Is pride getting in the way or is prejudice an issue for either the organization or candidate? This is a question recently posed by a reader of Elephants at Work.

The Situation

John was a contractor working on a major project with a company. Within the year, he is required to leave the organization due to company policy (there were limitations on how long a contractor could remain). During his tenure, he achieves industry accolades due to his high contributions on a significant project.

He subsequently joins a second organization in a key decision making role as a permanent employee for five years.

Recently, the first organization has an opening in a senior management role and he decides to interview for it. The company goes through an extensive selection process over several months. It appears that there is a good fit; however, the organization fails to make an offer, instead opting to promote a junior internal person who is not immediately qualified.

The Answer is…in the Details

I wrote him back to ask him some additional questions and I received a long letter filling in some of the blanks. Here are some of the other facts, along with my observations:

  1. Your ability to develop significant relationships in the first company helped you figure out what is going on internally today. The trouble is that your contacts are not in the decision-making position or they have left the organization.
  2. The achievements you were able to deliver were truly remarkable, evidenced by the rewards you received years ago. I have to wonder if the decision makers in the organization are afraid that you might outshine the boss or the team. Accomplishments can bread jealousy. I realize this behavior is not always in the best interest of the company. The bottom line is that the individuals making the decisions sometimes have hidden agendas.
  3. The company decides to choose someone internally to groom into the role. The company states it is a fast track employee development decision, and I question it. This is a decision that should have been months ago before you started the interviewing process. It seems to be more like a knee jerk reaction.
  4. More likely, the decision is a result of cost containment, internal politics or the decision maker’s frustration level. If the organization does not replace the promoted employee’s role there is a savings. There could be favors someone owes someone else or there may be pressure to make this decision by someone higher in the organization. Finally, the decision makers may feel stagnation to move forward with someone externally, so they make a less resistant choice with an internal promotion.
  5. At one time, you were a contractor to the company. Some companies do not believe it is easy for a person to convert from independent to employee status. While you may have worked with another company as a full time employee, people tend to filter out what they do not know firsthand. In their eyes, you were a contractor.

So, is it an issue of pride or prejudice with you or the organization? There might be a mixture of both on either side. I am sure there is a sense of disappointment in the investment you have made to rejoin this organization. It can be hurtful to think this organization passes on you when they know what you can do first hand.

I will ask you to put your pride aside and ask yourself a more important long-term question. Do you really want to work there given their decision making style?

Cultures change over time especially if your previous sponsors have left. It may not be the same organization, despite the name outside.