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What are the Real Reasons People Get Promoted and Others Don’t?

What are the Real Reasons People Get Promoted and Others Don’t?

If we want to move onwards and upwards in our careers, we need to climb the ladder. It may seems like it’s a long game of politics but that is not always the case. There is usually an element of fogginess and it’s not entirely transparent how the promotion process works, so what are the real reasons that people get promoted or not?

Jason M. Lemkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Echosign which was acquired by Adobe and then worked as a VP in Adobe provides some insights into the process from his personal experience as found in his Quora Answer (Thanks to Jason for letting us share this answer).

get promoted 2

    I’d like to provide some insights from my experience as a VP as a leading F500 tech company, and as a reasonably successful start-up CEO.

    Promotions in the F500 are indeed complicated, but let me focus instead first on Performance Reviews, which is a penultimate step to promotion, and something in my F500 experience that materially impacts your compensation.

    And here is my learning.  Reviews go into High, Strong, Good, and Needs to Improve basically in all Big Tech Cos.  (Some have SuperHighs, but that’s rare).  And in my experiences, even at Adobe, even at a F500 leader with 10,000 employees … there were zero politics in becoming a HighBecause it’s so clear who the Highs are.  

    The only real issues, the politics, is the fact that some groups have too many High candidates (often the outperforming products), and some have too few, which warps the curves a bit.  So it’s actually harder to be a High in an outperforming group than an underperforming group.

    Having said all that … really no politics.  This was pretty surprising to me.

    Now, of course, not every High can get promoted.  But even the promotions, while not always the decisions I might make or you might make — were always based on results.  

    I know some of you will say your experience is different, but I’m going to suggest once you strip away the emotion, and once you see how the sausage is really made … that it’s probably the same in any growing tech company of any scale that has solid, experienced management.

    So now, How to Get Promoted?  In both (x) my Big Tech Co experience, and (y) my post-20-50 employees in a strong start-up experience, to get promoted, here are my learnings:

    1. Demonstrate successful leadership. 

    This is what everyone is looking for.  Everyone.  Someone to take and carry the load.  As long as you have an experienced boss — they will take notice.  Because what we all really need ishelp — real help getting our initiatives done.  If you can get one of my key initiatives done for me — not talked about, not analyzed, not discussed, butdone — you are a rockstar.

    2. Work in a hot or at least warm area of the company.

    No need to promote anyone in the EOL’d (End of Life)  products — though it does happen.

    3. Don’t schmooze.  Just engage and be positive and respectful.

    Schmoozing is a turn-off.  Instead, as you Demonstrate Leadership, also positively (never negatively) engage with your peers and colleagues outside of your small group.  Be critical as needed — but always positive.  Naked criticism will get you worse than nowhere, it will get you in the cellar.  Your peers’ feedback, even if just informal and word-of-mouth … is critical to your promotion.

    4. Don’t sell up. 

    Yes, I know selling up sometimes “works” in Big Companies, but it doesn’t really get you promoted  — and really it’s a sign you are weak.  Focus instead on selling down, and selling across.  On getting your colleagues to follow your ideas and insights.  That’s how you demonstrate true leadership.

    5. “Dress” for success.

    I don’t mean that completely literally (but yes, dress a little better than the rest, it can’t hurt).  I mean act and carry yourself like someone that cares.  That always goes the extra yard.  Never look at the carpet, or yawn.  Never be late to a meeting — ever.  Always be positive, give constructive feedback, but never destructive feedback.  Never be cocky, but be confident in what you know is correct.

    6. (Try) to Be Patient. 

    Even if you do everything right, there can only be so many promotions.  It may take another whole year.  This isn’t politics per se, but companies of any size have a finite number that can make.  Don’t give it more than one extra year, but assume it will take one more cycle than it should.

    7. Ask.

    Ask your boss how and what it will take to get promoted.  If you don’t ask, you probably won’t get.  Just be ready to get some tough feedback when you ask, and be ready to grow, change, and learn.

    8. Working Hard and Doing a Good Job Is Insufficient. 

    Again, promotion in Big Cos and tech companies of any scale is about leadership, and in many cases, management.  You’ll get well paid if you work hard and do a good job.  You just won’t get promoted all that far.
    Just my learnings / observations in the BigCo.  I’d say all but the second point also apply to start-ups too.

    I know some companies are much more fracked up than this.  But I think / hope maybe 50% of the well run ones work just this way.

    Featured photo credit: A girl with sunset on the mountain in silhouette via Shutterstock

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    Hoi Wan

    Hoi is a mobilist who blogs about technology trends and productivity.

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    Last Updated on July 15, 2019

    10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them

    10 Signs of a Bad Boss and How to Deal with Them

    This is an article I didn’t want to write. Even if it appears that way on the surface, few things are black and white. Between the two colors is a world of gray. Notwithstanding the bosses who behave criminally, some of the people who carry the “bad boss” label have possibly been, or have the capacity to become, a “good boss.”

    This is an article I didn’t want to write because I understand that depending on whom you ask, many of us could be labeled either a good or bad boss.

    Perhaps another reason I didn’t want to write this article is because context matters. Context for the organization and context for the individual. What is happening in the organization? What is the culture? Is the “boss” in a position for which the individual is equipped to do the job? Is the person in a terrible place in life? The office culture, the relationship a team member has with a boss or board and the leader’s personal life can all influence how the person shows up and leads and how others perceive the individual.

    But since I am writing this article, I will share a few signs that bosses are bad and in need of a timeout.

    1. Bad Bosses Don’t Know and Haven’t Healed Their Inner Child

    If you plan to lead people – well, if you plan to effectively lead yourself – you must get reacquainted with your inner child. Just because you are in young adulthood, middle age or the golden years doesn’t mean your inner child matches your chronological age. If you experienced trauma as a child, your inner child may be stuck at the point or age of that trauma. While you walk around in a woman’s size 10 shoe, your behavior may showcase an inner child who is much younger.

    In a June 7, 2008, Psychology Today article, Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D., observed,[1]

    “The fact is that the majority of so-called adults are not truly adults at all. We all get older … But, psychologically speaking, this is not adulthood. True adulthood hinges on acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for loving and parenting one’s own inner child. For most adults, this never happens. Instead, their inner child has been denied, neglected, disparaged, abandoned or rejected. We are told by society to ‘grow up,’ putting childish things aside. To become adults, we’ve been taught that our inner child—representing our child-like capacity for innocence, wonder, awe, joy, sensitivity and playfulness—must be stifled, quarantined or even killed. The inner child comprises and potentiates these positive qualities. But it also holds our accumulated childhood hurts, traumas, fears and angers.”

    Sometimes the key that your inner child needs tending to is conflict with someone else’s inner child.

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    Good bosses are aware of the ups and downs of their childhood, have worked or are working to heal their inner child and are aware of their triggers. Good managers use this awareness to manage themselves, and their interactions with others. Bad bosses are oblivious to how their inner child impacts not only their life but the lives of others.

    2. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Accept Feedback

    Bad bosses are not intentional about creating an environment where their peers and colleagues can share feedback about their leadership. They don’t solicit feedback. Given the power dynamic that managers, CEOs and others in leadership yield, they must go out of their way to solicit feedback, and they must do so repeatedly.

    Before being completely honest, most team members will test the waters and share low-stakes information to get a sense for how their boss will respond. If the boss is angry or retaliatory, team members are less likely to risk being candid in the future.

    So being unable to accept feedback takes on two forms: failing to proactively and repeatedly ask for feedback and reacting poorly when feedback is shared.

    3. Bad Bosses Are Unwilling to Give Timely Feedback

    The flip side of accepting feedback is giving feedback. Both require courage. It takes courage to open yourself up and accept feedback on ways that you need to grow. Similarly, it takes courage to share honest feedback about a team member’s or colleague’s performance or behavior.

    Since not everyone is open to accepting feedback, whether they’re a manager or not, having an honest conversation about areas a team member or colleague has missed the mark, is not always easy. Still, good bosses will find a way to share feedback, and they’ll do so in a timely fashion.

    Withholding feedback and sharing it months after a situation has unfolded or in a snowball fashion is unhelpful to the employees. One of the ways we grow as leaders is through feedback. When people have the courage to tell us the truth, that information allows us to progress.

    4. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Acknowledge Their Mistakes

    Owning their mistakes is like a disease to bad bosses; they do not want it. Instead of being risk averse, they are accountability averse. The problem is that they can only gloss over their weaknesses or failures for so long; the people around are able to see their flaws and weaknesses, and bad bosses pretending they don’t exist is not helpful. It is infuriating.

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    However, bad bosses are masterful at reassigning blame. They are unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for mistakes — small or large. But career expert Amanda Augustine told CNBC “Make It” in May 2017, that “good managers also admit their mistakes.”[2] They don’t pass the blame or pretend they didn’t make a mistake. They own it.

    5. Bad Bosses Are Unwilling or Incapable of Being Vulnerable

    Vulnerability is an underrated leadership skill. But well-placed and well-thought out vulnerability enables employees to see their leaders’ humanity, and it creates a way for leaders to bond with their teams.

    Bad bosses may talk about vulnerability, but they don’t practice it in their own lives, particularly in the workplace.

    6. Privately, Bad Bosses Do Not Live Up to the Organization’s Stated Values

    Bad bosses may publicly spout the values of the organization they work for, but privately they either don’t believe or don’t embody those values.

    If they work for an environmental group, they may not practice sustainability in their private lives. Their words and actions are incongruent.

    7. Bad Bosses Are Unable to Inspire Others

    When bad bosses are unable or unwilling to take the time to inspire others, they lead through fear or command. Neither are helpful.

    A culture dominated by fear will stifle creativity and risk taking that can lead to innovation. An autocratic management style will have a similar effect in that team, members will not feel they have the space to step outside of the box they have been placed in.

    A good boss is someone who takes time to share the big picture and time to inspire their teams to want to be a part of it.

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    8. Bad Bosses Are Disinterested in How Their Behavior Impacts Others

    They are narcissistic and focused on self-preservation. In “19 Traits of a Bad Boss,” Kevin Sheridan said,[3]

    “Terrible bosses are endlessly self-centered. Everything is about them and not the people they manage or what is going on in their employees’ personal lives. It is never about the team, but rather all about how good they look. Conversely, great bosses lead with integrity, honesty, care, and authenticity.”

    Rather than seeing their team’s talents and seeing people’s full humanity, bad bosses believe their team exists to serve them. Families, personal life and priorities be damned. Bona fide bad bosses believe that their comfort should be prioritized over their team’s needs and desires.

    9. Bad Bosses Have Likely Received Negative Feedback

    Bad bosses have likely been told that they are poor supervisors. They have likely been told time and time again that their behavior is harmful to the people around them.

    Perhaps they do not know how to change or are unwilling to change. But bad bosses certainly have received clues, insights and direct feedback that their management style and behavior are harmful to others.

    Even when someone hasn’t explicitly said, “Your behavior is harmful to me and others,” the absence of feedback indicates a problem. It can mean that the leader’s team doesn’t feel safe enough to share feedback, that people do not believe the leader will act on what is shared, or that people have determine the best strategy is to avoid the boss as much as possible.

    10. Bad Bosses Are Perfectionists

    Bad bosses are driven by an internal urge to be perfect. Perfectionists don’t just want to be perfect; they want everyone around them to be perfect as well. This is a standard that neither they nor their team can live up to.

    Since perfection is illusive, they spend their time chasing their shadow and being frustrated that they cannot catch it. They are unable to enjoy the journey and often block others from doing so as well. They let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.” Rather than embracing a growth mindset that desires to learn and improved, they are compulsive and toxic.

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    If you are like me and you see yourself in parts of this list, do not despair. A bad boss can change. The key is seeking honest feedback and being willing to work through that feedback and your triggers with a therapist or coach.

    The Bottom Line

    Regardless of your age and the mistakes you have made, you can change and become a healthier leader whom others respect and appreciate.

    Conversely, if you are employed by a bad boss, do everything in your power to take care of yourself. Understand that your boss’s behavior, even if directed at you, is not about you. Your boss’s reactions, if and when you make a mistake, is a reflection on that individual, not you.

    To survive the work environment, think about the lesson you are meant to learn. You can do this with a trusted therapist or capable coach. However, if you deem the work environment to be toxic and harmful to your health, seek employment elsewhere.

    In the end, this is an article I did not want to write, but I’m happy I did.

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    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

    Reference

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