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I was away and my promotion went to a contract worker

THE QUESTION

I work in advertising and recently accepted a promotion before going on a five-week holiday. The new role was to supervise production and strategic direction for the agency's two biggest clients.

While I was away my boss left for a new job and management was worried that one of the two clients would follow him to his new agency. To keep the client secure, my promotion went to the contract worker filling in for me. The contract worker is more experienced than I am in this particular role and has worked closely with these clients.

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Management asked me to resume my old job for three months while they sort out another position for me. The news that they've given my promotion away came as a blow. The two clients were informed that I was coming on board, and now I feel awkward working with them, in my old job. The whole agency is aware that I had accepted the job and it has gone to someone else.

Do you have any advice about a promotion falling through like this? I accepted the new job but hadn't yet signed a contract.

THE FIRST ANSWER

Heather MacKenzie

The Integrity Group, Vancouver

Most people faced with an employer who has reneged on a promotion would be angry and frustrated, but you relate the issues in a measured and logical way which speaks to your ability to operate under pressure and size up a situation. No doubt those qualities made the initial choice to elevate you to a supervisory position an obvious one.

Un-ringing the bell with respect to the contract worker's promotion is likely impossible, particularly for continuity of client service, so the first question you need to answer is, can I stay with the company in some capacity while retaining my professional integrity? The agency has said it is trying to find another position for you, so that is worth pursuing as you may end up with a comparable job or one with more potential. If you do end up in an new post, ensure that management puts a public, positive spin on the move.

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If that doesn't work out, or you find you can't stay, you are within your rights to argue that a deal is a deal – even without a written contract. By rescinding your promotion, the company made a fundamental change to the conditions of your employment, which might equate to constructive dismissal (but you have to mitigate your damages by staying with the agency until that legal scenario is concluded). You may also be able to leverage that to obtain a favourable move within the company, but be careful that such negotiations don't take on the appearance of coercion; you want to keep a healthy profile with the agency, and the industry, since you may end up working for another outfit just like this one.

The Second Answer

Zuleika Sgro

Human resources partner, talent manager, Questrade.com, Toronto

It sounds like the agency needed to make this decision to keep two major clients who are also likely two major revenue streams. While I am sure this wasn't ideal or easy for management, it sounds like this decision could have had an impact on the company's financial health.

If your former boss was a good contact, it's likely these clients would have followed him to his new employer; those clients might not have existed upon your return. A similar situation might have resulted as to what you are facing now, but without the two major clients you were suppose to lead.

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My advice is to use this situation to showcase your ability to adapt to difficult situations and rise as a leader. I am sure this is what management already saw in you, so it is important to stay motivated. Bring ideas to the table about how you can use your skills best with the two big clients and others, and help them identify your new role.

I understand this situation is difficult for you but it sounds like your company is acting in good faith by continuing to look at appointing you to a new role. It's imperative to have agreements of a promotion, job change, and salary change in writing. These are official agreements and would give you grounds should you wish to claim a constructive dismissal.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers. Check out past columns here.

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