9 Actions That Instantly Sabotage Your Chance at Being Promoted, According to Managers

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April 16, 2024 at 8:40PM UTC

Sometimes, it can be difficult to break down how managers determine promotions. If multiple people are performing excellently, how are those decisions made? While some of that gray area may boil down to individual relationships or politics, a lot of it also boils down to soft skills and individual behaviors — that small things that make an impression, for better or for worse. 

We've written on the behaviors of highly promotable people, but this time, we're talking about the behaviors you need to avoid if you're looking for a seniority bump. Here are nine ways employees sabotage their chances at a promotion, according to managers. 

1. You get stuck in the weeds.

"A red flag that someone isn't ready for a promotion is that they are constantly overwhelmed with their current roles and duties. If they don't know how to forecast out and think BIG and strategic, that is a warning sign I shouldn't promote them." — Trevor Rappleye, CEO of CorporateFilming.net & FranchiseFilming

2. You second guess yourself.

"I would never promote someone who is unable to work independently. This doesn't mean I don't want people to ask for help when they need it, but people who consistently seek approval and second guess their actions despite working with us for a long time shows me that they aren't prepared to step into leadership and make their own judgement calls." — John Cho, Founder of My Pet Child 

3. You're unwilling to admit when youre wrong.

"Employees typically need to acquire new skills and knowledge once they get promoted to a new role. Managers find it more difficult to train employees who come across as a know-it-all who won't easily admit when they don't understand something. This can become an even more serious problem when employees have to manage others in their new role, and their unwillingness to admit when they don't know something can hinder the work of the team." — Kevin Lee, CEO of JourneyPure 

4. You can't rally your peers.

"You want to promote an employee who can work and collaborate well with others. You would want their peers to rally to the side of your newly promoted employee, not against them." — Sonya Schwartz, Founder of Her Norm

5. You get into a "seniority funk."

"Oftentimes, you see people get the 'seniority funk,' meaning they think that since they have been at the company longer than someone else, they should get the promotion. While time at the company can play a factor in deciding who gets the promotion, it shouldn’t be the ultimate deciding factor. If my employee is slacking in their current role, then giving them the promotion won’t lead to further growth and success for them or for my company. I want to promote someone that is giving 110% all of the time and continuously exceeding expectations." — Jenny Massey, Owner of Snowy Pines White Labs

6. You think "me" before "we."

"You can easily recognize someone who is not ready for a promotion when he/she has the 'me' mentality instead of 'we' mentality. This person constantly thinks about my goals, my plans, my opinion and my decision. Regardless of if he/she works well individually or as a team, that person is more driven by his/her own success rather than the team’s success. Evidently, this kind of employee is not ready to take more responsibility. Why? Being a leader is more about the team than your self. You should know how to see the bigger picture and the people around you. How can you help them? How can you contribute to other people's success? How will you motivate them?" — James Pearson, CEO of eVenturing Enterprises

7. You don't give out compliments.

"Giving feedback is an essential part of helping your team members grow. However, a lack of positive reinforcement will undoubtedly lead to lowered morale. A leader should not only know how to give a lecture, but they should also know how to give credit when it’s due. A promotion candidate should have no reservations in giving compliments and saying 'Thank you!'" — Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva

8. You bring problems but not solutions.

"A consistent problem that employees looking for a promotion overlook is that just bringing your boss problems may not be that helpful. Spotting issues and areas of opportunity can be helpful, but if you don't have a potential solution in mind, you're just making more work for them. Employees that can come up with useful solutions make the lives of their boss much easier and are much more likely to be rewarded." — Adam Sanders, Founder and Director of Successful Release

9. You lash out.

"Flaring up during conversations and meetings is not acceptable, especially for someone seeking more power. Such employees should be encouraged to fix their tempers before they are eligible for promotion." — Karthik Subramanian, Marketing Manager at NurtureBox

*Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity. 

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