5 Common Roadblocks to Promotion and How To Overcome Them
Susan Britton Whitcomb
are many reasons your employer might be hesitant to promote you. There
are five common roadblocks, along with the potential underlying
concerns associated with them and how to quickly overcome them.
#1: You Are Too Valuable in Your Current Role
¨ Manager seems to be stalling.
¨ Manager doesn't want to lose you as a producer.
Create your own succession plan if one doesn't already exist. If you
haven't been training one or more people to step into your role, get
busy. Who are the best candidates to fill your shoes so that you can
- Propose a mentoring plan where you'll get your promotion but also be available to your successor for a set period of time.
you sense your manager doesn't want to lose you and you would still
report to him in a new promoted role, emphasize your continued support
of him. For instance, "I am committed to supporting you as we move this
project forward and will continue to give you 100% effort so that you
also meet your production goals." Continue to act supportive and
#2: Your Manager Won't Endorse You for Promotion
¨ Manager won't endorse you to other executives involved in the hiring decision.
¨ Manager doesn't want to lose control, influence, or power over you.
is not completely convinced that you will perform well in the new
position, which could reflect on his/her performance record.
¨ Manager is concerned that you will outshine him/her if promoted.
¨ Manager either states directly that you're not ready or avoids telling you you're not ready for promotion. (This may or may not be true.)
Ask specifically about the timeline: "You mentioned that increasing my
management skills is a prerequisite to promotion. I'd like to be clear
on what you anticipate and how we'll measure success so that I have
If you sense your manager isn't sold on endorsing you in the new
position, ask, "What would you need to see in my performance to assure
you that this move would benefit the company?"
If your manager continues to seem evasive about career conversations,
watch for an opportune moment to explore this further. Do so in a
curious, nonjudgmental tone so that the manager doesn't get defensive
or feel backed into a corner. For example, "You know, Mr. Manager, I
hear you saying you support me in developing my career, and yet it
doesn't seem that much is happening despite my meeting every goal
you've set. Help me understand what the benefits are to tapping on the
brakes like this."
#3: There Are Limited Opportunities for Promotion
¨ Your career and the position you're currently in will only be what you make it. Take ownership of your initiative.
- Ask your manager about plans for growth and how you can contribute to that growth.
Create your own opportunities. Start by looking for problems that need
to be fixed and issues that need to be solved. Once you do, find a
solution that you can be involved in and identify the return on
investment associated with that solution. Voila, you have a proposal
that could lead to promotion.
- Look for projects that interest you and will expand your skill set. There is no shortage of opportunity in the world.
#4: Another Employee More Senior Than You "Needs" to Be Promoted Before You
¨ Politics are at play.
may be a more senior employee who is not as capable as you who your
manager owes a favor or who may respond negatively if she isn't
Enlist the support of an advocate who can endorse you to the powers
that be and ask, "Who made up the rule that we have to promote a more
senior employee first? John is a better producer and a better leader.
We don't want to risk losing him because of rules that aren't serving
Within your promotion proposal, suggest a solution that allows the
person with more seniority to also "win" with, for instance, a new
title that gives the person some perk or special task.
If you are truly the best person for the job, have a courageous
conversation with your manager and ask in a curious, nonjudgmental tone
of voice, "Help me understand how that policy best serves the company
in this situation."
#5: Your Manager Doesn't Perceive You as a Logical Choice for Promotion
¨ Manager is grooming someone else or has a favorite who is the "heir apparent" for promotion.
¨ Manager seems oblivious that you are interested in promotion.
- Make certain the manager knows your career development goals.
If necessary, have a courageous conversation with your manager that
covers what you've accomplished and where you see yourself in the
months or years to come.
Articulating your goals will
create a new reality for your manager. Once those seeds are planted,
continue to take action, deliver results that will validate your
qualification in your manager's eyes, and follow up at appropriate
specific assignments and volunteer for projects that will increase the
experiences and skill sets needed to be promoted.
FOR MORE IDEAS ON STRATEGICALLY PLANNING YOUR PROMOTION OR CAREER PATH, CALL CPM.