I have not counted how many times over the past 13 years someone has come to me to help them move up or out after their company hired a new guy for the position that they felt was their next move upward. If I had to guess, I’d say about 100.
Of them, some have only wished that their supervisor would have thought about them and recommended them for the job, but never actually verbalized their desire or made attempts to understand if there were knowledge gaps they needed to fill.
Then there are a portion of them who had made their ambitions quite clear, but felt it was a natural progression, not as if there were gaps in knowledge or experience that they needed to fill in order to be qualified for the next level up.
In both of these scenarios, a short and long-term solution is to coach the individuals to be appropriately assertive and proactive in seeking understanding about what is really needed in order to be ready for the next step up.
The first stage is always qualifying that it is, in fact, the right next step. Too many people become managers because that seems like, or is presented as, the only way to move up. This leads to a large number of managers who have neither the desire nor the training to know how to motivate and inspire engagement and performance. They then usually resort to being taskmasters, micromanagers and even tyrants. They are responsible for a team of people to meet numbers and use fear as a tool because their tool kit is limited. This becomes a vicious cycle, as one manager trains the next and on up they go, unconsciously creating a toxic culture.
Please, if you aspire to be a corporate leader, learn how to use inspiration, trust, recognition, self-awareness, accountability and mobility as tools. Then practice them under the guidance of a coach to influence from wherever you are now, and brand yourself internally and externally as a leader.
In yet a third scenario, the professional has been as proactive and assertive as possible to procure performance feedback and identify and fill knowledge gaps. However due to any number of reasons – politics, nepotism, vendettas, a complete failure on a leader’s part to thoroughly prepare team members for promotion, or failure on the professional’s part to make accomplishments visible – promotions still go to someone else.
In all three scenarios, branding would be a smart next step. However, only in the third scenario would I suggest an all-out strategic campaign to change companies.
In the meantime, operate under the assumption that this new person might be better at something than you, and find out what it is. You will most certainly know better than them the inner workings of your company. Befriend the new guy, ask for opportunities to show him or her the ropes, and show everyone that you do have what it takes to take on more.
Think back to when you were a new person and think about the things that you learned in your first 90 days that made a difference in your results, and I’m not talking about what you learned about the other people you work with.
Don’t be that guy that warns the new guy about office gossip, or the hardhead, or the ego maniac. These are opinions, even if multiple people share them. All the new guy will think is that you are judgmental and they will be wary to trust you. Stick with the facts and note when something you pass on is a subjective observation, like “The boss prefers that all KPIs are blue in the weekly report.”
I don’t think I have to tell people to not be a saboteur to the new guy, but it does happen. It can be tempting to want the boss to see they made a mistake by not giving you the promotion, but that’s not the outcome that is usually produced by being a saboteur. In fact, more often than not, it just confirms that you were not the right person for the promotion.
Start becoming more aware of when your ego is kicking in and make it a habit to start switching into your higher self – your higher self is the one that gets promotions, not your ego.
Sometimes it happens that a promotion was not granted due to timing. In an ideal world, open communication and accurate foresight would enable an employee and supervisor to have a frank, two-way conversation about the real expectations of a promotion – the hours, the responsibility, the travel, and the pressures. The employee would be able to discuss the changes with any personal stakeholders, like family members, who would be impacted by any changes in lifestyle and make the decision that is best for everyone, even if that means giving up a significant raise.
This is not an ideal world. With about half of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, extreme increases in the cost of living (when you include the technology needed to get by today, not to mention keeping up with the Jones’), increasing healthcare costs, higher education debt, and the perception of shortages of opportunity even though it is a job seeker’s market, whether it’s the right next step or not, few people would turn down a promotion. If an employee has personal things going on that a manager feels may interfere with being able to meet the expectations, that frank conversation may never happen. I do not condone this – this is just a far too common reality.
External candidates are sometimes chosen over internal candidates because managers know too much about the internal candidate’s life.
Have you endured or are you about to face a big life change? Have you missed days to deal with something personal? Has it become a trend?
It can feel unfair. It can feel like neglect, abandonment, or misfortune. It can also sometimes be a blessing. In a few of the cases I have mentioned above with prospective clients, the professional wound up needing that time to adequately deal with a major life change. While, of course, I am all about supporting people in moving up, over, or out, sometimes staying put is what works best at the time. Not aspiring to achieve more in your career in order to manage life is totally okay and it doesn’t have to be permanent. However, you will need to make it known if and when your aspirations change and you want to get back on a growth trajectory.
In most cases, getting passed up for a promotion was the impetus of change that led my clients to far greater happiness and fulfillment – the kick in the pants they needed to start taking control of their career direction.
If you want to know more about how to:
Scheduling a free consultation is your next step.
Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award.