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Levelling Up

Experts share 7 reasons you may have been passed up for a promotion

Despite the fact that you’ve been the catalyst for business development, you mentor new hires, and your job performance reviews have been spot-on, you may wonder why you’re not taking your career to the next level. Could it be you need to go out on a limb to take on those stretch assignments or expand your level of commitment?

We’ve asked some job experts and experienced managers about how to raise your promotion stakes for next time.

You need to broaden your skill set

There clearly may be certain skills that are needed to take on a higher role at your company.

“Too many employees think that if they do an amazing job in their current role, that they deserve a promotion. Not so,” says Kevin Namaky, founder of Gurulocity, a marketing education company in Cincinnati, Ohio that helps small business owners and entrepreneurs hone their strategic marketing craft. To earn the right to work at the next level up, he says, employees must demonstrate that they can do that next level job.

“This often means learning and consistently the skills and responsibilities required of their next job while they are still in their current role,” Namaky adds. To get on the promotion path, start asking your boss which of their responsibilities they’d like the most help with and take those things off of their plate.

That allows you to prove you have the skills while making your manager’s life easier and making them look good, Namaky says.

You portray a ‘know-it-all’ image

Many ambitious employees, some who may have limited work and life experience, believe they know more than everyone else around them. Don’t fall into this trap.

“Even if they are smart and generally do good work, without a learner’s mentality, they will be stuck spinning their wheels,” Namaky points out.

This happens for two reasons. First, he says, without a learner’s mentality, you don’t learn and this limits your ability to gain the knowledge and skills you truly need to advance. Often, these are skills you don’t recognize you need because you don’t have an open, learning mind. And, according to Namaky, the second reason, exuding a “know-it-all” mindset, is off-putting to the people around you. These two slips in your image could chip away good working relationships with other people.

“You won’t have the social capital required to advance among your peers,” he says. Instead, he recommends quieting your bravado and start listening to others around you.

“Everyone around you has something to teach you,” Namaky continues. “Start asking questions instead of giving all the answers.”

You toot your own horn, loudly and often

Being too vocal about a promotion may actually backfire.

“Too many employees get impatient and begin to repeatedly ask for a promotion. They believe so strongly that they deserve it and that the best way to get it is to be a squeaky wheel, telling anyone and everyone who will listen how good they are,” Namaky shares. “This is by far the worst thing you could possibly do for your career. When you outright ask for a title, you paint yourself as being very high maintenance. This often backfires and makes you unattractive for promotion.”

Be eager, but not too eager. “There’s a fine line in the perception you create that you’ll never be satisfied, and it’s often true. One promotion won’t quiet you. You’ll just ask for another … and another,” Namaky adds.

What is a more effective approach? “Instead, ask for meaningful work and fair pay. You’ll be surprised how quickly managers respect you for it. And in 99% of cases, that meaningful work and fair pay come with the title you want,” he affirms.

Your company’s solvency may be the reason

Perhaps your company is either in distress, or it has too many chiefs and far too few Indians to handle the heavy lifting, says Roy Cohen, a New York-based career counselor and executive coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. Sometimes, what’s behind the scenes isn’t apparent to employees.

“When a company has no bandwidth promote its best and brightest talent, you need to be careful not to personalize what feels like a major rejection,” Cohen says. “That will inevitably influence your performance and then the company will have further justification as to why you, in particular, were not promoted, i.e., your bad attitude.”

The decision you face, says Cohen, is whether to stay and wait out until the next cycle of promotions or begin to explore opportunities outside the company.

“The longer you hold out without a promotion, the less exciting you will be when it comes to securing a better job elsewhere,” he says.

You have defined boundaries

Think about the commitment you portray to your firm.

“It may involve refusing to work on weekends, leaving at the same time every day, or not covering for colleagues,” Cohen says. “When you are unavailable or unwilling to go the extra distance for your boss, it will be factored into the decision when individuals are identified for promotion.”

Flexibility is essential, especially in environments where there are occasional spikes in business or everyone is already working hard. Consider being more of team-player, and stepping up to put the time in without complaining out it.

You are everyone’s best pal

Are you organizing Friday happy hours and planning out-of-office weekend jaunts to the shore? This camaraderie can be seen as a negative.

“If you are too friendly with your peers that may be viewed as a barrier to your ability to manage them,” Cohen suggests. “This is a very real issue for bosses. When you are challenged in being able to criticize a friend you shortchange the company.”

It is just fine to have a close friend or two at work, but don’t be the queen of the social circle.

You lack communications skills for the next level

Jordan Brannon, president of Coalition, a digital agency based in Los Angeles, oversees a team of 110 individuals across 10 different teams, and shares the most common reason great performing, well-respected team members are passed over for promotion is their inability to think, act, and communicate in a constructively critical manner.

“That is to say, they have a habit or default behavior of tearing things down, without being able to guide an effort or discussion to improve them,” Brannon says. “One of the primary functions of our leadership teams is to help us improve, and team members who only seem to identify problems in a negative, complaining fashion will be sidelined for promotion as a result.”

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Erica Lamberg is a business, health, and travel writer whose work appears in Gannett, US News & World Report, Bankrate, MSN, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Reader’s Digest and NBC News. She is based in suburban Philadelphia.