passed up for a promotion after 23 years, coworker won’t schedule his own meetings, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I was passed up for a promotion after 23 years

I have been in my position for 23 years and am told that I am an essential part of the office. I am knowledgable, friendly, hard working, efficient, productive, flexible, and dependable. I do have my shortcomings but am told that they my performance is so strong that my weaknesses are trivial.

There is another employee who has been in our office 11 months. She is great and has shined since she has started.

Another position in the office will be opening up that pays more than our position. My boss called my coworker into his office and asked if she would be interesting in taking that position. I feel insulted that my boss wouldn’t offer me the opportunity, considering my longevity and experience. I can’t help but feel resentment. I have no ill will towards my coworker, but my bitterness is interfering with my motivation to go above and beyond. On the outside looking in, can you tell me your opinion on whether my feelings are warranted or not?

It’s understandable to be hurt or upset when you’re passed up for a position you’d be interested in, especially when you have significantly more longevity than the person it’s offered to.

But how suited someone is for a role is much more about the skills and talents they’d bring to the work, not the amount of time they’ve been in a different position. It’s possible your coworker has a stronger track record of achievement in the areas that matter most for this new role or that she’s otherwise suited for it in ways that you aren’t.

It’s also possible that because you’ve been in your position for 23 years, your boss assumes you’re happy where you are and not interested in moving to something new, or he has trouble envisioning you doing a different kind of work. Or your coworker might have actively expressed interest in the type of work she was eventually offered.

In your shoes, I’d think about whether your skills are strongly suited to the work of the other job (and also whether your boss would agree with that). Also, would the shortcomings you mentioned be more visible in the new role or have more of an impact there? You might find an explanation there. But if you don’t, it’s reasonable to talk with your boss, say you were disappointed not to have had the chance to throw your hat in the ring for the role, and ask if there’s feedback he can give about why you weren’t considered.

2. I made a bad joke about my new hire’s job security

I have a new hire who’s coming to the end of his probationary period. Chris is conscientious, smart, and has gelled well with the team. He’s completed his probationary objectives with time to spare, and in our most recent catch-up, I suggested that he start considering his longer-term goals for career redevelopment so we could set his annual objectives together in a few weeks’ time.

When we got back to our desks, we kept chatting, and then Chris said openly, in front of the rest of the team, “Well, in a few weeks you’ll be stuck with me for good.” Thoughtlessly, I joked back something like, “Well, aren’t you confident!” … and then instantly regretted it. I don’t think I said it in a negative tone and I had a smile on my face, but I know that “jokes” like that are never funny when they’re coming with a power imbalance, and I’m sure I saw Chris’s smile falter hard.

Honestly, I didn’t want anyone to think that I was giving Chris an automatic pass, or that he was being cocky about his probation. But equally, I’m sure that nobody is expecting him to fail.

Am I overthinking this? When a new hire is clearly performing well, is it okay to be open about the fact that they’re going to pass their probation? Or should I be keeping up a bit of a façade to ensure the process is seen as a genuine professional trial and not just a hand-wave?

Oh no. Please apologize to Chris, and do it today. He was feeling confident and happy about his new job — and it sounds like he had every reason to, based on your description of his performance and the fact that minutes before you brought up long-term planning — and then you shot him down publicly. At a minimum that’s going to sting, and a lot of people in his shoes would be feeling embarrassed, dejected, and demoralized. Tell him you made a stupid joke and that you’re very happy with his work and have no reason to think he wouldn’t pass his probationary period. (And frankly, you might consider correcting the record in front of the group too.)

Probationary periods aren’t intended to make people feel like “well, maybe we’ll keep you and maybe we don’t.” You’ve hired this person and he’s as much a part of your staff as anyone else. The sole function of a probationary period is to allow you to skip your organization’s discipline process if things aren’t going well. That’s it. People in a probationary period are still full-fledged staff members. And you don’t want them to feel otherwise — you want them invested and feeling like part of your team (and not still taking interviews with other employers — which would be a logical step otherwise).

As for how to talk about people in their probationary periods to your wider team: the same way you’d talk about anyone else. They’re a member of your team, period. If they don’t work out, the probationary period will let you resolve that faster, but that should be the only difference.

3. My coworker waits for me to schedule meetings he initiates

I work for a large organization in a professional role. We have small teams distributed widely and most of our meetings are done remotely via Skype. When I started here three years ago, “Bob” was my supervisor. I’ve since been promoted, so Bob and I are peers. We supervise teams of people doing the same work and occasionally need to meet to discuss our teams’ interactions and workflow.

When Bob supervised me, we met frequently and he always told me to propose dates and times, to do the labor of setting up our meetings. Our organization uses Outlook, and it is a simple matter to use the calendar to see when a colleague is free to meet and send an appointment slip. Bob never did it. Now that we are peers, he keeps not doing it. It’s not an issue with age or technology familiarity; Bob and I are the same vintage and experience level in our profession.

For the life of me, I cannot find a good-natured but firm way to tell Bob to schedule the meeting he is requesting himself. He just emailed me again to ask if there is a time we can meet soon, and I responded “I am happy to meet with you.” But I know he won’t pick up the slack, use the software, and set up an appointment — and it’s important for my team that we have a discussion. Any suggestions?

The next time he asks to meet, say, “Sure — take a look at my calendar and schedule a time that works for both of us.” If he hasn’t done it and you’re invested in having the meeting happen, you could follow up later and say, “Did you still want to have that meeting? If so, if you pick a time and send me a meeting invite, I’ll be there.”

If this doesn’t solve it (although you might have to do it every time), it could be worth saying, “Are you waiting for me to schedule the meeting? I’d rather you do it when you’re initiating the meeting so I don’t get stuck with the scheduling every time. Can you handle this one?”

4. Coworker has a Tinder-esque photo as his work profile

I work for a large organization (almost 100,000 employees) with offices all over the U.S. We have an internal system similar to Twitter and each week we get an email showing posts for all the groups you follow. Yesterday I noticed someone’s profile picture is a (private) bathroom mirror selfie. You can see the shower and sink … it’s basically a Tinder profile picture complete with a hand on chest and smug smile. His post was introducing himself to the company as a recent hire.

I was thinking of emailing him a friendly “Welcome to the company! Just wanted to suggest considering a different photo for your profile; most are head shots in neutral/public spaces.” But would this be an overstep? I don’t know this person or their manager and will probably never work with them. Should I say something to HR instead (although this person is in a different country so I’m not even sure who their HR contact is)? Based on the info in their profile, I think they are a recent grad and it seems like this is their first professional job. Most of the people who work here either have a professional head shot or it’s of them on vacation/doing an outdoor activity. I’ve never seen a selfie and especially not one taken in the bathroom. Say something or let it go?

Let it go. You don’t know this guy or his manager, you don’t work with him, it’s a 100,000-person company … there’s just no call for you to act here. If it’s a problem, someone more closely connected to him will address it.

5. My neighbor wants intros in my field, but I don’t think highly of his work

I work in a popular and competitive field where it’s not unusual to do free work early in your career. It’s also a very social and friendly industry, lots of business done outside a traditional office setting, etc. My neighbor works in a different but similar part of my industry, and another neighbor introduced us for this reason.

When we first met, he asked me to review some materials for him and then meet for coffee to discuss them. At an earlier stage in my career, I would have loved the chance to talk shop with a new friend, but I don’t really have the bandwidth for that now. Still, not wanting to be rude to a neighbor, I said yes (my mistake! I should have shut it down immediately). Complicating matters further, I discovered he had misrepresented where he was in his career, and while we are similar in age, he’s at a much earlier stage of his career and — in my opinion — not very strong at his chosen profession.

I’ve been able to successfully beg off further attempts to share work in this way, using time as an excuse, but he’s now asking for connections to other people in my industry (not specific people, more like “anyone you know who’s interested in X”) and I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I don’t want to connect people to someone who I would not work with myself. But I can’t really use time as an excuse here and I don’t want to make things awkward as we live in an apartment building so seeing him is inevitable. Any thoughts for how to politely disconnect from this and any other requests without having too awkward an elevator ride in my future?

One option is to say, “I’m a stickler about not making referrals within my network unless I’ve worked closely with the person I’m introducing. I’m sorry I can’t help further, but I hope the meeting we had was helpful and I wish you all the best in the future.”

Alternately, since he’s not asking about specific people, you could go with the vague, “If I think of anyone who you might be a good match for, I’ll let you know” and then leave it there. That one is probably more comfortable to say, although it leaves open the chance that he’ll continue to follow up.

The first one is more of a service to him since it’s more direct, but you’re not a terrible person if you use the vaguer option and hope that ends it.

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passed up for a promotion after 23 years, coworker won’t schedule his own meetings, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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