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Idiot’s guide to getting a promotion

October 16, 2009


Since the bulk of the questions I get from disgruntled corporate types (well actually it was only 3 or 4) focus on mostly one problem – the boss – let me condense my response into one post. As usual, its only my opinion so don’t take it too seriously, haha. 😀

Ready? Here goes.

Damien’s Guide to Getting a Promotion

1. Go catch your boss on a good day, sit him down and ask him, “Boss, if I deliver these few things to you, will you promote me/give me a raise?”

2. As most bosses do, you will catch him by surprise. After going “Ahemm..” a few times he’ll say, “Meet all your KPIs first then we’ll talk about it.” Then you can quote, “But last year I (or someone you know) did meet all my KPIs but how come there was no promotion?” Wanna know a secret? KPIs are not a criteria for promotion. Its just a mechanism to determine if they’ve put you on the right job. They just don’t tell you that.

3. After he breaks out in sweat, you play innocent and put the ball firmly into his court by saying, “Okay, then please tell me what I need to do to get promoted.”

4. He’ll pause to think then tell you a string of things he wants you to do, just to get you off his back. Listen carefully, commit them to memory. Then repeat them to him at the end of the conversation just to make sure you didn’t miss anything out. And oh, its good to remember to ask him if he’ll be giving you the resources to do all these wonderful things, just so you both know he’s not sending you out on Mission Impossible.

5. Within 24 hours of the meeting, send him an e-mail thanking him for finally shedding some light at the end of your tunnel. Repeat the list of things he wants you to achieve and tell him how happy you are that he has agreed to promote you once you get all that done, per your chat with him. Then send a discrete copy to HR for their record. (This is important.)

6. Then go do your thing. Everytime you hit a deliverable, send your boss an email to say, “Boss, one down, 5 more to go!” or something like that. Print it out, keep it in your private file. Create some excitement around your achievement, take your boss out to lunch, leave some chocolates on his desk with a note, do something. This is to cure the short corporate memory disease. Oh yes, and keep the details of your deliverables in a private file for year end review just in case.

7. Keep repeating #6 until you’ve delivered all your deliverables. When its done, just to close the loop, write a simple wrap-up e-mail to your boss affirming what you’ve delivered and when. Again, cc a discrete copy to HR. That should do it.

8. At annual review time, after your boss has done the usual KPI thing, tell him how you’re taking a few days off on a short holiday to celebrate because you’re finally getting promoted, now that you’ve delivered everything he wanted. Get your file ready in case he “forgot” what you’re talking about.

9. Enjoy your promotion, buy me lunch.

Well, okay that last one is optional.

But on a serious note…

On D-Day your boss will have a choice. Keep his side of the bargain or risk a grievance process. I assume that after a couple of years of not being promoted despite meeting your numbers, you are more than ready to hang him.

Don’t forget, your paper trail on the negotiated deal has gone on record in HR. It can be forwarded to your boss’s boss if necessary, complete with info to back up your deliverables.

And the risk to your manager for not keeping his word? One’s credibility can be battered only so many times before a question hangs over one’s head: if this manager can be snookered into making promises he can’t keep, should I, as CEO, risk letting him loose among my clients?

One last thing. When doing all this, you keep it positive. The idea is for you and your boss to help each other move up the ladder. When you rise, he rises. When you fall, he falls. Despite the misgivings, you depend on each other. Don’t forget that.

Good luck.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2009 9:53 am

    wa…good tips. but what if…what if…your boss wanna promote u but the HR doesn’t? 😛

    Most co’s I know are market driven companies as I think they should be but if I somehow find myself in a HR driven company, then I’d be the first to get outta there like a bat out of hell! 😀

  2. October 16, 2009 12:03 pm

    and half way doing it ..your boss suddenly goes “you’re doing that Damien Tan’s Guide on me isn’t it ? I read his blog too , and it wouldn’t work ! Stop trying ”

    my friend kena from this :

    Haha, u got some funny pics in that blog entry of yours. Well getting a promotion is a lot like playing soccer. You still don’t know who’s gonna win despite everyone on the field knowing each other’s tricks and moves. I thought picking up chicks is the same thing? (They may have heard that line a hundred times but they still say yes?) 😀

  3. October 17, 2009 3:49 pm

    Using intimidation on your boss? Isn’t that like Robert Ringer’s advise all over again?

    Oh that winning by intimidation guy? Not quite. Its more like making them commit and keeping ’em honest. Like marriage counseling, you know. 😀


  1. "You are not promoted because you're too good" | Alvin Lim - The Dreamer

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