Looking for advice on a promotion at work

I’m hoping someone with experience at a senior or art direction level can help me. Back in January, I was talking to my boss about having more projects to do and that got him thinking. About a month later, he approached me about a promotion for a Senior Designer role (I have 21 years of experience, but was hired as a mid-level Graphic Designer about two years ago). I think the transition will be tough. He’s already having me do small tasks like reviewing the junior’s work, which she doesn’t like at all, and a non-designer’s work as well. I’m getting the “stink eye” because of this and being labeled as a “know it all.” Nobody knows about this promotion but me and my boss (creative director). Maybe it’s because my promotion isn’t official yet and even though I DO know more about this stuff then anyone else there, I’m still getting isolated (not from everyone, just two or three people). It would be interesting to hear some your stories and how you handled this transition among your peers. Was there friction? If so, how did you handle it? This is really bothering me because I like everyone there. Thank you.

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I think you already know that’s the problem. Until your supervisor makes it official and tells everyone else it’s official, everyone will resent your interference and view you as a know-it-all busybody.

The longer it goes on, the more entrenched their views will become and the more difficult it will be when the promotion is made official. In other words, they’ll view it as the busybody jerk getting a promotion. Um, that’s not a good position to be in and your boss should know better.

If I were you, I’d explain this dilemma to your supervisor and that you can’t pretend to be somebody’s senior designer if they don’t know it.


Thanks! I guess I knew the answer in the back of my mind. I’m going to talk to my boss about it. I want the promotion, but I don’t come across as a jerk about it.

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Just-B is right! That is the problem and I would have given you the same advice. And remember, give as many compliments as you can. Creative people thrive on appreciation. It’s like my wise father told me when I was young, “Son, always remember that you will catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.”

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As a follow-up, I was in a similar situation earlier in my career.

I worked at a newspaper as a feature page designer. To make a long story short(er), I asked to be on a committee tasked with redesigning the newspaper. The committee members were writers, columnists, and editors with journalism backgrounds. As the only designer on the committee, I was the only one who really cared about the project. In the end, I redesigned the entire newspaper and wrote the 80-page style guide that accompanied it.

The committee and the publisher bought off on my redesign, but then the tricky part came — getting the 100 or so people involved in putting the newspaper together each day to go along with the change. They had never followed a style guide before and were used to doing things their way.

It became evident to the managing editor that someone needed to oversee adherence to the new design and educate them on how to make layout decisions. I was the obvious choice for this role, so I was asked to coordinate it.

He reluctantly gave me the title of Design Director but with no authority to really do anything. The paper had never had a design director, but here I was, trying to nudge and sweet talk 100 newspaper people into doing things differently than they were used to.

Unfortunately, none of those people reported directly to me, and there were no consequences for anyone ignoring my input. Most saw me as a know-it-all pest who walked around the newsroom giving unsolicited advice to people who resented my presence.

It was awful. People would yell at me or pretend to listen, then do what they wanted to do anyway. I once told a pregnant woman that I liked her work but that she would need to remove the multi-colored drop shadow from a headline. She swore at me, broke out crying, then ran from the newsroom in tears.

After a few months of this, I told the managing editor I needed the ability to make final decisions and that my position needed to be clearly communicated to the staff. He refused and said that giving me more authority would undermine the control of the various editors who saw themselves as the experts. I lasted another year in that non-position before quitting the job and moving to the newspaper’s website, where I did have the authority to make and enforce decisions and manage a staff who respected me as their supervisor.

All my various jobs since then at magazines, agencies, and a university were in management roles. I’m pretty easy to get along with. I’ve never micromanaged and have always given people the latitude to own their projects, make their own decisions, and get right up to the edge of making mistakes before stepping in. Even so, I’ve learned over the years that managers (including senior designers) must have the authority to make decisions that correspond to their roles, or the title is meaningless (and usually worse).

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This is EXACTLY what I’m afraid of happening. I don’t know how to explain it, I can just see the writing on the wall already. Maybe I should rethink this or jump ship. There’s really no sense in staying if I stay stagnant with no hope for going anywhere. I’m just not sure this place is ready for change.

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You have to, at least give it a try before bailing, but, equally, know when it is the right time to stop banging you head against the wall.

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Being in a supervisory role will by necessity involve people management skills. It sounds like you need to change your approach to the juniors so that they accept your advice. This is a skill you need to develop.


Sprout makes a good point. Don’t jump ship prematurely.

In my personal situation that was similar to yours, I don’t regret the time I spent dealing with it. I learned a great deal from the experience in how to interact with people and manage less-than-perfect situations and job-related personality differences. It was also an important stepping stone to other career opportunities. In addition to a valuable learning experience, I got to write on my resume that I was the design director of a significant metropolitan daily newspaper, which led to even better jobs.

Talk to your supervisor, explain the problem, and go from there. Despite the downside, it sounds like an opportunity and a nice challenge to me. Take advantage of it, learn what you can, then move on once you’ve exhausted what the situation has to teach you.

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Yea, you guys are right. I’m not going to quit prematurely and give it a chance. And I will talk to my CD about my concerns. It will be a learning experience, that’s for sure.


[UPDATE] So this senior designer promotion won’t be happening this year because of budget constraints, which I understand. I put in a lot of work to try and make this happen by writing a proposal with additional responsibilities and writing a design review process, mainly for a junior designer because SOMEBODY needs to review her work. Now my CD wants me to edit the review policy and take out the word “senior.” I told him that I wrote it from a senior’s point of view and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense now that there are two equal designers on staff. I feel like they want me to do senior stuff without a promotion or bump in pay. I don’t know how far to take this situation.