Why You Are Not Being Promoted

not promoted

Not being promoted? Many clients come to us feeling frustrated that their career is stalling. They had expected to be promoted by now. They had expected to reach a certain level within their organisation (or profession) by now.

But it hasn’t happened.

Part of their frustration is driven out of their lack of understanding as to ‘why it hasn’t happened’. And if you don’t understand why it hasn’t happened, it’s a hard thing to take action on to address.

So let’s look into the reasons why you may not be getting promoted.

1/. You are not seen as ready for promotion by your manager, senior management and/or the organization as a whole.

In some organisations, there may be very clearly articulated capabilities with which they measure your promotional readiness.

If you haven’t been promoted in these cases odds are you have been assessed against these capabilities and someone (of influence) believes you aren’t yet ready. Remember that these competencies are often not just technically based but behaviourally based also. So while you may be a strong technical expert you may not be demonstrating the skills, attitude or ability for the next level in the behavioural or emotional intelligence areas.

In many organisations though there is not published or articulated capabilities within which employees can look to for hints on what the promotion assessments are made up of. In these cases, promotion decisions can appear very subjective and unfair to employees.

In many cases promotion decisions appear to be behind closed doors secret squirrel mystery business! Many employees perceive promotion decisions are driven by favouritism, and various cliques and clubs.

While promotions may appear this way, in my experience there is usually very robust conversations around who is ready and why within most organisations. It is, after all, in the best interests of the organisation to pick who they think is the best person for the job.

An important thing to remember in these instances is that

  • you are most likely being assessed on more than your technical capability. You are being considered on the basis of your potential to develop, maturity, EQ, ability to learn and how you behave (your cultural fit); and
  • you are also likely being considered for your leadership, strategic acumen and commercial abilities. The Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) has undertaken extensive research into what problems can stall a career.

These are:

-Problems with interpersonal relationship

-Difficulty building or leading a team

-Difficulty changing or adapting

-Failing to meet business objectives

-Being too narrow in your functional (technical/professional) orientation.

Interestingly the research found that managers often felt uncomfortable giving feedback on these 5 areas, and therefore they were often ‘blind spots’ for aspirational promotees.

Executive career counselling can help you explore why you may not be getting promoted, help you explore how you are presenting your personal brand and even, in Let’s Talk Career’s career coaching service offering case, administer 360-degree leadership assessments so you can have feedback on the CCL’s 5 career stallers mentioned above.

2/. Your organisation does not require anymore individuals at your desired promotional level.

It amazes me how many people fail to consider that the business’ resource needs form part of their decision about who they promote, to what, when.

It is easy to see that most organizations only need one CEO, and therefore while you may have 3 people in the organization capable of doing the job – only one will have that job. So why is it difficult for people to see that it is very much the same at the lower levels of the organization as well? There is only a need for x number of team leaders, or senior planners, or whatever it is that you are hoping to be promoted to.

You see the thing is – in most organisations anyway – promotions are not like birthdays. They don’t  happen automatically each year. And promotions are not like uni gradings, you don’t ‘do the work, pass the year and go up to the next level’.

Here’s the thing – it isn’t all about you.

If your organisation feels it cannot utilise your skills at the higher level, afford the additional salary (that generally comes with a promotion) or have a spot for you at the promoted level – then they won’t want to promote you.

So, timing plays a part in promotion decisions within many organisations. It is up to you as the true owner of your career to decide how long you are prepared to wait.

Career coaching can assist you assess whether it is time to stay or go from your organization based on your career goals and desires, and help you explore what other opportunities are available for you in the open job market. Career coaching can also help you assess whether there are other ways to develop your career while you wait for the next promotion opportunity within your organisation. I’m a stronger believer in individuals being able to make development and growth opportunities for themselves within their organisations (regardless of role and current level). Having a career plan and feeling empowered to work on it, regardless of the organisation’s decisions, is a really powerful thing. Leaving your employer because you didn’t get promoted is not always the best answer or outcome.

Let’s Talk Career is a national career counselling, executive coaching and career development firm. Feel free to call us today on 1800 284 255 to book an appointment to talk to someone about how you can put in place a strategy to more proactively drive your own career. Each session is tailored to the individual and is one on one with a coach who can help you clarify and plan your career steps. You can learn more about us here – www.letstalkcareer.com.






Kris has over 20 years executive HR and executive coaching experience in Australian corporates. With a Masters Degree in Leadership, she works with senior executives to both improve their leadership performance and achieve greater career satisfaction.

Author: Kris

Kris has over 20 years executive HR and executive coaching experience in Australian corporates. With a Masters Degree in Leadership, she works with senior executives to both improve their leadership performance and achieve greater career satisfaction.

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