Internal Promotions: My Manager Won’t Release Me

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have been job hunting for the best part of a year and have been in my current role since July 2011. I came in to this role as an external recruit, after a failed attempt to fill the position internally. I recall my now Manager, offering me the position and in the next breath reassuring me about the many development opportunities that this organisation offered. I recall it vividly as I thought it was very strange that he was already mentioning the next possible role before I had even started.  At the time I had replied ‘That’s good to know, but let me focus on doing well at this role first.

200294162-001The first denial
Unfortunately, when the time finally came, I found that my Manager was not willing to deliver on his assurances. About a year and a half in to the role, a consultant in the business approached my Manager and asked whether I could go on a 6-month secondment to work with him on a major project. This project was an enterprise-wide initiative that would have afforded me great exposure to decision makers, external regulators and legislation. My Manager turned it down on the spot, citing that I would be more valuable in my current role, and only told me about the conversation afterwards.

In our organisation, Managers have the right to veto their employee’s secondment opportunities however have no choice to release them for permanent promotions. So I thought to myself, perhaps he wasn’t aware that I desire new opportunities and therefore did not think that I would want to be considered.  I attempted to rectify this by advising him that I was feeling like I was stagnating in my current role and that I am seeking a new challenge, one that would strengthen my technical, rather than soft skills.

The second denial
Just before Christmas last year, I was approached by the area that was to absorb the business as usual functions of the project that I had initially been invited to work on. They offered me a secondment and proceeded to seek the permission of my Manager. Again, my Manager flatly refused the opportunity, this time citing that he was ‘looking out for me’ because if the area really wanted to hire me they would offer me a permanent position.

By this time, I had spent the year in a role that no longer challenged me and had missed out on two promising opportunities. It really is a catch 22 for employees. Often the best opportunities are within your organisation because you have developed a strong reputation, however you must then navigate HR policies which are designed to protect your employer, whilst also trying not to burn your bridges. I must add that this organisation is very large and it is commonplace to secure secondees and temporary staff from other areas of the business without requiring a vacant position within the team, and therefore my Manager could have considered this. At the same time, I have heard countless stories of other colleagues being denied development opportunities due to their current managers being unwilling to release them.

The only way I was going to be released was if I secured a permanent promotion. Luckily, I had set the wheels in motion regarding my dream role within Enterprise Risk and Compliance, and secured the position after a lengthy recruitment process. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

31zXM74NISL._SL500_AA300_The delay tactic
The HR policy stated that my new Manager and my current Manager would have to negotiate on my transition arrangements, and in the event that they cannot agree, the matter would be escalated to their Managers. Given that my Manager had been aware of my job seeking situation for the past year and that my contractual notice period was 2 weeks in the event of resignation, I thought the worst case scenario would be a 6 to 8 week notice period.

My Manager met with me today and advised me that I would only spend half a day per week with my new area until he could find a replacement for me to train. Given that recruitment has been known to take up to 3 months in the organisation and that there is a business wide external recruitment freeze, I questioned this agreement. He replied with a spiel about how my staying in the role was ‘in the best interests of the business‘ and that senior management would support him on the decision, even if it meant I had to stay in the role indefinitely. I thought this was a little rich given that my new area is a key assurance function to the Board and are down by 8 FTE’s.

Immediately after this meeting, I met with my new Manager to hear her account of the discussions, as I was sure that she wouldn’t have agreed to such uncertain terms. Luckily, she had quite a different view of their discussions and confirmed that she saw me in the new position by the end of March, and would be escalating in the event that this did not eventuate.

Needless to say, I’m feeling a little stressed, disillusioned and trapped by my current Manager’s tactics. I am certain that the recruitment for my replacement will be a drawn out process. For example, a colleague is about to go on maternity leave in one month. My Manager had 6 months to find a replacement, however had not arranged interviews until this very week and even then was not happy with the candidates. I realise that my current Manager must prioritise the interests of his team but I can’t help but think that there were other ways to go about it, particularly as I had been candid with him at all times.

It’s now the weekend so there is little that I can do to allay my concerns besides listing the steps I propose to take.

  1. Ask my new Manager to confirm the discussion regarding my transition in writing, for the avoidance of any doubt. In particular, confirm whether there is an absolute drop dead date where I would predominantly focus on my new role.
  2. Ask my current Manager for his proposed timings in relation to the recruitment of my replacement.
  3. Seek advice from our division’s HR business partner with regard to my rights, responsibilities and obligations upon signing my new contract.
  4. Finalise my handover document and begin phasing out non essential activities related to my current role.
  5. Take an inventory of my current work activities to determine how much time I can informally begin devoting to my new role.
  6. Approach colleagues whom I believe would be a good fit to replace me, in order to gauge their interest

These situations are often so unique in their particular circumstances. For example, I could have resigned at any time in protest against my Manager’s tactics, however I would have missed out on my great new role entirely. I really feel for those who have been, are or will be in this situation. I think my take out from this is, don’t burn your bridges, however, keep your eyes open to the motives of your Manager, they may not be as supportive as they come across.

I would love to hear from you. Have you ever been in this situation? How did you handle it?

That Career Girl

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25 comments

  1. Some managers have a hard time letting go of great employees, which actually hinders the trust and relationship between employee and manager. I never could wrap my head around why a manager would want to “hold on” to employees, great or not, if the employee was ready for a new challenge. Of course it means more work for them, but as a manager those are sacrifices you make.

    One of the most rewarding experiences for a manager is to see their employees grow and continue to take on new challenges (in different roles or even with different companies). A supportive manager will be someone the employee will remember throughout their professional career and often trust as a confidant.

    From an HR perspective, your transition time will likely be determined by your new manager and current manager ability to negotiate along with how quickly HR can find a replacement.

    1. I agree…I have always thought highly of my Manager with the exception to this topic. I find that his behaviour is leading me to question the type of relationship which we will have after I have moved on.

  2. I was in a similar position a month ago, getting an internal promotion but having to wait on an outside hire, and not wanting to burn any bridges or overplay my hand. I wish I had talked to my new manger earlier, and gotten stuff in writing; it would have helped me avoid some anxiety.

    1. The outside hire came quicker than anyone, including my manager, thought it would. Now I’m in the new position and enjoying it. Still, it was a few weeks of needless fretting.

  3. Yes! Definitely put things in writing and make sure that there is an exact cut-over date where you fully begin your new position. It sounds like your new manager is reasonable and looks out for you, so best of luck!!!

  4. This is precisely the kind of thing I was asking you about when I commented on an earlier post of yours. Sometimes people higher up in hierarchy don’t seem to understand that stagnating a person in a particular role, no matter how good they are at it, isn’t going to help anyone in the long run. All the best for your situation. Hope the replacement comes soon!

  5. Thank goodness it all worked out…I am in a similar situation with a supervisor and manager who are not very supportive of me or anyone leaving for another position in the company, yet the company’s motto is that they encourage internal growth and upward or lateral movement. The reason I am leaving is precisely that they are the worst communicators and managers I have ever worked with in any department. The worst part is they do not know the job we do and if you ask a question they get defensive. They are very condescending and unprofessional and make everyone on the team feel like they are worthless. It is a horrible and hostile work environment and I cringe every morning at going in yet another day to be abused no matter how well you perform they never acknowledge or are even sincerely nice to anyone. They seem to be very paranoid and there is no trust-they never inform the team of any upcoming announcements or changes that may directly impact an employee. It is such an unstable department that I just want OUT! I am awaiting 2 offers and hope I don’t run into any more roadblocks. I am thinking of running this by the legal department as I am sure they have no right to behave this way or to intercept an opportunity.

    1. Good luck Jane, I feel for you. It is such a stressful and frustrating situation to be in. Is there anybody in HR you can trust? In my experience, the legal department cannot really help in this scenario, unless it is different where you are. Unfortunately with these things, the best way to move on is to have someone else in the company who can advocate for your release. I found HR to have very limited powers and most other Managers do not want to get involved due to politics. Good luck.

  6. hi, Even i am locked in a similar situation like this. I am asking for release from current assignments for past one year, but they denied saying they couldn’t find a right replacement for me and also they are refusing the release by telling there are more dependency on me. I have spent almost a 1 and half months for transition but even after that they are using me in the project. Now i am having an opportunity to travle abroad, even now they are delaying my travel by not releasing me on time. I am really stressed out alot and i need suggestions to handle this situation. And moreover my manager or director is very keen that they are not giving any written proof, even i request they are targetting me. Please help me with your suggestions.

  7. Hi there!
    I was so excited about my promotion and counting the days.. Now I’ve been told that the client won’t release me until a cover for my position has been found. There is no start date set yet and nobody from my company is communicating with me… Everyone seems so relaxed about it and I’m getting very nervous and frustrated…

    1. I know how you feel. Are you staying in the same team or is it a new team? If it’s a new team, maybe your new Manager can help you get your point across. Or perhaps you could raise it with HR. Particularly if you are getting a raise in your new role, this could be a good argument as to why it’s unfair that you’re being kept back.

  8. I’ve got a situation where I’ve been offered a secondment to another department. They want me, my immediate Manager is supportive and all we thought we had to do was get the paperwork signed off and I could go. But it got all the way to the Director she she said no. Apparently I’m too vital to my current team and they can’t do without me. The secondment is only for six weeks, three days a week. I would still be with my original team two days a week. I feel like I’m being penalised for being good at my job.

    1. That sucks. Especially if the secondment will give you good experience and will look good on your CV. Is there any chance the other department can raise it with your Director, or is there an opportunity for you to air your concerns to your Director?

    2. We’ve done both those things and she still said no. Even offered to be flexible and only go I’ve or two days but no, she’s just stubborn and won’t back track. Everyone else in the organisation, my colleagues, other managers and departments think it’s a silly situation. HR have advised that my next option is to put in a grievance, but I can’t see that actually changing anything except ruining the relationship between the director and myself.
      I really want experience in this other department, I’m going to offer to volunteer between 8 and 9am and 4 and 5 or 6pm, and even use my flexi leave to help them out.

  9. That’s fantastic that you are still going to try and assist them. The director is really just shooting herself/himself in the foot. It’s not like you can just trap someone in a role and expect them to not consider other options. I would love to hear how things progress.

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