Problems at work? Need advice? Our agony uncle – and readers – have the answer
How can I make my job permanent when all I get is short-term contracts?
I've been working in my current role for almost three years which, in my team of eight, is the second longest. The head of department has occupied his role for seven years. In the time I've been there, no fewer than 10 people have come and gone from my department, so I guess I should feel grateful I'm still there.
The reason for so much movement is that the company recruits only the head of department on a permanent basis – all other roles are short-term contracts which can be renewed. The industry sector is (perhaps ironically) Training and Professional Development.
I love my job. I get to work with a huge variety of people, I meet new faces and I learn something new every day. My work involves long hours and a lot of trouble-shooting and the pay is pretty low, but I'm hoping to work my way up ... and therein lies my problem.
I have spoken to my head of department about my aspirations. He says he supports me and would like to offer me a permanent role, but that's simply out of the question. He also told me not to speak to HR, which I found a little strange. I respect him because he's my manager, but I also feel frustrated at the conversation being halted so quickly.
I would love to have a permanent position within the firm – but not necessarily in my current team or role. I'm keen to speak to HR or someone in senior management about this, but not sure how to go about it given my head of department's views.
This is made worse in that I've been mistaken as the head of department on many occasions. It's true that we do a lot of similar work, plus I'm usually the first in the building and the last to leave (sad, I know!). I'd be grateful for your advice.
I suspect you've tactfully avoided voicing a suspicion that must have occurred to you. All the signs suggest that your manager feels far from secure in his own position. The fact that you've been mistaken for the head of department yourself suggests that the actual head doesn't have a natural and commanding presence. And although you don't say so, if you're the one who tends to get in first and leave the office last, his time-keeping may not be exemplary.
You say you found it a little strange that he told you not to speak to HR about your future. So do I. That's in part exactly what a human resources department is there for. The only explanation that occurs to me – and must surely have occurred to you – is that your head of department feels vulnerable and fears that any promotion for you might make his own position more precarious.
You say you respect him. But, I notice, only because he's your manager, not because of any qualities he may possess. Unless I've got this totally wrong, I'm pretty sure it's time for you to assert yourself.
I'm not suggesting that you should go behind his back – just that you should mention in a matter-of-fact manner that you're going to speak to HR about your future. He's very unlikely to forbid you to talk to them. And be sure to make it clear, as you have to me, that while you're hoping for a permanent role with the company, it would probably be outside your current role and team.
There are too many positive factors about your job for you to let one individual stand between you and possible advancement.
• If you have been continuously employed for more than two years by the same employer you have certain legal rights that make you much more like a permanent employee. The most important is unfair dismissal if your contracted isn't renewed without a "fair" reason (for example, if the works comes to an end). ollybenson
• In many organisations HR isn't about individual employees career prospects. It mostly advises managers and often does their dirty work.
If you can get to speak to someone in HR informally, that might be worth doing. But if your employer doesn't already produce a list of internal opportunities, and doesn't employ staff on permanent contracts, it says to me that the culture is nard-nosed and not nurturing. There isn't much point in worrying about whether this is good or bad; accept that this is the case and move on if you want promotions. salamandertome
• I was in a similar situation many years ago. With no prospect of promotion, I left and started my own company. As I knew their operation well, and was able to help them, my original employer did business with my company. I gained a new respect from them. Eventually they asked me to come back as a director, and I did. Drottle
My boss took me with her as she climbed the ladder – now I fear the sack
I have worked for my boss across three companies for the past 12 years. Whenever she has moved to another company she has taken me with her, to the point that I wasn't even interviewed for my current position. I have exceeded my objectives within the organisation every year.
Our working relationship has broken down in the past 18 months as a new organisational structure has started to be implemented. This has led to my boss taking over some of my activities to beef up her own position.
She is one of three directors in the company. She has now instigated a redundancy process. The business case is not factually correct and the selection criteria is very subjective – plus, as a director, she is in charge of the process and the decision making.
There is no impartiality, independent audit or transparency in the selection process. I have been marginalised in my job, ignored, and the way she is still interacting with other members of the team (who are also under threat) would suggest that this process is a sham to get rid of me. What can I do to protect myself?
It's possible, I suppose, that your boss would see it all very differently. But from what you tell me, your boss would seem to be utterly shameless and devoid of conscience. For 12 years she has been happy to make use of you as she's climbed her way from job to job. And now, as her own position seems to be under threat, she's quite prepared to strengthen her own hand by weakening yours. You owe her nothing.
Given her position in the company and the role she's playing in the restructuring process, she holds all the cards. I don't like having to say this, but from now on you should devote every moment of your time to preparing yourself to find another employer.
• You weren't complaining about lack of transparency when you were juiced into the job without an interview. PimpmasterFlex
• Get legal advice. Redundancy is complicated, and it is easy for both employer and employee to make mistakes. Obviously, employer error can be used to your advantage. Employee error might lead to you accepting something which is not in your best interests. It's a negotiation. Decide what you are willing to accept – go no lower than that, but be aware that the employer will also have a red line that it's not willing to cross. Baggy
Do you need advice on a work issue? For Jeremy's and readers' help, send a brief email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or reply personally.
The phrase that will be remembered is 'death spiral'
There were 72 uses of the vacuous phrase "Go-To" in Barclays' annual report. Chief executive Antony Jenkins clearly hopes repetition of his ambition for the bank will make the term stick. Forget it. The phrase that will be remembered is "death spiral".
Jenkins used it in an interview with the Daily Telegraph to explain why Barclays paid bigger bonuses despite a 37% fall in profits from investment banking. Smaller payments, he said, would have caused too many defections: the dreaded spiral had to be avoided. Jenkins might as well have said he is powerless to resist the annual bonus-grab. Pay for performance? Go-To hell, his bankers replied.
A chief executive in Jenkins' position can roll over only once, as competitors also know. Rival investment banks on poaching missions will milk the "death spiral" line. Not a smart thing to say.