Passed For Promotion? The Real Reason Your Career’s Stuck In A Rut (And What You Can Do About It)
There’s no getting around it. We’re a nation of hard workers. In fact, we may be working a little too hard. In a capricious economy that is in a constant state of flux, we’re working longer hours, enduring greater stress and dodging more bullets that could stop our career dead than ever before. As industries and commerce adapt and evolve in the anticipation of an ever shifting technological landscape, entire industries are being completely revolutionized or rendered obsolete virtually overnight while other growth industries seem to pop up completely out of nowhere. Combine that with the fact that greater automation and developments in artificial intelligence are seeing more and more industries make cuts in human resources in order to accommodate more sophisticated technology, and the future looks increasingly murky.
While the issues of downsizing, automation and a rapidly fluctuating and increasingly globalized market affect everyone, career women everywhere are feeling yet more weight upon their shoulders. Let’s not forget that the notion of the professional woman is a relatively recent development and women in business, industry and entrepreneurship know that they are torchbearers for the bright young girls emerging from high schools and colleges trying to make it behind them.
And yet, while the ground moves beneath us, it can be extremely frustrating when our careers seem stuck in a perpetual inertia. We work hard, we make sacrifices, we go above and beyond on a daily basis and nobody seems to bat an eyelid. We miss school plays, football games, ballet recitals and concerts so that we can show a willingness to strive and achieve… Yet those opportunities for promotion, development and advancement just keep seeming to pass us by. It’s infuriating, it’s unfair and we deserve better. We know that if we carry on like this we’ll become a little too comfortable in our happy little rut. Our ambitions will fade, our skills will atrophy and we’ll become automata that produce just enough work to get by, and keep our heads down whenever the boss walks into the office. We simply can’t allow ourselves to lapse into mediocrity.
Maybe there’s something in how we compose ourselves that needs to be amended, maybe there’s a fundamental inequality that needs to be addressed. There are a multitude of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that may be the real reason why your applications for promotion keep getting passed up again and again. Here, we’ve listed some of the most common and provided some practical suggestions for what you can do about it…
You work hard, but you don’t work smart
The problem: You believe in meritocracy. You believe that if you bring your A game to work every day and work as hard as you can for as long as you can that you’ll be a show in the next time an opportunity for promotion comes along. The trouble is that while initiative, determination and a solid work ethic are all admirable traits, they can lead you into some counter productive working habits. And in an era where productivity is a concern for pretty much all businesses, that could become a problem.
Lots of hardworking people take on too much themselves. They fear leaning on their colleagues either because they don’t want to inconvenience them, or because you worry that they won’t perform to the standard you know that management expects. And, let’s be honest about this, the thought of sharing the credit doesn’t much appeal to you. Simply put, while you’re working extremely hard, you’re not necessarily working smart. And where you see hard work, gumption and determination, your management may simply see inefficiency and low productivity.
What you can do about it: For the sake of your productivity, and your health, you need a top-down reappraisal of your working methods. You need to trust in the abilities of your colleagues, and share the credit for the sake of getting the job done on time (which, fair or not, is probably all that your boss is looking for). Be modest and self effacing, sure, but also be sure to point out your own contributions.
You care too much
The problem: Your work is important to you, and you take your duties and responsibilities seriously. In fact, a little too seriously. You push yourself (and everyone else) as hard as you need to to hit your targets but when you fall short you beat yourself up about it. Passion and professionalism are noble traits, but sometimes these assets can be our worst enemies. They can lead us to get stresses, angry, agitated and emotionally erratic at work. While this may well come from a place of care, it can also have a seriously negative impact on how you are perceived by your colleagues and your management.
What you can do about it: Firstly, stop and take a deep breath. You’re probably taking on way too much, and getting yourself in a state of stress and agitation. Nobody is at their best when in this state. Absolutely nobody. It becomes difficult to learn, to communicate and coordinate. The negatives suddenly seem disproportionately large and oppressive while the positives become virtually invisible. Not only does this do our health no favors, it risks alienating us from our colleagues. You need to take active steps to reduce your stress at work, and speak openly and honestly about your stressors with your management and colleagues, working collaboratively with them to find ways of reducing your stress at work.
You underestimate the importance of appearance
The problem: It’s unfair, it’s unjust, it’s immoral, but there’s evidence to suggest that in 2018 women are still judged more on their appearance at work than their male counterparts. The sad truth is that women are judged on whether or not they wear makeup, their weight and even whether their hair is visibly graying and these factors are often to detriment of women’s earnings.
While there’s an element of misogyny at play here, your employer isn’t necessarily sexist if they place specific standards on appearance. It’s entirely possible that your employer is simply a stickler for a smart, slick and professional appearance.
What you can do about it: While nobody’s suggesting that you should lose weight just for the sake of your appearance, pile on the makeup if it makes you feel uncomfortable and your skin feel stifled, or that you start dying your hair if a little white starts showing. What we do suggest, however, is that you address your appearance not in terms of pandering to the vestiges of chauvinism that are still unfortunately pervasive in the workplace but in ensuring that you are a vision of professionalism at all times. Even if your work is inherently messy, you can still take steps to go above and beyond with your appearance. Just check out www.MedCoutureScrubShop.com to see a wide range of fashionable surgical scrubs. Not only are they a lot neater and more professional in appearance than you’d expect from garden variety surgical scrubs, they are also a lot more comfortable and easy to move in.
Plus, it’s important to note that when we look professional, formidable and outright badass, we subconsciously feel more confident, professional and secure in our skills.
Your workplace is sexist
The problem: We all want to live in a world where men and women have true equality in the world of work, but the sad fact is that misogyny is still rife in the workplace. The trouble is that casual misogyny has been to a certain extent normalized by an administration with a long and vile history of it. If you have worked at your current place of business for some time, yet are passed up for promotion again and again, finding that one of your male peers is promoted in each and every case it may not be a coincidence. Some workplaces have an indentured culture of sexism that is reflected in everything from the casual “banter” around the water cooler to the glaring pay gaps which refuse to close year after year.
What you can do about it: You are constitutionally protected from discrimination against you on the basis of your gender. The trouble here is that proving sexism in the workplace is notoriously difficult. Nonetheless, there are some strategies to help you and your colleagues to handle a culture of sexism in the workplace, even if it only manifests in whispers and subtleties. Don’t let it pass. Challenge every comment, even if it’s in passing and tackle the workplace culture, one inappropriate comment at a time. Get together with colleagues who you trust, male and female, and do your best to encourage them to do the same. Even if you never encounter anything tangible enough to take to HR, you can still work proactively to discourage this kind of culture and stop it from impeding your career.
There are many factors that may play a part in your being passed up for a promotion. But whether it means addressing your own personal issues, correcting the culture of the workplace or simply taking your skills, talent and experience elsewhere, you don’t have to allow your career to stagnate.