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 cozy - 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 up-skill myself. So cozy 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 three 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:
- I carry on as-is: not likely since this is clearly my acceptance of status-quo and invitation for being taken for granted.
- Wait and see if I get the promotion. I don't like this idea (A) because I don't have anymore faith in him (B) I do not see a well justified reason as to why a less qualified candidate can be promoted now and I cannot be.
- 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.
- How do I respond to a boss who've reacted/acted in the manner described above (with regards to the performance review)
- How do I respond to him given my personal relations that I developed although considering all of it seems as a fluke now.
- How do I reason out my 'looking for a fresh opportunity' with a new employer given one year in the current role and not longer term
- 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.
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, it's about me and that I need to work hard - but of course 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, at least 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:
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)
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 the performance 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 face-time 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 went 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 at least 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 three 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 at least in this team. The promotions of those less qualified (than I, 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.