“I have been in my current company for almost three years. Recently I was promoted. After the promotion, my responsibility stayed the same. I was told that there will be some increase within the next year due to the tight budget. I don’t really value this as compensation given the above facts.
I expressed this when the department VP informed me of the promotion before the team meeting. She said that it is obvious that I am not satisfied. Based on her past conversations with me, she felt I always challenged her and wanted something else. She would like to meet with me to know what I really want in a couple of days.
Now I regret my response, since I had already decided to look for another opportunity in other companies. My decision was made before the meeting, since I couldn’t see my future here. I was viewed as a person who is kind of difficult to manage, since I like to challenge things. With that said, why should I make the situation worse? My relationship with my boss (director) is not that great.
What might you suggest as a way to convince the vice president that I am satisfied with the current arrangement? What are the most valuable skills and experience the future employer would like to see from a candidate like me?
Would you please advise the best way to challenge senior management in the future? With my experience here, I now realize that having a good relationship with your boss and working smart are much important than how much you work. How can I have a better result in the future?”
Whether you decide to stay where you are or not, it is important to retain as strong a relationship as possible with your boss and others at your company.
You will be surprised at how you may come in contact with them in the future. I’ve several times ended up working with people again at a new company, with both of us at different levels than before and in different levels of authority relative to each other.
Ideally you would like everyone you come in contact with to think of you as a results-oriented professional they would enjoy having on their team, as that’s how you create the visibility for yourself that generates new opportunities.
Your reputation for being difficult to manage and liking to challenge things may come in large part from the way you present your ideas. You may be doing so too forcefully in ways that challenge the status quo, in effect taking a ‘frontal assault’ approach that raises your boss’s and others’ defenses.
A more effective approach is to be very curious about why things are done the way they are. Ask questions about the goals, what’s led to the way something is done now, brainstorming on how the work can be done in a way that still meets those, but also achieves other critical goals (making operations more efficient, freeing up resources for other critical tasks, etc.).
Often the problem can be as simple as how you phrase the question. For example, asking “Why…” is taken as challenging - it sounds like you are questioning why I’m doing something. Changing the question to “What factors led to this…” makes it less threatening - it sounds more like genuine interest and curiosity.
In your upcoming conversation, you want to focus on:
The discussion about what would make you more satisfied is a longer term question and focus, which gets into career planning.
Frame your answer in terms of your longer term goals, and what can be done over time to help you achieve those. Try to make it a brainstorming session, collaborating with your boss on possible ways to change your job focus, add new types of projects or responsibilities, get you involved in new or different initiatives, etc., over time. Talk about time frames for making some of those changes, and time lines for the longer term goals you want to achieve.
Don’t make any of your requests like ultimatums - “make these changes or I’ll leave.”
After the discussion, you can then weigh in your own mind over the next days or weeks whether the plans are sufficient to make you want to stay, and then you can keep that decision private - no one needs to (or should) know that you are looking elsewhere until the day you accept an offer and turn in your 2 weeks notice.
Excerpted from November 2007 Career Tips. To review contents of past issues and selected articles, visit