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Why your boss lies about your promotion

YOUR BOSS is the most critical constraint in your career. He can either hasten your promotion or block your career advancement. Make the right moves, and you’ll go places. Antagonize your boss, and your career is dead. But, if you believe your boss hook line and sinker, and leave your career in his hands, you’re likewise in a dead spot.



Bosses want their people to conform. Conformists are predictable and easy to manage. Most conformists are, however, average people. The people who move up in their career have never been famous for doing the ordinary.

“Just do your job, and I’ll take care of your career.” That’s the biggest BS that you’ll ever hear from a boss. Most bosses manage by exception. If you’re doing your job well, that’s expected and your boss won’t care. If you either louse up your job or turn in a spectacular performance, you’ll have his attention.


In the past, I heard a great advice from a boss, “Just don’t do anything silly, and you’ll get by.” Today, it’s no longer enough that you don’t do anything silly. You must be known for great performance if you aspire to move up.

Here are ten reasons why bosses lie to their subordinates about their career and promotion:

1. Don’t be famous for doing menial jobs. Bosses want you to do what you’re told, and start you with menial jobs. I have the nasty habit of “grabbing” parts of my boss’ job in the guise of helping him. I end up doing the more meaningful parts of his job, which helps prepare me for promotion. ECOP Chairman Ed Lacson has a good advice, “If possible ask for more duties outside your assigned job. But, don’t charge overtime pay for extended work hours, to impress the boss with your initiative, industry, and positive attitude.”

2. To make a difference, be different. First, conform to the culture soonest to get accepted as one of the boys. But, as soon as you can, break away from the mold and show that there’s a better way. Create more value for the organization with your own ways. You don’t achieve any improvement unless you change the “what or how.”

3. Nothing happens unless a turtle sticks its neck out. Many careers are unremarkable because they don’t stick out as outstanding. The people who get rewarded with promotion are those who stick their neck out in order to stand out.

4. Promotion is not a reward for good performance. In the past, a good salesman is promoted as sales manager. The company loses a great salesman and gets a lousy sales manager. Promotion should never be a reward for good performance – performance bonus is a better incentive.

5. Doing your job well says you’re good for that job. Doing your job well doesn’t always qualify you for better jobs. The salesman’s job is different from that of the sales manager. Often, your best reward for doing a great job is staying in that job – not being promoted to your level of incompetence.


6. The market no longer recognizes seniority or longevity. In the past, promotion is based on seniority or longevity. Today, people are no longer rewarded for growing old in the job, but for developing competencies needed for more responsible jobs.

7. Unless you’re noticed, you don’t get promoted. People get promoted because their bosses see their potential to do bigger jobs. If you have an ambition, learn to perform well at the right time and the right place – when the boss is looking. Believe me, performance does not speak for itself.

8. It’s a dog-eats-dog world and a rat race. The workplace is filled with ambitious creatures and you have to compete for bigger and higher-paying jobs. While teamwork is a core value, your individual performance matters. As a team player, create an aura of excellence as you deliver a spectacle. Watch your back always.

9. It’s all about potential. Getting promoted is all about your potential, or latent talent. Early on, develop a reputation as performer, expert or authority in what you do. Have a good track record and credibility to perform beyond your current responsibilities.

10. Your boss is busy with his own career. Never leave your career in the hands of your boss. He’s too busy taking care of his own career. Learn to fend for yourself. Take the initiative to learn and be trained. Career opportunities don’t just fall on your lap – you’re supposed to create them. Don’t be naïve.

If you want success in a dog-eat-dog world, be ready to eat dog meat. If you run in a rat race, you’d still be a rat even if you win the race. Do you have what it takes?

(Ernie is the 2013 Executive Director and 1999 President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He is President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him at [email protected])

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