Oh, it feels good to get promoted. We all enjoy the obvious benefits that come with a promotion such as a pay raise and a new job title. But I think it’s the recognition that feels the best. Our culture is all about winning; that’s why we enjoy TV shows like "American Idol" and "The Biggest Loser." On weekends we watch sports and nothing is bigger than the Super Bowl. Let’s face it, we’re obsessed with winning.
Ironically, I’m not convinced people work as hard on their career advancement as they do their hobbies on weekends. Dozens of people who have been passed over for a promotion believe the system doesn’t work. They work hard, get excellent performance evaluations and yet they still don’t get promoted. They believe the system is fixed and they don’t get ahead because they don’t kiss up to the people in charge.
Many of the people who are overlooked show up in my office because they believe they haven’t been treated fairly. They believe the system is rigged and it’s HR’s job to fix it. Today I will offer some insight into how the system works and what you can do to improve your chances of getting promoted.
I would like to believe the “old boy” network is dying, but I’m not naive enough to believe it no longer exists. If you are unfortunate enough to work in an organization that seems to promote people primarily based on social relationships, then you realistically have two options. Option one is to accept the conditions that exist and learn how to play the game; option two is to exercise your right to leave and find an organization that is a better fit.
My friends will tell you I’ve earned the reputation of occasionally shaking the tree, but at some point it becomes counter productive to beat your head against the wall. My suggestion is that you seek out professional advice and objectively decide what is best given your individual circumstances. Doing nothing means you will continue to be frustrated for years to come and I think a more reasonable decision is to choose one of the two options I’ve proposed.
Before you jump ship in hopes that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, I believe you need to explore the possibility that there are legitimate reasons you haven’t been promoted? Experience has taught me that the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.
Many employees have knocked on my door and complained that the quality of their work is better than the person who was chosen to manage the department. What’s the point of working hard to be the best accountant in our group if it doesn't get me promoted? Why isn’t technical competence recognized and rewarded?
The Baby Boomers will remember the name Lee Iacocca. He was the CEO of Chrysler in the 1980s. During a TV interview, Lee admitted that with all the technology changes he no longer knew how to build or even fix today’s cars. He explained that it was his job to manage the company and manage people. He hired people that had technical abilities far beyond his own. And that’s a good thing.
If you have been not been successful in obtaining a management position with your current employer it is definitely time to take a personal inventory of your skills. You may have excellent technical abilities, but obviously someone doesn’t believe you have the necessary skills to succeed as a manager.
On multiple occasions I had the director of a large department tell me the other employees threatened to resign if the most technically competent person was promoted to manage the department. They respected the individual’s abilities, but they dreaded the idea of working for this individual and it would be a big mistake.
It’s possible the old boy network has denied you the opportunity to be promoted and you have good reason to be upset. But if you’ve been turned down more than once, this may be the right time to re-evaluate your skills and adjust your career plans.