10 Reasons You're Not Getting That Promotion

In the last six months, you’ve applied for three different step-up positions in your company but you’re zero-for-three. You feel ready to move up but management clearly thinks otherwise. Here are 10 reasons you’re not getting that promotion and actions you can take.

not getting promotion

1. A higher degree or certification is required

You may feel you’ve learned the ropes through the School of Hard Knocks, but the description for the job you want specifies a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or high-level certification. If you haven’t earned that degree or certification, you’re going to be stuck at your level.

To move up: invest in yourself. Start talking classes to prepare yourself to move up.

2. You don’t do your own job

One worker was anxious to prove she could do her boss’s job. She tackled his tasks before he could get to them. She gave him advice. She chatted up her boss’s boss.  Meantime, she neglected her own tasks. Client phone calls went unreturned. Bills were sent late. Bookkeeping was rushed and riddled with errors.

To move up: get your own work done first before eyeing the top spot.

3. You do your job…and that’s it

Of course, you’re supposed to do your own job. But no one likes—or promotes—the coworker who sets such high boundaries that he never lends a hand when others need help. People who want to move up get their own tasks done and look for ways to pitch in when coworkers need assistance. To move up: Be the employee who is always willing to lend a hand to others in a crunch. You’ll earn a positive reputation. And once you’re promoted, your coworkers will be happy to work for you.

4. You don’t speak up

Sometimes you see your coworker or boss about to make a mistake. One furniture store worker saw his boss leave a wooden chair outside when the forecast called for rain. That chair wasn’t his responsibility so he continued with his own tasks and ignored the problem. The chair got soaked and required extra work to restore.

To get promoted: This one is tricky, but you’ll show responsibility if you can tactfully and privately speak up.

5. You do speak up—but only to ask for extensions

Most people miss a deadline every now and then. But one federal employee missed a promotion because of all the extensions he requested. Figure out a way to meet your deadlines and occasionally even get your work done early.

6. You do speak up but to complain

No matter how unfair the boss is, complaining all the time, especially in the office to your coworkers, won’t earn you a promotion. One worker spent five minutes complaining to a coworker about the boss’s unfairness in awarding vacation time, somehow missing the signals and growing discomfort on her coworker’s face. You guessed it: the boss was standing right behind the complainer. That worker did not get the vacation time she wanted or a promotion.

To get promoted: save your complaints for your non-work friends.

7. You always have an excuse

Your computer crashed. You had to move. Your computer crashed again. Your water pipes burst. A relative passed away. The power went out. Most bosses are sympathetic at first but after numerous excuses they begin to doubt your word. Once the mishaps reach a critical mass, people are less likely to believe you even if you are telling the truth.

To move up: stop lying. When bad things happen, come clean with your boss and propose a plan to get the work done as fast as possible.

8. You disappear

One thing worse than offering excuses for not meeting deadlines is disappearing. One remote worker who hadn’t met a deadline wouldn’t return his boss’s phone calls or emails. The only way the boss got an answer was to call from a different number. Ghosting your boss won’t end well, certainly not with a promotion.

To get a promotion: let your boss know early when things aren’t going according to the timeline and ask for help.

9. Too much personal business

Just because you can take sick leave to go to the doctor doesn’t mean you should, especially if your hours are part time. One medical secretary always scheduled her own appointments on the day she was supposed to cover the phones while the doctor did surgery. She thought no one would notice but patients complained that they couldn’t reach the office. Worse: the job was part time and she easily could have scheduled her obligations for a different day. She not only missed a promotion but lost her position.

To move up: keep as much of your personal life outside of office hours as possible.

10. Your clothes don’t get the job done

Most offices aren’t the place to follow trends or showcase your quirky style. One grocery store cashier with an otherwise winning attitude didn’t score points with management based entirely on his clothing choices.

To earn a promotion: dress for success on the job. Be trendy and unique on your own time.

Finally, sometimes you won’t get a promotion no matter what you do. If you work in a small family-owned firm with only five workers and all three top managers are family members, you’re not likely to move up. Practice these tips, though, while you look for another job that offers more room for advancement.

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