BLOG: Securing the Promotion (If You Actually Want It)


How do we continue to reconcile the value of experience and longevity in an era of immediacy? At a time of heightened reliance on speed-networking, virtual job fairs, and LinkedIn Pulse, the “here and now” coupled with the “there and next” are practically synchronized. All too often, we may hear a colleague or client ask the perfect Monday morning, question: “Did you get my email, instant message, or text?”

Of course I did, along with approximately 47 other similar messages. However providing substantive, reliable, and reasonable responses may take more than 24 hours. The automated responses that are provided instantly upon receipt, merely provide an acknowledgment, but not resolutions. This typical Monday morning scenario, is only the tip of the iceberg, in comparison to your competing priorities, projects, and upcoming challenges during that work day and work week. Through it all, month after month, quarter after quarter, and year after year, you have proven to be a high performer and leader in your organization. Even though industries, organizations, and sectors are all different, presence, impact, and performance (PIP) are seemingly the constants that are difficult to deny when evaluating an employee’s value to an organization. So, you’ve been gauging your “PIP” in this organization and others throughout your career. If not now, when will it be time for a promotion?

Hiring managers and supervisors of all ranks from time to time must make promotion decisions. Organizational leaders who perpetuate a meritocratic workplace culture, base promotion decisions on the needs of the organization matched by the availability and options within the current, talent pool. However recruiting from the outside is also a common practice to meet staffing needs, instead of making internal promotion decisions. The employer’s expectations for consistently, high levels of employee performance don’t always align well with an employee’s expectation of rewards, promotion, and or reciprocity. “Expectancy theory” reinforces the premise that employees are likely more motivated to continue to perform at high levels when the likelihood of realizing the desired outcome is high. Additionally, the idea of “equity theory” takes hold as well. If Employee A believes that she will receive the same opportunity as Employee B based on the same criteria then she will likely continue to “give it her all.” Even if there are demographic differences between her and Employee B. Job expansion (more tasks) and job enrichment (addition of complex, job responsibilities) are standard measures that frequently lead to formal job promotions. So what are the standard criteria used to make promotion decisions?

6 Standard Criteria for Promotion

  1. Experience: The time spent in a current position and relevant experience needed to assume additional responsibilities are relevant factors. “Experience is the best teacher…” how many times have we heard that, one? Learning by doing is a sound method for realizing efficacy. The key here is to start learning and to start doing, before a title change. Such experiences may be easier to gain in volunteer and civic activities outside of the workplace. It takes time, learning, initiative, and access to opportunities to garner experience.
  2. Performance: Psychologists have concluded that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The halo-effect is the Catch-22 of this conclusion. Employers must make rational and logical decisions based on their assessment of an employee’s past performance, evaluations, and recommendations until a promoted employee proves otherwise. We have all met a recently promoted, incompetent.
  3. Contributions: What have you done for the industry, organization, department, or business unit lately? Even though organizational success is not an individual accomplishment, it is imperative to add your mortar to the statue of organizational success and contribute to the reversal of organizational atrophy. Because of you…what has been improved, developed, or enhanced? The new client that came on board is because of you.
  4. Seniority: Longevity and tenure in mature organizations are still valuable currencies used in retention and promotion decisions. “Taylor has been with us for 27 years.” The assumption is that Taylor has paid her dues and she has positively contributed to the organization for many years. Industry and leadership seniority is also relevant and transferrable intra and inter-industry.
  5. Potential: The capacity to do more and to be more is very subjective, contingent upon the decision-makers assessment of the employee’s skills and abilities. You can be persuasive in this area, by expressing selfless eagerness to contribute at a higher level, and making subtle reference to your impressive, track record.
  6. Succession Planning: All permanent positions are temporary, in the greater scheme of things. Being tagged as a fast-tracker, and mover & shaker strengthen the case for future promotion. An effective follower finds and creates the opportunity to be a light that shines through their leader.

Each of the six criteria described above requires time, well-spent and longevity. So what can an employee do in the meantime and immediately to examine whether a promotion is likely or still desired in their current organization or industry? Consider the 5Fs test:

  1. Facts vs. Fallacy: Know what it takes to earn a promotion in your organization or industry. Throw examples of nepotism, hearsay, and instances of unfairness out of the window.
  2. Feasibility: Are you willing to put in the time, the work, and make the sacrifices that come with FILO: (first in the office — last out of the office) more often than not?
  3. Fit: Is this the organization and or industry that will enable you to realize your full potential and promise ultimately?
  4. Focus: Are these the products, services, customers, and stakeholders that and who you most enjoy providing/serving?
  5. Future: In the long-run is this the place or industry where you will make the greatest impact and establish your career legacy?

Cleamon Moorer is the dean of the College of Business at Baker College in Flint, Michigan’s largest private, not-for-profit higher education institution.

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