5 Things You're Saying That Make Your Boss Think You Don't Want to Be Promoted

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May 18, 2024 at 2:48AM UTC

You’ve put in the time, hit your numbers and generally excelled at the tasks given to you. But despite your best efforts, your boss still doesn’t seem to recognize you as someone who’s deserving of a promotion. What gives? 

There are many reasons a promotion might not be in your immediate cards at work. Not all of them are fair, and not all are within your control. But before you assume the worst and begin to frequent online job boards, consider whether there’s anything you’ve been saying at work that may have indicated to your boss that you don’t actually want to advance at your company. 

If the following 5 phrases sound like something you’ve said within earshot of your boss, it might be time to realign your communication with what you actually want.

1. “I’m just so busy!” 

If you’re gunning for a promotion, it’s best not to let this phrase slip your lips at work. Maybe you’re so busy because you’ve been doing extra work in the interest of being seen as someone who can handle more, or perhaps you’ve simply wanted to help out colleagues. Even if that’s true, it’s best not to give cues that you’re feeling overwhelmed at your current job level if you’re hoping to ascend to the next soon.

2. “That’s not my job.”

In certain circumstances — like being asked to plan an office party or other often-gendered tasks, for example — it’s absolutely appropriate to remind your boss of your job duties. But this is also a fine line to walk; refusing to divert from your usual list of responsibilities when your team’s bandwidth is tight, for instance, is hardly likely to make you seen as promotion material.

3.  “Can you not put me on projects with this person?”

Again, in certain circumstances — like when you have reason to feel unsafe working with a particular colleague — this is a totally legitimate boundary to voice. In other situations — namely, if you just don’t like working with someone — it isn’t quite as passable. Working within a team, and advancing within that team, means having to set aside differences to get the job done, no matter how badly someone may annoy you.

4. “In 10 years, I see myself working in a totally different field.”

Maybe your long-term career plan includes a pivot from the exact industry you’re in now. That’s A.O.K.! Share that information with the mentors in your life. Don’t share it with your current boss. They may see it as a reason not to prioritize your advancement in a field that you don’t plan on sticking around in. 

 5. “I can’t imagine having to manage as many people as you do!” 

Perhaps you think you’re paying your boss a compliment with this statement. The fact of the matter is, traditionally, most career advancement paths involve managing a number of direct reports. If managing people isn’t so much your cup of tea, there are ways to advance your career without doing that. But let that be part of a full conversation you have with your boss about your aspirations for advancement — not a standalone statement given without context.

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