5 Phrases to Ask For a Promotion When Your Boss Doesn't Really Want to Give You One

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
June 21, 2024 at 3:5PM UTC

“I have been doing good work, and a senior person has noticed and encouraged me to ask for more and opened up some informal opportunities,” a Fairygodboss member recently posted on the community feed. “Before I could ask for a promotion/raise, my manager began providing me with incredibly unfair and negative feedback and made it clear even learning opportunities will not open up for me. To be clear, I haven’t asked for anything (yet). What should I do? I don’t want to leave the company because it has great work.”

Many other employees may find themselves in similar scenarios: you want to move up, but your manager is reluctant to support you. The good news is that our community was quick to offer actionable advice. Here are five phrases you can use to advance in your career despite a stubborn boss.

1. “I’ve secured a reference from so-and-so.”

“The great news is that it sounds like you have an excellent referee who believes in you!” one Fairygodboss member wrote.

If you have a senior colleague on your side, ask them to be an advocate. They can be a great resource, not only for advice but also to help you land the role you really want. Showing an internal reference can improve your credibility with your boss.

2. “Here’s evidence of how my work has impacted the company.”

The individuals who land promotions are those who bring measurable value to their employers. In order to demonstrate your professional value, catalog ways your work has improved the department and larger company.

Chre M. Davis encourages employees to “update your resume with specific, measurable accomplishments.” That way, even if your boss won’t budge, you’ll be in a good position to look elsewhere.

3. “I’d like to discuss career development.”

“You can either believe the excuse your manager has given you and wait patiently for ‘your turn’ or take a step back and assess your strategy,” another Fairygodboss member commented. “How many folks are ahead of you? How long would this pipeline of talent promotion take? Is it really worth the wait?  What if a new hire had more experience than you, would that push you back in line?”

To gauge whether your manager intends to promote you at some point, ask about the career trajectory they see for you. This may not land you the promotion you want right away, but at the very least, it will give you insight into whether it’s really worth it to stick it out.

4. “Could I take on new responsibilities?”

By letting your manager know that you’re eager to take on more responsibilities, you’re showing them that you’re not being complacent in your career — you want to learn and grow. To help your case, name some specific tasks you’d like to lead, and explain why you’re the best person for the job.

5. “Could you give me feedback?”

“Whatever you decide to do, try to look objectively at your manager’s feedback for anything that is valuable and actionable,” Kimberly Dusseault wrote. 

In other words, even if you’re not primed to move up right now, you could get some valuable feedback that will help you in the future.

What if you don’t see a way to move up at the company? As Karen Gongaware puts it, it may be best to “go get a job where you are valued, not kicked around.”

What's your no. 1 phrase to use when asking for a promotion? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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