Want a promotion? Don’t work so hard.

The fact of the matter is that you can be the most competent, hard-working and reliable employee in your office and never get promoted. What? That’s because of two things:

  1. nepotism
  2. people don’t promote the most competent – they promote the
    people they like

Let’s look at nepotism first. What is it? It used to suggest that people in the same family tend to end up supporting the family business together. Many a family do that and you’ve probably known one or two – including your own. Nepotism in the work force usually means something quite different, which is like The Old Boys’ Network, where women simply shall not pass. When you work for a boss like that, he’s going to surround himself with yes-men who golf with him, and go to hockey games with him and you simply aren’t going to ever be looked upon as his equal. So if you want a promotion you’d best pull out your resume and move on.

You can sit there and spin your wheels and brood and stew about it of course. But that’s wasting a lot of time and energy on something that won’t change. Unless you get a sex change and even then you will be viewed with suspicion because you weren’t born with them.

The other factor is human psychology. We promote people we like because we have to work more closely with them. And if you’re going to work closely with someone you really don’t want to work with a person who is totally unlike you. You’ll end up thinking that person is a jerk because she doesn’t think like you, whether she is or not. And you’ll have yourself to thank for promoting her. So cleverly, you promote the person you get along well with for whatever reason. Some people are ass-kissers. Some people are yes-women and yes-men. Some are just likeable.

Whether or not it’s fair is irrelevant and not because life wasn’t meant to be fair. Life is meant to be fair. That’s why people talk about levelling the playing field. That’s only fair. It sucks when life doesn’t live up to our expectations. It hurts and it angers too. Lately I was in that boat and I hated it. I didn’t learn anything from it so it’s b.s. to say “well that’s a life lesson at least.” No it’s not. It sucked. That’s it.

But sometimes you’re lucky enough to be the person who is well-liked or an ass-kisser (you know perfectly well who you are) and if that works for you and gets you where you want to go then mozel-tov. You don’t have to have integrity to succeed in this work especially not at work. You just have to know how to win no matter what you have to do. Some of us take the higher road which is akin to taking the long way home. And we feel good about that. Some of us take a short cut by appealing to the boss’s good side and they feel good about that. Whatever nets you your success.

The thing is, we’re all in such a damn hurry to get there. We pick a 10 on a scale of 1-10 when I ask about the level of importance and urgency toward their goals. We don’t want to wait our turn so when someone gets a promotion or a transfer or whatever that we want and have been working towards for quite some time, it really angers us. But you don’t really know what else someone has done to get there, even the ass-kissers and the popular people. They might have more credentials and experience than you realize they just don’t wear it on their sleeves, to their credit. And that makes us think we deserved that promo but were unfairly passed over.

It’s easy to take that childish point of view. It’s also easy for that to anger us and leave us in the same place we’re in now even longer when our attitudes change for the worse. That’s self-sabotage. Instead, why not relax and consider being a little more charming, a little less serious about your work, and actually enjoying your work even more. Eventually what you want will come to you. Or you can quit and work elsewhere. That works too.


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