How To Deal With Being Number Two

How To Deal With Being Number Two


I handle a key role in my company and have for eight years. The part of our operation that I manage is specific, no one else know much about what we do. Up until this week, I thought I had a great relationship with my immediate supervisor. I’ve always received positive scores on my annual reviews.

This week something happened that has called my job future into question. My supervisor and I were visiting a client site and he let me know he nominated a peer of mine, “Joe,” for our company’s leadership development committee. He then told me each committee member has a project and he assigned Joe my department as his project. My boss made this decision without even asking me.

Joe works for a different department within our division and knows nothing about what I do.  I explained this to my boss, but he didn’t seem to get it, and instead urged me to look to Joe as a mentor.  I said that I thought Joe and I were peers, and my boss said, “Joe is one of our up-and-comers, being groomed for senior leadership.”

I take this as a vote of no confidence. Prior to this, I had thought I was an integral part of the team and had earned my supervisor’s trust and respect, but now I realize there are layers and I’m not considered leadership material. Instead my efforts are “a project” for someone else to manage.

Is it time to dust off my resume and go someplace I’ll be valued?



“You’ve received a harsh reality check,” says workplace consultant Carolynn Jerome, “and you have two options. You can dust off your resume or re-evaluate how you handle yourself within your company.”

Jerome urges you “not to over-react,” reminding you “your positive reviews make it clear your boss recognizes your efforts and skills.  Joe’s higher ranking in your organization’s hierarchy doesn’t mean you’re not a valued team member.”

“If you plan to discuss this with your boss,” says Jerome, “determine the outcome you want from the conversation. While your position in your company isn’t what you might have thought it was, you gain nothing by complaining. If you want to move up, ask how you can get to where you want to be.” You said “no one knows much about what we do.” Those who want to move up in companies need visibility with senior managers. Joe probably made it clear he wanted to move up and you may have seemed content at your level. If you’re not, Jerome suggests that you “ask to be considered a leadership candidate the next time they are adding members to the development committee.”

Meanwhile, Jerome suggests you take your boss’s advice and “soak in as much learning as you can from Joe as a mentor.” Perhaps he thinks strategically and impresses those above you as a visionary. Do you propose new ideas for your management team and company? Do you offer to take on new responsibilities, projects or roles?

Jerome adds that “You’d be wise to realize Joe may play a crucial role in your company’s future management team.” If you stay in your company, you’ll want a good relationship with him. Unless he does something to undermine your or your department’s performance, or steals credit for new ideas from you, he’s not your problem, and obvious resentment or bitterness will bite your career future more than Joe’s.

Meanwhile, learning your career star doesn’t shine has much as you thought it did can deflate your job enthusiasm and led your performance to flag. Worse, the situation you’re heading into, with Joe overseeing your department feels unfair, that can eat away at your psychological energy. Don’t let it; instead, put the situation into perspective. Knowing what you now know, what do you need to do? You may want to find a sounding board or coach who can help you get an accurate read on how senior managers view both your and Joe’s department and efforts. Do you suspect sex discrimination? If so, you need to connect with HR and perhaps an outside sounding board.



© 2018, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Solutions” and “Beating the Workplace Bully” and founded The Growth Company, an Avitus company. Curry is now a Regional Director of Training and Business Consulting at Avitus Group. Send your questions to her at, follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10 or at






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