March 6, 2020 | web version What do you do if you’ve gone above and beyond your job responsibilities but your boss jumps ship and leaves your career in someone else’s hands? And what do you do if you’re the new boss? In this week’s two-minute newsletter, we talk about the reality of management changes, and how the stories we tell ourselves as employees and managers can start things off on the wrong foot. For more, check out the podcast episode where we talk about this with Caitlin Hutcherson, Technical Program Manager at Optimizely.
Consider this experience
At my previous job, I worked on projects as needed that loosely related to my official responsibilities. I loved feeling like I was making an impact. That didn't last long. I ended up having 5 bosses over 2 years, and each time I got a new boss, I had to re-establish my role. I never felt like I had a clear path forward or anybody to advocate for me. I got no raises or promotions - despite getting glowing reviews from my bosses. Because I was always re-establishing my role and relationship with a new boss I never felt empowered to ask for what I wanted - more money and a promotion. I felt powerless and deeply unhappy, and I left.
Talking about this more nuanced story in terms of what you can do to own your own development would be missing the point. More critical questions to consider might be: Why do we, as employees and managers, accept or assume that newly appointed managers initially have their hands tied? And what can we do to change that?
Managers: this is an opportunity
Waiting to build social capital before requesting promotions or compensation changes is a mistake. Moving into a new role is one of the best opportunities you will ever have to make personnel changes. The business case for raises and promotions when you start is clear: without the right team, you get nowhere fast. Talk to your stakeholders (cross-functional, direct reports, leadership) about what’s working (or not), make your assessments, and map out a course for moving forward. Then advocate for raises, promotions, and new hires as part of your plan. All at the same time. Don’t hire before taking care of the people you plan to keep first. If a direct report has a history of exceeding expectations at the company and fits into your agenda, make the case to offer this person a fair, market-rate compensation package. Be as transparent as you can with the employee, and make sure that your needs are clear. If this person doesn’t meet expectations after a few months, part ways and find someone that can. With the market rate package you’ve already negotiated for, this should be pretty easy.
Contributors: set the tone
If you’re frustrated with your career progress, don’t wait to express that to your new manager. New managers are already under scrutiny. Losing a reliable long-term employee would raise flags. Start a conversation with that leverage:
Hey Joe, I want to be transparent with you about what’s on my mind. I’ve been with this company for a couple years now, and have glowing performance reviews, but my title and compensation don’t reflect that. I deserve to feel appreciated and valued, and don’t want to delay my career any longer. I know you’re new to this role, but here’s what I would like to see in 3 months, and here’s where I see myself long term. If you’re willing to share your roadmap with me, I would love to show you exactly how I can add value and support your goals.
That last line is critical: your manager may not have a formal plan at all. Your career goes nowhere if your manager doesn’t know where things are headed. Insisting that the manager share the roadmap with you helps you proactively manage up and define how you can add value to the team and the organization. It also gives you visibility into what the manager understands to be the bigger picture, opening the door for you to provide feedback and play a more strategic role on the team.
🎧 For more, check out this week’s podcast episode with Caitlin Hutcherson, Technical Program Manager at Optimizely! And special thanks to the subscriber who shared this story.
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