Workplace dilemmas: should I make my big promotion permanent?

Workplace dilemmas: Should I make my big promotion permanent?

A tricky teaser for our agony uncle this month: what to do if you’re acting up, but want to act down again

Dear Tim,

Towards the end of last summer, I was asked by my line manager to take her job. She’d secured an internal promotion and a part of her new role would involve restructuring our company. We’re a fairly well known global brand and have a huge headcount.

    ...the new job has put me under a huge amount of pressure. It might not have shown at work, but I think my friends and family would agree...  

My boss’s brief was to merge a couple of departments and she wanted me to take over as head of our team while the new structure was put in place. Then, she said, I’d have the opportunity to apply for a permanent role, heading up the merged department.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance. I’d been labouring away in my current job for a number of years. To be honest, I’d felt a bit as if my career was stalling and had begun looking around for new opportunities.

Then this came up: six months to prove myself, working on 10 grand a year more pay, with the chance to make it a long-term role if I delivered the readies.

Now here we are. The six months are almost up and I’ve been invited to apply for my position permanently. During a recent appraisal, my boss said I’d done a really impressive job at holding the team together during the time of transition. There have been a few redundancies, and the hierarchy thought I’d dealt with the challenge of that well.

Apparently, I’ve also shown good strategic instincts and strong people-management skills.

Workplace dilemmas: Should I make my big promotion permanent?While it’s lovely to receive such positive feedback, and good for my ego to be told that there’s a very high chance I’d be given the job on a permanent basis, I’m wondering if it’s really what I want.

By the time I’ve paid tax and National Insurance and lost my Child Benefit payments because the new salary puts me over the threshold, my £10,000 bounty doesn’t add up to much.

And the new job has put me under a huge amount of pressure. It might not have shown at work, but I think my friends and family would agree that I’ve been a lot more preoccupied since taking it on.

But I worry what will happen to my reputation if I decide not to apply for the full-time promotion and revert instead to my former job. Will that be the end of my career? Will I ever have a chance to assume more responsibility in the future, or is this a one-time-only thing?

Tim writes:

I’d like to begin by congratulating you. It’s no mean feat to assume additional responsibility with your existing employer, especially on a pro tem basis. Colleagues are often uncertain how to respond to you in such circumstances: all the time the job’s temporary, you’re still one of them. But then again you’re not, because you have to manage them and, as you found with the restructuring, are making decisions that could affect their futures.

To emerge from such an experience with your reputation not only intact but enhanced is deeply impressive. It is no surprise your boss wants to give you a more senior appointment permanently. You’ve clearly made your mark.

    To emerge from such an experience with your reputation not only intact but enhanced is deeply impressive.  

However, as bestselling author and motivational speaker Milly Johnson says, just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to pursue it.

You may well be an exceptional manager who could go all the way to the very top of your profession. But if it’s not making you happy, what’s the point?

That said, you’re right to think about the optics of this. Your superiors will no doubt have taken your willingness to act up since the summer as an indication that you’re ambitious. Turning your back on the permanent opportunity could be interpreted as a step back from this. It could be seen as a sign that you’ve reached your level and don’t want to go any further.

Ultimately, though, that may be a risk worth taking. I imagine staff churn in a big company like yours is fairly high. Managers come and go. Which means the corporate memory is fairly short. At worst, the current crop of senior managers may have you pegged as unambitious if you don’t take this opportunity to make your elevation permanent.

Should you change your mind about pursuing preferment a few years from now, the chances are new managers will be in post. And they won't be hung up on this incident because it will have happened before their watch.

Nothing we do in the present locks us in forever. To sound like a walking cliché, your happiness and mental wellbeing are more important than anything.

If you don’t feel that this is the time to take the permanent promotion, don’t take it. Go back to your old job, knowing that you have to let go the opportunity to continue shaping things. Reclaim your Child Benefit. Live a simpler, less stressful life.

But consider this. How will you feel if someone else comes in and does “your” job? It may be that you’re feeling anxious about stepping up permanently. Get over that diffidence and this could be just the opportunity you’ve been looking for to keep your career fresh and your working life interesting.

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Published: 8 January 2020

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