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What to do when a promised promotion falls through

This week I’m answering a question about a promised promotion that seems to have stalled now that the extra work has been completed.

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Four months ago, two people from my organization suddenly left. One moved out of state, and the other unexpectedly started her own business.

I became the last person standing in my department. My boss came to me and asked me to “dig deep.” He said he needed me to work extra hours, train the new people we’d need to hire and that as “as soon as the new employees were solidly on board,” I’d be promoted to lead.

We hired them, I trained them, and both passed their three-month probationary period. They each got raises, but I’m still waiting for my “promotion to lead.” I asked my boss about it, and he said, “The situation is fluid.” What the heck does that mean?

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Here’s what appears to have happened. Four months ago, your boss needed you. He gave you what you thought was a promise. You relied on it and did your part. He made that promise, and once he no longer needed your extra effort, he welched on it.

You have two options. You can let the situation go, realizing you work for a boss who holds out imaginary carrots. This presents you with an additional choice: You can feel shafted, remain in your job and resolve never again to give extra effort. In the long run, this strategy backfires, as you marginalize yourself.

Or you can continue to work with reasonable effort while looking for a new employer, one who keeps his promises. Although you’ve been burned and that hurts, in the end you win, because you find a better employer.

Alternatively, you can meet a second time with your boss and ask, “What does fluid mean?” If he wants to keep you, he’ll give you an answer that offers a more definitive promise. Follow up this meeting with an email confirming your understanding. This can force your boss to make good on his promise.

If he welched on his promise because he now values one or both of the new hires more than you, your boss may react as if you’re backing him into a corner. If so, do you want this job, or would you be better off looking for a boss who honors promises?

Have a question for Lynne? Email her at with the subject line “SheKnows,” and she may answer your question (confidentially) in an upcoming piece on SheKnows.

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© 2016, Dr. Lynne Curry, author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully and founder of and You can follow Lynne at @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.

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