I transferred into my current position from within the company and moved my family to a new community on the understanding that I was to be named in the succession plan for my department.
Three years later, the director who hired me and transferred me has not been in the office for months and appears to have left under an ethical cloud. The chief administrative officer who presided over the creation of the succession plan has also since been replaced.
While officially the status of my director is still up in the air, it does not appear that he will be returning. I am curious about how to proceed, with whom to discuss my future, and what obligations, if any, the company has toward me with respect to the succession plan.
THE FIRST ANSWER
Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto
It seems odd that three years have gone by and the succession plan has not progressed and that those who initiated it are no longer around. Is there still a succession plan? Did you sign any documentation with a guarantee of your succession?
If there is no signed documentation, this is not a legal issue and would most likely be dealt with through the human resources department or with an executive-level leader. As for who to discuss your situation with, it would probably be the new chief administrative officer or the highest-ranking person in the corporation.
Before meeting with the executive, ensure you have all your ducks in line. Start by asking where the company is with the succession plan and what stages of development are expected in the near and distant future.
Know exactly what you hope to achieve from the meeting and state your expectations. Be prepared for no answers and to play the waiting game. Be calm, patient, curious and professional.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Human resources executive, Atlanta
We make plans, things change and our plans change. Business is no different. Succession plans are sort of “educated bets” on demonstrated performance and what it is hoped people will grow to be in the future. It is disappointing when things don’t go as planned or when people don’t deliver on what they said they would do. But use this as a learning experience. Consider the following:
Succession plans are just that, plans. Plans change for many reasons.
A succession plan means nothing unless there is action behind it. You can put a name on a plan and label someone a successor, but unless leaders develop and prepare those people for success, it is just a document with names.
Succession planning is about developing talent choices for the future, not selecting one person for a future job. Some names on the plan might get a role, others may not.
You own your career. Figure out what you want, and don’t wait for someone else or someone’s plan to “make it happen.”
Hitch your career to your passions, opportunities, ideas, strengths and great organizations. Never hitch your career to a person. People come and go but your passion, ideas, strengths and most truly great organizations – well, you get the picture.
Figure out what you want to do next. If you believe you can do this at your current employer, develop your own career plan. Then get time on the calendar of one of the most stable leaders at your company and ask for advice and coaching. Tell your story, share your plan and confirm your belief that you can grow and make a difference.
If that doesn’t work, take your plan and your career elsewhere.
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