Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
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How to Get a Promotion According to Senior Executives

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You have proven yourself a valuable asset to your company but you keep getting passed up for promotions every year. So what can you do to get promoted?

Unfortunately dear reader, many young and mid-career professionals are dealing with the same issue. Vertical job mobility has been stagnated for the past decade. Although you probably guessed the reason, it’s due to the economic crisis and the upper-level executives delaying their retirement. Without anyone leaving the upper levels of management, nobody could move up, at least organically. You might point out that the crisis caused a large number of people to lose their jobs, but that didn’t open up positions; instead those positions were consolidated to lower costs.

Those are the obvious factors, but there are a few more at play.

Burn Out Rate

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Beyond the stagnation of vertical mobility, companies have also seen extraordinarily high burnout rates among members of management that were moved up from a lower position, some reporting numbers as high as 40%. PDI Ninth House, a Global Leadership Solutions company, looked at 37.000 assessment reports, that resulted in two reports one that dealt with the level of experience necessary for someone to successfully hold and make executive decisions and the other one that examined the personality attributes that can inhibit someone’s ability to be a successful executive. In the introduction of the second report, it mentions how complex and multifaceted a leadership role can be. The report notes that a successful leader not only strives to achieve short-term goals, but they also set up the prerequisites for long-term results by enabling and “playing to” their employees’ skills and talents.

According to the second report, one of the most significant and reoccurring personality traits that are an inhibitor to being a successful administrator is the inability to relinquish control of daily tasks. A failure to delegate has a terrible effect on management no matter what level you are, lower, middle or upper management. So if you aren’t a team player and over-exert yourself by working alone, even though you are working hard, you probably will get passed up for promotion.


Lack Of Big Picture Thinking

Administrators often pick people that display the personality, skills and experience to augment their own skills and abilities. Also, their value as a potential manager must outweigh their value as staff. A valuable member of staff doesn’t necessary mean they will be a valuable member of management.

One of the biggest reasons mentioned in this Fortune article is a lack of strategic or “big picture” thinking. If the administration notices that you have the tendency to get bogged down in the little daily details, especially when those details are circumstantial and take time away from working towards the overall outcome, they will undoubtedly pass you over when a position opens up.

Modifying Your Behaviour

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If you have a tendency to get mired in insignificant details of daily tasks, then there’s a strong possibility that you will micromanage the people below you when you’re promoted. Few managerial mistakes cost more money and result in more valuable people leaving a company than micro-managing. It damages morale, causes employee disengagement resulting in loss of productivity and high absenteeism. Now that I broke it down you probably wouldn’t even hire yourself. Luckily modifying your behaviour, isn’t as difficult as changing your personality.

The first step is a cliché but an effective one, learn to recognise your problems. Many times we unconsciously fall into negative behavioural patterns, so also try to recognise the patterns that lead you down the path that ultimately leads to your unproductive behaviours. For example, micromanagers have huge trust issues, so delegate a task and force yourself not to regulate the process. When the task is finished, and you aren’t happy with the result, then you can air any grievances and investigate why it wasn’t completed to your standards. This exercise will not only help you forgo the negative patterns that administrators might be seeing, but it will also help you develop the communication skills necessary to manage other people.

Ask For Responsibilities

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This is something that a surprising amount of people don’t realise: Ask for responsibility before you are given promotion. If it’s within your skill set, you can even request a job outside your daily responsibilities that will serve a dual purpose: first it will show that you aren’t afraid to take initiative, and second it will show the administration you have skills which they might not have known about.

If you really want to show off, volunteer for an extremely visible project, a project that requires frequent interaction with upper managements. Ideally, you could even volunteer for a project that allows you to work directly with a member of senior management.

There is a caveat, of course, this a high risk/high reward scenario. If you are ill-prepared to take on such responsibility or don’t have the expertise to deal with something outside your normal set of tasks, then don’t do it. Failing when asking for more responsibility, obviously will set back your attempts at trying to establish a good standing with management. Can you bounce back from something like that? Of course you can, but it will take much more work than starting from a neutral position.

Damned If You Damned If You Don’t

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This is probably the most unfair reason you might get passed up for promotion by administrators; you are so good at what you do that you can’t afford to promote you and moving you to a higher position would create a vacuum in the organization. Although counter-intuitive Stu Crandell, vice president of at PDI Ninth House, says that you should never create the circumstance in which you are irreplaceable. Just like the other items on the list, though, there are ways around this. Take someone from your team that you believe to be talented and capable enough to take over the reins of your position. It’s also important to consider that this individual must meet the expectations that management has come to expect from you.  

There is an added hidden benefit of training someone for your position. If at some point you need assistance for any number of reasons; disruption of schedule, added seasonal workload or even mental/cognitive fatigue, you have your protégé to call on. Of course, your trainee will also have their normal workload to deal with, so don’t overdo it as this might be a signal to the administration that you lack and important soft-skill management must possess: Empathy.

Do you have anything else to add to this article? Have you been passed over multiple times for a promotion or inversely been passed over and then successfully managed to get a promotion by modifying your behaviour or successfully completing an ambitious project? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

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