Knowing when to “move on” can be key to career growth

Dear Joan:

I’m seeking your advice on how to “get back into the game” at my company. We are a software company that’s been in the US for four years, with a home office in Europe. I had ascended from receptionist to Senior HR [Human Resources] Officer, with my own office, creating policy and procedure, and reporting to the Director of HR. I went on maternity leave in September of 2002 and came back to find that the company eliminated the entire HR department and put me back at reception (after the receptionist was laid off as well). I think I was given this job as more of a good faith gesture (plus the legal aspects of returning back from a leave with no job).


Since that time, I have come up with several ideas including saving our company a minimum of $25K in overtime costs, developed training seminars for managers and trying to get our senior staff to adhere to some semblance of policy and procedure, to no avail.


We have a new CEO (effective when I returned from leave) who does not believe HR is a valuable tool and will not utilize my skills, no matter how hard I try. Even when I come to the table with cost saving ideas, I’m not taken seriously.


I work in a 99 percent male atmosphere in our office and although I truly don’t want to think that has anything to do with the situation, I’m not all that certain. My previous supervisor was a female who championed, coached and trained and mentored me. Since she is no longer with the company, I’m left out of the loop and in the cold.


I want to be successful. I want my company to achieve its greatest results, profit and goals but I am truly at a loss as to how to proceed and succeed. I was one of the first people hired to run this office. I helped float the company and get us to where we are today. I really don’t want to leave but I can’t seem to get recognized for any achievement whatsoever. I have solid leadership and organizational skills that are growing rusty because I can’t get my foot back in that door of opportunity, where people recognize what I have and can accomplish.


Do you have any advice? I’ve spoken to my supervisor and his supervisor and get nowhere. They sympathize with me but can’t give me anything to aspire to where I could further my career. Just wondering if there is another avenue I could take.



Instead of stumbling around like a cast member of “The Night of the Living Dead,” you need to chalk this off to a learning experience: when a new leader enters, the old culture usually exits. Don’t take it personally; it’s a classic case study about leadership and the impact on organizational culture.


The HR Department, and your old job, are dead and you are in the first stage of mourning: denial. While you were out, the new leader road into town, shot the department and buried the bodies. He operates with a different set of priorities and they don’t include any input from HR.


Frankly, your boss and his boss are probably scratching their heads, wondering what’s taking you so long. The new leader doesn’t care about your past contributions and loyalty to the company. I suspect your hunch is right, if he wasn’t worried about getting into legal trouble by not having a job for you when you returned from maternity leave, you’d be gone by now. In fact, the demotion to the reception job is probably an attempt to humiliate you into leaving.


One of the best gifts you can take away from this experience is the mentoring you received from your former manager. Because of her, you have the experience, the title, and the resume you’ll need to move to a new job.


Leaving may be the best thing you do for your career, for another reason. I know several HR professionals, who started as a receptionist, or in an administrative assistant position. They reported difficulty in ascending very far beyond their clerical role. They had to leave their companies and find different opportunities because management continued to view them as “clerical” regardless of their talents.


If you haven’t completed a degree in Human Resources, or other related field, I urge you to do that now, while you are employed. Start networking in a professional organization, attend conferences and reach out to fellow professionals to find out where the jobs are.


With the economy picking up and so many companies looking for innovative HR leaders, you should find a warm reception, where your energy and talent will be appreciated.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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