Heartbreak at the help desk

In this IT tale, applying for a promotion reveals an ugly, unfair side to office politics

I started my IT career as a help desk analyst working the phone queue, and over a five-year period started moving up the ranks. The last position I applied for at that company was for senior analyst of the help desk -- and ended up as a network technician. Here's what happened.

In my first position as a help desk analyst, according to "Jane," my supervisor, "I was the top resolver of technical issues amongst my peers" and had an "uncanny ability to solve problems creatively and permanently." It felt good to be affirmed, and I was secretly ecstatic knowing that my skill set was marketable and reliable.

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After working the help desk for three years, I felt it was time to apply for the desktop support technician position, which would move me off the phones. I applied and received the position. After a year and half, the position of senior analyst of the help desk opened up; the former senior analyst had some personal issues that adversely affected his job and he was let go.

I decided to apply. Jane noticed my application and called me in to tell me that she felt it would be a great move for me considering my expertise and good rapport with our customers.

A month passed and word was received by the former senior analyst that I was applying for the job. He called me and told me of the horror stories he endured and being the brunt of office politics because of the job. Granted, he wasn't the perfect fit for the position, and I kept in mind that he'd been fired and had some bitter feelings about the situation. But he had been a friend and mentor to me, and I was influenced by his stories. After discreetly finding out that at least some of what he said was true, I decided to withdraw my application.

The following day, Jane pulled me into her office and asked why I changed my mind.

I told her that I felt I needed more experience in an attempt to avoid saying, "I am not comfortable with the possibility of the kind of unnecessary pressure and political shenanigans that come with the job." Jane assured me that I was a perfect fit for the position. That afternoon, my director (her direct supervisor) gave me the same talk and I decided not to pull my name out of consideration.

The following week, I had my interview. After an hour, I left the room feeling as if I had the job. Jane told me there were only three candidates total: two internal, and one external who didn't have the required skill set.

Another week passed by. One day Jane came over to my desk and asked me to come with her to the interview room. My heart went aflutter as I imagined receiving a $15,000 bump in pay. She closed the door and somberly sat down. She told me that my interview went really well and that I had come a long way since starting there almost five years prior. From my experience in business communications, I knew she was preparing me for the "You're doing a great job, keep it up. Oh and by the way, you didn't get the job."

I was right. She said, "You did not get the position. Your co-worker, 'K,' received the position."

I was floored. Here I thought I had the position, and like nothing, it was gone. K was known to be technically inept -- and to be romantically involved with our director.

Long story short, I found out that the reason they wanted me not to withdraw my application was because there was only one other applicant who met the minimum requirements: K. If I withdrew, they would have had to wait until at least two eligible applicants were available, thereby leaving the position open longer than they wanted. They had sweet-talked me into keeping my application in the running so that they could fill the position.

I had been used. But it turned out well: I left the help desk to become a network technician shortly after and left the company two months later for a much better job.

I learned never to count on something before it occurs and that no one is above dirty tricks to get what they want careerwise.