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I'm a project manager and recently approached my boss regarding an internal vacancy. It would be a great promotion and I wanted her backing. However, she actively tried to talk me out of applying, saying she 'didn't want to lose me'. I feel she is putting her personal agenda before my career development. Any advice?


This is a good example of employment being a two-way street. Both employer and employee need to get something out of their working relationship.

Your manager is probably thinking that she has someone who is good at what they do, is part-way into an important project and does not want to put its delivery at risk. What you refer to as 'her agenda' is more than likely to be the job for which she is accountable - ensuring the project is delivered to time, for example. You cannot blame her for doing what the organisation expects.

Your needs for career development are important, but your organisation exists to deliver services to the public, not solely for the interests of staff. Of course, it does not have to be as stark as that and the best way forward is to find a win/win solution.

Discuss your aspirations with your manager and try to reach an understanding of what success looks like for both of you. That will hopefully remove speculation about each other's motives and avoid damaging misunderstandings.

Together, work out a plan of how you get from where you are to where you want to be. This could include agreeing time for acceptable handover arrangements. Will the other department be prepared to interview you on the basis that you might not be available straight away?

Finally, rather than looking suspiciously at the fact that your boss doesn't want to lose you, take it literally. You are highly valued, and that is a big achievement. Assume she means what she says, and use it as the basis for you to work collaboratively to achieve your career aspirations.

Alan Warner

Director of people and property, Hertfordshire CC

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