6 Reasons You’re Not Getting Promoted

Feeling stuck at work? Passed over? You know the feeling: it seems like you’ve been doing the same old thing for ages, yet no one seems to notice. You’d excel at a higher position, but coworkers who have been around for less time are being picked before you. What’s going wrong?

If you’ve been wondering why that promotion you think you deserve has been so long in coming, it might be worth taking a critical look at your job performance – before you start complaining about a conspiracy theory at work. Are you making any of these six mistakes?

1. You’re not detail-oriented

You may think no one cares if you arrive at 8:10 instead of 8 on the dot a few days a week, or take a few extra minutes for lunch. You may think no one noticed that you’ve been late filing your reports, or that you’re skipping that pesky bit of protocol that surely doesn’t matter anyway. Typos in you emails and forgotten attachments? No big deal, right?

But as they say, “the devil is in the details.” All these little flubs add up to say that you don’t put much effort into your job. If you want a promotion, you need to show that you’re the type of person who cares about details.

2. You’re working hard – but not getting results

Maybe instead of slacking off here and there, you’re actually one of the hardest-working people in the office. Shouldn’t that do the trick?

Not always! It doesn’t matter how many hours you spend at your desk if your work isn’t producing the types of results that really benefit the organization. Refocus your efforts away from always being busy, to making meaningful contributions – and documenting them so that next time promotion season comes around, you can show your bosses just what a difference you’ve made.

3. You’re not taking the initiative

Wait – have you told your boss that you’re looking for a promotion? Many a good candidate has been passed up simply because those in charge of promotions thought he or she was happy in the current position. You need to show initiative and motivation in order to push ahead. Look for opportunities to challenge yourself, to take on new projects, and to demonstrate that you’re hungry to move up in your career.

4. You require too much management

Does your boss often have to remind you about meetings, deadlines, and tasks? If your manager is having to spend extra time to make sure you’re on track because you’re not organized on your own, that’s a problem. After all, if you’re hoping to be trusted with bigger and better things, you need to nail the small stuff right now. To make sure you’re promotion-ready next time around, prove that you can manage your own time. Set yourself reminders, create a solid organizational system, and get your work done on time without nudging.

5. You don’t look like management material

You may need to up your game, both in wardrobe and in attitude, if you want to take the next step. Dress like the people on the level you want to be promoted to, and don’t let yourself get sloppy – even on Casual Friday.

Presenting a professional image is more than just clothes, however. You need to act and sound professional, too. Try taking public speaking course at a local community college to brush up on your presentation skills, cleaning up your posture, and making sure your emails are free from typos and grammatical errors.

6. You’re not invested in the organization

Great employees aren’t just showing up for the paycheck – they’re showing up because they’re passionate about their work and their organization. Your managers are looking to promote people who have the best interests of the organization in mind, not who are simply looking for a pay raise.

Challenge yourself to think like your bosses: on an organizational level. How does your current position contribute to the overall mission? What attitudes might you need to shed before you can become part of the bigger team? Are you serious about making a difference? Show it, and your bosses will start to see you as the leader you want to be.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply


These tips do not work in my organization. I’ve been working here for over 15 years, get excellent reviews, require very little management, am the subject matter expert, etc. and am NEVER promoted.

With an earlier boss (10 years ago), I was “too valuable” to get a detail, lateral, etc. My current boss knows of my promotion desire and even managed a temporary promotion for me a few years back. I hear he always speaks highly of me but he is not respected by his peers and superiors. Whether it is lack of respect toward him and our office or pure discrimination (I’m different from everyone in my office), I am unsure. Whatever the reason, I’m not going to be promoted.

Not In Washington

Lisa, agree with you entirely. I have asked but am told nothing is available, in that offoce is small, and most higher level jobs are found in Headquarters not the Regions. Initially, reassigned to current position, in that prior job was given to a contractor. I am considering inquiring with EEO Office on my situation. My only option I think is to wait until this Administrator leaves, and perhaps the successor will be more sympathetic towards my situation.


I’m in DC. Be careful about EEO. Another earlier boss told me I didn’t get a promotion because I, “had requested laterals and filed EEO complaints.” When I reported this to the Union, they made noises about filing with OSC but failed to do so. I have very little respect for my agency’s “leadership” or the Union.

Kezia Lowery

I think this article provides such simply insight to the basic issue of being passed over for promotion. I notice coworkers of mine who complain about how management decides to promote and I always think, ” What aren’t YOU doing right or at all?”. There is a level of responsiblity for self that people choose to overlook when it comes to earning your stripes to the next level. Thank you for these six tips, I’ll hold on to them for myself, just in case I find myself in this position. And I will also try to help others by sharing this information (hopefully, they don’t get offended).


It may be time for you to consider moving on if you feel that your talents are not appreciated by your current employer. Not all supervisors/management are good leaders and know how to appreciate good employees. I have been there and it is a tough decision; however, you are the only one that can make you happy. Don’t wait on others to do it for you.

Jessie Kwak

That’s really well said, Vicki. You’re the only one that can make yourself happy, and if you’re coming up against walls even though you’re doing your best work…. Well you may need to figure out better options.

You can’t give someone else permission to hold your career hostage!

Carol Davison

1. Do you have the appropriate networking skills? It’s not just what you produce, its also who thinks you are a producer.
2. There is only so much room for golden boys/girls at each organization. If you are not golden where you are, consider moving on.

Darrell Hamilton

My first thought is that the list is far too simple to account for why people are picked up or are not picked up for promotion. Having been one of the “fast risers” in several places and having been the one looking for someone to promote — some of your items never even came up on my list. For example, I have never passed over anyone because of their clothing. Occasionally I have had women who were dressing too provocatively, but they corrected it once I pointed it out and it immediately became a non-issue. Occasionally late to the office — I’m guilty of that and it has never hurt my career. Not invested in the organization — completely guilty!
What I always looked for when I was looking to promote is a team player, highly organized, someone the rest of the team respected, and an upbeat personality. Prima donnas need not apply. It is far easier to tell who to focus on than you might think. Some of it might show up in the details, but it is not the kind of details that are just spelling errors or occasionally forgetting an attachment. It is the kind that are important to managing others like remembering to take good meeting notes and then posting them for everyone for use. I guess asking for a promotion might work, but asking for more interesting or challenging work will get you farther along. Violate the rule of “never volunteer”. Also, know when to say “no” to too much work (if you can’t figure out your own max workload, how can you expect to manage others?).

Bob K

In our agency promotions are decided by favoritism and politics period. If you are a yes person you get promoted. If you do a good job you are too valuable where you are, so your boss blocks you


This is precisely the reason I have decided to move on. A huge weight has been lifted once I made the decision that promotions at my workplace were based on who’s the bigger suck up.