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Help desk: Pipped to the plum job? Play the political card

Dear Help Desk

I have been with my current employer for two years, during which time I worked extremely hard to further my career through sheer determination and dedication and have produced the highest results of the departmental team. My colleague, who happens to be a very good friend of the director, is never on time, spends most of the day chatting to friends, brings in very few results and has just been given the new Group Head job, meaning she will now become my boss. I feel I should let my feelings be known but do not know how to go about it. What should I do?

Andy Blake, Bristol

Virginia Ironside, The Independent's Agony Aunt says:

I would keep my mouth shut. If you start complaining it will only look as if you're jealous and no one will believe you anyway. Your complaints will look like acts of spite. I'd just let your colleague hang herself by her own rope. Who knows, she might become more responsible now she's got a better job, or if she's inefficient, her hopelessness is bound to be spotted by others eventually..

Paul Roscorla, occupational psychologist of Acker Deboeck & Company says:

Learn a hard but valuable lesson! You can raise how you feel but it is unlikely to make any positive difference, and if you do so too strongly you risk being branded as difficult. In addition, while your feelings are understandable, you may not know all the facts. Organisations are political places, and the impression you create, and the people who know you, are as important as what you do. Remember as well that people are paid to do their jobs well but this does not mean they are seen as automatic candidates for promotion. You might ask, given your performance, what you need to do to become considered for promotion. Also examine whether you are keeping your head down at the expense of building your network of friends and supporters. "Hiding your light under a bushel" comes to mind.

Stephen Burke, MD of ROC Recruitment says:

It is always difficult when you are diligent and dedicated to no avail, especially when it seems to be favouritism rather than merit which determines reward or promotion. If you feel strongly about the situation you could seek to discuss the matter with your Human Resources Department, outlining the circumstances and letting them know of your frustrations. Prior to this you should make it perfectly clear in your own mind what your position is and exactly what you hope to achieve by taking the matter further. It would be inadvisable to present a case which could be construed as sour grapes or as being based on envy as this may serve to destroy all the good work you have produced so far. If your colleague is as bad as you say, a more high profile and visible position could be her undoing and you may in time end up with the promotion you seek. In any event it is always worth asking the management if you were considered for the job and why did you not get it. In addition to clarifying the situation for you, this will also serve to make them aware of your ambition and willingness to accept more responsibility.

Susan Bloch of GHN Executive Coaching says:

You have obviously developed a very successful set of task and process skills to produce the highest results; however, working hard to achieve these objectives may mean that you have not given sufficient time to think about the impression you are making on others. Political skills are essential at work.

Arrange to meet with the director and find out why you were passed over. You may share your feelings of disappointment but don't allow yourself to become defensive and critical. What is more important is that you learn what competencies and skills are required in the Group Head role and what you need to do to be eligible for an upward move. Develop a keen awareness of how your behaviour is affecting others and gauge whether you inspire trust and confidence.

Most important, don't become a "whinger", stay positive. Do share your ambition to move onwards (as appropriate). Without political astuteness it is easy to shoot yourself in the foot.