The “Why” Behind an Unsuccessful Promotion

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Darts missing targetGetting passed over for a promotion is similar to being turned down for a job; you lose confidence in yourself and are left wondering just what to do next. And many times, it can be difficult to get a straight answer from your boss on why things didn’t swing your way. There are, however, several broad reasons why many candidates for promotion just don’t engender the type of confidence necessary to be seriously considered for a bump up the ladder.

First, it is important to understand that the decision on whether or not to promote an employee is NOT solely based on performance levels at a current position. Of course it is one of the major considerations, but just because you excel in one skill doesn’t mean you are suitable to tackle tasks requiring another. The key is to become familiar with the specific job requirements of the job you are seeking before you even ask for a promotion. Once you have identified the necessary skills, you can work to expand and improve your skill set then start asking around on how the best route to get to where you want to be.

While we’re on the subject of required skills, sometimes what you may possess in technical (hard) skills you may lack in the so-called soft skills. Soft skills include things like teamwork, leadership, conflict resolution, and communication skills. Most notably if you are moving up to management, a mastery of soft skills is typically required for acquiring the job you want. Just like for hard skills, you may find that you need to develop yourself further before putting yourself forward for consideration for promotion. You may consider mentoring employees, training others, or volunteering in other ways to show off your capacity to cooperate with, and lead, your team members.

One of the major obstacles to successful professional development is an unwillingness to accept feedback. Graciously receiving and acting on constructive criticism delivered by management is a powerful way to show that you are willing to learn from your mistakes, improve your methods to become more efficient, and are generally motivated to be the best employee possible. The more defensive you become over feedback, the more likely you are to ignore valid advice that can potentially make you an even better worker.

The more responsibility you are given in your company, the more you will be expected to solve the problems that you meet on a regular basis. Taking the initiative to address concerns you have about business operations or other aspects of your company, instead of simply complaining about them, shows that you care about your own career and the success of your company. Taking the lead in problem solving also demonstrates your leadership abilities and knack for developing innovative solutions.

One last thought is to keep in mind that executives are not looking for people interested only in a paycheck when looking to promote from within. Instead, they are looking for candidates that are committed to being leaders in the company. The more interest you express in the way your company operates, especially when you are not being paid to do so, the more likely you’ll be a top contender for promotion.

So, before you eagerly pursue that new, prestigious position in your company, make sure you know what’s expected for the job, that you have the skills (both hard and soft) to excel in the position, and that you are willing to accept feedback and actively pursue solutions to problems without external guidance or oversight.


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Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.