What’s Really in That Promotion?

“I want to be promoted.” The question every people manager hears at least 3 times a year, according to John P. Hudson and Associates, LLC. (For more on these dazzling stats, contact me and I’ll share more.) This question is sometimes met with joy, anxiety, and frustration. Some managers know just how to answer it, others don’t. Some employees know just what they’re asking for, most don’t. Before asking for a promotion, or before you promote someone, make sure you understand all that comes with that new title.

You’ve been in your role for a bit and you feel it’s time for a new challenge or title bump. You have been working hard and feel it’s time for a promotion. You think this promotion will give you access to different parts of the organization or give you the keys to the rooms where all the big decisions are made. You could really make things happen if you only had that big title or promotion.

You’re a manager of a team of 5. Things are going great and your team is cruising. Then, Pat strolls in your office and asks for a promotion. Stunned, and not quite sure how to react, you say, “Sure!” You then scramble to your career site or dial up your trusty HR guy to see what steps you need to take to make this happen. You think your star player will leave if you don’t come through for her.

Before you decide you want to be promoted, take time to understand what that promotion actually entails. Figure out what you want to do with your career. What is the real reason you want to be promoted? Do you feel you aren’t growing in your current role? Are you looking for increased responsibility and a broader scope of work? Do you have the desire to lead teams and be involved in decisions you feel you aren’t able to do now?

As a manager, when your employee asks you to be promoted, are you asking the right questions to understand their intention? Do you know the career aspirations and visions of your employees so you can guide them in the right direction? Do you understand the career paths and business needs of your organization so you are able to be open and honest with your team about where the opportunities are and where they can go? Are you open and honest about their strengths and where there are areas they need to improve before they can make the next step? Do you even need to promote them to get them to where they want to go?

A promotion or title bump does not automatically grant you power and access to all the decision makers. In many situations, there’s not much of a change in role or scope. If you’re looking to truly grow and excel in your career, don’t just assume the promotion will take care of that. Do you have the relationships, high performance and influence to open those doors without the title? Does your work speak for itself? Do you really want to run a P&L, staffing plan, and be responsible for a revenue target, or do you just want to do more complex work?

Managers should have a clear vision and need when promoting someone. Are you just promoting them for retention? Do you think this makes you a great leader if you get your people promoted? Make sure you understand what your employees are really looking for. Promoting them into the wrong role or promoting too soon can be more detrimental to their career if they aren’t prepared.

A promotion is not the only step needed to grow and gain influence in your organization. Understand what you want to accomplish in your career. Ask questions and get to know others in the organization. Be an influencer by showing where you can add value and be proactive in anticipating needs of the organization.

If these things are happening, you won’t have to ask for a promotion. The promotion will come to you. You may be looking for more challenging work and the promotion is not always the best path.


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