Management Matters – Are You Talking to the Right People About a Promotion?

Many of the working professionals out there think they are ready for that next promotion. Their co-workers might agree with them. Family members and friends may all agree that the next step upward is one that should be taken soon --- maybe even now.

So why doesn’t the boss see it as clearly as everyone else?

The days of someone tapping an employee on the shoulder and ushering them in to the next level of responsibility and pay vanished a long time ago. If no said anything about that to you before this, I feel badly. However, unless you are writing about career development and organizational politics, this is the truth. If you want to get that promotion, you’ve got work to do.

The first thing to do is review your current job description. If can’t get your hands on it, write one up. Try to be honest about what you do really well and where you need to develop. If you aren’t sure, ask your boss. Not at the annual performance review – ask them NOW. If you aren’t performing ALL parts of your job well, it will be difficult to make a case for promotion. Jobs are not like buffets where you can chose what you like and leave the rest. You have to be able to look strong in all areas.

Do you get defensive when you are given feedback that doesn’t match how you see yourself? It’s hard if you push people away when they are providing feedback but understanding how you are viewed is critical if you want to be considered as a serious candidate for a promotional opportunity. Focusing on essential tasks in your current job is fine if you are interested in staying right where you are. In most organizations, doing the essential things in your current job is NOT an automatic preparation for the next level. It is when you go above and beyond in the eyes of that next level manager that indicates that you are ready to take that step up.

Promotions are not only about increasing the bottom line, reducing expenses, project results and money either, though that quantitative data will support your case for promotion. The interpersonal skills you demonstrate are a strong indication that you have the ability to ‘get work done through others’ effectively. Developing talent, mentoring and training others, providing feedback and coaching, developing and maintaining key relationships internally and externally, and effectively communicating with others are the signals that you have the people skills necessary to have a positive influence at a higher level. The higher you go up the career ladder, the more the job is about others (Clients, employees, prospects, executives, colleagues) and the less it is about you.

If you are not sure that your boss is in your corner, ask the person who currently has (or had) the job you aspire to. If you are not currently demonstrating the skills and aptitude for the position, learn what you need to do to obtain them.

Confidence is great and you should definitely have it if you are going to go for that promotion. More important however is that the people who are in a position to promote you have confidence in you as well.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management consulting practice that specializes in developing people in the areas of leadership and management, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 30 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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