Promotion given, then taken away, now what?

Dear Joan:

I recently started a position with an up and coming company. After a very short time, I was asked to assist in the HR department to recruit, interview and process new sales associates for the company.  


After only a few weeks of assisting in HR, the HR Director became extremely set on me moving to that department on a permanent basis. Not only did she recruit me whole heartedly, she talked about classes I should take in HR and how her HR group would fund the class. Then she talked about how the position would mean more money and opportunity for me, she even had a formal interview with me (giving me the questions she was going to ask in advance). Then she had me write up my current job description, ran it in the newspaper, brought in candidates for me to interview and as we narrowed those candidates down, our VP began interviewing them for a final decision.  One last thing, the VP announced to all of the upper management that it looked like I would be moving to the HR department. All looks really good right... wrong.

During the time we were finalizing candidates for my current position in Sales, the Sales Department started losing people left and right. Next thing I know, I am being told to stop interviewing and very nonchalantly told that I was out of the running for the HR position because I didn't have a degree.  WHAT??

Now, obviously it was known that I didn't have a degree the entire time I was being schmoozed by HR, and obviously now that the Sales department was in turmoil, it was decided that I didn't need to be moved right now. So why did they use the fact that I didn't have a degree against me?

This is not my real question, however.  The story continues.  Of course after I was told that I did not get the promotion, due to not having a degree, I met with HR and made a final plea (by this time had already made big plans based on that promotion and I wasn't going to let it go so easily).  I told her that everyone knew I didn't have a degree when this thing started and that it is obvious that I didn't get the position because of the sales turmoil. I stated that I didn't think it would be fair to hold me back professionally because they didn't want to lose anyone else from sales at this time. Her response to our meeting was that "at this time I was still in the running and that I was still going to have another interview with the CEO and to not get discouraged."  WHAT???  All is good right... wrong.

The CEO comes to me a couple of days later, after he gets wind that I was upset about not getting the job, and tells me that I never even had a chance of getting the job because I was needed in sales.   He said that the HR Director could not understand why I even thought I had the job in the first place and didn't know why I would be upset.  He also stated that he was not aware of any of the happenings until the end when he told my current boss to tell me I was not getting the promotion.

Now, several things have happened here, but some more important than others.  


1)  The HR Director acted as if I was crazy for believing I had the promotion in order to
cover herself.  


2) My non-degree was used against me, when in fact it had nothing to do with anything.  


3) I worked like a mad person for 2 months proving my worthiness for a job that I could have never gotten in the first place.

I am very upset and before all of this began I was very happy about my current job and the company, but now, not so much.  It makes me very nervous that this type of lying and unprofessional behavior has taken place and that somehow they all tried to make me the beast of burden (no degree, why would I think I had the promotion anyway, etc…). When in fact, all I did was strive for an opportunity that was for all general purposes laid out in front of me.  

What do I do to come back from this and save face with the people that were told I had the job and actually came by to congratulate me.   Do I bring it up again with HR, let it drop, ask for a raise for my current position, ask that they do damage control to the people who were told I would be moving and now see that I am still in the same place…what!??  I am at a loss.  


Clearly, they see you as a star player, so don’t make the mistake of shooting your own star out of the sky. The fact of the matter is that they think you are so good, they want you in two places. If you want to win in the long run, stop focusing on how you were “wronged,” and realize that both the HR Director and the CEO have to consider (and so should you) the bigger priorities at the moment.


The HR Director was operating under the assumption that removing you from sales to work for her in HR was a good move for you—and the company. She might have been trying to overlook your lack of a degree, just to get you started in HR. Her first mistake was to imply that you had the job before she had the authority to offer it. Her second mistake was in using a loophole that let her save her face with the CEO---but at your expense. This raises integrity questions.


Take the high road and you will win big points in both of their eyes---and in the eyes of your peers. Calmly tell HR and the CEO that you recognize that helping the Company in sales during this time is the right thing to do. Express your desire to move into HR (if you still want to) and let the HR Director save face (right or wrong, you will gain nothing by blaming her publicly and you will win her gratitude for not making a big stink about her gaff).


Explain to your peers that “With all of the turnover in sales, plans to move into HR got derailed because they need me to help out in sales.” Ask the HR Director to support you and backup this message.  Suggest that it would help you if she spoke to your VP (who already announced your probable departure), so they both could help you position this and help you save face.


Meanwhile, ask her what qualifications you will need for future opportunities. Ask if it’s possible to move into HR without a degree and then earn one once you are in an HR job. Ask for tuition refund help, if it is offered by the company.  Aim high so you can shoot for future opportunities. But if you feel the HR Director’s integrity is really the problem here, and you want an HR job, set your sights on opportunities elsewhere.

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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