Most promotions are not automatic, and, generally, a variety of factors enter into the decision making process. Sometimes there are annual quotas such as the number of open positions for tenure decisions at a university. Sometimes a business is quite small, and there is a very short career ladder. Other jobs, like many in government, require a certain score on a civil service exam in order to be promoted. And, it is a reality that not all promotions are fair. For example, a family member of the boss can leapfrog over other worthy candidates.
It is hard to be objective when trying to get promoted. When we compare ourselves to others, we frequently note our strengths and their weaknesses. We may make assessments based on inadequate data or on misperceptions. It is almost impossible to be open-minded, and we are disappointed when we let our expectations run too high.
If you were your boss, what about your performance would convince you that you deserve a promotion? What factors would you view as most important?
Consider Scenario #1. You come to work every day and do what is required. You meet most of the assigned deadlines. You are usually on time and, even though you aren’t fond of teamwork, you participate in teams if necessary. On top of that, you know you are smarter and more proficient than most of your coworkers.
Or, Scenario #2. You can honestly say you are an enthusiastic employee who works diligently every day. You put in extra hours and always go that next mile. You volunteer for assignments and love working in a team. Perhaps most importantly, you are learning to anticipate what your boss needs. You might not be the smartest person in the organization, but you are one of the hardest working.
If you were your boss, which scenario would you choose for the promotion? Is good really good enough, or is more required? Can you rest on the fact that you’re smart, and that the organization should be glad to have you, or does hard work trump smarts?
There may be times in your career when you are sure you have been unfairly passed over for a promotion. This can leave you feeling disillusioned, angry, even bitter. However, before you jump ship in retaliation, talk with your boss about what you need to accomplish to be promoted in the future. Be open to the feedback. You may be surprised by what you hear, or you may be energized and ready to move forward.
And, be certain that the next time you are competing for a promotion, you can say that, if you were your boss, you would promote you without hesitation.