First class coach

I've been in this company almost since it started five years ago. I've gradually been promoted, so now I am a senior manager, just below director level.

by Miranda Kennett

I think I may have reached a ceiling, because people remember me when I was more junior. I may have to move if I want a promotion, but I am loathe to leave my friends and feel less confident about my abilities elsewhere.

A: The first thing to do is check with your boss whether the ceiling is really there by asking when they think you would be ready to move to the next level. Depending on the answer, you will either be given a timeframe and a clear idea of the expectations that you would need to meet to be promoted, or your suspicions will have been confirmed. You will then be able to decide whether your and the company's timetable are mutually compatible and whether your path to the next level is feasible and attractive to you.

But even if your boss's intentions are positive, things might change for the business, your boss or the other directors that could radically alter the likelihood of your advancement, negatively or positively. However, you will at least have established markers against which you can judge progress. You will be also be able to investigate the possibilities of progress being more rapid or easier in another organisation.

I've recently worked with two people in your position who both had very different outcomes in discussions with their managers. In one case, the manager confirmed that my client was well thought of and he intended to promote her to the board within nine months. He suggested she needed more contact with others in her job role outside the firm and offered coaching and presentation training to give her greater confidence.

In the other case, my client went to his performance review expecting to be given promo- tion and got a rude shock when he discovered that he had over-estimated his suitability for advancement. It emerged that, although he was seen to be diligent, likeable and as having potential, the general view of senior managers was that he was so narrowly focused on his current role that he was not ready to step up to a broader, more managerial one. He was disappointed, but he at least gained clarity on expectations and has taken stock of what he needs to do (and be seen to do) if he is going to close the gap between where he is perceived to be now and where he needs to get to.

I'm not surprised you are already grieving at the thought of parting from close colleagues. There can be something special about being part of a successful launch team; there's normally a lot to be done in a small team with little hierarchical demarcation and good communication.

However, many of the elements that encouraged team cohesion are diluted or disappear, for example, with new recruits who were not part of the original team and a phone list that runs to more than one page. The informal structures, processes and communication become inadequate for the new priorities and tend to be replaced with more formal, less engaging formulas.

So there is a possibility that, even if you stay, your friendships may be put under pressure.

Since you know work friendships are important to you, it's worth finding out what the possibilities for social interaction are before you sign up for a new job. Some larger organisations have all manner of sports and leisure provision, while with smaller places it will be important to check that there are people at your life stage who could potentially become friends.

I remember feeling terribly adrift as a graduate trainee in my first proper job, condemned to a year of hard labour in Basingstoke, where everybody else seemed to be married with children and there was almost no-one of my generation with my interests, and precious little social life to be had locally.

In my experience of workplace friendships, it is not unusual to have warm relationships with several people when you all share a working context, and though it is the minority that survive the removal of that context, these can endure for many years. If this holds true for you, then if you change companies you are likely to have some old chums to talk to about your new work while you're in the process of forming friendships with your new colleagues.

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