I was passed for Promotion. What now ?

Praveen Cheruvu

Engineering Leadership at Anaplan


Passing for Promotion: A Lesson in Career Progression

Passing for promotion happens to everyone in their career lifespan. If someone does not have to go through the situation, consider them unique and blessed. Managing disappointment and handling situations in a professional setting when things don’t pan out is an important life skill. As we go through school and college, the progress trajectory is linear and we expect to hit milestones, most of which are guaranteed and predictable. However, when it comes to professional and career growth, there is an element of unknown. Though companies establish specific role expectations and responsibilities, it is just a necessary condition and does not prescribe the sufficient condition for being promoted.

In short, career progressions are not linear.

Below are some relevant quotes from Adam Grant:

“If at first you don’t succeed, you are in luck. Effortless excellence is a lousy teacher and fickle friend."

“If you judge your worth by your achievements, you feel worthless whenever you fall short of your goal. Stable self-confidence comes from learning to separate your performance from your self-esteem. Excellence is a reflection of your skill, effort, and luck - not your value as a person."

“I’d love people to spend as much time developing their character as they do developing their career."

“There is no self-development without self-awareness” - Steven Bartlett. You can read as many books as you like, but if you’re unable to read yourself, you’ll never learn a thing.

“A better vision for a workplace is a community - a place where people bond around shared values, feel valued as human beings, and have a voice in decisions that affect them."

When you don’t get the promotion you think you deserved, there could be two scenarios:

  1. You think you are performing all the responsibilities of the role and "assuming" that your manager/boss thinks the same. This is a classic disconnect situation.
  2. You and your manager have been working on the nomination process. After passing through a couple of levels of reviews, your candidacy for promotion fell through.

“When you follow a leader, consider what would lead you to withdraw your support. If the answer is nothing, your integrity is in jeopardy. Your highest loyalty belongs to principles, not people. No leader deserves unconditional love. Commitment is earned through character."

In the first case, build a stronger relationship and spend more time with your manager. The manager must be well aware of the activities you are performing and the responsibilities you are taking. The best way to get on the same page with the manager is to have regular 1:1 meetings. Additionally, document daily and weekly tasks and share them during these meetings. The meetings need to be in a regular cadence.

In the second case, a more holistic strategy is needed. Identify the team/organization goals and assess if any of your skills or competencies can be leveraged for realizing these goals. Volunteer to support them and discuss how your previous experience can help. If you don’t have the expertise, you need to spend time ramping up new skills. In addition, you need to move out of your comfort zone and sign up for projects that are critical for team or organization success. Does it pan out easily as mentioned? The answer is no. In order to be in a position to get an opportunity to work on important initiatives, there needs to be a history of delivery, a good relationship with peers, and most importantly, confidence from the leadership team.

Now, let's discuss each of the topics in more detail:

Consistent Delivery

A record of consistent delivery is a must. Ability to navigate ambiguity and make progress incrementally. No matter the amount of due diligence, there is an element of risk and surprise. The skill to identify the known ‘unknowns’ and unknown ‘unknowns’ can be very handy to effectively capture the risks and mitigate them.

Relationship with Peers

Develop a trusted-based relationship with peers and cross-functional teams in the company. Trust is a consequence of consistent delivery and keeping commitments.

Leadership Confidence

Leadership will entrust trust once individuals deliver consistently and earn the respect of peers. The strategy is to mention your contributions and accomplishments with humility. The impact will be 100X when someone other than you recognizes your contributions and gives kudos.

Managing Uncertainty

No matter how much planning happens, there is an element of uncertainty. Companies get acquired, leaders move on, restructuring happens in the organization. Ability to deal with the things that we cannot control and

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Praveen Cheruvu

Engineering Leadership at Anaplan

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsMentorship ProgramsPerformance ReviewsCareer Progression

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