On the Job

Moving on Up -- Or Maybe Not

Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, December 7, 2007; 12:00 AM

With a new promotion comes a new set of responsibilities and expectations from higher-ups. When things aren't working out, however, and you realize the new gig may not be the right fit, what do you do? Is it time to bail and look for another job? Or should you stick it out?

A worker finds himself in such a situation and needs advice:

I was just promoted from an inside sales role to an outside field rep. The company paid to move me to the remote office and increased my salary substantially. I have been in this role less than two months and am miserable. Expectations were misconstrued on my part and management's as to the approach and expected results of this position. They are now saying they feel as though I don't have the tools to succeed in the necessary timeframe. To me, this sounds as if I'm close to being fired.

I hate to make a rash decision, because of the short time I've been in this role. However, I don't want to waste time on something that isn't working out. I was extremely successful in my former role and uprooted my family to move to a new city for this job.

Unfortunately, it was made clear before I accepted the position that it required a lot of responsibility and was a "make it work" or "leave the company" situation. And no one else has ever been brought back to their former roles. What do I do?

This worker doesn't have much time to decipher through alternative options and needs to think fast, suggests Karen Usher, president of TPO Inc., a Tysons Corner human resources firm.

Perhaps, if he had "a previous supervisor or mentor" in his former position, the worker could seek their advice as to a plan of action to help turn around his performance and renew management's confidence.

Since this is a precarious work situation, however, Usher advises that he also "start a new search in the new town, and he can always drop it if he finds a solution" to the current standing.

"Even if he just starts looking around, at the very least he'll have a better idea of the town," she says. "He ought to network at professional organizations or service organizations," any place that might be useful for business contacts in the current job or future employment if he is fired.

In addition, Usher suggests the worker contact the human resources department and explain his situation. While HR programs (which by definition are tied to management) might have a vested interest in siding with management's assessment of this salesman's performance, she says, "a good HR department is a good mediator." And hopefully, this salesman and his superiors may be able to find a solution that benefits both sides.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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