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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Lateral Moves

Dear Sue: I am considering pursing a new position that has recently been added to my company, and needs to be filled. It is a lateral move for me, but will be challenging and could lead to other opportunities. The assignment would not be under the direct supervision of my current manager, but I would still fall under his chain of command for performance evaluations and other personnel related issues. This concerns me because I know my supervisor does not want me to move into this position. Heíd rather have me stay where I am and continue to make him look good. Two of my co-workers are interested the position, and if either one got it, it would be considered a promotion and include a pay raise.

If I take the position, this will leave an opening where I am, and I know that neither coworker is interested in it or working more closely with my manager. My work unit is rather small and I do not want to alienate myself from my coworkers, create any resentment, or upset my manager. Although other employees have put their names in the pot for this position, I havenít yet. I know that some of the managers in higher positions would like me to apply, but I am not sure if I should. Do you have any advice for me?

Ė Undecided

Sue Says: Although you remain undecided in what you think you should do, you seem quite certain about what you would like to do. While it is nice of you to consider the needs and desires of others, it could backfire on you. If the reason you pass on this opportunity is to keep your boss happy or prevent bad feelings among your coworkers, you are not guaranteed a thing. You could find that all of your efforts were in vain.

How do think you will feel if you decline this position because your boss would prefer you stay where you are if your boss receives a promotion in the near future and moves on without you?

What will you do if your coworkers arenít offered the position and it is filled by someone you donít know and didnít give consideration to?

How will you react if the managers in the higher positions express their disappointment in you for your lack of initiative? After all, they wanted you to apply and you didnít; this might irritate them.

How many opportunities are you willing to pass up in an attempt to make others happy, and what will you do the next time a position becomes available?

It is impossible to predict how others will respond, and unlikely that you will ever be able to please everyone no matter how hard you try. I am not suggesting you intentionally cause problems; it is nice of you take the needs of others into consideration and a wonderful quality. You just need to make sure that you take your needs into consideration too.

If the new position isnít that important to you right now, but working with your boss and coworkers is, then stay where you are because you know it is what you want to do. However, if you want to apply for the position, think you can get it, and decide not to because you fear the reaction of others, think again. If others can manipulate and control you, they will, and they wonít respect you. If you take control of yourself and your career and respect others in the process, you will earn respect in return. If you apply for this position and get it, you should have a frank discussion with your boss and let him know how difficult a choice it was for you, and your reasons for moving on. Your boss may be disappointed, but if he cares about you at all, should realize that it was a good move for you and be able to understand your decision. If he is angry or lashes out at you, let him know you will support him in whatever way you can, and then move enthusiastically into that new position and pat yourself on the back for making the right decision.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

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