When is the right time to get a promotion?

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Rey Elbo-125

In The Workplace

I’ve been in this job for 10 years now. My last promotion was six years ago when I was appointed operations manager in a medium-size organization. Since then, I’ve not received any promotion but got a meager annual 4% pay increase that corresponds to inflation. I’m wondering about my chances of getting a promotion. My question is about the average time of an employee getting a promotion in any industry. Or is it advisable now to look for a new job elsewhere? — White Lady.

Many years ago, evangelical Christian author and psychologist James Dobson reported seeing a sign on the gate of a large convent in Southern California. The notice read: “No trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” Signed — The Sisters of Mercy.

It’s easy to complain about not getting a promotion in the hope of a management mercy. But it does not work that way, much more if you tend to blame your boss or other persons within the organization. Blaming all the things that you can’t control is essentially an exercise in futility. If you want to know the reason or reasons why you’re not being promoted, that means only one thing:

You have not fully done your share. I mean, you’ don’t have any monumental accomplishments to merit a double-digit pay increase in recognition. That means going beyond your average work performance to improve your chances for success. First things first. If your company has an annual performance review, reflect on what your boss has told you. It’s necessary to go back to it and use it as a mirror to discover your own weaknesses.

Reflect on what you’ve accomplished or not accomplished, at least for the past three years. Focus on the milestones and extraordinary things that you’ve done for the organization. If there are none, then don’t be surprised with what’s happening to you. At least you’ve seen your top management being benevolent and merciful with you despite your average work performance.

Now to answer your question on the average time of promotion, I would say it is three years. That means, having no promotion in six years suggests that there is a serious issue that you should tackle personally with your boss. This is echoed by a former colleague, Manny Inocencio, HR Business Partner at Amdocs, an IT company, who says promotion is given to their employees with “an average of 2.75 years tenure on current role” subject, however to a “prerequisite of two-year minimum tenure.”

Another practitioner gave me a similar answer — three years. Oliver Requilman, Vice President for HR of a major hospital says: “Metrics should be clear and understood from the very start. He must have been given apprenticeship or OIC status for the position being considered. And if all these were clear and yet he was ignored, declined, and denied advancement, then yes he should resign and move to a better company.”

However, the average time to get a promotion is only one side of the proverbial coin. The issue of promotion is deemed “complex,” according Erick Reyes, Vice President for HR at Roxas Holdings, Inc. “Promotion is a function of role. It is like in the military. Not everyone gets to become a general because of limited available roles. Promotion for entry-level (positions) can happen every two to three years unless (one is) in the fast-track. The timeline becomes longer as you go up the ladder.”

“To resolve this, companies offer horizontal opportunities that go along with salary adjustments. This is called broad banding.” Therefore, if you think you’re doing a good job in your company and yet you’re not being recognized, either vertically or horizontally, “then moving elsewhere may be a good option. Chances are, there are companies (out there) that would recognize your talent. “This is the cross pollination version of the corporate world,” according to Reyes.

It is different in the case of the banking industry. Another former colleague — Jun Mendoza, retired Senior Vice President for HR at CTBC Bank has qualified his answer depending on the rank and job of a person: “It’s two years for rank-and-file workers and junior management (below manager level), three years for middle management (manager to below VP) and five years for executive level (VP up).

“In general, I think people should use these norms plus one year as the tipping point before deciding to move out of a company. For example, if you’re a rank-and-filer who has not been promoted in three years (2 + 1 year), you should go elsewhere. If you’re a middle manager, four years (3 + 1 year). If you’re an executive, six years (5 + 1 year).”

These insights are not absolute and may not apply in your industry. Therefore, it’s best to know industry practices and how your organization views them. Know your company policies with your HR department. And in addition to reviewing your past work performance, assess your relative ranking against your possible competitors for promotion.

How are you being viewed by your immediate boss, your upper-level management, and your colleagues with the same rank as you are? More importantly, your colleagues, aka your competitors can do a lot to damage your reputation depending on their influence on other people who can spread nasty rumors against you.

Remember that the people who hold the key may not always the one with a high-ranking job title. At times, they belong to the bulong (whisper) brigade. This requires a little speculation, sprinkled with paranoia on your part. Since you can’t control the attitudes and behavior of other people, the best thing you can do is to move heaven and earth to perform exceptionally better than the rest.

That’s how you should get the attention of top management. No matter the dirty tricks hurled at you by the bulong brigade. Even if your organization has no promotional opportunities on the horizon, be prepared for any eventuality, including the opportunity of being given a hefty double-digit increase to prevent you from moving out.

ELBONOMICS: Those who hold the key may not be the one with a high-ranking title.


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