3 Phrases You Should Never Use When Asking For a Promotion — And 1 You Should

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June 24, 2024 at 4:40PM UTC

You’ve done the work.  You have shown up, shown out and feel ready to take the next step in your career and ask for that promotion.  

First off, kudos to you for asserting your value and being open and willing to grow! Assuming that the timing and situation are right, asking for a promotion can absolutely lead to you getting just that. And while it’s a difficult conversation to have, one that requires lots of thought and preparation, what you say — and don’t say, for that matter — can definitely give you the upper edge.  

Phrases You Should Never Use When Asking For a Promotion

1. “I have been here X number of years, it’s about time I get promoted.” 

While your tenure at a company does have merit, using it as the sole justifier for your promotion does not.  

Many times an employee with seniority is a better candidate for a promotion because they are more experienced and have had more opportunities to showcase their strengths, but this is not always the case. Not all employees put their time with a company to good use. The harsh reality is that working for a company for a given number of months or years does not mean you qualify for a promotion, and it certainly does not mean that you are entitled, or even deserving of one.  

Instead of focusing on the length of time you’ve been with the company, highlight the achievements you have accomplished and the impact that you have had on the business during that time. Focus on the value your time and experience with the organization can bring to this new role.  

2. “Sammy Sample got a promotion and my work is far superior.”

Many of us think that we are more deserving of a promotion than others that have received one in the past. It is certainly okay to think that, but it is absolutely not okay to say it. You should never talk down on anyone in your quest to climb up the corporate ladder.  

Besides the very obvious fact that it’s tacky and inappropriate, trash-talking your fellow employees can backfire. For example, let’s say you’re discussing your promotion with your performance manager. Chances are that very same manager made or aided in the decision of promoting Sammy. By saying that Sammy did not deserve the promotion, you have put that manager and their decision-making skills on the defensive. Another potential issue may come from the manager not treating the conversation as discreetly as they should and your comment getting back to Sammy. How would this affect your working relationship with Sammy? With the manager? With your other colleagues? 

Instead of bringing up other people in your promotion conversation, focus solely on your achievements. You can absolutely provide examples of interactions you’ve had with coworkers that demonstrate your skills and accomplishments, such as coworkers you have mentored or instances where you successfully managed workplace conflict, but speaking ill of others will only reflect poorly on yourself.  

3. “I just had a baby/My rent has increased/ I just bought a home…” (or any other phrase that tries to appeal to emotions). 

Bringing up personal reasons for why you should receive a promotion, such as telling your manager you could really use the raise to pay for your upcoming wedding, is not only unprofessional but manipulative as well. We all have hardships and employers cannot promote everyone as a result of it. Asking them to is ineffective and puts them (and you) in an uncomfortable position.  

Business decisions should be made by prioritizing the needs of the business, rather than the needs of one single individual. Therefore, when making the case for a promotion focus on business factors NOT personal factors. Let your milestones, achievements and contributions to the organization make the case for you.  

The 1 Phrase You Should Use When Asking For a Promotion

“I would like to request a promotion, here is why…”

The worst thing you can say when you are ready for and confident that you deserve a promotion is nothing at all.  

It’s outdated to assume that just because you do good work your employer will automatically reward you with a promotion. If you don’t speak up, how would they even know you're interested in one? Your employer may assume you are content with your current role and are not looking to move up. Therefore, if you want a promotion, you have to ask and you have to give your employer the why.  

The “why” should be presented in the form of the contributions you've made to the business, the solutions you have delivered, metrics reflecting the impact of your achievements, your specific skill set and how it aligns to the organization, and the value that you will continue to bring.   

Sometimes a promotion will come to you without you having to ask, but many times, it won’t, no matter how much of a high performer you are.  In this day and age, if you want to advance in your career, specifically if you are a woman, and even more so if you are a woman of color, you must advocate for yourself. Doing so can lead to more opportunities, increased salary and improved confidence. So don’t just be a bystander in your career — take control of it and guide it to where you want it to go.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Giovanna Acosta is a writer and coach helping women “get more” from their careers by asserting their value and advocating for themselves.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for asking for a promotion? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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