Dear ReWorker: What Should I Do About a Lack of Learning Opportunities?
November 2, 2016
During the interview for my current job, I emphasized that I wanted a job with professional development opportunities. The hiring manager said that professional development was important and definitely a priority. After six months, I approached my supervisor about a recognized professional certification that I wanted. It was an 18 month online course, so I wouldn't miss work, but it was expensive. He said no.
The company announced this week that the same training program would be available at no cost to the department, but I'd have to be out of the office for 20 days. My boss said 20 days away was a no-go. I told this to a co-worker, and she said the management team said I'd be perfect for this. However, my boss said, "She's so good, they'd probably try to steal her way from us."
I want to go back to my boss and ask her to reconsider my application. But, I can't bring up anything I know about what my coworker said, for fear of getting her in trouble. How can I do this?
Bait and Switch
Dear Bait and Switch,
Sometimes knowledge is power and sometimes it's paralyzing. You now know that your obstacle to learning opportunities is your boss' fear of losing you — this kind of knowledge is likely to spur some negative feelings towards your boss. There are different ways to approach this situation. But first — how long will you stick around this company?
If you are planning to stay there no matter what (and have communicated that), then your boss probably doesn't feel pressure to concede, and you need to be more communicative. This is one of the reasons companies throw all sorts of perks at new hires and barely give raises to long-term employees—they think you'll stick around forever.
The next thing to consider is why mentioning what your co-worker said to you could get her in trouble. You don't want to have a co-worker punished for trying to help you out, but it's worth asking her if she minds. She may say, "Please leave me out of it," or she may say, "Yes, please tell your boss that I told you this." For now, we'll assume that she wants to stay out of it.
So, what do you say to your boss? If you're planning to stay no matter what, you can still ask something like this: "Bill, I'd like to talk about this development class. When you hired me, we discussed how important things like this were to me, and you agreed that was the direction you wanted to take the department. What can we do to make this work?"
If he says no, then follow up with, "I understand that this particular class won't work, but let's get something on the schedule for 2017 so that we can plan ahead."
If you feel ready to leave unless you receive the development opportunities you were promised, then begin the same way, but when your boss refuses you need to push back: "Bill, I made it very clear from the beginning that these training classes were important to me. I would not have taken this job if I had known that I would not have development opportunities. We need to make a plan or I need to move on."
Now, this last statement is super-duper scary. But remember, you have knowledge that is powerful—your boss is terrified of losing you and the other management team members love you. Use the knowledge you have to empower you, not paralyze you. You can start looking to move on to other departments or a new company. He can't stop that. Once he realizes that, he's more likely to give you the opportunities you negotiated.
Photo: Creative Commons