Ep #42: Why Your Organization/Boss Doesn’t Support Your Promotion (And What To Do About It)
This may sound counterintuitive, but your company isn’t hardwired to support your success.
Corporations have developed processes over the years (or decades) that are designed to support and protect the company.
Not you. The company.
So, your organization may provide leadership trainings here and there.
Or maybe they’ll show you how to be more productive.
Or maybe they’ll teach you how to become a better manager.
But what they often won’t show you is how to develop the executive skills you’ll need to reach that next level in your career.
THAT is why you can’t wait around for your organization to support your professional development.
If you want to make it to the C-Suite eventually, you need to take matters into your own hands.
In this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, I’ll share exactly how your organization may be holding you back from the next promotion you deserve, AND how to create an effective professional development plan that will help you land any role you want.
What You'll Learn:
- The three reasons why your organization isn’t supporting your professional development
- The problem with high-potential development programs when it comes to advancing your career
- The three key elements that every promotion plan must have
- How to stop feeling frustrated and take action instead
- How to approach obstacles in your organization with a problem-solving mindset (no more giving up!)
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer. So excited to be here with you guys today.
I experienced a funny thing yesterday that I just thought I would share with you. But it's called boredom. And it was interesting because I noticed that at one point during... I'm recording this episode on a Monday afternoon. And so this was Sunday and I haven't experienced that feeling, that feeling that you get when you aren't really sure what to do because you don't really have a long laundry list of things to do. So you sort of wonder: 'Hmm, what could I be doing right now?'.
And I actually told my husband that yesterday because I was in such a great mood all day. And I felt at one point at two o'clock in the afternoon that I was like I could pretty much do anything.
And the reason that I noticed it is because I haven't experienced that for so long. And I'm sure this happened to me long before even Covid and sheltering in place and having to work from home. But it's just really interesting to have that moment of really what felt like freedom. Like possibility. Anything is possible because we're all just working so hard right now and really trying to hold everything together. So my heart goes out to every single one of you and all I can wish for you is that you experience a moment of boredom in your life this next week. So hopefully that happens to you as well. It was fleeting, but it was good.
So today's episode, I want to talk to you guys about how your company is actually hardwired not to support your success.
Your company is set up in such a way not to support your promotion. So here's what I'm talking about.
If you're a somebody who works at a small startup, one of those organizations where it's just really grassroots and everybody has to put in the hours and we all work together and people get promoted very quickly at age 22 because they're right there and they're part of the beginning and they they end up becoming CFO by age 28 because they're just in it. They're just in it.
But what I'm talking about are these larger corporations, these institutions that have put processes in place that actually deny you from getting a promotion. So in today's episode, I'm going to be sharing with you why this is true, why this is happening for you, and essentially what you can do instead. What you can do to break out of the cycle, to finally get your own promotion and get the recognition that you deserve.
So, like I said, these organizations have put these policies in place to protect themselves. To protect the organization, to protect the other managers. And also, they put these policies in place about getting promoted for "fairness." So they want everything to be objective. They want to be able to look back at the piece of paper and say, did this person follow procedure? And was this the best person for the job? Even if it happens to be somebody who is not diverse? Somebody who is just like everybody else. But they say: 'Oh, well, we looked for diverse candidates. We just didn't find them. So then we went with the best possible candidate,' or: 'We looked for internal candidates, we just didn't find them, so we went with the best possible candidate.'
So all of these processes are put in place to protect the organization. What they're not meant to do is to protect the individual. So they're protecting the manager, the hiring manager or your boss, but they're not protecting you.
And the reason why I think this is so important to realize is when I talk on my podcast about how a promotion is not a reward for your hard work, how you're not entitled to a promotion just because you've been at your organization for 10 or 15 years. You're not entitled to a promotion just because it's the next rung on the ladder. This is a really important thing for you to realize. Because here's the deal. The first way to get a promotion is to actually put a promotion plan in place.
So I want you to think about: 'Do I have a promotion plan in place? Not only do I have a promotion plan in place, but am I acting on that plan?' And then step number three: 'Am I actually evaluating my progress along the way?'.
So this is the work that I do with my clients is what I'm teaching you on this podcast. But I just want to be clear that this is part of the reason that it's so important to actually put together a promotion plan for yourself and not depend on your organization promoting you into higher level executive positions because they are not wired to do so.
One of my favorite things is how companies in HR will go through a initiative to support their high potential employees. And so they'll give their high potential employees leadership training and they'll focus on what are those skills that they need to be a great manager and a lot of leadership skills. Skills to get better at their job.
But what those programs are lacking is, they're lacking how to actually advocate for yourself and how to actually create a promotion path. How to actually put together a professional development plan.
I have heard from so many clients when they talk about: 'They say, I do have a professional development plan with my boss.' And we actually start going through it and it's literally all about productivity, right? It's just about how good they are at their job and how great their results are.
But so often the reason that you get promoted, when people actually do get promoted, it has very little to do with whether or not one manager was more productive over the other manager.
Let's say if we've got two managers side by side and both of them are equally productive, and both of them have decent results, the manager that has advocated for themselves, has set themselves up to for a promotion, has groomed their successor, has made relationships with the leadership team, that is the manager that is going to win the actual seat at the table at the end of the day.
So what I want you to realize is that it's your job to do all of those things that I just mentioned.
So let me go into a few more reasons that organizations are hardwired not to actually support your professional development or support you getting to that next level of leadership.
So I already talked about this idea of protection. So they're protecting themselves. So they put procedures... This is basically the definition of corporate structure is policy and procedures. They put policies and procedures in place so that everybody is "treated fairly". And they have an actual structure and a process that they go through. This protects the organization. It protects human resources. It protects your boss, the hiring manager, all of those things from a legal standpoint. So it's like: 'OK, we did our due diligence. This is just part of our standard policy.'
The other thing is, is that the reasons why corporations are hard wired to do this is because they don't want to make false promises. And now this usually shows up in the form of your boss. So if you're somebody who has actually advocated for yourself, has made it clear to your boss that you have an expectation of getting promoted in the next cycle or next six months or next year or whatever that might be, and your boss actually has to respond. And so, what are some of the things that I typically hear from bosses, which is: 'OK, great, that makes a lot of sense. I'll do I'll do what I can. I'll put your name in. Just make sure that you keep doing your work. You keep doing a good job.' But there's no real benchmarks. It's just kind of vague answering. So that's one way that they answer your question.
Another way that they might answer your idea of getting promoted is cutting to the chase. 'Well, you know, we only offer promotions at a performance review cycle and your performance review cycle just passed.' Or something like: 'Well, you know, we only offer promotions every three years.' So they'll go back to the policies and procedures. Actually, what's happening?
And then the other thing that they'll speak to is just some sort of stuff around the fact that: 'Well, you know, you have to be in a position for so long before you can move into the next position. Or 'this is our standard operating way.'
And so the reason that your boss speaks in this way is simply because they don't want to make any false promises to you. It's much better to give you the promotion than to take away a promotion. It's worse for them to take it away from you, to give you a false promise and then have something happen at the organization because there's a lot of factors at play. So they may want to promote you, but they might not be able to. And so if they have promised you a promotion or given you very specific criteria to get promoted and then they have to take that away from you, then that looks really bad. And probably from a liability standpoint, it really looks bad.
And then the third reason that organizations are hard wired not to support your promotion is because they're people. They're run by people. And people have problems. People have insecurities. People have their own crap to deal with. So one of the things that I notice a lot is that your boss might have been somebody that had to work their tail off to get where they are. They might feel very unstable in the position that they're in right now. They might not know how to help you advance your career because they're trying to figure out their own crap in the process.
So I think this is pretty obvious when you look down deep, because I hear all the time: 'They're like, something else must be going on with her, because she seems really flustered every time I bring this up.'
Because what's the first thing she's thinking when you're bringing up that you want to get promoted to the next level is she's thinking: 'I want to get promoted to the next level.' She's not thinking and problem solving for you. She's thinking about herself.
So because organizations are run by human beings, inevitably we're going to just have a bunch of bureaucracy and crap that we end up having to deal with. So all of this is true. That organizations do not support our professional development because, (1) they want to support their own back first, (2) because they don't want to make any false promises. They'd rather give you a promotion as a surprise, then take something away from you. Or (3) they have their own insecurities and they actually don't really know how to help themselves, so they have a really tough time helping you.
So all of that is true, right? You've probably experienced this, thus is probably happening for you.
And so then the question becomes: Well, what do I do then? What do I do instead? How do I actually advance my career when my entire organization is put together such that I'm not really guaranteed a promotion? It doesn't matter to them if I get promoted or not. And that's the answer. It doesn't actually matter to them whether or not you get promoted. Who does it matter to? You. It will matter to them once you get promoted, because you're going to be so darn good at your job once you get there and you're going to bring in all of this extra revenue for the organization and all of your brilliant ideas. But right now, it doesn't matter to them if you get promoted. What matters is that they have the best person for the job at that next level.
And so then I want you to look at your own professional development plan.
So the first thing you're going to do is you're going to really put together this plan. And like I mentioned at the top of this episode, the plan has three parts.
It has a plan. What is actually my promotion plan like? What do I want? Where am I headed? What do I want to get out of this? Am I actually able to do these things in a short period of time? We don't want to have this long plan where it's like I'm going to talk to somebody, but that somebody is three months from now. Am I actually able to execute on this plan? And then the third step is how do I evaluate along the way? So making sure that you have all of those pieces in place for your actual plan itself.
And then the next thing I want you to do is really start to look at the system working against you as: 'Fine. OK. That's the way it is. It's neutral.'
You need to make sure that you don't let this beat you down or just be another excuse for why you don't advocate for yourself or get ahead in your own career. So we want to make sure that understanding that our organization, our boss and everybody around us is basically hardwired not to support our success as a good thing. Or as a neutral thing at the very least. It's just it just is what it is.
So I want to give you an example. This is actually from a coaching conversation just two hours ago. Right. Like really fresh on my mind.
So my client said that she had a conversation with her sponsor and she told her sponsor that she was interested in becoming a director in a different business unit. So that was what she shared with her sponsor. And then she said her sponsor immediately replied with: 'Well, that's not usually what happens here. Usually what happens is you make a lateral move if you're going to go to a different business unit, you can't get a promotion if you go into a different business unit.' So, first of all, this is right. It's protecting. It's saying, OK, this is the way the standard procedure is.
And then my client inquired a little bit more, just kind of asking her about why that was and what are some of the challenges that it would face and stuff like that.
So then she gets on the phone with me and my client and she's like: 'Well, what do I do then? Do I just give up and make a lateral move or how do I position myself so that I can switch business units and become a director?' So that's basically the question that my client asked.
And I said: 'OK, this is all at this point, it's all in your head. You're trying to solve this problem in your head. You're like, well, she said, I can't become director. Well, that's probably true. Well, I don't really know.'
My goal is to get this into action. So moving from your head in worry and and problem solving, but problem solving with no real evidence, into how can you actually start showing up to this new business unit as a director today? We're not going to wait and then apply for a job and expect them to accept us. So I asked her: 'Why is it that you can't become do a promotion and switch business units at the same time?'
And so then we sort of dissected why that was. Because you have to build trust and solve problems and understand what their their particular needs are. And there's this learning curve and all of that stuff. So this is all just facts. So one fact is that organizations have a structure, which is that you can't get promoted to director. You can't get a promotion and switch business units. But then the other fact is really just trust and really understanding what the needs are of that particular business unit so that if you're actually going to present yourself and say: 'Hey, I'm ready to get a promotion as well as transfer you to your business unit,' it becomes a no brainer. Because you already understand the needs of their particular business unit. You understand the needs of their organization and they know you. They have built that trust with you along the way.
So I don't care if the company's policy is that you can't skip levels or you can't get a promotion if you switch organizations. Because to me, it's all solvable. The way that it's solvable, though, is by getting in there and doing the work now. Building those relationships and cultivating those relationships along the way. So that is what I advised her to do. Is like: OK, now what we're going to do is figure out who you need to talk to. First of all, decide which business unit it is that you want to actually go into. And then let's figure out how we're actually going to solve for this problem right now. Not in theory, not in ideas, and certainly not by being frustrated about it. We're going to start to build those relationships right now.'
And so that leads me to my final point. Which is what do we do now? Now that we understand that the organizational structure is not set up to support us to getting a promotion, we take matters into our own hands.
One of the best pieces of advice that I give people, and I know this is really great advice because it burns people all the frickin time, is you do not have a promotion until you actually have the promotion. I'm going to say that again. You don't have the promotion until you actually get the promotion. So I don't care if your boss tells you 'no' or your boss tells you 'yes'. Neither one of them really matter until they actually give you, signed on the bottom line, here's your new title and here's your new paycheck.
So you don't actually get the promotion until you get the promotion. So no matter what is happening for you, you always have to take matters into your own hands. So definitely secure those conversations. Make sure that you have advocated for yourself, that your boss is aligned, that you're in line, you have your plan, you're executing on your plan, you're evaluating along the way 'am I moving towards this promotion?' And then at the same time, you're also asking yourself: 'What else? Right. If I don't get this promotion, what else? What else is still going to get me towards my three year goal, which is to become vice president?'
And so you're always looking at possibilities. Who are those people? What are they even externally? What's the network that I need to be building? And here's the beauty of all of this. If you start behaving in this way. This is outside of the box thinking. This is strategic level thinking. This is big picture thinking. That is what you must do when you get to that senior executive level. You must think in that way. You must be resourceful. You must be able to problem solve, to think outside of the box, to put yourself out there, to take risks. All of those skills are going to be so necessary once you finally do make it into that c-suite position that you've been craving for so long.
So I want you to know that no matter how hard wired your company is against you getting a promotion, I want you to know that it's possible and that you could do it even in the system, the culture or with the boss that you have right now.
So get out there, create your plan, execute on your plan and keep evaluating along the way.
Thank you so much for listening. And I'll see you next week.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.