Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

Mary’s Weekly Articles and Valuable Tools

Subscribe below and get Dr. Mary Kelly’s
weekly newsletter in your inbox.


mess in life

Ready for a promotion? Ditch the drama

I am working with a multi-billion dollar company and we were discussing the potential promotion of one of their directors, Bill. Bill knows the business well, has years of relevant experience, and he is well-liked among his peers. He is dedicated to the job, and he generously helps others when they need his expertise.

Senior leadership met to discuss Bill’s future with the company.  After just a few minutes, the consensus was reached. He cannot be promoted.

He cannot be promoted, because other areas of his life interfere with his ability to focus on work.

He always seems to have some kind of drama going on that makes his supervisor and other leadership doubt his ability to handle increased responsibility and the salary that would go with it. “He can handle the job. I just wish he would get the rest of his life in order” said his direct supervisor, and everyone else at the table nodded in agreement.

We all have a life outside of work. Or at least we should. But in Bill’s case, every week there just seemed to be a new crisis that distracted him from being able to focus on what he needs to do at work.

While it sounds unfair to make professional decisions based on personal issues, the two are related.

In Bill’s case, he often misses work because one of his grown children has addiction issues that frequently involved law enforcement intervention. Bill frequently skips work because he is bailing his son out of jail.

Because Bill’s son has legal issues, Bill frequently has unanticipated financial obligations. He had to take out a second mortgage on his house last year.  That caused the company to wonder if his financial issues would also bleed into his work life.

In the military, excessive debt is one of the reasons why someone may not get a security clearance. If you are in a situation where your finances are a vulnerability, that vulnerability could become incentive to make the wrong decisions. Excessive debt is considered a security clearance risk.

Any of us might find ourselves in a similar situation to Bill. We want to help our family members, at whatever cost. In Bill’s case, leadership wanted to be supportive with his very difficult situation. They supported his frequent absences and financial issues because they wanted to be empathetic to his situation. But it was nonstop.  If it wasn’t his son, it was something else.  There was always some kind of drama that would prevent Bill from focusing on the job like he should.

It was enough of a concern to cause leadership to not trust him with the responsibilities involved with a promotion.

At what point does our personal drama impede on our professional responsibilities?

We do not have to be perfect, but we do have to show that we are managing the other parts of our life.  While it doesn’t sound like it is fair or empathetic, trusting someone with serious financial issues, like a $27 million budget was a risk Bill’s leadership felt they could not take.

What aspects of our life make up the foundation that we need to have so that we are successful?

This falls into the category of “put your own mask on first” before you try to help others.

Some good questions to ask ourselves are:

  • Are you taking good care of your health?
  • Do you have solid friendships for support when things get tough?
  • Are your relationships stable?
  • Are you mentally and spiritually grounded?
  • Are you financially stable?

We do not work in a vacuum and life can be tough.  We have to make sure we have solid foundations in the areas of our life we can control so that when faced with external factors, we are able to handle the increased stress without it turning into a soap opera for the people around us.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *