Think you deserve a promotion? Prove it



    Sep 22, 2015

    Think you deserve a promotion? Prove it

    IT IS September already, and year-end reviews are just around the corner. It is not too late to show your boss that you are worthy of a promotion.

    Maybe you have been holding down the same position for a few years and are ready to move up. Maybe your company is going through some internal shuffling and you are expecting your dream job to open up. Or maybe you have been disappointed a few too many times by other people getting promoted ahead of you.

    Whatever the reason, you want to make sure that you are ready to move up. In other words, you need to be certain that your boss sees it that way.

    Anthony Greenwald, professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, has studied bias more than just about anyone, and his research findings have major implications for your ability to get promoted. His recent studies showed that unconscious workplace biases tend to stay constant, and bosses follow these biases, whether they are aware of them or not.

    "People are claiming that they can train away biases," Dr Greenwald says. "(They are) making those claims without evidence."

    When it comes to getting promoted, you want to present yourself in a way that feeds into the biases that bosses have about what makes someone promotable. You are already doing the hard work, so why not frame your effort in such a way that it increases your chances of obtaining the position you want?

    While this probably sounds a bit manipulative, there are several straightforward things that you can do to showcase your work and prove that you are promotable.

    The following five actions will appeal to your boss' inherent biases about promotions, without you being disingenuous.


    Anybody (well, almost anybody) can do what they are told. To get promoted, you have to go above and beyond. Taking on additional responsibilities without being asked is not only a great way to demonstrate your work ethic, energy, and skills, but it also lets your boss know that you are ready (and able) to expand your scope. When you take on more than the norm, your boss cannot help but think that you are capable of a bigger role. This includes showing that you are willing to take risks by making innovative suggestions.


    Most people fail at this. Of course, performing at your highest level regardless of the position you are in is always the best idea. The key here is not to be seen as the only person capable of performing the necessary duties in the position that you want to move on from.

    If you do, your boss will conclude that promoting you is not worth the trouble (and risk) of finding someone to replace you. The best way to find a balance between doing your best and showing that you are ready for more is by developing other people.

    As tempting as it is to hoard knowledge, do not. Instead, make sure that there are others who know how to do important aspects of your job. Plus, teaching is a critical leadership skill. So in addition to alleviating concerns about finding your replacement, you will demonstrate that you can handle the responsibility that comes with a more advanced position.


    You might be able to get away with being a temperamental genius in entry-level positions, but you will never move past that without emotional intelligence. If you are the type who is prone to temper tantrums when things do not go your way, losing your cool when people cross you, storming out of rooms, yelling or going silent during conflict, you are signaling to your boss that you do not want a promotion.

    No boss wants to be known as the one who promoted a short-fused person. Once you are promoted, your behaviour is a reflection of the judgment of the person who promoted you. Show your boss that you have enough self-awareness to acknowledge your weaknesses and to work to improve them. This will prove you are capable. Emotional self-control is the result of hard work, not an inherent skill.


    Bosses appreciate vision more than anything. They love it when you see what could be useful to the company over the long term and tell them about it in a language they understand. As you move up in any company, your choice of language becomes increasingly important. It is no longer enough to simply be an expert at what you do; you have to demonstrate that you understand how the work you do serves the business.

    That means learning the vocabulary of the executive team and your boss. Whether that is the key performance indicators, earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation, profit margin, market share, failure rate or what have you, know what the terms mean and why they are important so you can use them correctly when speaking with upper management.

    Speaking the right language will not only show that you are interested in more than your current role, but will also demonstrate your intelligence and fit within the company.


    Not everybody wants to be promoted; some people are perfectly happy doing the same job for years on end. If you do not tell your boss otherwise, he may assume that you are one of them.

    When the time comes to show up in your boss' office and say, "I'm interested in a promotion," it is important that you have something specific in mind - if not a specific job title, then at least a clear idea of what the responsibilities might include and how this ties in with your career goals. And if the job requires skills you do not have yet, outline your plan for acquiring them.


    You may not get the promotion you are aiming for. If that happens, ask for feedback, but stay away from sour-grape questions like "Why did you pick him and not me?" In fact, do not speak about the person who got the promotion at all. Instead, ask which of the critical skills you lack and what you need to do to be ready for the next opportunity.

    Do not argue; just listen, and ask thoughtful follow-up questions. Just ensure you follow through on the suggestions you are given. If your boss suggests some things you can do to become more promotable and you do not follow through, do not expect to be considered the next time around.

    Promotions do not just happen, and they are not a guaranteed result of high performance. That is because you do not get promoted as a reward for what you have already done. You get promoted because your boss thinks you have the potential to add more value in a larger role.


    The writer is the award-winning co-author of the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart, which provides emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75 per cent of Fortune 500 companies.