Does Solid Performance Lead to Career Advancement?

Does Solid Performance Lead to Career Advancement?

  • Posted by Stephen White
  • On August 1, 2017
  • Career progression and performance, introverts, Passed over for promotion, Solid performance and career advancement


Does solid performance lead to career advancement?  Can employees rely upon their manager or supervisor to always act in their best interests and, by extension, give them  consideration when new opportunities or promotions become available?  Does a good performance management system ensure that the best candidates get promoted?  These are some of the questions I’ve been reflecting upon recently in the context of a former work colleague.

Meet Amy

I have a friend who I worked with about twenty years ago.  She is employed with a medium-sized company in Toronto.  Amy (not her real name) is an amazing employee.  She has worked for the same employer for over twenty-five years and is probably their longest serving and most dedicated employee.  She is always taking courses at her own expense to upgrade her skills.  She often goes into the office on weekends and never claims overtime.  She never complains, she is incredibly meticulous and hard working, extremely cooperative and supportive of co-workers, and unbelievably reliable.  If you want something done ask Amy.  She is invariably the first person to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night.

Here’s the Dilemma

So, you might ask:  what is so unusual about that?  A lot of executives work overtime.  Here is the catch: Amy isn’t an executive.  In fact, she is in a lower-level administrative role.  Despite being a font of knowledge, highly respected and well-liked Amy has been passed over several times for promotion.  Certainly, her employer thinks she is doing a great job, and their perceptions are reinforced by the fact that Amy is, by nature, an introvert, never complains, and never makes a fuss.  Everyone just assumes she is satisfied doing what she does.

Sound familiar?  There are a lot of people like Amy out there.  Maybe you are one of them.  Bright, competent, capable, dedicated people who do their jobs well and don’t garner a lot of attention.  However, to use an old adage “If you don’t ask you don’t get”.  Amy never asks, and, not surprisingly, Amy doesn’t get either.

Do you feel like you have been passed over, marginalized and ignored?

You may be one of those people who, like Amy, feels passed over for promotion while other, more visible or vocal individuals, get promoted.  What is the appropriate response?   Should you look for positions elsewhere?  Maybe.  Should you resign?  Probably not?  Should you just suck it up, hope for the best, and wait it out?  I would suggest no.

Aside from the obvious advice about applying for internal postings I would submit this is what people like Amy should consider.

Psychic abilities are not a core managerial competence

First, don’t assume that your supervisor and others know or even understand your career aspirations.  Good managers are expected to possess many stellar qualities but extra-sensory perception isn’t one of them.  To be clear, I’m not advocating grandstanding or bragging.  There is nothing more obnoxious in an office than someone who is his or her biggest cheerleader.  However, there is a way of making your intentions known without being offensive.

Let’s say that you work in Sales but want to make the transition to working in Social Media.  You’ve taken part-time courses at community college or university in the evening that your supervisor knows about.  However, he or she may assume this is just for general knowledge.  Unless you draw the connection between the courses and your interest in social media your supervisor may not naturally connect the dots.

How do you do this?  Here is what I suggest.  Strike up a casual conversation about something that you learned in class, and discuss how it could be applied in your company.  Make a point of saying how you find this area of work fascinating, and would really love to work in social media (hint, hint).

Internal Networking and Job Shadowing

Second, if you work in one department but have aspirations of moving into another befriend someone in that department on your job level.  Share your career interests, and see if they can leverage an introduction to the Director or Vice President.  If there are no immediate openings ask if it may be possible for you to job shadow someone to gain more exposure, or perhaps serve on a project team as an observer.  Offer to stay late a few nights a week to volunteer on a special project or undertaking.

Career advancement

Solid performers should be prepared to raise career advancement during their performance review.

Stand Up and Speak Up

As one who spent most of his career in Human Resources I can attest to the fact that most organizations’ performance management systems are woefully inadequate.  Too often, stylistic considerations, image and persona take precedence over competence and results.  Very few performance management systems are structured to provide even a reasonable measure of employees’ performance or potential.  Moreover, very few managers or supervisors are properly trained on how to conduct a performance review.   Invariably, discussions on future opportunities, cross training and possibilities of developing new or transferable skills are by-passed.

In light of this you, as an employee, need to manage the process.  Make sure your intentions and aspirations are clearly articulated, and don’t take “no” for an answer.  Sadly, there are still supervisors out there who look at my friend Amy and recognize a good thing when they see it.  Some supervisors are reluctant to promote because they fear that if they will have to backfill and that they will never find someone who is as competent as the present incumbent.  As much as I hate to admit it I have seen cases during my career where supervisors will actually rate a stellar employee lower so as to impede their advancement prospects.  However, a good supervisor places their employees’ careers and the overall good of their company ahead of their own personal agenda.

Consider taking it to the next level

Finally, if you feel a reluctant supervisor is blocking your ambitions and impeding your advancement, take it to the next level.   Reach out to your supervisor’s boss and make sure your career ambitions are clearly understood.  Of course, you will need to do this tactfully and diplomatically, but look for an opportunity to publicize your interests and intentions.  Similarly, make a point of seeking out others in the organization who will champion your qualifications and contributions.

A few final thoughts….

A big part of Amy’s problems are perceptual.  Amy is an introvert, and introverts in today’s modern workplace don’t attract a lot of attention let alone respect.  Sadly, talent isn’t the sole determinant of career advancement. Sometimes everyone, including Amy, needs to exercise a little muscle to make sure they aren’t elbowed out of the picture.



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