In The Workplace

I’ve been in this job for the past five years without the benefit of a salary increase or promotion. What’s wrong? Is it the system? The management style of my boss? Lack of opportunities from within? Or all of the above? Please share your insights. — Black Pearl.

What is missing from your story? How would you objectively assess your accomplishments compared to management expectations? You might deny that you’re part of the problem. Therefore, the first step in understanding your situation is to be your own critic.

Take a serious look at your own performance. No matter how you direct the responsibility to other people or to circumstance, you can’t escape the fact that this will go back to what you’ve done in the past five years.

First of all, you must convince your direct boss, higher-ups, colleagues and direct reports of your competence and consistent performance. The more the people who support you, the better for you should any objections to your advancement emerge. Don’t overlook this, even if your colleagues are potential competitors for promotion.

Avoid the temptation of being a bootlicker. It might help, but might not necessarily be best for the long term. There are many people in the hierarchy who possess authority that is beyond their official capacity in the organizational chart. Consider the following approaches:

One, understand the letter and spirit of management expectations. Review your job description including that shotgun provision that says — “other related tasks that may be assigned from time to time.” They may not be recurring but some bosses consider it the most important, even if such tasks make up less than 5% of the job.

Two, exceed management expectations with superior quality. There’s a difference between “meeting expectations” and “exceeding expectations.” Exceeding expectations can be done in many ways, like submitting a report two days before the agreed deadline, doing a job with less waste, and displaying pride in your workmanship.

Three, solicit regular feedback on your work performance. Don’t wait for the annual performance appraisal. That might be too late. Besides, some bosses withhold criticism to avoid ruining relationships. On the other hand, others are excessively eager to give criticism. Whatever you do, don’t create a situation that makes your boss uncomfortable.

Four, anticipate work problems and solve them right away. Keep your boss informed right away, either before or after the resolution, depending on the gravity of the issue. No boss in their right mind would object to a reasonable problem-solving effort. What is objectionable is when a boss is surprised and the news comes from a third party. That makes you and your boss look bad.

Five, volunteer for the most difficult and unwanted projects. Initiative is the key. You will gain credibility every time you step forward to get the burden off your boss and colleagues. It’s a pathway to becoming a superstar without trampling on others.

Six, accept full or partial responsibility when things go wrong. Don’t blame other people, lack of resources or even superficial management support. Admitting error is courageous and professional act. What’s important is to assure that you will not commit the same mistake again.

Last, be generous in sharing the credit with your team. This can spell the difference between a short-term accomplishment and developing long-term relationships. Once you’ve identified the individuals to be credited with the project’s success, offer a personal note or a formal commendation to colleagues who helped you.

Above all else, communicate with people from all walks of corporate life. Even if you need only a little help from your colleagues, it’s always a good idea to share the accolades with them. Getting the job done requires going well beyond your competence and performance. In many situations, you may find yourself having to work around difficult people who slow you down.

When you meet such people, always offer the hand of friendship, but not to the point of perpetually kowtowing to them. If the situation proves hard to resolve, try getting a third party to apply pressure. Put the burden on obstructionist colleagues if they fail to act or drag their feet. Document things and let them know who will be held responsible.


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