My Promotion Vanished

My Promotion Vanished


Four months ago, two people from my organization suddenly left. One moved out of state. The other learned her daughter had an illness requiring home care.

I became the last person standing in my department. My boss came to me and asked me to “dig in” and work extra hours and to help train the new people we’d need to hire. He promised that “as soon as the new employees were solidly on board,” I’d be promoted to lead.

We hired them; I trained them, and both passed their three-month probationary period. They each got raises. I’m still waiting for my promotion to lead. When I asked my boss about it, he answered, “The situation is fluid.” What the heck does that mean?


Four months ago, your boss needed you. He gave you what you understood was a promise. You relied on it and did your part.

Two possibilities—

He made you a promise, but once he no longer needed your extra effort, he welched on it.


You heard what you wanted to hear, not what he said.

If the former is true, you have two options.

  1. You can let the situation go, realizing you work for a boss who holds out imaginary carrots. This presents you with two additional choices. You can feel shafted, remain in your job, and resolve never again to give extra effort. In the long run, this strategy backfires, as you marginalize yourself.
  2. You can continue to work with reasonable effort while looking for a new employer, one who keeps promises. Although you’ve been burned and that hurts, you win in the long run because you find a better employer.

Alternatively, you can meet a second time with your boss and ask, “What does fluid mean?” If he wants to keep you, he’ll give you an answer that offers you something. Your question additionally puts him on notice that you expected something more than you received. If he gives you an additional “promise,” follow the meeting up with an email confirming your understanding. This may force your boss to make good on the promises he uses to tantalize employees.

If your boss welshed on his promise because he now values one or both of the new hires more than you, your boss may react as if you’re backing him into a corner. If so, do you want this job or would you be better off looking for a boss who honors promises?

If, however, you heard that you’d be “promoted” to a lead position, when your boss only said, “I’d like you to act as the leader,” you have a way forward. You’ve just worked long hours and proved your worth by training two new employees. Seize this momentum, and ask, “What can I do to gain a promotion in title and salary?” If he again deflects with, “The situation is fluid,” ask what that means in your case. You deserve to know—and the answer will tell you whether you want to remain in this company or seek a new position.

(c) 2023 Lynne Curry

Subscribing to the blog is easy

If you’d like to get 3 to 5 posts a week delivered to your inbox (and NO spam), just add your email address below. (I’ll never sell it.) I’m glad you’ve joined this vibrant blog. Thank you!

2 thoughts on “My Promotion Vanished

  1. Totally a nuanced and on-target series of reactions here! Having worked too long in situations with unsupportive leaders and very limited ability to give raises I assumed it was as presented: an offer made to keep “the last employee standing” on staff to to motivate that employee to help move things forward, and after that, business as usual.

    Obviously, Lynne has dealt with and helped others deal with employees (and bosses, too, no doubt) who hear what they want to hear or who don’t quite remember what they really heard and who embellish it in their minds. I think it would be interesting to hear what this boss meant by “fluid” and expect the questions will be deflected or the boss will get embarrassed, awkward, or angry or some combination.

    1. Hi, Susan, thanks for liking this piece. And my first reaction to the question was the same as yours–the boss was making a promise because the boss had a need. But then I realized the employee might have selectively mis-heard. And I too would like to know what fluid means. It sometimes means “we hope you’ll stick around” with a carrot “mirage.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *