I've encountered a lot of people over the years who, when it comes review time, expect to be promoted simply because they have occupied space in the same company for months of years. The truth is, even people who are deserving of promotions often don't get them. In fact, according to Landy Chase, author of Competitive Selling: Out-Plan, Out-Think, and Out-Sell to Win Every Time, feeling "entitled" to a promotion is probably the worst career mistake you can make, because in most cases it simply doesn't work that way. The way it works, according to Chase, is all about politics.
So how does one learn to play — and win — at the game of promotional politics? Listed below are the most important political factors that come into play when evaluating a person for promotion, according to Chase:1) Are you dependable? Next to loyalty, dependability is the most desirable attribute that an employee can have. For example, when your boss asks you to do something, does it always get done — on time, every time? Or do you have to be repeatedly asked, over and over, to get a task completed? All things being equal, the employee who has demonstrated dependability has a huge advantage over their peers when promotions become available. 2) Do you get along well with others? I once had a sales person on our team whose customers loved her and who was our top producer — and was a walking, talking nightmare to every other department in our office. Guess who, in spite of their sales performance, was always at the bottom of the list for promotions? I rest my case. 3) Are you a problem-solver? Companies today place a premium value on take-charge, motivated employees who confront problems in an organization and make a positive impact. Conversely, negativity is simply not tolerated, and for good reason. 4) Do you demonstrate leadership within the office? Are you looked at as a "go-to" source by the others who work with you? Do peers come to you for advice and counsel? Are you willing to take risks, even when the chance of failure exists? Are you fair and ethical in your dealing with your peers? 5) Is your workspace well-organized? My rule of thumb for promoting an employee into management is to take whatever is on their desk, multiply it by a factor of 10, and use this new figure to arrive at a reasonable estimate of what their desk will look like with the new responsibilities. How would your work-space measure up?
6) Never forget that the most important job that you have is to please the person that you work for, because no one has a more direct impact on your career advancement than your supervisor. Too many employees forget this simple but important point. Don't be one of them.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.