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10 reasons you're not the boss

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I am the senior person on my team. I handle the biggest workload of all my coworkers, and I have good performance appraisal ratings. So why did someone with three less years of experience than I have just get promoted and is now my boss? They didn't go through an application or interview process. I'm really ticked and want to lodge a formal complaint.

Here's the thing: Who are you going to complain to -- HR? They won't care. They had to sign off on the promotion in the first place. Your boss, until recently your former junior colleague? That won't go over well. Your boss's boss? She's the one who made the decision, so it's not likely she'll say, "Oops! That should have been you. I'll just demote John and put you in that spot."

Unless you suspect that the sole reason for being passed over is one protected by law (race, sex, pregnancy status, and other protected classes), complaining is likely to do you more harm than good. (And just because you are a different race/gender/religion/whatever from the promoted person doesn't mean it was discrimination. You'd need a bunch more evidence.)

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But, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything. I would make an appointment with your boss's boss and say something along these lines: "I'm a bit disappointed that I got passed over for promotion. I was wondering if you could tell me three areas that I need improvement in so that I can be a strong candidate the next time an opportunity presents itself."

Chances are the question will make this person a bit uncomfortable, but she will probably speak up and say at least a few things. The key is to keep your mouth shut and listen. Take notes and ask for clarification, but whatever you do, don't object! "But I don't..." will come across not as a valid defense, but as whiner-pants behavior.

And what is your boss's boss likely to say? Management guru Alison Green has a list of 10 reasons you're not the boss. Here's the list:

1. You don't look the part
2. You're terrible at time management
3. You aren't very good at tough conversations.
4. You gossip or are part of a clique
5. You don't know how to prioritize
6. You act entitled
7. You don't manage your own boss well
8. You're a complainer
9. You do your job duties and nothing else
10. You don't make your accomplishments visible

Surprised? As the list shows, clambering up the corporate ladder isn't about workload or length of service or where you got your degree. Managing involves very different skills than being managed.

If you really want to be promoted, listen to the feedback and go over the above list. If you fall short in any of these categories, fix yourself.

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