Ask Sheri

Labeled Low Potential

Sep 25th, 2015

I'm currently employed as a mid-level manager in a large health care organization. Our company holds an annual talent management process, where senior level executives sit around the table and discuss the company's next "up and comers". I've heard that this meeting includes a review of various charts and graphs, each illustrating the fate of all managers in the organization. I've been with the company for 15 years, (total of 22 years in the industry), hold a bachelors degree and have attended various professional business seminars upon request. What bothers me is, I've never been labeled a "high potential" (to the best of my knowledge), which I guess then makes me a "low potential" for further opportunities. It's very frustrating, as I notice these other co-workers receiving specialized attention, being offered increased responsibilities, and in general, given heavy executive exposure. Not surprisingly, these are the first individuals to be awarded the promotion when an opportunity arises. Should I remain loyal or should I see the writing on the wall and get my resume going?

Sheri's Response

You raise an interesting dilemma, one that I'm sure every leader faces at some point in their career. What I heard most coming through is your frustration over not feeling valued or that your organization isn't recognizing your worth or contributions. What have your previous performance reviews illustrated? Did your leader give you any indication that you are not appreciated? What signals (either written or verbal) have you been receiving from him/her on a regular basis? Have you ever held a conversation regarding your next move in the organization, even lateral transfer? I also should point out that you expressed "to the best of my knowledge I'm not a high potential", which means you aren't entirely certain about your classification.

My recommendation is that you sit down with your leader and ask him/her directly what designation you were given in these executive meetings. If you weren't labled a high-potential, try and undercover the reasons why or what it would take to bring you into that category. Your leader owes you this explanation and should provide, as best as possible, specific information or steps regarding your future. Does your leader even know that you are interested in furthering your responsibilities or challenges? At times, organizations pay attention to those who's voice is the loudest or those who demand a move up in their career. Your leader may believe you are satisfied with the "status quo" as your tenure has been lengthy. The other point I'd like to make is that not all leaders can be classified as high potential leaders. Organizations need to employ "steady eddies" who are knowledgeable and keep the shop running. If you are satisfied with job security and paid well with decent benefits, it might not be a bad thing to remain a steady eddie. In the end, it's all what you personally desire for your career. With an investment of 15 years in this particular organization, you owe it to yourself to first obtain the facts about your future before throwing in the towel.