Why Your Boss Still Hasn’t Promoted You: It All Comes Down to This

Aug 19, 2013
7 Min Read

Why Your Boss Hasn't Promoted You YetThere are very few things that are more discouraging than being rejected for a promotion. You may feel you’re ready to move up the ladder, but you watch others get promotions while you’re passed over.


Believe it or not, the reasons are often pretty simple. It’s not some complicated plot that involves Vladimir Putin or the CIA. It often comes down to this:

  1. You’re like a bull in a china shop. You not only gossip and complain loudly enough to be heard by anyone with a half-mile radius, but you make inappropriate comments and swear like a sailor on shore leave. Obnoxious and bratty behavior that could net you a reality show isn't the professional attitude that is appreciated by bosses. If you embarrass, offend or anger co-workers with your demeanor, you can bet the boss doesn't want you carrying your offensiveness into a leadership position.
  2. You can’t go anywhere without your GPS.  If you can’t take the next step in a project without clear guidance from your supervisor or a trail of bread crumbs from team members, then you’re not showing the boss that you’re capable of taking on a new challenges if promoted. Standing around dithering while you wait on instructions reveals you as someone who needs to be constantly supervised, and that’s not a recipe for a promotion.
  3. “Huffy” is your middle name. Do you take feedback well, or get huffy and pout or gripe about any criticism? You've got to develop thicker skin the higher you go on the career ladder, so an inability to accept feedback professionally could be sending the message you're immature and not ready to play with the big kids.
  4. You're never late for happy hour. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your time off after work, but you can't expect the boss to consider you for a promotion when you hit the door at 5 p.m. like a bullet, racing out to your car to get to happy hour or yoga class. Try lingering a bit after quitting time to show the boss that something else is not always more important than your job.
  5. You don't speak up. Bosses are not mind readers. If you want a promotion, ask for it. Then, give all the reasons why you'd be great for the job.
  6. You don't have the right skills. It’s surprising how many people ask for a promotion when they have no real idea of what the job entails. Do your homework so that you know the specific skills or certifications you need to fulfill the job duties. Then, take stock of what soft skills you have to offer. Perhaps you're adept at soothing angry customers or you’re good at rallying diverse team members around a common goal. A combination of skills are critical for getting a promotion because any boss wants to feel like she’s getting a well-rounded person who won’t require a lot of hand-holding.
  7. You never make a good suggestion. Sure, you thought your idea of putting a slushie machine in the breakroom was brilliant, but how exactly does that help the boss or the company? Those who want to be promoted have to show that they’re actively thinking about the company’s bottom line, and are continually offering viable suggestions. Learn to speak up in meetings or send emails outlining suggestions concisely.
  8. You’re too good at your job. This may sound crazy, but if you’re the only one who knows how to do your job, how in the world will the boss replace you? Take the time to show the boss that you’re coaching others to cover for you as you branch out to other areas. You don’t want to make yourself so irreplaceable that the boss won’t promote you because she is afraid that she’ll never find anyone to fill your shoes. Your focus should be on making your boss’s job easier so that she can see you will continue to be an asset to her even if promoted and won’t leave her holding the bag if she does let you move on.

Remember, a promotion is never just about you. The boss must take into consideration not only how you will fill a new role, but how it will affect her, the team and perhaps other departments and customers. Make sure you are able to show her that the transition will not only be a smooth one, but beneficial for everyone.

What are some other issues that hold people back from getting a promotion?

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