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Advice from Consultants When You're Passed Over for Promotion

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"If you are passed over for promotion, ask your boss for feedback on what you need to work on so you are ready the next time an opportunity presents itself. If you've been passed over more than once, then it's time to face the music. You have no future with your company. It's time to look for a new job."

Those are the frank words and advice of Roberta Chinsky Matuson, the president of Human Resource Solutions of Northampton, MA. They represent an informal study conducted by the Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC) of its global membership on the topic.

"This is a fairly frequent occurrence," says SAC CEO Alan Weiss, Ph.D., "and it is exacerbated by the fact that the workplace has not made great progress toward meritocracy. Employees regularly claim that favoritism is more important than performance in promotion. African-Americans will claim that Caucasians have an advantage, and Caucasians claim that African-Americans have the advantage. The same holds true for women and men. Perception becomes reality, because people base their behaviors on those perceptions."

Frequently, people are passed over for promotion for good reason: They lack a key skill or experience. The problem occurs when this isn't clear and the individual is unaware of his or her own lack of prerequisites. "Performance evaluations are non-existent or poorly conducted in over 90% of the firms I've visited," reports Weiss. "And that's usually the only opportunity for an employee to find out what's needed for further advancement."

Weiss suggests that employees at all levels take control of their own career development and request (and even demand) the training and exposure that will provide the best chances for promotion. But he also agrees with Matuson, whom he cites as an expert in human resource consulting: "If you're passed over twice," he says, "no matter what the reason, if you're ambitious, it's time to move on."

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