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4 Reasons You Aren't Getting Promoted

by Ramon Greenwood

Who or what is to blame if you are not getting the promotion you want and think you deserve?

Many factors, in various combinations can be the cause, but one thing is almost certain. Like it or not, you and you alone must take most of the credit or the blame if your career is stuck on "hold."

There is valuable insight into all of this in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." Cassius is advising Brutus as they consider their ambitions for bigger and better things: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Let's examine four of the more frequent reasons (or excuses, as the case may be) given to explain why people are not promoted and the courses of action that can be taken to deal with them.

Four Reasons Promotions Are Stymied

1. You fail to win the promotion because you are not qualified to take on the bigger responsibilities. Two things can be happening here.

One is you have the potential to learn the new responsibilities, but you haven't made the effort. Hopefully, your employer has a training program. If so, get enrolled without further delay. If there is no such program, it is up to you to find a way to learn how to handle the bigger job. Study and practice on your own time. Continue to be successful on the job at hand. Be patient, but persistent. Convince your boss that you are ready and willing to work for the promotion and that you can handle it.

The second condition is the job you covet is simply beyond your capacity. You must accept the fact that you, like every other human beings, have limits to your capabilities. You have at least two options: make the best of where you are; or strike out in a different and more realistic direction where your abilities can be put to better use.

2. You can't be promoted because there is no one to take over your present responsibilities.

Your employer should have a training program to provide lines of succession for all key positions. But, if your place of work is not so prepared, you still can't place the blame for your lack of promotion on someone or something else.

If you are stymied for lack of a replacement, it is up to you to make certain that at least one person is ready to step in and take your place. Pick out a likely candidate and train him or her to fill your shoes when you get promoted.

3. "They" don't know what you have been doing; how much you can do; how ready you are for promotion.

It is often said, "There is no limit to the good a man can do if he doesn't care who gets the credit." That is a laudable ideal, but unfortunately, it doesn't square with reality when it is applied in the competitive world of work. Think of yourself as a product that must be sold to advance your career. This means the buyers (i.e., your superiors who make decisions about your career) need to be made fully aware of your good qualities and your potential for growth. Do a good job, be prepared for advancement and communicate the facts.

4. You have tried repeatedly to get a promotion. Everything is locked up, nobody is leaving, the business is stagnant. There is no room to grow.

You are still the key. If you are certain this is the situation, your career issue is more clearly defined than in most instances. You can recognize that you are stuck. Then there are two things you can do.

One, consider the pluses in your current job. There are always some benefits. Will they continue at least as they are? Are there some personal considerations dictating that you stay where you are for now? (Look twice to be sure they are not being used as convenient excuses for inaction.) Are the benefits worth the price you are paying to live on a plateau below what you believe to be your potential? If so, you can stay put and hope for things to get better.

Second, if your unmet ambitions are burning you up inside, make a move to another organization where you will have opportunities to advance.

The first step toward getting promoted is to understand that the credit or the blame for your career and where it goes is strictly yours.

Ramon Greenwood is a former Senior Vice President of American Express. To subscriber to his free semi-monthly newsletter please go to

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