Office coach: Boss won’t let people advance

Marie G. McIntyre
Tribune News Service

Q. I am trapped in my job because of a lying supervisor. A few weeks ago, I applied for a position in another department. Because a supervisory recommendation is required for transfer, the final step was a reference check with my boss, “Norma.” When they asked Norma if she could give me a good recommendation, she said no, so I lost out on the job.

Since I have had a spotless record for five years, I asked Norma why she refused to give me a reference. She replied, “You’re such a great worker that I didn’t want to lose you.” Some of my colleagues said the same thing happened to them, so Norma apparently makes a practice of blocking transfers.

I’m afraid to complain about Norma because she’s been with this company for 30 years. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Your boss’s behavior is absolutely appalling. In addition to being dishonest and damaging your reputation, Norma is also making a really bad business decision. Under normal circumstances, managers should never block the transfer of a competent and qualified staff member.

When employees are denied an available opportunity and forced to remain in a job they have outgrown, they naturally become frustrated and resentful. The ironic result is that by refusing to approve a transfer, management may actually motivate a valued employee to leave the company altogether.

Since you aren’t the only victim of this short-sighted strategy, your best hope may be to enlist other injured parties in bringing Norma’s misconduct to the attention of upper management. While one person’s tale of woe may not carry much weight, hearing the same story from several people will have a much greater impact.

Q. Even though “Dawn” and I sit right next to each other, she always communicates through email. I feel this is rude, so whenever I need something, I go ask her in person. Last week, I decided that I should talk with her about this issue.

Although I gave my feedback in a friendly way, Dawn didn’t seem to appreciate it. She then told me that I if I don’t start attending company events, I will never progress in my career. Her criticism made me feel really bad, so I’m trying to decide if I should take this to my manager.

A. Instead of creating more drama by complaining to your boss, you need to let this go. You should also take a long, hard look in the mirror, because you appear to be somewhat self-centered and hypersensitive.

Apparently, you have failed to consider that your personal visits may be just as annoying to Dawn as her emails are to you. From your perspective, email is rude and conversation is friendly. But to Dawn, email is efficient and conversation is distracting. The two of you simply have different preferences.

Unfortunately, instead of accepting Dawn as she is, you chose to reprimand her. Not surprisingly, she responded with the first insult that came to mind. When verbally punched, people tend to hit back. So if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t be dishing it out.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”