Can Working Less Land You a Promotion?

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By JO MILLER, CAREER COACH

One of the greatest career-killing mistakes women make is believing that if they work hard enough, reward and recognition will follow. The problem is that hard work is usually rewarded with more hard work, not necessarily a promotion.


We can't promote you. You're too valuable.

After six years as her company's top salesperson, a software sales account manager was disappointed when a younger peer was promoted and became her manager. The newcomer had been with the company six months and had never met his sales quota, but he was popular with the young staff on the team. The sales account manager suspected the executive team did not promote her because they could not afford to lose her significant contribution to the company's revenue. Meanwhile, a person who performed poorly moved up the ladder because his superiors could visualize him as a leader.

You can be passed over for promotion if you are seen as irreplaceable. A director of IT asked her boss for a promotion, a raise and more challenging work. The boss agreed that she was capable, but he thought it would be too hard to find someone to replace her. The promotion was given to a male colleague who had less experience, but who competed aggressively for the promotion.


Position yourself on the radar for promotion.

What are the factors that can help you attract more responsibility, and not more hard slog?

In 1987, Jomills Henry Braddock II and James M. McPartland published a report on minorities, equal employment opportunities and institutional barriers. Their paper provides valuable insight into how you can position yourself for career advancement that is still relevant today.

Braddock and McPartland wrote that the three types of information considered to be most important by decision makers when identifying candidates for promotion are:

  • Performance ratings.
  • Internal recommendation.
  • Production or sales record.

When deciding who to promote, decision makers look at your workplace results, work output and sales and production records. They also look at qualitative information such as your performance evaluations. But the significant difference can come from subjective information such as word-of-mouth recommendations from other leaders and stakeholders.


Credentials give way to visibility.

A great pedigree and hard work may get you recognized initially, but they won't guarantee advancement.

Early in your career, you will be evaluated largely on credentials. Decision makers will look at factors such as your education or successful performance in your current job. As you move up through the organization, decision makers overlook results and credentials in favor of more subtle interpersonal signals such as trust and working with people they are familiar with. To be considered for promotion, you need to be visible. Show your superiors that you are on their team and that they can count on you.

Hard work alone will not get you on the slate for promotion. In fact, if you are burying yourself under an immense workload, you may be neglecting to transmit those other vital signals.


Action you can take NOW!

In their 1999 paper "Women and the Leadership Paradigm; Bridging the Gender Gap," Roslin Growe and Paula Montgomery emphasize the fact that work performance makes up only part of the recipe for promotion. Four techniques that you need to be aware of are:

  • Be able.
  • Be seen as able.
  • Know what you want.
  • Help others to help you.

To get promoted, show that you understand what your job entails, and be dedicated to those tasks. Visibly display the competencies that you know will be valued and rewarded. Set career goals, then plan and strategize how you will get there. Let them know you are ready, and expect to move up the ladder. Use mentoring and networking to engage others who can help you.

Hard work alone will not get you promoted. Good work plus visibility will.


Jo Miller is a Women's Leadership Coach who helps managerial and executive women realize their potential as leaders. Visit www.jomiller.net to attend a free executive briefing teleconference to learn about Jo's coaching programs. Find out if you qualify for a free leadership coaching session!

Copyright 2005 Jo Miller.

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