There is an old corporate water cooler saying: “Your boss isn’t your boss; your boss’s boss is your boss.”
Although a bit confusing, the message is simple; many managers hire people to work for them, not to help them to become their peers. Your boss’s boss is probably the most likely person that will help you advance. A commonly stated philosophy is that a manager should always hire people that are better than they are. The logic is that excellent performance by subordinates will make the manager look even better through the team’s performance. The implication of this statement is that a person’s boss has a vested interest in keeping a stable, high performing team in place. This situation may be true, but in most cases, the manager will not be outwardly taking advantage of their team members. Subconsciously, a more basic motivation may be involved – their own success or even their survival.
The notion of “thirty years at the company, a gold watch, and then out” are long gone. Job security across the corporate spectrum is a thing of the past. Whether it is globalization, technology, government policies, the environment, or some combination of other factors, changes in workforce dynamics are constant. Individuals, at all levels, seem to be more focused on keeping what they have (not losing) instead of winning. Essentially, many people are focused on creating and maintaining their own security instead of expecting security to come from the organization.
Your potential new boss may have unconsciously fallen into the trap. They have the correct goal in hiring the best person for the position in question. That person, in turn, by performing at or above expectations, will help them meet their goals. Promoting you, based on your superior performance might be the appropriate action for your boss to take but, at the same time, losing you creates a potential performance dilemma for them as they try to identify an equal replacement for you.
Complicating this situation even farther, your boss’s short-term goals may not align with the company’s long-term goals? As an example, your new department may be focused on reducing response time and resolution time to customer complaints – a worthy goal. However, your boss’s boss may be more interested in reducing customer complaints through product improvements and customer diagnostics that significantly reduces the need for customer service. You may approach your job differently if you understand what your boss’s boss wants to accomplish.
During the interview process find a way to meet with other key staff members including your boss’s boss. Ask them about their goals and, most importantly how you, in the new position, could help them achieve their goals.
As a word of caution, if your potential boss stymies your attempt to meet with his boss or other more senior individuals at the appropriate time, think of this situation as thunder in the distance. Will this become the norm in the future? Keep this situation in mind as you make your decision. Virtually all companies talk about their open-door policy and accessibility to upper management. Try to determine if this is merely a written platitude or an actual, common practice. Knock on the door to be sure.