Demoralized receptionist feels trapped in an entry-level role.

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Q: I recently asked my boss about possibly moving to a different position. I was stunned when he replied, “That’s not likely to happen because you’re just too good at your job.” After working here for 16 years, I found his response to be extremely demoralizing.

Eleven years ago, the owners decided to make me the receptionist. Although I expressed concern about being tethered to a switchboard, they said my outstanding phone personality could really help the business. Now they won’t even consider putting anyone else in this role.

I have more to offer than a pleasant voice and a friendly face, so being trapped in an entry-level position is frustrating. Apparently, the reward for good work here is being stuck in the same job forever. I don’t want to leave, but I’m becoming impatient. Do you have any advice?

A: By ignoring your obvious discontent, these managers are being extremely short-sighted. If career stagnation causes you to leave, they will not only have to find another receptionist but they’ll also lose your many years of knowledge and experience. Instead of focusing on convenience, they should be thinking about retention.

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Part of the problem may simply be familiarity. After 11 years of seeing you at the front desk, your boss might have difficulty imagining you anywhere else. So perhaps you can help him expand his vision.

Identify one or two feasible jobs and then prepare a summary showing how your abilities match those duties. Next, outline specific steps for smoothly transitioning to a new receptionist. Present this proposal to your manager and see how he responds.

For example: “Bob, I think you know how dedicated I am to this company. However, after 11 years as the receptionist, I’m hoping for a chance to contribute in a different way. I’ve identified two job possibilities, so I would like to discuss how I might eventually move into one of those roles.”

If your boss is willing to consider this plan, you can collaborate on a realistic timeline. But if he still seems to view you as a permanent lobby fixture, then you may want to consider other options.

Q: As a new manager, I’m not sure how to handle a difficult performance review. “Brent” is an argumentative employee who blatantly ignores my instructions, so he will not be getting a great evaluation. However, on his self-assessment, Brent gave himself a perfect score. How do I address this?

A: Inflating self-appraisals is actually a fairly common tactic. By giving themselves only the highest scores, these employees hope to nudge their boss’s rating upward. Smart managers simply ignore this ploy and bring poor performers back to reality by calmly stating the facts.

For example: “Brent, I noticed that your self-assessment includes only the highest ratings. Since we’ve already discussed some performance issues, you obviously know my evaluation won’t be that high. So let’s talk about what’s going well with your job and what needs to improve.”

The most effective self-appraisals replace rating scales with narrative comments. Having people rate themselves adds absolutely no value and shifts the focus from discussing performance to comparing numbers.

Q: I have a comment on the recent question about the office hoarder. At my university, we called in the local fire inspector to address the extreme hoarding of several professors. Their offices were dangerous fire traps and, in one case, hosted a family of mice.

The threat of regular inspections and fines quickly solved the problem.

A: Thanks for sharing your story. When mice start nesting in the clutter, then it’s definitely time for a clean-up!

Submit questions to Marie G. McIntyre at