5 Ways to Not Get a Promotion

Do you ever feel like you never get noticed at work?  Maybe you’re a solid employee.   You always come in on time, get your work done, meet your deadlines, you name it!  But you’ve never been involved in one of those secret, backdoor conversations.  (You know what I’m talking about; it’s the one where the boss pulls you in and lets you know ahead of time that a promotion is coming up and they are strongly encouraging you to apply – wink, wink and all of that.)  Side note: if you don’t even know such a thing exists then we have an even bigger problem.  Maybe just PM me?

Look, I’m not necessarily saying I support a hiring process that isn’t equal and fair for all interested candidates.  But that’s not really what we’re here to discuss, is it?  The issue at hand is this – you are not actively impressing your boss!  You don’t put yourself out there.  You stay comfortable and you maintain your daily routine and that’s about it.  This needs to stop, friend.  You deserve more!  You are one of the soldiers and it’s time for you to step out of the ranks for a moment and wave your flag of awesomeness.

Here are 5 ways in which you can be sure you will not impress your boss and guarantee you’ll never go up even one step on that professional ladder (if you do any of these things, please stop ASAP):

  1. Make sure your work goes unnoticed.

Let me start by emphasizing, this is NOT me giving you permission to start bragging about yourself or commencing some sort of attention seeking behavior.  Please listen closely.  You must do this in a way that is discreet, proper, and poised.  Let me give you some examples.

You receive a request from a customer that requires some extensive research on your part prior to responding.  Since the inquiry came from outside the company, your boss might not know how you went above and beyond to practice excellent customer service.  So when you respond, cc: your boss!  If you get questioned (which you probably won’t) just mention that you wanted to make sure they are staying in the loop on what you have on your plate right now.  More than likely, they will take it as an FYI, and at the same time be super impressed with your work.

Ok, let’s say you are done with all of your work for the day (or let’s get real here, you’re sick of what you’re doing and you need a break) but you want to stay busy.  So you start diving into organizing those files everyone tends to neglect.  While you’re carting those heavy boxes down to the archives, simply take a detour and make sure you walk past your boss’ office on your way!

Find little ways to get the message out there that you are the bomb.

  1. Only do the work included in your job description.

“Oh, well this is awkward, but… that’s not my job.”  Yikes!  Are you really saying that?  NEVER say that!  Make the copies, answer the phone, clean up after the office party.  Any time you see something (anything) that needs to be done, do it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have cleaned cake off the floor, or gotten on my hands and knees and scrubbed out the moldy fridge (in my Nine West kitten heels).  Let me tell you, it impresses everyone around you.  First, because no one wants to do that junk.  And second, it shows that you are not above anything and you are here to help the team.

Extra projects?  Yes, please!  Do you know what this does?  Not only does it show that you are willing to take on extra work, but it shows that you can handle it.  Your boss will see that you can adjust your workload and be efficient and flexible with your time.  Many times a special project will involve employees from other departments, and you want that to happen.  The more you expose yourself to other people, the greater chance you have of getting noticed for a promotion.

  1. Never speak to anyone outside your team/department.

Look, no one wants to be that guy who walks in the room and everyone messages each other because “here he comes” and “you don’t want to be stuck in a conversation about his cat for a minimum of 45 minutes.”  However, you must get yourself out of your cubicle and talk to people.  And no, walking over to the hot water dispenser to get your oatmeal going and waving at someone as they walk by does not count.  Get out of your chair, stretch, breathe, and go chat with someone for 5 minutes.  See if they want to take a walk and grab coffee.  If you’re nervous about small talk, just tell them you want to bring it back to the office because you need to get back to your desk.

If you take one thing away from this entire post, let it be this:  if you are outgoing and friendly, people will assume you are smart.  Because what do you have to be so confident about?  Also, people aren’t going to think to promote you if they don’t even know you (or at least know OF you).  Period.

  1. Make yourself unavailable.

Have you ever heard someone say, “so and so is NEVER at her desk, and it’s at least 24 hours before she’ll respond to my e-mails.”  I know I just got done telling you to regularly make your social rounds, but at the same time, I’m also telling you to make sure you stay near your desk and keep up on your e-mails.  Oftentimes, when someone is coming around looking for help or for someone to pull into a high level meeting, they’re just going to grab whoever they can find.  They won’t wait for you, even if you’re the one they should actually be involving.  A lot of opportunity can arise just from being present or at the right place at the right time.

So absolutely, take your lunch, take your breaks.  But a 30 minute trip to the café to grab breakfast in the morning is not an acceptable break, stacked on top of your hour and a half lunch.  If you have long meetings, come back to your desk and check in as soon as you can.  Or if it’s within company policy, set up your work e-mails on your phone.

  1. Don’t be valuable.

If you are constantly keeping your mouth shut and not offering that beautiful knowledge you have up in your brain place, you are not helping yourself.  Yes, only speak when you have something useful to contribute, but make sure you interject and fight through the noise when necessary.  Shockingly, there are a lot of people who speak because they like the sound of their voice.  Knock through those distractions and fill the room with a song of wisdom.  When someone sends stuff out for review, be the first one to send back edits and suggestions.  When you are in a team meeting and the big boss is asking for ideas, come up with one (quickly) and shout it out!

You must show people your value and they will come back to you.  If you remain mute, or never offer any innovative improvements, people will just disregard you.

At the end of the day, there are still situations where favoritism is displayed and there is really nothing you could have done differently.  Don’t lose heart.  (It actually sounds like a company change might be in your future if that really is the case.)  No matter what, continue to look for ways you can improve and always be open to constructive criticism.  If you truly have been passed up several times for a promotion, schedule a meeting with your boss, tell them you are interested in promoting, and ask what you can be doing to make that happen.  Be bold.  This alone will get their attention and put you on the map!  Just make sure you follow through and make any suggested changes.


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