I have been working for a large corporation for about 4 years. My relationship with the vice president is great; I feel he is smart and respectable. My relationship with my supervisor however, is a little rocky. She is a flake, routinely calling in to work, crying over the slightest criticism, complaining incessantly, and the quality of her work is terrible.
In January I applied for a new position in the company, I interviewed for the position twice and both interviews went well. After a couple of weeks I was called by the vice president in the new department and told that they selected another candidate because they had more experience. I was disappointed, but not heart broken. The vice president in my current group took me out to breakfast as a morale boost and I appreciated it greatly.
Now several months later the supervisor in the group I had applied to work in approached me confidentially and told me that I was the candidate they originally wanted, but my current vice president would not allow me to move. He told me they have another position opening up and they want to fill it with me, but are concerned about whether or not it will be possible.
I am not sure how to feel about this. I am frustrated because my vice president held me back without even giving me an explanation. I am worried that I will not be able to move anywhere within the company because my supervisor is a flake and my vice president relies on me too much. What should I do?
Unfortunately, this happens far too often. Your Vice President doesn't know how to correct the problems with your boss, doesn't want to go through the hard work of replacing you (since your direct supervisor will be of little to no help) and so he holds you back.
You have a good relationship with the VP, so set up a meeting with him and be straight forward. Tell him flat out that you are looking to advance in your career, but are afraid that your supervisor's "short-comings" may make it difficult not only to replace you, but to train your replacement.
Then ask if he feels like this could be a problem. He'll most likely say no, no, no, of course not. Don't get angry with him for lying; he's probably justified his interference in your last job opportunity by saying you weren't ready for the higher level job. And, the more he justifies it to himself, the more he actually believes it. Tell him that the next time a similar position opens up, you intend to pursue it.
Then tell him you'd like his help developing a plan to prepare someone to take your place. Since he's not willing to do his own succession planning, you need to do it for him. Don't let him put you off. If he says, "Oh, you're not ready for that level of job," ask him what you need to do to be ready for it.
This is one of those situations where you need to take control. You cannot sit back and hope he starts to feel guilty about holding you back. You will, undoubtedly, be the one who has to write up the proposal for training/finding your replacement. You need to start documenting the processes and procedures you use so they can be easily transferred to someone else.
When the other department has the open position, go and interview for it. Hopefully, nothing will hold you back.
For more reading on how to get that promotion:
Photo by I Don't Know, Maybe, Flickr cc 2.0