5 terrible reasons to ask for a promotion

You’ve made up your mind. You’re going to muster the courage to ask your boss for a promotion. But wait — do you have an actual case for it? And are you asking for the right reasons?

While advocating for your advancement at work is crucial, bringing the topic up for the wrong reasons could actually backfire and harm your chances of getting promoted.

Yes, career growth matters to professionals more than ever. Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, and a whopping 87% of millennials say professional development is very important to them in a job.

However, as harsh as it may sound, merely wanting a bigger role is not necessarily enough of a justification for getting one. Business is business after all, and it’s a two-way street between you and your employer.

A promotion implies more responsibility, a bigger salary and, if you’re stepping into a leadership role, the opportunity to lead a team and work on higher-visibility, higher-impact projects. Not only is it important to ask your boss at the right time, but it’s also crucial to build a case around why you’re the right person for the role. It’s kind of like interviewing for a job all over again.

So before jumping the gun and booking a meeting to express your desire to get promoted, make sure you’re not driven by the following four terrible reasons to ask for a promotion.

1. Changes in your personal life

Asking for a promotion can feel uncomfortable. But when you’re asking because of personal reasons like your upcoming wedding or baby, you’re putting your boss in a slightly uncomfortable position as well.

Never approach the topic of getting promoted from any other angle than business-driven factors. The only productive way to have this conversation is to focus on making it a win-win for yourself and your employer. While your boss may empathize with your personal situation, mentioning it won’t help you get promoted.

Think about it this way: Would you walk over to the checkout counter while shopping and ask for a discount because of your financial situation at home? It’s not about thinking of work as a heartless, transactional place, but understanding that it’s not your employer’s responsibility to promote every employee going through a personal situation.

However, if you feel that you’re getting paid unfairly, asking for a raise (and, once again, approaching the topic with a well-researched case) might be needed.

2. How much time has passed

Here’s another truth that might be a little hard to swallow: Even if you’ve been in your current role for several years, it doesn’t mean you’re entitled to a promotion.

The situation might be frustrating and can even make you feel undervalued. And several things might be going on. For example, if you suspect your coworkers are sabotaging your success or your boss doesn’t like you, the reasons behind why your progression has stalled are not always fair.

However, the length of time employed is still a weak argument in negotiations about your career advancement — and using it won’t help improve your situation. You are competing against others for that promotion and need to make a case around why you’re the best person for the opportunity.

3. You heard someone else is getting promoted

While your boss obviously knows office gossip exists, trying to use that kind of information as leverage is always guaranteed to backfire.

Your career progress should not be dependent on what others are doing (and if you think that way you’ll be giving away your sense of personal power), so staying in your lane is the best approach to actually speeding up your results.

Focusing on others can detract you from improving your performance, and mentioning them in conversations with your boss will only end up making you look bad.

4. Average performance and results

So, you want to ask for a promotion but nothing has changed in your day-to-day responsibilities and your performance is still pretty average when compared to benchmarks? Bad idea.

Aim to discuss expectations and the road to getting promoted instead. Get clarity around what kind of metrics matter the most and what kind of results and initiatives would warrant a promotion. Then, focus on hitting those goals and asking for a bigger role when you’ve got something to show.

5. To fix your unhappiness at work

A recent study showed that 33% of professionals look to jump ship because of boredom. It’s understandable — boredom is usually a sign you’ve outgrown your role and need new challenges to stay stimulated and keep learning and growing.

However, there is a difference between needing a new challenge and being deeply unhappy at work for reasons such as not liking your field, not enjoying your team or not believing in your organization. If that’s the case, getting a promotion won’t magically solve all your problems.

It’s important to get clear on why you want a promotion in the first place. If you’re unhappy at work, you have to dig deeper and figure out whether a new role would help you feel better. And since a promotion usually comes with added pressure, you don’t want to end up in a situation that you actually dislike even more.