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A position for an operations director has opened and I would like to apply for it. I currently report to an operations manager who reports to the now vacant operations director. The operations manager, my direct supervisor, is also applying for the role. He had applied for it in the past and been turned down. We have a good working relationship. I'd be satisfied if he were to move into that role and I moved into his current role.

My questions:

  • How should I best inform my manager that I’m applying for a role that he is also applying for – which would place me in charge of him if I earn the promotion?
  • How can I best communicate that if I am passed over for this role, I’m open to promotion to his vacated position?
  • How can I do this while maintaining my relationship with him?


Colleen Clarke

Workplace coach and corporate trainer, Toronto

Your first consideration is whether you have the skill set to be a director without having been a manager.

Check with the hiring manager or HR to ensure your experience and skill set meets their criteria for the director position. If you qualify, ask how you should handle the situation with your manager. Then do due diligence with your boss. Be candid and collaborate with him. Ask him whether he thinks you are qualified for his position, then strategize how you should both go about moving into new roles, you as manager, him as director. In the meantime, start taking courses in management, leadership and project management. In that this position has come up before and your boss missed getting the posting, do not assume he will get it this time around. To be successful, you will have to up your management skill set to move into a director role. There is no going behind anyone's back in this situation. Be honest, true to yourself and forthright with your boss. It will all unfold as it is meant to be.


Bruce Sandy

Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting, Vancouver

Before speaking to your direct supervisor (boss), you many want to do some exploration and reflection about the director position. Check to see that you have the necessary qualifications and experience to apply for the operations director position. Consider the education requirements – both requested and ideal – as well as the types and years of experience required.

Speak to the hiring executive and/or human resources about your interest in the director position and ask if they feel you are ready. If "yes" or "you are welcome to apply," then you are a viable candidate. If "no" or "we do not encourage you to apply," then express your interest in the manager position.

Consider, if you were in your bosses' position, how you would like to hear from one of your staff that he or she planned to apply for the same position that you wanted. Or, if they wanted your current position. Be honest and open with your boss about your interest in moving up in the organization. Arrange an in-person meeting. Indicate that you appreciate working with him and that you look forward to continuing to develop your working relationship. Depending on what you hear from the hiring executive and HR, share with him if you are planning on applying for the director position or if you would like to apply for his manager position if he is the successful candidate for the director position.

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