We all know the frustration of sitting behind someone on the road who won’t move over. Usually a few impolite gestures and an impatient beep of the horn does the trick.
But, what if we’re stuck in career traffic, without an overtaking lane?
Having spent years studying and building a career from the ground up, it can be vexing to sit behind a boss who won’t move over. He’s happy to trundle along blocking the progress of everyone behind him.
“I just can’t get out of the ‘traffic’ and progress my career. Why won’t my boss move on, or at least promote my ambitions to achieve my career goals?”
Navigating around senior staff road blocks is a common problem for accounting and finance professionals.
Usually, one of two things will happen.
- Career stagnation. You slide in a comfort zone and lose your appetite to move forward. You become frustrated and your performance takes a dip, which further decreases your chances of promotion.
- Resignation. You pack your files and leave – frustrated and disillusioned. In doing so, you leave years of experience, hard work and company knowledge lying un-leveraged on the table.
Neither of these outcomes is a happy one, and especially so when you feel like your hand has been forced.
However, the good news is that there are other avenues to explore before you fall into either category. These will give you clarity and help you to justify your next course of action.
Looking at your position from your boss’s perspective will give you some useful insight. As a manager, there is every possibility that the fact that you’ve been there for so long means he or she has a stable team. Low staff turnover may form part of their KPI, or a feature in their performance bonus. From that angle, they’re doing a great job. They are not intentionally blocking your career development so much as taking care of their own path.
While we’re in the boss’s chair, have a look up. Who is ahead of them on the corporate ladder? What keeps them awake at night? You may well find a reason why they are not making your next career move their priority.
Bearing the above in mind, it would be wise to make (more than one) attempt to communicate with your boss before throwing in the towel. Speak openly about your career ambitions and be honest about where you want to go next. Plans are frustrated when there is no communication, and too many assumptions are made.
What if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your plans with the players in your organisation?
Our advice to you is, get comfortable with it. Your boss can’t fix something that he’s not aware of. If you end up resigning and seeking your shining path elsewhere, at least do it with the knowledge that you’ve turned over every rock here in your current company and that you know all the avenues open to you.
If your boss is willing to talk with you and create a career path, then ensure that you’re working on it together. Split the accountability.
From your side, set ‘stretch’ targets and goals. Look for projects that enhance your role, grow you as a person, and provide solid evidence of your value.
At the same time, keep your boss accountable. Make sure that you are both keenly aware of the outcomes when you deliver on your targets. Request progression opportunities outside of your current team. Ask for assistance in developing additional skills needed for promotion.
4. More communication
What if your boss is totally not interested in your advancement, and shows zero interest in working with you? It may be hard to do, but now is the time to pin them down.
Ask the question, “Are you happy with my performance?”
Yes, it’s confrontational. However, at this point you have very little to lose and it may lead to some realities and open some truths. If your boss is happy with your performance but still disinterested in supporting you, then you need to go over their head. (HR, Senior Manager etc.)
A frank conversation about where you are going may well result in people manoeuvring things to let you pass.
It may simply be that despite your best efforts, you have achieved as much as you’re going to in your present company. These are all factors to consider.
If all these channels have been explored, you have ‘beeped your horn’ numerous times and the car in front still won’t let you overtake, then perhaps it’s time to choose a different road to travel on.
How have you overcome a boss or manager that appears to block your career progression?