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Are you getting passed over for a promotion?

October 08, 2009 09:29 IST

Jayson, a woodcutter, worked for a company for four years but got a meagre raise. Then Liam, five years his junior, joined the company, he received a hefty raise within twelve months. Back in the white-collared world, Ankit Joshi, 30, is grappling with a situation similar to this. The area sales manager of a renowned pharma company has been unfailingly achieving his sales target each quarter. However, much to his dismay, his colleague of just two years got promoted ahead of him and also managed a 10 per cent higher raise than he did.

Does it look like your story? What did Liam do right that Jayson did not? A perturbed Jayson asked his boss. The boss replied that he would be happy to give a raise if his productivity increased. How do hard-working Jaysons and Ankits increase their output? The answer: by sharpening the axe. That's how Liam managed to cut more trees.

A lot of times employees feel that despite performing well, they are passed over for an promotion or a raise or both. Why does this happen?

Display capability for next level
Think over what signs you are giving to your organisation that show you are better than your peers. Achieving a target set for the current role is not enough for a promotion. "It's about the ability to take on additional responsibility and accountability as defined for the future role," says Varda Pendse, director, Cerebrus Consultants, a Mumabi-based HR consultancy firm.

Performance does not automatically lead to promotion as an individual may not have the potential or has demonstrated adequate competencies required for the next level. "It is based on readiness and certain capabilities," emphasises Sudhanshu Tripathi, president, HR, Hinduja Group. A good sales manager may not necessarily be good regional director as different levels and roles need a different set of competencies.

In organisations that have pyramid structures there are fewer high level positions. "That demands  that only the best suitable move up," maintains Dr Ganesh Shermon, partner and country head (Textiles and Apparel) KPMG.

Are you clear about your goals?
Have you have identified your objectives? What steps are you taking to achieve them? Don't be like this man, who did not know where he wanted to go and asked a passerby. The passerby sneered, "Then take any. What difference does it make?"

Goals give a sense of direction. If you don't have active orientation towards your target, you are paddling furiously for nothing. "Develop a plan for yourself and keep working on it," says Tripathi. But how would you know if you are progressing? Don't lean on your boss or friends to get feedback. Ask a neutral person. "Your boss may not give overt encouraging signs lest you may construe it as a promotion guarantee," says Tripathi. So find a mentor.

Expand your skill base
Once goals are identified, to-be-improved areas spotted and acknowledged, set out on the task of enhancing your skill base. A good mechanic would need additional know-how to become a design engineer. An added expertise gives you a definite advantage over your associates. Take it for granted, companies will not promote and then train you to shoulder new responsibility.

A good raise is a sign of doing a job well that's entrusted to you. "But promotion is entrusting the person with new responsibilities," points out Mona Gupta, head, HR, Cincom System. So get that extra edge in advance. A computer hardware engineer can not only diagnose a hardware-related problem but can solve it efficently if he's equipped with basic software knowledge as well. For instance, if Windows OS in a computer crashes, then a competent hardware engineer would try to recover it first saving the user's data intact as opposed to re-installing it.

"In addition to enhanced knowledge, keep consistently demonstrating that you are an asset to the organisation," advises E Balaji, CEO, Ma Foi.

Volunteer to do more
Every job presents opportunities to step up and do things that are not necessarily manifested in your official job description. Shirking or feigning indifference is not a good pay off in the long term. Volunteer for extra work and take the initiative to make a job better.

Bosses like people who can help them solve problems. Even if the problem is not yours but if you have the expertise to solve it, then volunteer to help. Unlike Ankit, his colleague who outshone him in appraisal took the initiative of clearing the outstanding payments. Due to his efforts, the boss got a neat balance sheet with no payments due from any client. Ankit merely realised his sales figure target. "Stretch beyond the normal targets to get paid beyond normal or get recognised beyond normal work," says Mona Gupta.

Be proactive. There can be situations when you work like a pigeon, give outstanding results, yet your efforts go unnoticed. It's time you emphasised your accomplishments. Keep a record of your work, particularly those that are quantifiable. And reason with your boss why you deserve a salary raise.

Your interpersonal skills
There could be many reasons why a hardworking employee gets overlooked in promotions. Preferential treatment, favouritism or subjective assessment could be the some of the reasons why a raise or a promotion or both eludes an employee, says Balaji.

What kind of relationship do you have with your seniors, peers and subordinates?

"Maintain an excellent rapport with managers, superior and peers," advises Vishal Chibber, HR Head, Kelly Services. Relate to peers, subordinates and your bosses by being a team worker, adopting a mild-mannered approach and a considerate attitude. A robotic demeanour, an indifferent smile, aloofness and other negative attitudes are all tell-tale signs for a boss to confirm why you are not suitable for a new role. At senior levels, the job is more administrative in nature and that requires excellent people management skills.

Are you a strong personality?
If you are part of a giant corporation, then ensure you develop a stronger personality and not get trampled on. Being an introvert can mar your chances of getting ahead. In a big bureaucratic enterprise, the rude truth is, extroverts have a discernable advantage over introverts. That is because big companies look for people who can seamlessly move across divisions and naturally network. By virtue of their superior verbal skills and personalities, they appear more prepared for the part.

'Big companies are so oriented towards extroverts that introverts have to constantly over-deliver just to stay even', Jack Welch, ex-CEO of General Electric, a Fortune 500 company, wrote in one of his career counselling columns. There are exceptions where introverts have performed in organisations on the basis of their unique ability. But usually such people are extraordinarily brilliant in their areas. It may be technology or in uncommon understanding of emerging markets or others. According to Welch, introverts who end up in the senior management positions are often the brains of the organisations.

Want to grab the highest raise in your next apprasial? Become another Liam. Start sharpening your axe now.

Careers360 is a complete careers magazine.

Urmila Rao

Careers360 is a complete education and career magazine offering campus and course reviews, career features, scholarships, expert advisories, entrance exam preparation & solved papers, admission alerts and more.