonus systems suffer greatly in many of these areas. Did you even see the evaluation form before the meeting?

Your Worth You always should be looking for another job. Sometimes you put more energy into it than others. Go on interviews. If someone needs you, they won't care that you're leaving your current job so soon. See what your offers are and decide if you want to leave. You may want to have another conversation with your boss about your situation. Of course he'll hide behind the company' rules and tell you there's nothing he can do about it, but that's because he probably won't try. Then again, it may be easier to ask to give you a raise instead of finding another candidate.

  • Thanks JeffO - I definitely value you comment since retracing the steps, I never particularly questioned the promotion process. I relied on verbal indications as all along the boss suggested he was turning the two of us (me and the other individual) into him by investing in us. Somewhere along the way, I obviously was put aside without me gauging that. Money wise, he said he has some leeway so I'm waiting to hear on the financial reward. However, a promotion was something I thought I deserved since I, after being with the firm 1 year, realized that I had undersold myself to the firm at outset – Freewill Sep 10 '15 at 16:29
  • Promotions come in response to the work you're doing, and have nothing to do with your having undersold yourself. (Or shouldn't.) You get promoted, generally, when you've shown you can sustain working at the level the higher title represents. Make a positive impact and promotions will occur, eventually. Muddle along just doing what your current title calls for and they may not. – keshlam Sep 10 '15 at 23:28
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I am going to answer this just based on the info in your very long question...

You describe yourself as a "Yes Man" a lap dog really. No where in the question is there any meat to why you are actually mad or what you did for the company. Standing behind the partner's vision and being loyal should be an expected quality of any employee, especially someone at a higher level.

Your performance review is based on your performance not what level of buddies you are with your friend. Also it has nothing to do with your past education or "experience". Very well your company could hire a high school drop out with no experience that would out perform 90% of the other employees.

How do you react? Perform better. Ask him what you need to work on and do a better job.

Your personal relationship? The fact that you feel entitled to a great review by being a friend and work lap dog has probably wore on your friend and pushed him over the edge. You have probably made him feel so uncomfortable that he just really wants nothing to do with you now. How do you fix this? Take your work more serious and quit focusing on that you are friends with the boss. There is very little chance that a boss can hang out with an underachieving employee.

Other opportunities? I would start looking. Unless you think you can flip a 180 and start contributing how they want you to I think a fresh start is better than your current situation. And no you obviously don't talk about your boss. Because chances are the hiring manager will have the same reaction that I did after listening to you.

  • Thanks blankip. I think perhaps you're right. Maybe the fact that I truly believed in him and became a proponent of his vision came across as a 'Yes Man'. But honestly, this was not because I was 'sucking up' to him but more so because he genuinely sold himself to me and the rest of the team as being a not-so-typical-leader. – Freewill Sep 10 '15 at 11:53
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    Also, my review was bad not because I have underperformed in comparison to my peers (in his words) but just because 'he didn't have enough bargaining chips to push through promotions' - to me that sounds like preferential treatment for those he considers better 'lap dogs' and not necessarily qualified. A banker cannot be doctor but he remains unqualified for the sort of work being done. – Freewill Sep 10 '15 at 11:56
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    So you are completely right and he gives promotions based on who he likes the most and you aren't in his top 5 anymore. Meaning maybe you got the job and pay and past promotions based on this unfair process not your qualifications. Now that the rigged schema isn't working for you, you complain? What did you expect? On the other hand he is probably just he didn't have the bargaining chips because he didn't want to tell you that you aren't performing. Either scenario is really really bad. – blankip Sep 10 '15 at 16:48
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How do I respond to a boss who've reacted/acted in the manner described above(with regards to the performance review)

You already responded by saying "I did not feel that there was anyone else more qualified than myself". He heard it. So no further response is needed.

How do I respond to him given my personal relations that I developed although considering all of it seems as a fluke now.

It seems that you over-estimated the personal relationship you had with him. Now you know better. There is no need for any further "response".

How do I reason out my 'looking for a fresh opportunity' with a new employer given 1 year in the current role and not longer term

If you really feel that you must act this dramatically, then just go ahead and find your next job. (Accept your new job offer before resigning from your current position.) If challenged during an interview, you could explain that you were "passed over for a promotion you strongly felt you deserved".

But tread carefully here. Trying to offer constructive criticism here - your words (fluke, furious, injustice, deceitful) come across as a high-maintenance individual, one who would feel spurned if things don't go your way all the time. That's not an attitude you want to project to a potential employer.

Try to calm down before interviewing, and try to avoid taking this situation so personally. This is business. Not everyone gets promoted. Often the reasons for promotions aren't clear. So it goes.

Should I clearly state why I am looking for a new role ? i.e. state I was overlooked for a promotion for a deceitful boss?

It's not clear from what you have written if your boss was being deceitful, or if you just misread the situation.

While being "overlooked for a promotion" is understandable as a reason to leave, you might wish to avoid focusing on the perceived attributes of your boss and co-workers.

  • Thanks Joe. To your comment about high maintenance. I think my reaction to this is strong simply because this relationship was never employer-employee/manager-subordinate. He himself admitted one of the days when I met him at his house that he never treats me as an employee and that he loves working with me etc. etc. When someone offers such strong feelings - it becomes difficult to ignore such "dedication" to a relationship. Ofcourse, none of that appears true anymore (hence I used 'fluke' to describe it) – Freewill Sep 10 '15 at 13:57
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You are taking things too personally. In business there are always limits on the number of high performers who can be rewarded. This is normal and ordinary and has more to do with budgets than anything else. Your boss feels the other two deserve a promotion more than you do. That is what you need to understand. Whether you have more qualifications on paper is irrelevant, he is more impressed with their actual work or their ability to make their accomplishments visible. So you have to fix that. You also probably need to do some reading on office politics and how to make yourself more visible in the workplace.

Since you don't mention any actual accomplishments, that may be part of your problem. Another part might be your tendency to over react (based on what you wrote) which is entirely inappropriate in the business world. Business is business, you need to stop taking it personally.

You will win some and lose some through your whole career. Departing every time you don't get your way like a 5-year old having a tantrum is not good for your career. You need to learn to cope with failures or disappointments and keep doing your job. Lots of people passed over for promotions get them later as they decide to improve whatever was holding them back or as the additional slot becomes available.

  • thanks HLGEM - understood your point. I certainly don't know 'office politics' all that well, I admit that. I'm just not keen on it. Sure, the other two are involved with a 'high profile' project run by the boss himself and I haven't been part of it. Its his first big project since he joined and he is heavily focused on making it a success. Perhaps, you're right on the dot that their accomplishments have overshadowed mine (I just haven't sold them) – Freewill Sep 10 '15 at 14:24
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    The high profile projects almost always get the higher rewards. That is just life. – HLGEM Sep 10 '15 at 14:33
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    Learn to jump at the opportunity to work on higher-impact tasks. (I'm still learning this, 30ish years into my career.) – keshlam Sep 10 '15 at 23:24

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