Career Transition

5 Signs You’re Not Ready for Promotion | Promotion and Performance Series

not ready for promotion

Rising up through the ranks in any organization involves a combination of both personal skill development and cultural savvy. While it may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, it’s not just the “best and the brightest” that move up through promotion. Those who feel they’re ready for promotion must also understand the company culture, demonstrate that they can successfully get work done with, and through, others and be on the radar of those empowered to make promotion decisions. There is a stark line between being ready and not ready for promotion — it’s important to know which side of that line you are currently on.

Not everybody is up for the challenge or may not be ready right now. 

Here are 5 Signs That You’re Not Ready for Promotion

1. You Don’t Understand What’s Important to the Company You Work For

It’s not uncommon for employees to feel frustrated that they’re “working hard” and yet their efforts don’t seem to be valued in tangible ways—like positioning them for promotion. The sad reality may be, though, that you may be working hard, but not working hard on the right things. Lack of alignment with your efforts and the needs of your organization can mean that you find yourself spinning your wheels without the kind of personal recognition and promotional opportunities that you’re hoping for.

How do you find that alignment? One great source of information, if you can get your hands on it, is your organization’s strategic plan. The strategic plan will tell you what’s important to the organization, what the company’s top priorities are and give you important insights into how your contributions can help the organization achieve its goals and objectives.

Also read: How to be the CEO of Your Career 

2. You’re Not Aligned with the Organization’s Culture

Your organization’s culture could be defined as “how we do things around here.” If you’re not on board with how things are done at your organization, that’s a clear warning sign that you’re not ready for promotion.

As Laura Handrick, SPHR, a career and workplace analyst with, says: “The biggest sign that you’re not ready for a promotion is that you complain about your current job. Employers aren’t going to want to promote you and increase your influence in the organization until you show that you’re willing to accept your current role, and take on more, without complaint,” Handrick says. Employers, stresses Handrick, “need managers who can support their decisions and whom they can trust not to complain and infect others’ job satisfaction in a negative way.”

3. You Haven’t Demonstrated Your Ability to Get Along With Others (Be a Team Player)

In today’s workplace attitude often trumps aptitude. Yes, employers want employees who are competent but, most importantly, they want employees who are able to get along with others—to meet company objectives with, and through, others. Even if your current position is considered an “individual contributor” it’s not likely that you are able to work entirely on your own. You will rely on others for information and resources you need to do their jobs—and they will rely on you. You will need to interact and work with your immediate supervisor or manager, and other members of your team. You may be in a customer-facing position.

The bottom line: you must be able to demonstrate an ability to be a team player if you’re hoping to move into higher-level roles. Inability to be a team player will clearly convey that you’re not ready for promotion.

Also read: 3 Misguided Career Beliefs that Successful People Avoid

4. You Haven’t Demonstrated, in Tangible Ways, Your Ability to Make Positive Contributions

What value do you bring to your organization? If you’re not able to answer that question in a tangible (e.g. measurable) way, it’s going to be difficult to make the case that you should move up in the organization. Organizations are all about achieving results—results tied to their business objectives. If you’re not able to demonstrate how your contributions have created value, it’s likely that you’ll be viewed as not ready for promotion.

5. You Haven’t Groomed a Replacement

This is likely the most disheartening of reasons to find that you’re not moving ahead any time soon—you haven’t groomed someone to take on your job tasks. In fact, the more “indispensable” you’ve made yourself, the less likely you are to be pegged for a promotion. Why? Because you’re contributing too much value where you are and it would cost the organization—and your manager—to move you into another role.

As you’ve hopefully seen, positioning yourself as being ready for promotion isn’t only about being competent. There are other factors that company leaders will be evaluating as they consider who’s poised for promotion—and who isn’t. Taking steps to move yourself into a promotion-ready position is an important career development activity.

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About the Author

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance business journalist and content marketer with a wide range of writing credits for various business and trade publications. In addition to freelance writing for trade journals and publications, Grensing-Pophal does content marketing for Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and individuals on a wide range of subjects, from human resource management and employee relations, to marketing, technology, healthcare industry trends and more.