How to Help Your Boss Give You a Promotion

Last Updated Mar 19, 2010 8:00 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady, During my last review I asked my manager, who is a senior vice president, about a promotion. He indicated that he would begin to think about what a promotion for me would look like and discuss it with HR. At the end of our conversation he stated that due to a possible acquisition, I might expect a promotion in the next 6-9 months. Well the acquisition has not taken place, yet but I still want something to happen. It has been over six months; should I bring the promotion conversation up again? If so, what should I say? The first rule of promotions it that you want one more than anyone else wants you to have one. So, yes, you need to bring this up again. But, before you do, you need to do the work your boss said needed to be done: Figure out what a promotion for you would look like.

The acquisition sounds like a delay tactic. It's true that when big things are going on, companies sometimes set policies about not moving people around until things are resolved. But, if that were the case, it's likely your boss would have mentioned it directly. A senior VP should know these things.

So, let's figure out what a promotion looks like. This is not a case of a true or bona fide promotion, where there is a vacant job one level up and you get moved to that job and your current position is now vacant. This is a case where you take on new responsibilities, and to go along with them, you get a new title and a salary increase. (Hopefully. Plenty of us have taken on more responsibilities with no salary increase or title change. We're hoping to avoid that here.)

Ask yourself, "What responsibilities would it make sense for you to take on?" Look around at what needs to be done, or who is completely overworked. Does it make sense for you to take on part of Jane's work, or to take on a new client group, or a new function, or develop a new training program? Do you have the skills to do that new task?

If you do have the skills, then write up a proposed job description and then present it to your boss. He can, of course, reject it or change it, but it's much more likely that you'll be given the promotion if you've explained how doing so will benefit the company.

If you don't have the skills but are confident you can acquire them, then write up a proposed job description and a proposed method for gaining those skills (classes/seminars, shadowing, being mentored). Then present both of those to your boss.

The key things here are 1. make sure you are doing the work to figure out "what a promotion looks like," and 2. make sure you are demonstrating how this promotion can benefit the department/division/company.

When you're writing this up, be aware of political missteps. It may make sense, logically, for you to take on part of Jane's responsibilities (since she's over worked), but understand that Jane may balk at giving some of those things up. Don't expect your boss to instantly embrace your proposal and hand you a big fat increase that moment. Everything will still have to go through proper channels and your boss (and HR, including the compensation team that will determine if your proposed job description really is worth more money), and may or may not get approved. But, what you've just done is given yourself a huge step forward in the process by showing your boss why and how you should be promoted.

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