5 Subtle Signs Your Boss Is Never Going to Promote You

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May 23, 2024 at 7:0AM UTC
There are signs you can look out for that suggest a promotion isn't going to happen. While that doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for a promotion right now (especially because men likely will continue to do so), it can help you measure your expectations in the year ahead — and help inform your job search. Here are those signs. 

1. You get the drudge work. 

If you're always the member of the team tasked with taking notes, updating calendars or doing other "busy work," it may be a red flag that you're not getting promoted — especially if you've been taking on this role for any extended period of time. Generally, if you're being primed for promotion, your time is gradually deemed of higher value to your manager: You may be given more important responsibilities or have low-level tasks taken off your plate. If you're still getting low-level tasks in abundance, especially compared to your peers, it's not a strong sign you'll be climbing the ladder with them. 

2. You feel like an island.

If your boss views you as a promotable, you'll gradually be given more influence — whether by leading assignments, by being a member of more team-directed projects or by being given more exposure to other teams. If you feel left out or left to do a lot of solo work in a team-oriented environment, especially after you've been in your role for a while, it's a sign a promotion isn't coming your way.   

3. Your boss rarely talks about the future. 

If your boss gets hazy when talking about your goals or growth potential — especially in performance reviews — it's a red flag a promotion isn't coming any time soon. While every manager at every organization may not be able to promise or even talk about mobility during your review or during your 1:1 meetings, they are able to hint at how they feel about your trajectory or how they view your development. If all you hear is crickets, it's a sign there's not much for them to say. 

4. Your team shows no signs of growing. 

Sometimes the ability to promote lays outside of your manager's control. If you're on a team that's relatively static and shows no signs of expanding, it may be difficult to count on a promotion any time soon. Unfortunately, in some workplace cultures, the only way to get promoted is to hope someone senior steps out and their role is deemed important enough to both promote someone and hire someone else. During the general contraction companies are taking up during the COVID economy, that's a risky amount of promise to count on. 

5. The company is in trouble. 

Similar to the point above, when a company is in trouble, it can be difficult to count on them valuing your mobility over the bottom line. During periods of lay offs, many companies assign extra responsibilities to employees with no promotions or changes to compensation. If your organization is hinting at layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts or cutting back on hiring, they're likely cutting back on promotions, too — no matter how hard your boss advocates for you. 
This article does not reflect the views of Fairygodboss.

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