Want To Be Promoted?

Regardless of the position or company I am working in, at least a few times a year, I am approached by team members who believe it is time for their hard work to be recognized in the form of a promotion and monetary increase. “You know, I feel I deserve a raise,” they tell me, “I have been putting in extra hours and working really hard.”

There are a few problems with this from my perspective. If you have had, or want to have, this conversation with your boss, please let me help you.

Let’s start with the rationale itself… “I feel I deserve a raise…”

Okay, and…? So do I. So does everyone else, in every job, every where. I am not sure why YOU specifically feeling you deserve something should prompt ME (or the company) to comply. “I feel I deserve” is not a compelling reason to grant a promotion.

“I put in extra hours and work really hard…” This used to matter. Gen X’ers struggle with the concept that “keeping quiet and working hard” is no longer a strategy for success. With so many technological tools and best practices at our disposal, I put little to no stock in working extra hours. If there is anyone else on your team having success and working fewer hours than you, then you have only told me you are inefficient. I appreciate your commitment but that is still not a compelling reason to promote you. In fact, it is a pretty good reason not to. If you are struggling in your current role (and, frankly, advertising it), then why would I expect you to magically perform better in a higher level, higher pressure role? If you are struggling with work/life balance now, how will piling on more difficult work increase your morale, well-being, or commitment to our mission?

As far as “working really hard”, I am not sure what the distinction between working hard and working really hard is, but my assumption is all of my team members work hard. That is the baseline for being on my team, not a reason to promote a team member.

Okay, so now you know what not to do if you want to make a compelling argument for a raise or promotion. Let’s look at what you can do to lock in your success.

The first thing is, get it out of your head that you need the promotion before you can earn the role. That is not how it works.

When I was promoted from a sales manager to a district manager at a company I used to work for, the position was mine to lose. In other words, the promotion was locked in before I applied for it. Here is how I did it… I asked my boss (the former district manager) how I could help her. At first, she gave me small tasks. Could I visit another store and help coach some team members there? That was a district manager responsibility but I took it on. I didn’t ask for a raise for doing it. I just did it, and did it to the best of my ability. Then, I was helping with hiring, helping pre-screen applicants. Soon, I was a partner to my boss, helping develop strategies for success and taking on more and more of her duties, while she worked on bigger, more important tasks.

When the opportunity for a promotion came up, there was barely a question if I was going to get it. I was already fulfilling most of the role!

THAT is the fastest, best way I know to secure a promotion. As a general rule, I believe you should be able to competently do your job, plus at least one half of the next job up. That is a lot. It requires you to be more efficient, delegate effectively, and stretch your boundaries. In my mind, the person who does that does not deserve a promotion. They earned it, and it is obvious they earned it.

The other approach (and it is best if you can combine both) is to show your work. I don’t care who feels like they should be handed more money and a bigger title. I care who is achieving results. Nobody in the company should be keeping better data on your results than you. Don’t tell me you have been working really hard. Prove it. Show me the data that demonstrates how much efficiency your team has gained as a result of your efforts. Let me know what team members have improved thanks to your coaching, and by how much, and in what ways they have improved. Have your statistics ready, with a catalog of your wins.

The fact is, your boss is probably moving too fast to focus on, let alone remember, all the little (or even huge) ways you have contributed to the team’s success. Keep your own scorecard and have it ready when you are going for a promotion.

When I went for that district manager position, not only did I have my statistics and record of wins ready to go, but also I had a 34-page training manual to help the other store managers become more effective. I had already garnered a reputation for being willing to share all my “top-secret” formulas for success with my peers. After reviewing the manual and talking about my successes, I will never forget what the hiring manager said to me. He looked up from the training manual, put his pen down, and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but… why are you even here?!? Clearly, you could be making more money and probably working a bigger position somewhere else. Why here?”

The answer was simple. Money is nice, but I will never have enough money so I can’t let money decide where I work. I can always do bigger things in the world, no matter what big things I am up to, so I can’t let ambition dictate my career path. What I wanted was the opportunity to take on new challenges, learn, grow, spread my ideas, do innovative things, and most of all, feel good about going to work every day.

Oh… I guess there is a short cut to being promoted, too. It turns out if you focus on the things I did (and didn’t), you will almost certainly be guaranteed a promotion anyway.

How hard you have worked and whether you deserve it won’t even cross your mind because you won’t have to justify it to yourself or anyone else.

Good luck.