How to Get a Promotion at Work

As a new position opens up at your workplace, you may notice the social dynamics of the individuals you work with start to shift.

Depending on how related, and desirable, the new position is to your own role in the company / organization, you may have your sights set on attaining that new position.

Many of your colleagues may place their name in the hat to be considered for the promotion too. Others’ desires to get a promotion are seldom publicized. Many want a promotion, but few make it known. As people submit their bid to be considered for the new role without telling anyone, their behavior speaks loud and clear. They consciously clean up their social tendencies; they become more polite than usual, they’ll seem more agreeable in meetings, and they’ll start staying the extra half hour after everyone’s gone home.

Though the immediate tweaks to your behavior can set a good impression, the quest for getting a promotion starts much earlier than that. It begins when you first join a particular employer or team.

This article aims to motivate you to think of getting promotions in a different light.

You’ll read on to see that disagreements play a significant role in how your motivations are perceived at the workplace. This article also centers on the importance of not trying to stand out at a time when the peacocks perk up and spread their feathers.


Aligning Interests: the Employer (Organization)

Traits like dependability, punctuality, and ability to perform under pressure all stem from a principal alignment of motivation. The most valuable employees to your employer, are those who thoroughly understand, and share, the goals of the company / organization.

An important, yet often forgotten, thing to do as an employee, is to always be tuned into the bigger picture at your workplace. Ensure you follow all the current events at the company / organization you work for. Become entrenched in the targets, goals, and milestones being worked on by those who get paid more than you.

The aim of being up to date on all the goals and motivations of the employer is not to show off how much you know when the time comes to go for a promotion. Your continued interest in your employer’s best interests will bleed into the work you do on a daily basis. Your decisions will begin being grounded in an overall vision. The plans you form will have an overall picture to reference if things get shaky, and your professional perspective will become aligned with that of your employer.

Rather than attempting to think as if you’re the CEO of the company you work for, analyze its goals from a bird’s eye view and see yourself in that picture. See everyone you work with from that perspective too, and notice those whose work helps the company meet its goals and milestones.

What are they doing? How do they work and conduct themselves? Then analyze those who are lagging behind in their performance. What habits do they possess? How do they conduct themselves in the hallways, meetings, and when they clock out?

Simply start by being more knowledgeable than anyone else around you about the goals and aspirations of the company you all work for. Begin analyzing what’s in the company’s best interest, and which directions would hurt the company you work for.

Study the decisions being made at the senior levels of the company without placing judgment, only for the sake of understanding. You’ll notice how your continued interest in the company’s success begins to bleed into the work you do and the actions you take. As you inadvertently become a better employee as a result, those looking on from the side will bear the fruits of your continued interest in the company’s vision.


Aligning Interests: Your Direct Supervisors / Managers

As you make your way down from studying the overarching goals of the company you work for to determining how you can help achieve those goals, you’ll need to account for the existence of your immediate supervisors.

The people who manage you directly, likely act in accordance to the goals of the company more diligently than others in a role similar to yours. Your managers and supervisors however, also have personal goals of their own they’re striving to meet.

When someone is assigned the role of managing you in the workplace, understand that your success in the tasks assigned to you reflects onto the reputation of those who manage you.

Don’t perceive the tasks assigned to you as something only you are responsible for delivering. Your role in the process of completing tasks assigned to you is often to do the laborious work. However, the management of those very same tasks, is a task in itself. The task of managing includes mitigating issues, ensuring the completion of tasks in a timely fashion, communicating to all the people who have a stake in your work, and verifying the quality of your work.

Know that those who supervise you hold a stake in how well you complete the tasks they assign to you. They’ll be the ones presenting your work for important eyes to analyze. They’ll be answering questions for you, and they’ll be the bearers of any mistakes you make. The stake they hold in your labor is equal to the stake you hold in your own work. It is in your best interest to support their own personal success in the matters you have a hand in.

Get into the habit of analyzing what specific stakes your direct supervisors hold in the tasks that you do. The principal stake you hold in the tasks assigned to you, is one of completing the task exactly how it was specified by your direct manager. Your reputation, experience, and reviews depend on the work you do. Your work centers on pleasing your direct managers / supervisors.

However, the stakes your supervisors hold in your work consist of meeting the specification of something greater than the expectations they’ve shared with you. They’d be answering to their own managers, and attempting to align all work with the company’s best interest. Their own reputation, dependability, and track record depends on your work meeting its exact specifications.

It is thereby critical for you to adopt a desire to help your manager / supervisor personally succeed in their own evaluations. This desire stems not from a flattering attempt of getting on the good side of your supervisor, but from more selfish reasons.

Attempting to help those who depend on your work personally succeed in their own roles, shows that you understand how corporate systems work. Your influence will travel past the role you occupy and will make its mark on those who represent you when you’re not at the table. In supporting your manager / supervisor in the goals they have for themselves, you arm them to excel in the eyes of those who evaluate them.

Whilst excelling in their managerial role and being evaluated by higher ups, the gaze of important people in your organization will make its way to the people your supervisors manage. Rather than zeroing in on making yourself stand out, do your best to make those who directly depend on your work shine brighter than yourself.

Try your best to abide by their specifications, needs, and desires. Become an astute evaluator of their best interests. Be interested in their day to day dealings, and find things you can do to make their own tasks a little easier. This doesn’t mean you should volunteer to get your manager coffee every morning, but perhaps try your hand at reviewing the presentation they’re about to give to higher ups about things specific to your own work. Ensure you place importance on helping those who manage you succeed.


Disagreement: The Aligner of Interests

As you align your company’s and manager’s goals with your own, you’ll now be armed to effectively disagree. Contrary to popular belief, disagreements are powerful tools to make you stand out as an employee. They have to be done right however:

When you see that others’ proposals aren’t aligned with either the company’s – or your direct manager’s – goals, your disagreements carry with them weight. The rule of thumb you should follow, is to analyze the goals of the, “next one up.”

For example, if a colleague is proposing to complete a task not in a way that your manager prefers it to be done, the goals of the “next one up” would be those of your manager. A disagreement with a coworker thereby, should be grounded in not how you think the work should be done, but how your supervisors / managers think the work should be completed.

The reasons you use, should play to the best interest of those you disagree with. Cite how they’d propel themselves into the manager’s good books if they abide by this manager’s specifications and instruction.

The same principle applies for times you disagree with your managers. Your opinion is less valuable than the opinion of the company both you and your manager work for. The, “next one up,” in a case of disagreement with your manager is the best interest of the company.

When disagreeing with your supervisors / managers, ensure you have clear citations of how the entity you both work for would prefer the tasks in question be done. Whether the conversation is about methodology, deliverables, or timelines, ensure you have an idea of what the company’s preference is in that regard. Then, ground all the calm, concise, reasoning you give in the company’s goals that you’ve brought to mind.

Once again, play to your manager’s best interest by aligning their own goals with the company’s larger goals. Exhibit a desire to make your manager look good by ensuring they look good in the eyes of those who judge them. Remember, those who judge them would be operating by goals which closer align to the company’s best interest.

Disagreements though, as you probably already know, often don’t play out in our favor. Your colleagues and managers could listen to your reasoning without budging. At that point, rest assured that you’ve given it a go. Following the, “next one up,” approach is unlikely to make you out to be a bad guy if you’ve thoroughly analyzed the goals of the, “next one up.” Your chances of being proven right down the line are high, so don’t be attached to proving your point in the heat of the moment.

Your disagreements help you become a valuable employee by serving to align all steps of the, “goals / interest ladder,” in your organization. As you work to abide by, and align, the goals of different levels in the corporate structure which governs you, you’d set yourself apart from the rest of the pack. You’d be exhibiting a wisdom which many in your position would overlook while they worry about how they can make themselves look good on a shallower lever.


Concluding Remarks:

This article took an abstract approach to the development of value in your role as an employee. Rather than telling you things you already know like, “Be on time,” and “Say hi to people in the hallways,” this was an attempt to touch on something deeper and of more value.

The analysis, and alignment, of your own goals with those of your company and direct supervisors will encourage you to do all the necessary things to be perceived valuable as an employee. This article skipped mentioning all the small things you could do to become someone worthy of a promotion. Hopefully however, you are now motivated to shift your perspective from needing to do those things, to wanting to.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.