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Did I Ruin My Chances at a Promotion and a Pay Raise?

An employee wants to move up into a veterinary management position, but wonders if they ruined their chances after handling a specific situation poorly.

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A veterinary employee writes:

I have been employed at a hospital for just over a year now. I started in an administrative position and a couple of months ago, a management position opened up. I told the hospital owner that I am interested in this role, and she encouraged me to apply. 
Two months went by, and nothing has happened in regards to the position — no interviews have been conducted, no one has been hired. I inquired about it a few weeks ago, and was told that there are too many other things going on at the moment and it’s not a priority.

During those two months, I have been feeling really overworked and underpaid. Well, not just underpaid, but undervalued and unappreciated. I rarely get any positive feedback, I am asked to do the work of multiple people and I am left to deal with a lot of stuff on my own.

Yesterday, we were scheduled to have a team meeting. I was already having a bad morning and thinking about a lot of this stuff (no promotion, no pay raise, feeling undervalued) ­ I did not want to go to this meeting, I was in a bad mood. I sent a text message to the owner and asked to speak to her before the meeting. I just got overwhelmed by all this stuff and ended up crying during our conversation. I told her how I was feeling about the workload, lack of recognition and no promotion. She was really understanding and said she appreciated me telling her. We agreed to talk more next week and discuss the promotion and pay raise.

I went to the meeting feeling a lot better, but now I’m worried that by handling this situation so poorly, I have ruined my chances of a promotion and pay raise. Do I still have a shot?

Well, the good news is that you recognize that you did not handle this well.

It doesn’t mean you won’t be considered for the position at all. What your manager chooses to do depends on many factors:

  • Your past performance: Was this the first time you reacted like this or is this a repeat of a previous behavior?
  • Your hospital culture: How are emotional outbursts normally handled? Let’s face it, that’s what it was;
  • Your manager’s own leadership style and beliefs.

The decision process I would go through if I were in your manager’s shoes:

Firstly, I understand that these things happen. I answered a question a couple of weeks ago from another practice manager about crying in the workplace.

However, unlike most other team members, you are applying for a leadership position, so your manager is likely to hold you to a higher standard. She has obviously considered you for this position prior to this incident, so I’m assuming you have exhibited leadership qualities and she has reason to believe you would be great at the management role. Your reaction on this particular occasion was definitely not one I would expect of a leader. I’m going to even go as far as to say that I would not tolerate this of someone in a leadership position. So yes, there is no doubt about it — this was a major error of judgment on your part.

Here are a few things that you could have done differently, and that your manager may be evaluating in terms of your suitability for the leadership role:

  • Instead of asking to speak to her 15 minutes before the meeting, wait until after the meeting or later in the day. Assuming she is chairing the meeting, she has a lot of things on her mind and has a whole team relying on her to run a productive meeting (and to do it on time). So, approaching her before the meeting with an issue that cannot be resolved in 15 minutes, is not urgent or critical to the meeting, and is likely to be emotionally charged suggests that you are unaware of the responsibilities of a leader. 

  • The feeling of being undervalued and unappreciated unfortunately only increases as you move into management positions. Instead of receiving positive feedback, you are expected to be the one to deliver it. That’s partly why they call it “the loneliness of leadership.” So, if you are someone who requires constant praise and positive reinforcement, this is going to be a challenge. 

  • Negotiation skills are required in a leadership position, and the topic of your pay raise was your informal test of your abilities as a negotiator. A better way to approach it would have been by highlighting the value you bring to the hospital — the more numbers you use, the better. (Show them how you impact the bottom line.) Follow that with the ‘soft stuff:’ your commitment, drive, etc. 

  • Attitude. So much of leadership simply relies on having a positive, consistent attitude. That includes being resilient, and I’m afraid you didn’t demonstrate that. 
If I were your manager and I truly thought you would be great at this new role, I would sit down with you, explain my concerns, offer you leadership training and get commitment from you that you understand my expectations that this can not be repeated. 
You said you already have a meeting scheduled for next week? I suggest you take control of that conversation and let your leadership skills shine ­ apologize, explain that you understand your behavior was inappropriate and why (not why you did it, don’t get into that) and commit to never letting it be repeated. Ask for leadership training and show her how much you want this job! 

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