4 Signs Your Employer Doesn't Plan On (Ever) Promoting You

Do any of these 'signs' sound painfully familiar? If so, your career might be at a standstill ...
4 Signs Your Employer Doesn't Plan On (Ever) Promoting You
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Guest Writer
Founder and CEO of Echelon Copy LLC
6 min read
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Picture this: You’ve got the next rung on the ladder in your sights, and you’re checking all the boxes: You regularly get to work on time, you reliably over-perform on your projects and you’re trying your hardest to act like a leader. You really want that promotion, but your patience is wearing thin ...

Related: 10 Things That Will Help You Get Promoted in 2018

And sooner or later you have to ask yourself these questions: Have the bosses even noticed that you’re obviously ready for the next level? That you’re the one for the job? Patiently waiting (and waiting and waiting) can be a good plan sometimes, but other times that promotion just isn’t ever going to happen.

If you yourself are having doubts about whether there’s a future with your current employer, take a look around at the road signs; they may indicate you’re walking down a dead-end street. Following are four of the most common indicators that it’s time to re-route your course and find a job with some upward mobility:

1. You get all the dirty work.

If you’re always the one who gets the scary, messy, boring and/or microscopically-detailed assignments in the office, that’s bad news for your future career. It means you’ve become a bit of a human garbage disposal, where none of your colleagues lift a finger to help because they know you’ll be willing to handle the unpleasant, little stuff. You’re busy, you’re extremely dedicated; but guess what?

You’re going nowhere.

Your boss can always rely on you to get things done and get them done right, so why on earth would he or she ever promote you? You do your job (and everyone else’s) too well, and you’ve become an irreplaceable assistant of sorts.

So, if it makes that boss's job easier to have you right where you are, why change that scenario? Unless you yourself dramatically alter your working style, you’re staying put. To be promotable, you can’t be too irreplaceable.

2. Your desk is a desert island.

People come and go around you, projects are assigned, problems are discussed; but you feel like an outsider who’s just watching it all happen. You’re consistently out of the loop -- the last one to hear about what’s going on in the office. You don’t get invited to meetings, you don’t get a part in the big project that’s got everyone else excited; and you barely even see the people in upper-level management.

Related: Here Is the Best Time to Ask for a Promotion

When you try to contribute, your voice is never heard. You might as well be silent. Even getting a little recognition for your dedicated efforts seems to be impossible.

In the words of national workplace expert Lynn Taylor, “You move mountains for the company and the silence that follows is deafening.” It’s like a soundproof glass wall is separating you from the rest of the office.

This is bad news, because it means that you aren’t viewed as someone with value to offer the company. Maybe your boss dislikes you, maybe he or she just sees you as a desk-filler; but whatever the reason, rest assured that when promotion time comes, you won’t be on the list.

3. Your boss is hazy about career goals.

Maybe your boss has asked you about your professional goals before and never followed up or tried to help. Maybe he or she has never even asked. The crux of the matter is this: If your boss isn’t invested in your growth and development, you probably won’t be moving up any time soon -- or ever.

Employers who are open to your progressing in their company know what kind of growth they want from you. They can define what you need to do in order to justify that new role (or pay raise) they might give you. They can paint a clear picture of your potential career path.

So, if they start hemming and hawing when you ask them what you can do to improve or advance in your career, the promotion odds aren’t in your favor. Your boss sees you only in your current role, and he or she sees you there forever.

4. The books aren’t balancing.

Maybe the problem is bigger than you and your boss! If your company has become stagnant or unprofitable, or is going under, the likelihood of your getting a promotion is pretty much nil, no matter how hard you’re working or how much your boss likes you.

Best-selling management author Suzy Welch recommends looking for clues that your company is on its last legs.  Be wary if there’s an increase in high-level executive meetings (especially if HR is present). Look closely at any hint of secrecy, or projects postponed without any explanation.

Other potential signs that your company is on a downhill slide include lower work volume, limited (and closely monitored) budgets, low morale or cuts in employee perks. If your employer is about to go out of business (or cut your department), it’s best to get out early. Wait too long and you may have to compete with your former coworkers in the job search.

Related: 3 Ways to Survive Being Promoted

The reasons behind employers being unwilling to promote someone could fill a book, but the proper response to the situation always stays the same: If you want to progress in your career and your employer is showing no sign of intent to promote you (ever), it’s probably time to dust off that resume, give it a polish and start looking for a new job. After all, if the bosses aren’t going to help you progress, should you really be helping them do the same?

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