It started with an odd breakfast meeting my boss asked me to take with the head of sales for another division in our company. I wasn’t told the reason for the meeting but it seemed suspiciously like a job interview. And sure enough, shortly after the breakfast my boss asked me to take on responsibility for leading that division’s marketing team in addition to my current role leading a marketing team for another business.
I was excited about the opportunity for advancement but I soon realized I needed to slow my roll.
I was excited about the opportunity for advancement but I soon realized I needed to slow my roll. Through a garble of excuses, she explained that though my responsibilities were doubling that there would be no raise. Only a vague promise to consider a mid-year bonus based on (undefined) performance. Soon an announcement went out to the entire marketing organization making it sound like I’d gotten a promotion. I honestly wasn't sure how to respond, "Thanks... I guess?" The pats on the back and congratulatory emails from colleagues just reinforced the nagging feeling that I was being used.
Unfortunately, this scenario is becoming increasingly common. I have heard of many examples of employees being asked to take on substantially more responsibility without the benefit of a raise, formal promotion or even change in title. The excuses are usually along the lines of “we have budget constraints," “this is a great opportunity to prove yourself,"“we’ll revisit it in a few months to see how you do.”
Figure out how to deal with the situation to leverage it for advancement — not just for the privilege of doing more work for the same rewards.
While the long-term efficacy of this approach to management is questionable, it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. So if you find yourself in a similar situation, it’s important for you to figure out how to deal with the situation both in the short-term, to maintain your sanity, and in the long-term in order to leverage it for advancement in tangible terms — not just the privilege of doing more work for the same rewards.
When the opportunity is piled on to existing responsibilities the resulting feelings are of stress and uncertainty. Your immediate concern needs to be recognizing and managing your stress level. When dealing with stress, alternative medicine proponent Dr. Deepak Chopra recommends the STOP approach:
S: Stop what you are doing.
T: Take a few deep breaths.
O: Observe the sensations in your body and smile.
P: Proceed with awareness and compassion.
Chopra also recommends meditation which can help to keep your mind and body connected, and provide critical perspective on your situation. I recommend that you try not to lose sight of what’s reasonable. In my own situation, I continually reminded myself that I was doing the work that two people had done previously. I realized that I had to adjust my own expectations about what could be done in the number of hours I was willing to devote to this job and also to focus on the top priorities for each role.
I had to adjust my own expectations about what could be done in the number of hours I was willing to devote to this job
Strangely, just acknowledging that fact to myself kept me grounded. Though I’m driven, I knew I wasn’t going to work 80 hours per week for the same paycheck I’d earned working 45-50 hours per week. Though I wasn’t given a real choice but to take on the additional work, I did have a choice about how I’d define what success looked like for me. I also spent a lot of time reminding my boss about what was reasonable and the extraordinary lengths that I was going to to do these two roles. I didn't want me doing two jobs for one paycheck to become the new normal.
Next week I’ll share strategies on what to do in the longer term when the work is piled on with no promise of promotion. Until then, take deep breaths and smile! And remember, there’s more to life than your job.