By Barbara Mitchell
Q: I feel left out. My manager usually eats lunch with a small group of people in our department, and they’re the ones that keep getting promoted. Someone in his inner circle just got a promotion I was promised in my last review. Is there anything I can do? Should I go above my manager to complain?
A: While there is nothing wrong with friendships at work, it is wrong for a manager to show favoritism—perhaps not so much by lunching with his favorites, but certainly by only promoting people who are in his inner circle.
As wrong as this appears to be, I caution against going over your manager’s head. This is not middle school, and you don’t want to be seen as the department snitch. I would start by having an honest conversation with your manager—not about who has lunch together but about why you didn’t get the promotion you think you deserved. Focus on why you think you were qualified for the promotion, not on the fact that someone else got it.
Anything you do has to be done honestly and with the intention of carrying out the mission of your organization while enhancing your skills.
This approach will allow your manager to share with you why he made the decision he made. For example, the other person may have a skill you are lacking. In this conversation, you may learn what you need to do to get the next open position and that your not being selected had nothing to do with who has lunch together.
Another approach would be to reach out your colleague who got the promotion and offer to help with projects that could enhance your skill set. Keep an open mind; figure out what that person is really good at and what you can learn from him or her so you’re ready for the next opportunity.
Anything you do has to be done honestly and with the intention of carrying out the mission of your organization while enhancing your skills. If you can’t support your manager and your department, this may be the time to start a job search.
In the meantime, I’d worry less about being excluded from lunches and more about building up and showcasing your skills so you get the next promotion.
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].