How to Win the Rat Race – Without Being a Rat
By, Landy Chase, MBA, CSP
In the perfect work
environment, whenever a promotion opportunity became available, the
most qualified person would always be selected for the available
promotion. Unfortunately, as you know, such an environment does not
exist, it may seem to you that job promotions regularly go to people
who are not always the most deserving. Well, to quote Clint Eastwood
said in the classic Western, Unforgiven, “deserve’s got
nothin’ to do with it.”
The biggest mistake
that most employees make with regards to promotion opportunities is
to consider them an entitlement. In other words, they assume that if
they reasonably meet their employer’s productivity expectations,
then they are “entitled” to a promotion. Making such an assumption
is probably the worst career mistake you can make, because in most
cases it simply doesn’t work that way.
Doing a good job does
not “entitle” you to advancement. Instead, it qualifies you
for consideration for advancement. Once you become qualified
for consideration, a nasty little word creeps into the equation
that, like it or not, plays a significant role in promotion
decisions. That nasty little word is, of course, politics.
Collectively, I define ‘politics’ as the other, subjective factors
not directly related to job performance that either work for you or
against you – and, like it or not, they can be a significant
determining factor in promotion decisions. How does one learn to
play – and win – at the game of promotional politics? Listed below
are the most important political factors that come into play when
evaluating a person for promotion:
Are you dependable?
Next to loyalty, dependability
is the most desirable attribute that an employee can have. For
example, when your boss asks you to do something, does it always
get done – on time, every time? Or do you have to be repeatedly
asked, over and over, to get a task completed? All things being
equal, the employee who has demonstrated dependability has a
huge advantage over their peers when promotions become
Do you get along well with
others? I once had a
sales person on our team whose customers loved her and who was
our top producer – and was a walking, talking nightmare to every
other department in our office. Guess who, in spite of their
sales performance, was always at the bottom of the list for
promotions? I rest my case.
Are you a problem-solver?
Companies today place a premium value on take-charge, motivated
employees who confront problems in an organization and make a
positive impact. Conversely, negativity is simply not tolerated,
and for good reason.
Do you demonstrate leadership
within the office?
Are you looked at as a “go-to” source by the others who work
with you? Do peers come to you for advice and counsel? Are you
willing to take risks, even when the chance of failure exists?
Are you fair and ethical in your dealings with your peers?
Is your workspace
rule of thumb for promoting an employee into management is to
take whatever is on their desk, multiply it by a factor of 10,
and use this new figure to arrive at a reasonable estimate of
what their desk will look like with the new responsibilities.
How would your work-space measure up?
As a final
point, never forget that the most important job that you have is to
please the person that you work for, because no one has a more
direct impact on your career advancement than your supervisor. Too
many employees forget this simple but important point. Don’t be one
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Landy Chase, MBA, CSP.
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