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THE QUESTION

When the company named me a team lead 1 1/2 years ago, I was told that when the number of direct reports justify it, I would receive a promotion to a higher role as operations manager. But following a recent restructuring that consolidated two groups and eliminated the team lead position, the company transferred in an operations manager from another province. I am now reporting to him – essentially in my prior job. They said the decision had nothing to do with performance. Is senior management sending me a signal?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Colleen Clarke

Workplace coach and corporate trainer, Toronto

Restructuring, mergers and downsizing situations are usually an advantage to the few rather than the masses, and they should never be taken personally. Employees are merely pawns in the game when there is corporate change. Imagine a chess board and each chessman is an employee: now, reconfigure the board from square to triangular with more or less squares and try to put everyone back in place where they were before or might be anew – it's crazy. Employers think that if as many people as possible can still be on the board, life is good – for them maybe, often not for the employees.

You have to reassess your new/regressive place in the company and ascertain whether there is a future for you here. Whatever you decide, continue to be a star performer in case the new operations manager doesn't work out, so you can be ready to take the lead. And if he does work out, you can offer a new company your professional services with pride and confidence. Always be prepared for change; it isn't always fair or may not seem right, but it is always going to be imminent in all aspects of our lives.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Bruce Sandy

Principal, Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting, Vancouver

You need to be curious and ask the senior company officials why you were not given an opportunity to step into the operations manager position or at least compete for it. Ask for feedback on your performance. Be prepared with a list of your achievements and accomplishments. Give this to senior company officials.

Take notes on the feedback that the company officials give you. Ask where you have excelled in their view. Then ask for areas where they feel that you need more growth and development. Request that they give you specific examples. Ask where they see you going in the company in the future. Ask what it will take for you to move up to the next level such as the operations manager position.

Pay attention to see if the company officials are open and forthcoming with their answers to your questions. Consider the sincerity of their responses. If there are questions about these first two conditions and, if the company officials give more negative feedback than positive feedback and are not encouraging about your future development, then you know where you stand. At this point, start to network and look for other opportunities. Update your résumé. Seek the advice of an employment lawyer. You may have a case for functional dismissal.

Try to stay at your current company until you find a new position. It is usually easier to find a new position when you are gainfully employed as opposed to out of work.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com

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