How to NOT Get a Job Promotion (25 Rules to Follow)
Let’s have some fun today!
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I specialize in helping achievers advance in their career. Specifically, getting promoted to higher positions.
During my 24-year corporate career, I was promoted 10 times and became COO for Morgan Stanley Europe. And when I became a senior decision-maker, I learned what happens “behind closed doors” in promotion discussions.
Now as an executive coach, I help my executive coaching clients get promoted to more senior positions.
I share advice on this blog on how to get promoted (see some of them here, here, and here), have a masterclass and program called How to Get Promoted (with amazing success stories from students), and even have a promotion quiz you can take.
I also run a once-a-year free training on What It Really Takes to Get Promoted to pull back the curtain on the promotion process and help you get promoted faster and more easily.
So you could say I know a thing or two about getting a job promotion!
In this post, I’m going to have some fun and flip everything around to share the 25 rules to play by if you want to make sure you don't get promoted.
(These are obviously mistakes to avoid if you’re looking to get a promotion, but I thought it would be fun to present them like this!)
Develop the skills to get recognized, promoted and paid more
If you don’t have any ambition to gain more recognition and respect from your peers, the enjoyment from more responsibility and opportunities, and to get paid what you’re worth, then this post is for you!
So, without further ado…
Here are 25 rules to make sure you’re passed over for promotion
- Have a fixed mindset
Whether it’s about the scope of an assignment or how to do a task, having a fixed view of the world means you’re not creative or resourceful. With things changing and uncertain, your manager needs you to be flexible and nimble. Don’t give in to it.
- Argue about assignments
Your boss is less likely to want to give you projects, including the high visibility ones, if they have to negotiate with you every time they give you a project. So kick up a storm at the slightest hint of an assignment.
- Engage in negative self-talk
Lean into your negative self-talk so it shows up in the way you convey yourself and keeps you from operating at your best (so exhausting!). Tip: Social media is a great place to hang out if you want to fuel your negative self-talk.
- Engage in negative talk about others
If you “bad-mouth” colleagues and team members, people will wonder what you might be saying about them behind their backs. This makes you harder to trust.
- Be oblivious to your organization’s promotion criteria
Better yet, make assumptions and get it wrong!
- Downplay your achievements
Don’t acknowledge and talk about your achievements with the people who matter. Instead, the weather is always a popular topic.
- Focus on your weaknesses
Instead of working on your strengths, which will move the needle more and be more rewarding, focus your time and effect on your weakest areas.
- Make an uncompelling case for promotion
Give decision-makers plenty of reasons why you should not be promoted. Even better, stay off their radar completely.
- Don’t have promotion conversations
Senior people aren’t mind readers, so take advantage of this. Avoid conversations at all costs with the right people, at the right times, in the right ways.
- Leave it to the end
Be the one who does “too little too late” and thank your lucky stars you missed out on a(nother) promotion.
- Operate as a “lone wolf”
Do things on your own and don’t bring people along with you on the journey. Keep others out of the loop and don’t engage your colleagues or get the right people on board for your promotion. #memyselfandI
- Take your job for granted
It’s easy to get in a rut and miss seeing the benefits your current job gives you, like the contacts you can make and skills you can develop. Since it’s so easy to do, there’s no action required here. Just sit back, relax and chill.
- Wait for permission or an invitation
I remember wondering why my mentor wasn’t reaching out to me. Years later, I received training on how to be a mentor and one of the “rules” is that you let the mentee take charge of their career and reach out to you. No wonder I was waiting, waiting, waiting…
- Stay in the weeds of the “day-to-day”
Spend all of your time and attention responding to urgent tasks so you won’t have time to think strategically about what will truly make an impact on the business. This will keep you stuck where you are.
- Upset your boss
This is a key relationship when it comes to promotion. I’ve never seen anyone get promoted without the backing of their boss. If you need ideas, here are 10 Ways to Drive Your Boss Crazy. You’re welcome.
- Don’t have a senior executive who will advocate for you
Not having your boss’s backing isn’t enough. You also need to make sure you don’t have anyone more senior who will “carry your papers into the room” and “pound the table” on your behalf.
- Overlook the everyday opportunities to “audition” for your next promotion
Be like my direct report who made a negative impression at our daily team meetings. He sat in the corner, never said a word, and had no idea his behavior was killing his chances of getting senior management support. #rolemodel
- Point out problems without offering solutions
This is especially effective if you tend to complain about how things are. This is not the sign of someone with leadership potential!
- Be seen as the indispensable expert
Being indispensable can lead to being pigeonholed and stuck right where you are because you’re too hard to replace. Aim for this lofty position and be prepared to not advance anytime soon.
- Don’t invest in relationships
Having relationships before you need them helps you achieve results. Meh, relationships are overrated, right?
- Be invisible
When your managers make the case for your promotion in “behind closed door” meetings, it helps if decision-makers have absolutely no clue who you are. Stay incognito and savor your anonymity.
- Ignore internal politics
As my mother says, whenever there are two or more people involved, there’s politics. Understanding these interpersonal dynamics are key to your promotion prospects. So, ignore them and go on your blissful way.
- Rambling and over-sharing in meetings
The more senior you are aspiring to be, the more important your communication skills are. People appreciate those who are succinct and clear. So, instead, take your sweet time in getting your point across and add in an unrelated story (or two) in tedious detail for good measure.
- Focus on minutiae
If you’re obsessing about the typo on page 25 but missing the strategic implications of your project, you’ll have a hard time getting promoted to senior levels. So, your mission should you choose to accept it is to find all the typos in your organization’s memos.
- Leave your promotion to chance
If you are proactive and take ownership of your career, you’re likely to get promoted. But why risk this outcome? Instead, adopt the worst career advice as your new mantra: “Just keep your head down and keep doing what you’re doing.” Oh, and remember to blindly trust the system while you’re at it.
“Career Mastery has been a game-changer for me. Wonderful, actionable advice that helps me be better than the day before.”
Of course this is all tongue-in-cheek. But, as you can see, the road to promotion isn’t smooth and is filled with twists and turns. In fact, it’s often filled with potholes – ones that are hard to spot until you’ve fallen into them.
If you’re perfectly happy in your role and you have no desire to advance further in your career, then follow these “golden rules” to ensure you get passed over for promotion.
On the other hand, if you do want to keep advancing in your career, then these are just some of the mistakes that can keep you from getting promoted.
Which of these mistakes do you most need to watch out for?
Leave a comment and let me know.
And if you’re looking to get promoted this year, then join me for my once-a-year free training on What It Really Takes to Get Promoted.
I’ll show you how the promotion process really works, how to promote yourself with confidence and authenticity, how to put your promotion plan into action, and much more.
These are the insights and strategies I learned the hard way and used to get promoted 10 times in my 24-year career to C-suite, and they’ve helped my coaching clients get their promotions too.
If your goal is to take your career to the next level this year, you won’t want to miss it!