I’m an Army cadet at an elite military academy in the U.S. Last semester, I was promoted to one of the highest positions in my class by the faculty officer in charge. The only person higher than me was a cadet with a rank that made him my boss.
I did my job well enough to receive commendation from the faculty officer in charge, but with the arrival of the new semester, I was demoted to one of the lowest positions in my class. The cadet who was my boss was in charge of promotions and demotions. A few very reliable friends of mine heard him saying that he demoted me based on the sole fact that he didn’t like me. This may be due to the fact that I am among many, many cadets who have criticized him openly for lack of leadership skills and the fact that he used his rank to maintain his seniority over other cadets.
Although I was a critic of his, I still performed my job with excellence and feel like he had no reason to demote me, save the fact that we don’t like each other. Should I confront him about this? Should I go over his head and bring this up to the faculty officer in charge? Any help would be appreciated!
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY DR. RICK BRANDON AND DR. MARTY SELDMAN
Dear Newly Demoted,
Of course you are focused on improving your current situation which seems blatantly unfair. Since you are very early in your career and we tend to look at things from a longer perspective, it is possible that this cadet has given you a tremendous gift, one that will repay you a hundred times what he has cost you.
However, you will only achieve these gains if you extract vital lessons from this experience. From your letter we can see that you believe in logic, fairness and objectivity. Those are excellent qualities but should be combined with organizational savvy. That is, being astute about human nature and organizational behavior.
Your statement “I… feel like he had no reason to demote me, save the fact that we don’t like each other.” reveals that you are naive about how some people in power will treat you if you criticize them. While some people in power can accept criticism and challenge, many will punish or silence critics. You need to find this out about bosses before you display dislike for them or their ideas. We suggest that you immediately become a student of organizational savvy.
What do you do now? Confronting him will probably do no good and might make him more motivated to hurt your career. A safe way to proceed would be to go to the person who promoted you and ask him for feedback. Tell him that you are trying to understand why you were demoted so you can improve for the future. If he gives you an opening to discuss your ex boss you can pursue it. But again, long term, the most important thing is to learn from this. Over the course of your career you will meet many people like this cadet. Learn to recognize them early. They give off signals about who they are. Than you can make better choices about how to engage them.
Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.
Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success
Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.