My Boss is Great, But may career is Stuck


Sudhir Bisht
211, Plot 20, Sector 10, Dwarka, New Delhi-110075

The Case of a Gentle Boss who keeps accepting unrealistic targets for his Team

Prodip Mookherjee is the Regional Manager (RM) of Northern India in a reputed 'personal care' products company. He has the reputation being a hard working RM who is ethical and is looked upon as a gentleman-manager by his team. He heads a large team in the company's Regional office in New Delhi and the State Heads located at various states in North India report to him.

Rahul Sharma is the State Head of Punjab in Mookherjee's team. Rahul is a go-getter who takes personal pride in achieving tough Sales targets that are given to him but there is an increasing sense of concern among Rahul that his sales targets are always kept at an impossible-to-achieve level.

The Sales targets for the States are set by the Top management cadre (TMC) at the company's Head Quarters that is based in Mumbai. Rahul has never complained to Prodip about the injustice being done to his state by the Head office. He finds that that when the competition in the sector is increasing and the rival companies are upping their trade promotions, his company is going slow on trade promotions in his state.

Rahul believes that Prodip isn't able to protect the interest of his State. He isn't able to negotiate better promo budget for the state during the TMC meetings in Mumbai. He also feels that Prodip caves in easily when the TMC gives him higher and higher targets without taking into account the ground realities of enhanced market competition in Northern Region.

The appraisals of State Heads depend upon their achieving their Sales targets and Rahul finds it impossible to achieve his targets since his Boss always agrees to unreasonable targets.  Rahul's state has given year-on-year (YoY) growth of 12% for the past two years but his appraisals aren't as good as the appraisals of the State heads of other regions, say the Southern Region, who have given a YoY growth of 7-8% whereas the fact is the personal care industry has grown 12% in Southern Region whereas it has grown by just 6% in Rahul's state.

Rahul has great personal respect and admiration for his Boss who is a fine human being.  Prodip is a soft-spoken person who doesn't throw his weight around.   Rahul has tremendous respect for Boss but is very frustrated that in spite of having the highest market share in the state in the industry, he never gets an outstanding ranking in the appraisals. His promo budgets have been reduced substantially over the years and he gets overwhelmingly high market share targets when it is virtually impossible to defend even his current market share!

The Boss who isn't aggressive in SELLING his TEAM 

Sunil Garg is the GM- Terminals of a large Fuels company in the country. He has a National leadership profile and all the Terminals and Depots that store fuel(s) across the country are under his command. Sunil is able to provide good leadership to his Managers. He is technically well qualified and is able to meet most of the targets in terms of the total throughput of all the depots put together. Sunil's department has maintained 'ZERO accident events' in the past two years and the product losses have come down considerably since he took over as the GM. He has also successfully introduced a modernization programme at all the depots that aims at remote monitoring of fuel tank operations.

However it is observed that very few Depot Managers under Sunil have been promoted to the senior ranks in the past few years.  The Promotion of Junior Managers to the rank of Senior Managers is approved by the committee of Executive Director (ED) and various GMs of the company. Human Resources Head plays the role of moderator and coordinator of this committee.

Sunil is a thorough professional who is able to work well with his team but when it comes to his playing politics at the Selection committee meetings, he finds himself disinterested and incapable of pitching for his team. While other GMs, like the one in-charge of Sales, are able to aggressively pitch for their teammates, Sunil simply doesn't have the inclination to do so. He has once or twice spoken with the ED but the latter just said, "Sunil the number of people who can be promoted are limited. Each GM has to pitch for his men and you should defend your team with greater vigour."

Ashok Reddy works under Sunil and he is getting increasingly frustrated that he has been overlooked for promotion to the rank of Senior Manager yet again. He finds that his batch mates in Sales departments were promoted two years ago. Reddy is an outstanding officer and Sunil has been giving him outstanding reports for the past few years. And yet he finds that he is always overlooked for the promotion by the Selection committee.

The Boss who doesn't get along well with his Boss

Rajinder Singh is a Quality Control Engineer of an auto ancillary manufacturing unit in Gurgaon. His Boss, Narendra Kumar, is the Head of Quality Control (QC) and he has been with the company for the past several years. Rajinder is a very hard working and well qualified QC Engineer but he has been overlooked for promotion to the grade of manager- QC even though there was a vacancy in the company and Rajinder satisfied all the criteria that were laid down for the position. Yet the company hired someone from outside. Rajinder's Boss, Narendra Kumar had proposed Rajinder's name but the Managing Director rejected it.

The MD and the Head of QC don't share the Best of equation. The MD doesn't trust the abilities of Kumar. He would be happy to see Kumar out of the company but since Kumar is one the founding members of the unit and enjoys a good rapport with the Board members and even with the customers' key people, the MD is not able to eject him out of the system. He is waiting for Kumar to retire in two years time. Rajinder is personally on very good terms with his Boss, Kumar. The latter not only inducted Rajinder in the department as few years ago, he even coached him on the job. Rajinder finds Kumar an excellent mentor who goes out of his way to help him in discharging his professional duties.

What should Sharma, Reddy and Singh do?

I am sure that my description of the situations that the three team members find themselves in, strikes a chord with the readers. How often do find ourselves in a situation when we have excellent relationship with our Boss and yet we find ourselves stuck in the growth path?


Just because the Boss isn't able to defend his Region in a target setting session (as is the case of in the Personal care company of Rahul Sharma) or the Boss isn't able to push the case of his team with the Top management for promotion (as in the case of Reddy) or the Boss happens to be on the wrong side of the Top management (as is the case with Rajinder).

Let's try to find answers to the key question which is, 'What should Sharma, Reddy and Singh do?'

A. The Boss of Rahul Sharma is too gentle with his Bosses and this makes the professional lives of Rahul and his colleagues difficult.

Rahul Sharma should have a heart-to-heart chat with his gentleman Boss, Prodip Mookherjee. He should present the facts to the Boss and tell him that while the industry growth rate is X % in his state, he has been growing at (X+Y) %.  He should also give a detailed analysis of how the states in the other regions have been doing badly as compared to his state and yet they are getting easily achievable growth targets and enhanced promo budgets.

It is quite likely that the gentleman that he is, the Regional Manager hasn't been doing enough to sell his best state in the Top management meeting just because he hasn't received any stimulus from the State Manager, Rahul Sharma himself.

If his Boss still doesn't do the needful then Rahul should send polite communication to his RM and cc the Top management of the company wherein he should plead for fixing of achievable targets with an appropriate promotional budget.

The key thing is here is to maintain the hierarchy and yet make the point to the management. Just by getting frustrated will not work. Rahul has to assert himself and that alone would ensure that he gets a fair deal.

B. Ashok Reddy's Boss isn't able to aggressively sell his team mates to the Top management

Ashok Reddy should explicitly share his sense of disappointment at missing out on promotions with his GM- Terminal. Unless Ashok communicates his feelings, his Boss wouldn't be motivated to act since that would be against his basic nature.

And if that doesn't work then he should write to the ED directly and ask as to what he needs to do differently to be able to be promoted to the next grade.

In the communication he should clearly mention that the GM-Terminals, his Boss, had always rated him as 'outstanding' and yet he hasn't been promoted and hence he is seeking the ED-HR's advice to brighten his prospects for promotion next year.

This way Reddy would be able to register his protest in the mind of the Executive Director without ruffling the feathers of his gentleman Boss.

C. Rajinder Singh's Boss is not on good terms with his Boss and this is impacting the career prospects of Singh

This is a very tricky case. The mentor's bad relationship with his Boss is spoiling the mentee's career. Rajinder has the option of representing his case to the company's Managing Director. Nothing else would work. He has to write a petition to the MD and route it through his Boss. The chances are that his Boss would be very happy to send it forward.

Rajinder must also seek time with the MD and in a direct manner let him know that he feels that he was overlooked for the promotion due to the fact that he wasn't given adequate opportunity to showcase his claim for the position of Manager- QC. An assertive positioning by Rajinder is needed to brighten his chances when such positions are available in the company in future.

All these employees have the option of seeking lateral transfers to other divisions/ disciplines or other states. They also have the option of seeking opportunities outside their present companies.

However since they are all achievers, they should make their points of view known to the people in management who matter. It is very much likely that the Bosses of their Bosses would understand their perspective and try to undo the injustice they have been subjected to.

It takes many years to build a reputation in a company and one must never leave a company without rallying spiritedly for one's own cause.

The most important thing is to do so assertively, professionally and in conformity with the corporate etiquettes.

Sudhir Bisht is a published author and a freelance journalist.
Feedback welcome at

Sudhir Bisht
211, Plot 20, Sector 10, Dwarka, New Delhi-110075

Source: E-mail June 27, 2015



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