“I have said it before and I’ll say it again, your career development is your responsibility.” This was uttered by Maria, department head at the annual goal setting meeting she was having with her department. She was right on a couple of counts. She had said the same thing many times in the past. And, it was the responsibility of the person to work on their own career development. No one should expect their manager or higher to just give them a promotion or new job assignment without the person working towards earning it.
Larry didn’t disagree with either of those pronouncements, though he was truly sick and tired of hearing that same, banal statement. Having heard it for six years now, he was tired of hearing it for another reason. He had worked at career advancement, and each time, instead of being aided by Maria, he was blocked by her. As Maria droned on about this topic, he recalled the various times he tried to do as Maria said…advance his career, only to have Maria throw it back in his face.
He would have understood if Maria didn’t feel he was ready for the next step and gave him help and guidance towards that next step. Maria didn’t, though. All she did was stop him in his tracks, or make contradictory statements, or simply do nothing. It is difficult to have any career advancement when the other party doesn’t seem to want to even lift a finger to assist.
Larry recalled writing a proposal to Maria to take a bigger role in the new direction of the department, managing the new function and combining it with his present managerial function. He had been instrumental in getting the new function approved and rolling, and thought it was a logical step. He wrote out his proposal, thought it out logically, and had presented it to Maria. Her reaction? Reject it outright, saying he needed to concentrate on his own function. There was no further discussion on the topic, even when Maria would continuously come to him to aid the new function with is expertise.
Yet, when Larry went to advocate for his area, showing his concentration on his function, he was criticized for not thinking broadly enough about the department as a whole. Confused, but willing to take the criticism, he designed his goals towards broadening his understanding of the business and for expanding his mindset.
He brought this new mindset to Maria at their goal setting meeting, and when Maria asked him where he wanted to see himself in the future, he laid out the various possibilities, along with the education he could take to get there. Maria’s reaction? He needed to regain his focus, as he was too scattered.
Larry massaged his neck as he had the distinct feeling of whiplash. He had been told, in the span of a year, when he wanted to expand his worldview that he needed to focus on his area. Yet, when he did, he was told to think more broadly. Then, when he did, he was criticized for thinking too broadly.
Still, he soldiered on. Shortly thereafter, in a meeting with Maria, he was told that a contractor who had been working in the department had been brought on as a part-time employee. He was told that, since this part-time person would have responsibilities in his area, he would be responsible for her work and development as it impacted his area. Dutifully, he met with the contractor now employee and shared with her the goals of his area and asked her to begin thinking of areas where she could most likely be of benefit and provide him with her ideas.
Imagine, Larry’s surprise when he received a call from Maria indicating that the contractor now employee had told her that Larry was being a slave driver with her and that she had no time to breathe with his ‘demands’. Larry explained what he had asked the now employee to do, but Maria’s mind was made up. He had no right to assign her work, but only was a ‘colleague’ to her. While Larry had always suspected this now employee had a little too close relationship with Maria, this now confirmed it. In the span of three weeks, Maria had once again given contradictory explanations to Larry, and blamed Larry for it all.
At the mid-year review, Larry was not surprised at all when he was criticized by Maria for not taking a better interest in the employee and letting her know what he expected of her. Maria’s purposeful amnesia had once again struck full force. It didn’t matter to him anymore. He was numb, resigned to the fact that Maria didn’t give a damn about him or his career development, so her present droning on about career development being the employee’s own responsibility was simply background noise.
Maria was right. It is not a manager’s job to promote the employee. It is the employee’s job to work to get themselves advanced in their career, whatever that means. However, that does not mean that the manager has no role in it. A good manager encourages. A good manager provides positive and creative feedback. A good manager lays out a path to the employee for how they can move forward. In short, a good manager is supportive of the employee’s career aspirations and helps them see what needs to be done to advance. The manager does not do it for the employee, and does not make any promises of reward, but does provide a roadmap to where the employee wants to go.
The Marias of this world don’t see this. They believe that they have nothing to do with their employee’s growth. There is no encouragement. There is no support. In Maria’s case, there was contradiction at every turn, so she not only lent zero support to Larry, but also blocked it with incomprehensible utterances. Of course, she didn’t see it this way, and kept on saying it was all the employee’s responsibility.
We’ll explore that theme more in the next blog. For Larry, he is exploring his career…elsewhere. One thing will be sure. Maria will probably pat herself on the back for giving such good ‘advice’ to him.