Learn and Lead

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5 Reasons Why You are Not Being Promoted

I came across Dan McCarthy’s blog recently. Dan is a practitioner in the field of leadership development for over 20 years and is currently the Manager of Leadership and Management Development at a Fortune "Great Place to Work", "Training Top 125", and "High Impact Learning" (HILO 80) company. He has a great blog on leadership that I would encourage you to subscribe to.

Dan wrote a great post Head’s Up – You are About to be Promoted or Fired where he shares why you might get promoted or fired. I think there’s also a third script: the status quo script. While you may not be fired for things you do (or don’t do), you may not get promoted either. Here’s what the script might be why you are not getting promoted:

Status Quo script:

I have some good news - you are keeping your job. Unfortunately we aren’t promoting you. Here’s why:

  1. You are not seen as a leader amongst your peers. You do your job well enough. However you don’t inspire others, either within your team or amongst your peers. People respect you for doing your job with the best intentions and spirit but don’t really look up to you for taking them to the next level.

  2. You don’t take initiatives. If there is a new opportunity, you don’t volunteer. You don’t seem to have new ideas. You usually wait to be assigned tasks and you are happy to do what is assigned to you, which you do well, no doubt. Perhaps you are content and satisfied with your current role.

  3. You are not adding value to your current role. For example, your role is not just to create and present the report, but also work towards improving what you are presenting.

  4. You are not visible. You don’t participate in company initiatives. You avoid official social gatherings. You don’t participate in cross functional teams. You shy away from taking credit for the good work you or your team does. You rarely share what you know, people don’t really see you as a node of reference.

  5. You resist change. If there is talk of changing process or tools, you resist it. Your first reaction to initiatives is that it can't be done. It is too hard to convince you about the new ideas or changes and too much time needs to be spent with you to onboard you. People see you as an impediment to new ideas.

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Anonymous said...

You have hit the nail on the head. A very nice insight to those who wonder why they are staying where they are despite 'doing the job well'.

Unknown said...

All this is reason why you are not moving OUT of the present position... But what if you were to think What is preventing someone from moving INTO a new position (promotion)?

I would add one single overarching reason - you don't provide (perceivable) value to the new position.

See - the way I see it... you have some things on offer - and the company is paying you in return for those services... Basic Demand-Supply.

Now... you are a fantastic employee and you provide fantastic value at the present position - you provide consistent quality, on time every time (cost is imperative - you have a static pay)... but do you provide greater value in a higher post?! maybe not...
- Maybe there is no requirement - you really cant have all managers - no managed...
- Maybe your perceived value (proportionate value) at the position if higher than in new position - you might be indispensable in this position but not really khass in the next position
- Maybe you CAN provide higher value in next position... but maybe you cant be replaced (by value) in your present position.
- Maybe you don't have the necessary KSA to get into the new position

See... I know this can be cynical - but we have always seen that in crunch times 'being a leader', 'being visible', 'taking initiative', 'adding value' and/or 'resisting change' don't matter...

When the need arises (vacant position - new project - crunch) all these are forgotten in a haste to promote the most eligible upwards... Besides come to think of it... with these 5 HR-spiel-ish parameters, lateral entries will never be possible - all you can do is ASK if they have these 5 qualities... it is very difficult to establish these qualities in someone you haven't worked with.

And so ends my two pence... am tired of typing... :P


Venkat said...

Have you ever thought why someone who is promoted loses their value in the new position because they do not have the skills to bring value to the new position. For example a good salesperson who meets quotas does not necessarily become a good sales manager. Similarly a good writer does not necessarily become a good project manager.
Therefore my point is sometimes companies do not promote their best or even the status quo employees because they see the risk of losing current potential and they do not have a method of skilling the person for the new position.Also, companies may not necessarily grow to offer promotions to all well performing employees.

From the company perspective, keeping status quo is their way of saving money, reducing cost, employee retention in a slow recessive economy.

Unknown said...

Hi Abhinava

Looking at why one is not moving INTO a new position is another interesting way to look at this. And some of the reasons you mentioned are quite valid (maybe there isn't an opening, maybe one isn't ready for the next role, don't provide value for the new role etc.).

However these aren't just HT-spiel-ish parameters. As you mentioned "When the need arises (vacant position - new project - crunch) all these are forgotten in a haste to promote the most eligible upwards...". The key phrase in this sentenced being "promote the most eligible". How does one define who is most eligible? Usually it is traits like the ones I mentioned that are considered. Unfortunately not all these are easily measurable and people's opinions vary.

As for lateral hires, typically in interviews many of these qualities are evaluated, plus reference checks are done at senior levels. Of course it is difficult to fully evaluate these qualities for people who you haven't worked for before, but then that's why you need to be good at interviewing skills.

Unknown said...

Hi Venkat

"From the company perspective, keeping status quo is their way of saving money, reducing cost, employee retention in a slow recessive economy."

Perhaps in a slow recessive economy, there aren't enough promotion opportunities. I personally don't believe companies hold back promotions to reduce cost or for employee retention. Companies won't have retention if they don't promote their best employees. It is however possible that not all companies have a large number of opportunities. So "promotions" may happen horizontally or other reward systems may be set in place.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Manish!

I agree with the 5 reasons you list here. Only I wonder why some leaders are appointed, for these then become leaders by appointment and do not necessarily meet any of the 5 criteria alluded to in your post.

In general leaders can be recognised by even fewer criteria than you've summarised:

they actually lead

which means that they are followed.

Any so-called leader who has to ask what the followers are doing when they should be following are clearly not leaders.

Catchya later

Unknown said...

That is good fodder for another post that's been brewing in my mind for some time now Ken. In my view people always meet some or all of the qualities listed above at the time of promotion. And then there's the question of leaders and managers. How do we see our Boss? As a leader or as a manager? More on this later.

Anonymous said...

Manish, agree to the points above.
In addition, the 'Me' factor in every Manager has to be attended to. Who, in a team, can get jobs done? How well does a team member help the Manager accomplish an assigned job? Who helps the Manager project himself/herself as a great performer?
In short, if your Manager is won over (and he/she is also doing well), your promotion is pucca.

Chitra Narasimhan

CK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CK said...

I wish considering people for promotion could be as simple as these five points! There are loads of other factors involved.

Are you perceived as a threat to the next level of people to which you are getting promoted? If you are, your promotion will definitely be discouraged!

Other than the technical skills, do you have people management skills to perform better at the next level?

Are people actually 'following' you? Taking initiative is fine but you should be able to can 'make' things happen and 'make' others do what you are suggesting.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the inputs Chitra and Chandrika. I am sure there are other factors involved in actually being promoted. Biggest being you have to have the skills before these factors are even considered. And of course, you should have shown results ('making it happen').

Gomes said...

Thank you. Your post helped me a lot.

Unknown said...

Its easy to blame but difficult to accept mistakes and shortcomings while one who do not finds himself among list of promoted and successful peers. Sir, your post is an eye opener and a torch for insights of life which is as clean and unbiased as a raining cloud.

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