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Why You Haven’t Been Promoted Yet

Posted by Bob Sutton on 6/8/17 7:01 AM

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Yes, I know. You deserve it. You’ve waited your turn. You’ve been patient. Why won’t they just promote you already?

There are likely many reasons why your boss hasn’t decided to move you up the organizational chart yet. Use this list as a barometer. If you want to be promoted, consider the following things before you ask for your raise.


1. Your attitude stinks.

Are you still curious or have you figured everything out? Curious people, people who are constantly learning, often show more initiative and can bring new insights to their current role and organization. Know-it-alls are rarely given the opportunity to move beyond where they are. Do you come across as someone with insatiable curiousity or someone who already has everything figured out?

2. You’re giving minimal effort. 

Just showing up might be an achievement for going to the gym but not to work. If you treat your job like Fred Flintstone and check out at every moment that you’re able, people will notice. Leaders at any level are expected to put in extra effort and time. As a follower of Christ, we should be driven to reflect excellence in all things, and minimal effort is the opposite of excellent.

3. You’re trying too hard.

As the saying goes: don’t work hard, work smart. Are you putting in way more time than you get credit for? Are you a workaholic? People who can’t find a healthy balance of work and life aren’t ready to take on the additional responsibilities that come with a promotion. Do what is required of you, help others, get your work done, but don’t over-work yourself. The tension between point 3 and 4 are a difficult but important tension to get right as a leader.

4. You don’t dress the part.

I don’t only mean clothes, though certainly clothes are included. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Show up ready to work and be put together. This goes for culture as well. If your leadership loves golf or sushi or Rick Astley, then brush up on your short game, pick up your chopsticks, and never give up, because being a leader on the team means being a part of the leadership team.

You don’t need to be a clone, but it does mean caring about the other leaders on your team and showing them that you are committed to be their peer. If you don’t really want that, then why are you hoping to be promoted?

5. You don’t push back.

Good bosses and leaders know how to use the word ‘no.'Tweet: Good bosses and leaders know how to use the word ‘no'. http://bit.ly/2riwGe8 via @VanderbloemenSG

They should be comfortable using it often. If you do everything that is asked of you without question, you demonstrate that you don’t understand the value of your time or how your role plays into the greater landscape of your organization. Learn how to make a decision and defend your position when the answer 'no' benefits the long-term health of the organization.

6. You don’t play nice with others.

Generally speaking, individuals that are promoted are liked by others in that organization. That makes sense, right? At the same time, they are typically people who get stuff done. If you are an outstanding performer, but people don’t really know you because you work alone or are a hermit, you aren’t likely in a position to move up the ladder.

People who get promoted are those that can work independently, but also work well with others. They are collaborative when they need to be and can bring others to the table.

7. You don’t have the training.

Sometimes, moving up in an organization requires additional training or expertise. You may not have what it takes – literally – so you might need to ask. That may mean going back to school, getting a special certification, or ordination.

However, sometimes it's not you...it's them.

If you are a healthy leader and contributing employee and aren't being promoted, it might be that the organization has its issues as well. Here are a few signs that the organization might not be able to promote you.

1. There’s nowhere to go.  

The very first and possibly most common difficulty with getting a promotion is that there is no vacancy above you on the org chart. This is a very real struggle for organizations who want to retain talented people but not at the expense of the organization’s structure. Some organizations are dynamic enough to create a new space, a new department, or new layer just for you, but more often than not, it would mean too much uncertainty for those new (and complicated) reporting relationships.

2. Your boss is insecure.  

I’m not sure what to tell you about this one. If your boss is insecure because they are afraid you’ll make them look bad, you are stuck in a tough spot. You could go over their head and risk breaking trust with the leadership or you could start looking to something else – another department, team, or, ultimately, new organization.

3. Your organization is struggling.

Maybe all the stars have aligned. You’ve positioned yourself perfectly. Your organization loves you and thinks you are ready for the next level. All these considered, no promotion has happened. If this is the case, it could be an indicator that the organization itself is struggling.

Finances might not be as healthy as they should be, and they can’t give you that promotion you’re ready for. This is another tough spot. It may be time to take a hard look at your situation and consider if you should stick around or begin to look elsewhere.

How can you evaluate yourself and your workplace as you seek your next promotion?

Topics: Hiring & Staffing, Team Building

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