You’ve worked hard. You’ve met your targets. You’ve proven that you’re an asset to the organisation. But when the time comes, you get passed over for promotion, and a colleague gets it. Despite your best efforts, you haven’t really been able to comprehend, as to where you lacked. Chances are, all of us go through this stage at some point in their lives.
Such an outcome is most certainly disappointing when the stage is set for you to take more responsibilities, in your head, and it fails to translate into results. Probably the biggest disconnect in such a situation is expectation-setting. However, studies and reports, keep telling us what really makes us eligible for a promotion. For example, a report, says that 62% were less likely to promote an employee with a negative or pessimistic attitude. Furthermore, 62% were less likely to promote an employee who regularly showed up to work late, and 49% were less likely to promote an employee who regularly left work early. Despite being adept at your current role, if you are being passed over for promotion, maybe one of the following is the reason:
Highlighting the challenges; not the solution: You might feel that your role, feedback and opinions are highly valued in the organisation, but the next time you are making a point in a meeting, take note of the fact whether you are identifying a problem, or giving a solution. Although managers do like employees who are timely able to recognize a challenge, they like problem-solvers more. Despite the validity and the relevance of the points you raise, as long as you don’t offer solutions to the issues at hand, you aren’t adding any points to your credibility.
Your skills need upgrading: Even if you are acing your current job responsibilities, being promoted means taking on more complex roles. From being a team-player to being a team-leader is no easy task, and not everyone in the team might have the right set of knowledge and skills to be one. So being good at what you do right now isn’t a definitive parameter to ascertain whether you are the ready to be promoted. You might need to garner more domain specific technical skills and knowledge to do the work of your manager, or you might need to work on soft skills like communication, leadership, conflict management etc.
Your expectation is time-dependent: If you feel that investing a fixed amount of time in a certain organisation automatically makes you eligible for a promotion, your expectations are misplaced. What matters more than the number of years is the number of times you’ve taken initiative, your dedication to further your career, and proving that you are the right fit for the bigger job. If your attitude has been that of being any other employee, and you’ve looked at work as a means of livelihood and nothing else, the duration of your tenure doesn’t really matter.
You’re not a team player: Despite excelling at the work you are given, a critical requirement for you to progress ahead is the ability to work in a team. If your reports and projects bear your name alone, you don’t like sharing credit, or if you are intentionally made to work on individual targets – separate from the team, the future doesn’t look so bright. In order to secure a promotion, you need to prove that you can work efficiently with others, and also have the skills to make others work under your supervision. Being able to work in a team isn’t something that can be learnt in a day, and comes gradually and naturally, when you give yourself an opportunity to do so.
Once you have been passed over for promotion, consider it a learning experience, and a timely intervention to take steps in order to propel your career ahead. How you handle this situation will set the stage for the time when the opportunity presents itself again. Accepting the decision gracefully, with no confrontations is a non-negotiable rule. Extending your wishes to the colleague who bagged the promotion and telling them that you’d be working with the same zeal is also advised. Lastly, having a conversation with your boss, or manager, about where all you can improve will indicate that you are ready to learn and improve. But remember, there is thin line of difference in asking, ‘Why wasn’t I promoted’, and ‘How can I improve’, and you should stick to the latter.
Keeping a track of your accomplishments and indulging in careful self-promotion once in a while, having a deep understanding of what the new role requires from you, displaying initiative, and constantly upgrading your skills and knowledge in line with the latest industry developments are some definitive indications you can give to your superiors that you are willing to take on bigger roles and responsibilities. However, accept and trust their decision even if they don’t agree, and consider every opportunity to improve and better your career, to get that promotion, the next time around.