Why doing good work won't get you promoted

Photo courtesy Flickr user David Blackwell

(MoneyWatch) Do good work and you'll be recognized and rewarded -- that's what my dad used to tell me, and that advice served him well as a blue collar worker in a machine shop. Follow that advice to the letter in the modern professional world, though, and I suspect you'll end up bitter and disappointed. Because getting ahead isn't just about doing your assigned duties well.

Of course, I'm not talking about anything unethical. I mean that there are a lot of value-added things you need to bring to the table if you intend to do more than tread water in your role. If you've been around for a while, I suspect you already know this -- but it's a lesson I've found, time and again, that junior knowledge workers need to be mentored in. Recently, I ran across a great blog post from Greg Hoy, CEO of Happy Cog, and he pulled together 75 percent of the missing pieces.

Specifically, Greg has these observations about successful people:

They don't rely on good work alone. Their behavior and demeanor is what people tend to remember more than just their professional output.

They're humble -- their success doesn't consume them.

They're respectful of other people's time -- they're always punctual.

They put in extra effort when needed with no strings attached.

They resolve conflicts directly without escalation.

They push back with respect and tact.

I agree with all of these, but there's another dimension to corporate success that absolutely needs to be said: Successful people make their own success. They look for problems and opportunities and proactively try to solve them. They look for ways to grow themselves and the business, and in doing so, make their manager and the rest of the team more successful.

I can't stress this enough: I firmly believe that people should get promoted when they're already doing work that is commensurate with their new level. Rather than asking your manager "what do I need to do to get promoted" or waiting for it to happen magically while you do the same thing you've always done, you need to organically grow your role by taking on more responsibility and accomplishing more than your manager expects of you. That's the path to promotion, success and happiness.

Photo courtesy Flickr user David Blackwell