Working your way out of a promotion

Career_in_a_Box[1]He was a tireless worker, delivering results above and beyond the call of duty. He was one of the top sales people; a legend in the sales organization. He boasted about the number of hours spent on the job and the number of customer calls made. He wanted to impress management with his work ethic, unyielding dedication to the job and the company. However, his managers were arriving at a startling conclusion. Whereas, they marveled at his drive, stamina and dedication, they were worried about his self-imposed workload; they could not risk promoting him to be a manager.

Jack thought he was impressing people in power, but he was sabotaging his career. Managers speak about greater production and engagement. He had both of these attributes at very high levels. Prevailing wisdom said, “There is no way we can make him a manager. He would expect others to work as hard as he does. He would kill people or chase them away.”

The management team also thought that it would be hard to replace his production. He was performing the work of two people. He was inadvertently destined to become an “individual contributor,” for as long as he was an employee. The individual contributor label made it virtually impossible for him to shed for it meant he was not seen as management material. Jack was ambitious. This moniker was devastating to him. He tried several tactics to change the reputation he had earned. His strategy was to model his behavior after other hard-working superstars. He had to answer questions, “What was hard work?” and “What was excessive?”

In today’s marketplace, he would not stand out as much, because everyone is being asked to do more with less and to allow their job to encroach upon their personal space. Nonetheless, people are still being denied promotions because of an excessive work ethic and perceived lack of flexibility. The advice received by Jack and others like him can be useful for workaholics and other ambitious employees.

Work / life balance

Convey a balanced life when discussing your home life while at work. If it is appropriate to talk about personal matters, you can disclose information about family activities. Discussion about involvement in school functions or the athletic pursuits of your family are fair game. Information about your hobbies and weekend recreation, as well as religious and community involvement shows you are a well-rounded person. If you are single, you can still demonstrate your interests in extra-work activities, to project someone who is more than an employee.

Employers want people who are dedicated and engaged on the job, but they also want people who have full lives, because in the end they make more productive employees.


Individual contributors can demonstrate their leadership skills through their social interactions and civic duties. Discussing these matters at work gives you a chance to showcase leadership skills and instincts. Consulting with your managers about managerial scenarios in your church, associations or civic work can help people become comfortable with your work ethic and empathy for others. You can discuss leadership books and online programs and ask to attend seminars on your own time to project your interest.

Additionally, you may find it prudent to divert some of the effort and energy into projects outside of work to give you a greater sense of purpose and significance. Volunteer activities are useful on your internal and external resume. They also help you expand your social and professional network.

Candid Career Conversations

Career discussions with your manager and mentors will uncover instances of over powering your management with tales of sacrifice to complete a task. It may be wise to tone down some of the stories about late night projects and spending weekends to over produce. The time stamp on e-mail messages may also signal working at unreasonable hours. Allow your record to speak for itself. Even though you may be a workaholic, you do not want to brag about it. People have been known to think, “Why won’t he get a life?” “The job is all he has.” “She doesn’t have a family, so she can afford to give all of her time to work.”

A powerful work ethic is desired in an employee. Management strives to fill their teams with individuals matching this profile. However, you do not want to stunt your career growth because you represent an image that causes your managers to believe you would subject everyone to draconian, unrealistic and unrelenting standards in performing their jobs. They fear you will chase employees away and damage the morale and engagement levels of whatever team you are assigned to manage. If you do not address these concerns, you may not fulfill your career objectives to achieve a management position.

Copyright © 2013 Orlando Ceaser

5 Symptoms your Employer is Cheating on you or Thinking about it

There are symptoms that point to an employee losing favor in the eyes of an employer. If you are paying attention, the breadcrumbs will lead you back to their original intentions. Also, as in any relationship, the people around are the first to see the symptoms that something is wrong.

We are creatures of habit and have a tendency to emit clues. You should always look for feedback and indicators on how well you are performing on the job and be able to spot the precise moment when things are drifting off course. If you are quick to respond, you may be able to up your game through an intervention. For example you may get training in an area to increase a particular skill. Or if the case is hopeless, engineer a soft landing where you can land on your feet in a better situation.

There are instances where organization indicates they are looking for someone else as a temporary or permanent replacement. You must be aware of these symptoms to protect yourself. You may have to lash out in self defense if your stability is threatened. There are at least 5 symptoms to indicate there is trouble in paradise. Your employer is either cheating on your or thinking about it.

1.    Interviewing your replacement

They bring someone from the outside as a consultant and ask you to train them. This is innocent enough until you find out they are gunning for your job. You train them, but realize they are looking at your strengths and weaknesses and may be taking them back to your boss. You ask the right questions, but there is not a lot of transparency around the person’s next job and why they were hired in the first place. Your co-workers give you their point of view which is to essentially watch your back.

Eventually, you decide the company is grooming your replacement behind your back, not as part of transparency associated with succession planning. You have to decide what to do which means to gain insight into how you are perceived within the organization and think of an alternative route outside of the company. You cannot afford to be career naive when it is true, other people want your job.

2.    Broken Promises

Your boss promised you a position and gave you extra work to prepare you for the transition to the new role. This causes you to get your hopes up high and work harder. What is unknown to you is they have no plans to give you the assignment. They brought in someone, whom you find out through the grapevine was promised the same job. How do you respond? It is a delicate situation. Should you confront your boss about the rumors or the grapevine laden conspiracy? It is appropriate to ask for a meeting to ask about your performance and if you are on course to assume the promised assignment. There response will determine your next move. I believe in expecting the best, yet preparing for the worst. This mindset will enable you to be very professional if things don’t go your way.

3.    Change their disposition toward you

You begin to detect a change in your bosses’ reaction to you. For some reason they become aloof and unavailable. You internalize the reaction and wonder what you have done wrong. You instantly think it is work related and begin to work harder and longer hours, but there is no change. You want to ask if you have done something wrong, but it may not be you.  Promotional decisions are sometimes changed by Upper Management. If your boss promised you the job, but headquarters or his boss thinks it should go to someone else, they are between a rock and a hard place. A true leader will sit down and talk to you, but their hands may be tied. Some leaders will tell you that the decision is no longer in their hands and leave it at that. A transparent leader may say, this particular job is off the table, but they will work with you on the next available position.

If your supervisor told you the whole story, you may confront his manager and put your boss in jeopardy. Many managers will dodge their responsibility by finding fault in your performance.

  • Suddenly you can’t do anything right. The amount of critiques escalate, even when you do things the way they taught you to do them
  • Reduction in your rating without warning – you need to improve, but they can’t tell you how or why… They will know it when they see it is their response

4.    Unprecedented candor

Some Managers have a reputation for not providing feedback until or unless something is wrong with your performance. There is a raging debate in managerial sectors about the level of transparency around career upward mobility.  Some would prefer to hold back information that indicates that you have reached your peak and have gone as far as you can ascend in the organization. One reason for reluctance is the subjective nature of many of these opinions. Management could change and the new manager may see untapped potential, so they are reluctant to give the definitive word on your career possibilities. However, if your manager would like to replace you with a newer or a different model they will not hold back. They will:

  • Let you know that the promotion or position you aspire to will not be given to you in the future.
  • You are told you have gone as far as you can go and if you want to stay at your current level the job is yours
  • They may suggest that you are safe for now, but at some point they may decide you are blocking a position which could be a primary training ground for another upwardly mobile employee

You know when someone has made up their mind about you, but they will not tell you the truth. They hope you will quit, thereby making it easy on them. They try to make it hard on you so it is difficult for you to stay. You have to keep your performance fresh and in shape through continuous improvement and exercising your mind.

5.    Rewriting your job description

A common means to displace or replace an employee that a company wants to leave or take out of contention for a key role is to rewrite their job description. This new and improved job description contains education requirements, experiences and duties that you do not currently perform. They tell you they are upgrading the job to attract better talent in the future when the job becomes vacant. Sometimes they ask you to start writing the job description if one is not currently on file. Once the job description is rewritten the company may announce a downsizing and the new job description will be the basis for the interviews. You find yourself in a position where you are interviewing for your job. They bring in candidates from the outside whose experiences and education match the new standard. 

It is imperative in this competitive marketplace to always strive for excellence and elevating your performance. You may be in style today, but it is imperative for you to keep up with the knowledge and technological skills necessary to compete. It is reasonable for a company to want the best employee for their jobs. As long as you are growing, your familiarity, intellectual knowledge and intellectual property should give you the inside track. However, you must be observant in case you run into these 5 symptoms which is indicative that your employer is bored, has a wandering eye and is looking around and holding auditions for your replacement. 

Copyright ©2012 Orlando Ceaser

A Crisis in Creativity

Growing up in a city provided many opportunities to engage in creative play. Television was not a major part of our lives and we did not have computers, smart phones and video games. However, we had our imagination and constantly challenged ourselves to do something new and different. We did not say we were looking to be more creative, but we were always looking for ways to fill our time with enjoyable activities. These earlier actions and activities prepared us for a business word where new ideas were part of our modus operandi.

One day my son said to me, in this technological driven world that he was bored. I instinctively responded, “If you are bored, it is your fault.” I went on to elaborate. “You have a brain. It is the same kind of brain that inspired Einstein and a host of famous inventors and entertainers. “I told him about the many games we played and the fact that we made our own toys to stay busy and creative. I advised him to use that beautiful brain and think himself out of boredom or live with the guilt. Needless to say he was not impressed. But reflecting on this area of creativity revealed the crisis that exists in many areas of our lives. Creativity used to be the way we filled our days and solved our problems, and it must, once again play a role in our lives.

Sameness, popularity and assimilation have caused us to abandon alternative creative options. In pharmaceutical product development we went through a phase where tweaking the features of a molecule was the preferred route. Rather than the long creative product development cycle of arriving at a new compound, opted for the convenience to make it once a day. We changed the delivery mechanism from tablet to capsule to liquid, whichever gave us a marketable competitive advantage. These products were called me-to drugs. We had moved away from creativity, to settle for what was safe and comfortable.

Popular television shows, such as situation comedies, news programs and reality shows were instantly copied. There is a surge in sequels and previously successful programs and formulas that have been updated for a new generation. I have lived through countless versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Cinderella and The Three Musketeers. The 3 Stooges have returned to the big screen, as I write this blog. We are taught to assimilate more than to differentiate. Follow the proven formula is the safe way to success rather than develop something new, different and risky.

I spoke to a young man who had his jeans sagging beneath his buttocks. We determined this to be a way of creative expression and individuality. I admired his desire to be fresh and creative but, reminded him that it did not reflect his individuality, because a number of people were doing it. Of all the creative things he could think of, if the only thing that came to mind was to drop his pants, we had a crisis in creativity.

 What is missing from our lives and education, which can account for this crisis in creativity? We did not have formal classes on creativity when we were in school. However, we seemed to have time for extensive play that enabled us to think and create for ourselves. Companies like W.H. Gore are giving employees time to think and play at work to regain some of this creative spirit.

As children we had the seeds of creativity planted and nurtured in us. Or at least the environment allowed us to cultivate and harvest our dreams and intuition. We also;

  • Read more which gave our imagination a chance to roam, as we visited different worlds in our minds
  • We played more and invented our own games with simple resources and good ideas
  • We made some our own toys to supplement those we got from stores
  • We role played different sketches and scenarios that we created on the spot
  • We spent in museums, parks, zoos and field trips
  • We experimented in science classes and participated in arts, music, band and chorus (That’s why I am troubled when schools talk of eliminating these from their curriculum because of budgets. We will pay the price later and we may be paying it now.)
  • We studied, but we played a lot – sometimes we played more than we studied
  • We wrote stories, poetry and plays

A classic video program by Dewitt Jones is “Everyday Creativity” mentions the need to break the pattern, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and that there is more than one right answer. These thoughts can help us to frame our minds to look for that which is new and different to enhance our lives. We can also, pass this way of thinking on to our children. This would encourage them to blend creativity with technology to continue to change the world.

We were constantly stimulated and encouraged to read and think for ourselves. We wanted to be in the “In” crowd, but we also wanted to stand out and be special. Being creative was a way we could achieve results that made us the center of attention. The sum of all of these stimuli and inputs influenced our think and caused us to look creatively to solve the problems in front of us. Celebrating the diversity of our talents and experiences will allow us to unleash the virtually untapped creativity within each of us. This will help us eradicate the crisis in creativity that appears to be infiltrating many sections of our work and play.

Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser