Why Your Boss Might Think You’re Not Ready to Get Promoted

You might think you’re ready to get promoted, heck, you might actually BE ready to get promoted, but what’s really important is if your boss thinks you’re ready to get promoted. Here are 8 things that show if your boss thinks you’re ready for a promotion…

If your career has been plateauing lately, you might wonder why it’s been so. After a period of growth, when we start believing we know how to get promoted at work, some of us get to a stage where there’s no growth anymore. Things don’t go back down either, they just stay the same and whatever we did in the past that got our career to where it is now is not helping us make progress anymore. We reach a plateau. There’s a person, our boss, who can make it happen, but if we’ve reached a plateau, it can only mean he or she is not willing to help, and even maybe for a good reason…

When we are in such a situation, it’s very hard to know why it’s happening to us. You can be very good at your job and not get promoted because promotions happen when you are ready to get to the next level, not when you are good or even great at your current level. And from my experience, that’s a distinction people rarely make. Actually, this statement is not entirely true. It’s not enough to be ready to get to the next level, your boss needs to believe you’re ready for the next level. That’s when she or he will make it happen.

So how can you figure out if your boss believes you are ready for a promotion? More importantly, if it’s not been happening for you, how can you figure out why he or she is not making it happen for you? Well, there’s a few things you can do:

  • Let’s start with a simple one, have you told your boss you’d like to get promoted? You’re looking for a promotion but not everyone does and if you’re doing a good job, your boss might be interested to keep you in his or her team, waiting quietly not to awaken the beast… As a first step, you should make sure your boss knows you want to get promoted and climb the corporate ladder.
  • Don’t ask for feedback and don’t wait for your boss to tell you why you’re not getting promoted, ask instead what is expected at the next level and do your own analysis to understand what you need to do differently to be seen as promotion material.
  • Go through your past email exchanges with your boss and see if some of the requests could have been anticipated. If so, that’s a sign you could have a better grip on your role, which is usually a prerequisite to getting promoted.
  • How many email exchanges do you have with your boss when you send something in? And are those questions about the technicalities of your work or about making decisions? If it’s to understand what you sent, it means you need to make it clearer in the future. Your work should be clear enough and complete enough that your only exchanges about it are to make decisions.
  • Does your boss need to get involved to unlock situations involving other departments? To help you for example get a response or to get a project started, or even to agree on something? A sign that you might still need some level of hand-holding at your level of responsibility
  • Does he or she come with you to meetings involving his peers? It shouldn’t be that way, unless a major decision, involving his direct authority is needed. Otherwise, you should be able to represent him on matters directly within your scope of responsibility
  • Does she or he give you projects regularly? If so, it means you’re seen as a problem solver, and that’s a great sign that your boss can depend on you and believes you’re adding value.
  • Does your boss depend too much on you and is she or he potentially afraid of losing you and therefore afraid of creating risk within his or her scope of responsibilities? For your boss to be comfortable to let you grow professionally and get promoted, she or he needs to believe that your departure won’t negatively affect the operations of the team or department. It’s your job to organize everything so that it’s not the case…

I posted on my blog a quiz you can take to know if you’re checking all the boxes to be promoted anytime soon. Each situation is of course different, but there are some signs that all of us can look for,

Also, check out this video from Sara Canaday’s course “Transitioning from Manager to Leader” on LinkedIn Learning.