Have you ever felt like you deserve a promotion but the recognition isn’t coming?

If you feel like you’re ready, should you then ask for a promotion? If so, how do you do it?

The reality is, you can't promote yourself and the key is what your managers think. And that means, yes, you do need to ask.

If you believe you’re promotion-ready but aren't getting recognition, here's how you can ask for your promotion in a way that sets you and your company up for success.

A reader asked me this question:

“If you've done what you feel is necessary for a promotion and see yourself as operating at the next level, what do you do if the recognition isn't coming? There's a risk in asking, and if you do get the promotion, did you get it because you earned it or because they just wanted to placate you for now?”

From “Me” to “We”

You can't promote yourself. So, you do need to ask. But when you ask, it's all about the “how.”

Most of the time, I've seen people approach asking for a promotion with a “me”-centric perspective. Expressing everything from your own point of view can lead to a very one-sided rationale and often it doesn't land well.

For example, you might have waited so long that you’re frustrated by the whole situation, and you come across as demanding or even confrontational. It can sound like you have a sense of entitlement or even arrogance. It can bring up a lot of negative energy and that's not the kind of energy that is going to win over decision-makers and influencers.

In my experience, a much more effective way is to take a “we”-centric approach. That means sitting at the same side of the table mentally and ideally, physically. The goal is to feel like it's not “us” versus “them”, but rather that you're on the same side of the table looking toward a common goal, in this case, your promotion and your career.

Make it a conversation

As you're having this conversation about your promotion, there are four important things that you want to accomplish in it.

1. Share your career aspirations

If you haven't already shared your career aspirations with whoever you're talking to, this is a great time to do that because it sets the context for why you're even having this conversation.

2. Understand their point of view

Use this conversation as an opportunity to really understand their point of view. How do they view you? How do others view you?

It could well be that your manager is a big fan of yours and a big supporter, but when they go and try to put your case forward, they're running into a lot of resistance and other people are skeptical. So it's helpful to listen and truly understand.

3. Find out what they think it would take for you to get promoted

Find out what would need to be true? What kind of things would need to change? Where do you need to learn, grow, and improve?

4. Enlist your manager’s help

Finally, see if you can then enlist your manager's help (or the help of whoever you're talking to) and see if together you can agree a plan of action to move you toward the promotion that you want and feel like you deserve.

Tailor your approach

As you go through these four important pieces during your conversation, make sure you're tailoring your approach because every situation has its nuances, every manager is different and you want to make this conversation effective for you and your goals.

If you had to ask, did you really deserve it?

And as for the second part of the original question, I wouldn't worry about whether you “earned” the promotion or whether senior management is simply trying to placate you. The point is you've got the promotion. It's a win!

Promotions are promotions. All you need to do then is do a great job at it and make the most of the platform your newly promoted role gives you.

Have a question about your career? 

If you have a question about getting promoted, ask me here!