No Promotion, Now What? Ask Yourself These 4 Questions.


It’s been a grind for months.  You’ve been working 12 – 13 hour days and weekends to prove you can do it and do it well.  All eyes are on you.  The project you’re in charge of is critical to your company’s future success.  It’s a big deal.  You complete the project and sit back ready to be showered with accolades and compliments by your boss and your peers.  Deep down you know this will be your defining moment…your own personal Mozart Concerto.  You wait…wait a bit longer…still longer…and nothing.

Wow!  What happened.  Your finished work was unbelievable.  You peers and other industry partners even commented on your end result.  Your boss seemed pleased along the way but hasn’t shown any real celebratory emotion.  Of course after all, aren’t you expected to deliver high-quality, near-perfect work?  This scenario is not atypical, but in actuality very common.

So what do you do when you hit this wall?  What actions should you take when the work you thought would seal a promotion turns out to do little more than generate a brief passing smile in a hallway at the office?  Do you quit?  Leave?  Complain?  Ask these 4 questions to help you determine your next course of action.

  1. Why did I expect to be promoted in the first place?  Perhaps you assumed that by delivering an amazing performance you’d somehow get that big title or bigger paycheck.  You may have even believed that your boss would just create a brand new position for you with the big title.  Maybe in a prior conversation your boss alluded to “big things” for those who step up and deliver a solid performance.  If the reason you expected your work to result in a promotion doesn’t contain a “this for that” in your explanation then you yourself have set yourself up for disappointment.  Learning:  If you take on a project, job, initiative that you expect will lead to advancement, be clear with your boss up front about this and get their reaction and their commitment before starting.
  2. What can I do to improve my performance?  This is a tough question to ask.  Most of us believe we’re already doing all the right things.  We sometimes confuse hard work with smart work.  High performers are constantly learning, constantly seeking knowledge, new ideas, perspectives, etc.  Focus always, on improving yourself first.  Personal development should never be weighed against a promotion.  Learning:  Adopt the attitude that you will be the best at your craft regardless of what happens in your work environment.  Even if you don’t get that promotion you can still have confidence in your ability to produce great results. And ultimately those results will be recognized even if by another employer.
  3. Is my boss my advocate?  Does your boss share success or does he take all the glory?  What happens when things go bad?  Are you hung out to dry or is your boss there to absorb a “team loss”?  Does she create situations that allow you to shine and be recognized?  Has he taken the time to introduce you to his boss to create an opportunity for interaction?  Learning:  A boss that lacks confidence or self-esteem will always be a barrier to your progress.  If you find yourself working for a boss that fits this profile…and progression is important to you…you may need to move on.
  4. What do my peers think of me?  This is perhaps the most overlooked area when dealing with promotions or lack of.  Many organizations have implemented performance programs that gather feedback from your peers to include in your annual performance review.  The ever-popular “360” became all the rage in the early 2000’s and still exists today with some variations.  A poor relationship, rapport, or perception of you with your co-workers can kill your career aspirations as quickly as those of a bad boss.  Learning:  Put yourself out there.  Build relationships with your peers as well as those above and below in the organization.  Most companies today place great value on workers who are proficient in influencing, bridge building and negotiating.

Especially in times when the outcome did not match your expectations, self-reflection is critical.  Taking an honest look inside will always help bring perspective to each and every experience you encounter.  Thomas Paine said, “The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”  Basically know…it’s okay to talk to yourself.

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