Strangely enough, not all top performers get promoted, and there are legitimate reasons why these people might be overlooked for the next promotion.
It’s not that they don’t do their work well. In fact, it’s the opposite. Top performers are very often the best in their trade.
After all, they are top performers for a reason. They do their jobs better, faster, and more thoroughly than anyone else in the office.
Why would some of these top performers not get promoted?
Why top performers may not get promoted
There is one very interesting reason why top performers get passed up for promotions.
Many organizations cannot afford to promote someone out of what they do best.
For instance, you might be your employer’s best accountant. You never make a mistake. You get your work done quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t matter what your organization throws at you, they can depend on you to get your job done. Every time.
Being so good at your job will set you up for a promotion, right?
Maybe. But if your employer cannot replace you with anyone else who is competent enough to even come close to matching your level of efficiency, then you might be “too good” to move into a position of higher responsibility.
Believe it or not, this does happen.
“An employee who is motivated highly by achievement and power can deliver elite results as an individual contributor,” writes Ian Mathews on Medium about a highly-skilled programmer.
After all, top performers can keep their heads down and plow through their jobs without worry about staffing, profits, or other managerial-type things. Top performers are incredibly valuable to most organizations, especially if they are in front of high-value customers, fixing big problems, or building lucrative products.
“Now, promote that person and watch what happens,” Mathews continued. “A line forms at their door. Subordinates with only 50% of their skill have questions all day. Questions that seem ridiculous to someone so versed in coding.”
Many organizations need top performers to continue performing well in their current jobs.
Not everyone is a manager-in-the-making
Let’s face it: The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. And, being the boss is definitely not everyone’s proverbial cup of tea.
Bosses make incredibly difficult decisions each and every day. They are responsible for hiring and firing staff, pivoting the business into new industries, meeting performance goals, sitting through meetings, and reporting to upper-level executives in high-stress situations.
We are not all cut out for this type of work. It takes a very special set of skills to succeed in managerial positions, and even though someone might be a high performer in their trade, that does not necessarily mean they are right for a promotion into management.
Does this mean you should not perform well?
If being a top performer means that you might be “too good” for a promotion, does that mean you shouldn’t perform?
Of course not.
If you’re looking for a promotion into management, here’s my biggest tip: act like a leader before it’s official. Don’t just do your job and go home. Take on managerial responsibilities.
Mentor junior staff members. Willingly accept some responsibility from your manager to make their job easier (ie: keep up to date on progress, help define requirements, lead daily stand-up status meetings, etc).
Acting as a leader before you become the leader is the best way to consistently elevate your position in the office. Keep doing that and you will set yourself up for that next big promotion.