Article posted on 12 December 2017

Why you are always overseen at promotions

In my coaching experience, I have seen many people struggling with this issue – why am I always overseen at promotions? Why others can’t see I am doing my best? Why am I not rewarded for everything I do?

At the beginning of my career, I myself have fought this fight: I was often given the feedback that, although I was an excellent HR expert, I was sometimes perceived as a little distant. But to me this just meant I could not be as friendly and enthusiastic when meeting new people; I considered right to maintain a certain professional distance, in order to show that I respected and valued them. Only after a while, I understood and managed to find my personal balance: to get closer to others by praising them more. And by explicitly declaring this rather than only observing them from afar.

Sometimes, there are things we know which others don’t. And there are things that they know about us that we simply cannot grasp. Somewhere in the middle of this area, being overseen at promotions happens. From our point of view, we know we invest effort, energy and time into what we are doing, and we feel betrayed and frustrated when others do not seem to notice this.

Today more than ever. A breakdown of all the reasons promotions escape us

There are no simple truths about why we miss that promotion we believe we worked hard for. But there is the feeling that it happens now, in today’s organizations, more often than in the past. Why is that?

There is no big predictability to what we need to do in order to get to the next stage. Nowadays, we are dealing with globalization. The world has changed and evolved in so many ways and sometimes with so much subtlety that these movements have a very powerful effect upon the organizations as well. So it’s natural that sometimes the clarity is missing. We feel that we are talking more about relationships, initiatives, innovation, being entrepreneurial. But the complexity of it all is not fully explained to us – we do what we can, we strive, we go the extra mile, but the truth is that sometimes we don’t really know how things are done or should be done from point A to point Z.

The organization’s expectations are misunderstood. The focus on building relationships, collaborating, having the right team attitude and so on are often perceived in very different ways by those who wish to go to the next level. Tell all this to an expert or a very skilled professional and more often than not he will feel that he has to somehow cozy up or crawl under someone’s skin in order to get promoted. But it’s not about this – it’s just about a different context, where the need for a very different set of skills is stronger than ever.

The organization needs to see that your work is dedicated to meeting other’s needs. Sometimes, we don’t realize, but the reason we want a promotion is because we feel we deserve it, because we are great. These are not wrong reasons, but the organization needs to see that we are also dedicated to something bigger than us, to meeting other people’s needs. If we are seeking only our ambition to get a higher position, this will be noticed and will stand in the way of us getting promoted.

What to do if you’re not getting promoted

Let’s suppose that you’re in this difficult situation. What to do?

Have an open conversation with the people involved

It’s time for an honest, direct conversation with your team, supervisor or manager. Whatever the case, avoid generalities, putting labels or using “you always” or “you never”-type of sentences. Try to look with sobriety at how others perceive one thing or another in your actions or behavior – think about what you may not be observing at yourself and take this as an opportunity to find out something very valuable. And last but not least, know that it is not about who you are as a person, but about areas you can improve.

Declare your development plan to all the important stakeholders

It’s important to state your intentions and plans as clearly as possible. Also, plan with a deadline in mind and with an articulate set of abilities you wish to develop.

Repeat the conversation and assume feedback

After a certain period of time, check your reality. Have another conversation with the people involved and see how they perceive your transformation.

Know that your growth and development are neverending

It sounds like a definitive verdict, but it’s actually a lot of beauty in this neverending story. This need for developing will continue – the world is evolving, and so will the organizations. So your work will not be done after these first steps. Only our refusal to grow will stand in our way of getting promoted and taking more and more responsibilities.

And sometimes, even if we are overseen at promotions, think about it as a signal; as a chance to see things in a different light, to bring another dimension in your life and to step in a different reality. It doesn’t have to be painful or hurtful after all – if we keep in mind to treat things with flexibility and acceptance.