Have you or anyone you know ever missed out on a well-deserved promotion at work? Quite possibly there could be a business economics case in it or worse, you’ve lost out to office politics. In either case, you need to have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the background.
Here’s how it goes.
You work hard the whole year round and more than meet your agreed Key Performance Objectives. You get an inflation indexed pay increment but that is about all you get. Other colleagues at work who may not have your caliber get promoted up the corporate ladder while you slip into the cracks of the corporate floor.
That dear reader is when Promotion Plateau happens and if you aren’t careful can continue to happen unless you take active measures to ensure you can’t be ignored or having exhausted all options cop out and head for greener pastures with better career progression opportunities.
Quite possibly, you have reached the highest level that you can go for your grade or the company has gone into freeze mode due to the economics of the organization and is only promoting junior staff with the view to avoid attrition because they believe more senior staff won’t jump ship. The promotion may be one of title with no new fringe benefits and an increment that isn’t worth thinking about post taxes but it still hurts because you’ve done the hard work and justifiably expect a commensurate reward.
Or it could be the result of a mean, manipulative and powerful manager promoting his flunkies, a sad but often seen reality in the cut throat corporate world. That’s the one that hurts to the core of the heart, especially when we aren’t inclined to engage in dirty politics and aren’t willing to barter our Soul for the prize. Mud wrestling isn’t everyone’s preferred style of getting promotions and only the aggressor enjoys it.
There are ways that you can help yourself if you find you’ve become a pawn in the political chess game of promotions while staying in integrity with your core values.
Why it’s important to have a champion when politics plays a key role in your promotion
Many of us prefer to steer clear of office politics but unless you have a Godfather or influential supporter who can right the wrongs, you need to know some of the basics.
A true story about how I accidentally found myself in the Champion role
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to assist in course correcting the career of a very competent professional who had run afoul of his immediate reporting Manager who had the ‘ear of the Boss’.
He worked hard, he delivered on time and he took initiative. Yet the rewards were not given and for 4 years, he was bypassed for promotion at the annual Managers Meeting because his reporting Manager had labeled him as having an attitude problem. Since no one else had worked with him no one challenged the Manager.
That changed when he was loaned out for a project to me, a new Manager at the time, who did not know about the politics or this young man’s situation. The young professional’s work spoke for him. Yes, there was an attitude problem which started to disappear as the professional realized that this manager had her own way of working and supported her team.
When the annual Managers Meeting came around, this young man’s name was about to be bypassed again until I spoke up and gave instances of this person’s work. Championing a worthy candidate is the least one can do to prevent miscarriage of promotion.
The other Managers had to rethink it and the matter was finally referred to the top management and Head of Human Resources. There was a happy ending after all.
The professional got his long overdue promotion and was made a Manager himself within 18 months. I’ve followed his career since then and presently he has his own company and is flourishing while the Manager who had the ear of the boss, from what my former colleagues tell me, didn’t make Partner for which he had made everyone’s life miserable finally quit the company.
How to get promoted from Pawn to King with Integrity
There is always some level of politics in any organization that one works in. It may not be as toxic or extreme as the incident in this post, yet there are tips and techniques that can help you keep your finger on the promotion pulse. If you are in a similar situation, I suggest that you try them before updating your Curriculum Vitae and searching for new pastures. You can also talk to me.
Tip 1: Nurture good and cordial relations
The first and most important action that can affect your promotion is to maintain good relations with your superiors. If possible, maintain this relation up to 2-3 levels upward.
Maintain good relations with your peers and juniors. They count too. When engaging in reputation management, receiving good or neutral feedback from them can negate any spoiler that your immediate boss or others might be playing. Cordial relations also help in dealing with backstabbers in the office.
Tip 2: Make sure you don’t fall behind in your professional development
An often overlooked area is updating one’s professional knowledge. We live in a fast moving world. Ensure that you remain in the promotion race, by keeping track of your professional development needs and taking up the necessary courses and training to close the gap. If the company won’t sponsor it, pay for it yourself.
Tip 3: Don’t just do what you are told to do but do what needs to be done
Make yourself a valued team player and driver of efficiency and effectiveness. Your performance must be above reproach. When your work is good and you deliver as required or more than required on time, it becomes difficult to ignore the work and the worker. If a task that has been delegated to you requires more work, do it.
Make a record of the additional steps you took to get the job done and let your supervisor know that you thought beyond the actual instructions to make it work. In short, be proactive, take initiative. Remember to make notes of what and how you took actions beyond the call of duty and the results achieved. These notes will come in handy during your Performance Reviews and Annual Appraisals.
This brings me back to my post Step up to the plate if you really want your career to go places.
I also recommend reading Bob Nelson’s book
which is also available on Kindle
Tip 4: Take measures to raise your Executive Presence
Not only do you need to do good work, you also need to get noticed for your work. This means taking the necessary steps to raise your Executive Presence and strategically positioning yourself for that promotion.
You and you alone can make a difference to your career. When it comes to raising your Executive Presence, help is on hand.
I’ve covered many useful tips that have worked for me and my clients in . All you have to do is acquire my book Get Noticed! on Kindle. Select those tips that will work in your situation.
Tip 5: Play positive politics
Just as one can play dirty politics, one can also play positive politics. The 4 tips that I shared above will help you with this. Be appreciative of your colleagues and help them when you know you can. Thank them when they help you out. Remember the secretaries and executive assistants who can help you get important meetings if the need arises with the people who matter.
For example, if there is Tea Lady or Office Boy who does deliveries, be as courteous to them as any other office worker. Help a colleague out with their work if you have spare time and can give tips or knowledge to get the work done faster.
Feedback about you can reach the people who matter in the most extraordinary ways, as I learned to my amusement when one of the Partners to whom I reported casually mentioned that the security guard in my office in Jamaica had nicknamed me Sunshine because I smiled and said good morning to him in the mornings.
How do I mitigate the dirty politics and keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening?
Unless you’re a psychic or have hidden cameras all over the place, you really wouldn’t know what’s going on. Yet you can be alert.
That’s why you need to be heavily networked within your organization and make it a point to nurture relationships with colleagues both within and outside your department. One good way of doing this is strike up conversations, smile and meet up in the office canteen over lunch. Share information when required and be alert to nuggets that you hear for future reference.
Quite often, your colleagues may not want to play dirty politics or backstab you but if they are vying for the same plum job or promotion, human nature kicks in.
One way of finding out which way the wind is turning is to observe changes in the behavior of the colleague or the person on whose recommendation your promotion is hinged. Here are some pointers:
Has the boss stopped inviting you to important meetings?
Are you finding yourself restricted with the resources you need to complete your work?
Are you in the loop when it comes to information distribution?
When you speak at meetings or ask for information are you being cut short?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then don’t jump to conclusions immediately. Quite possibly the other person is going through their own tough time and can’t share it with you.
But if the behavior continues and you find more supporting evidence of weirdness and get your finger on that pulse,
You could casually mention the change in behavior to a trusted colleague who may know more couched in terms of concern.
You could also gently have a chat with the person and ask if you’ve done something wrong and clear the air. That would get any backstabber to back off because they know you are onto them.
You could also follow the tips that I share in my post on Dealing with Backstabbers at Work.
If despite all your efforts, you find you can’t compete and the company culture and environment isn’t supporting you, then perhaps you should consider moving on after you have exhausted all options to stay.
As always, do let me know how it is going.
Have you ever lost out to a promotion because someone’s favorite was obliged? How did you handle it? Have you ever been a victim of corporate politics? What did you do?
Please do leave a comment below and share your experience with me or, if you prefer, drop me a line via the connect form. I’m waiting to hear from you!
Written by : Vatsala Shukla
Image Credit: Upward by Erin Childs
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