Oh, Oh – What To Do When You Don’t Get That Promotion

What Should You Do If You Fall Off The Career Ladder?
What Should You Do If You Fall Off The Career Ladder?

Things are tough all over. If you were counting on getting a promotion this year, you might want to scale your hopes back just a bit. A lot of IT Leaders are discovering that their career plans are having to be put on hold. Maybe we should spend some time talking about what you should do now…

The Root Of The Problem

Have you noticed just how far down the U.S. stock market has dropped over the last couple of years? Since most of the baby boomer generation that is currently working in IT has their retirement funds tied up in stocks, they’ve seen their dreams of a well funded retirement take a hit. What this means is that they won’t be retiring any time soon.

What this means for all other IT Leaders is that the normal process of IT staff retiring each year and opening up senior management positions that are then filled by junior IT staff won’t be happening this year. Dang!

The folks over at Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc. have done a survey of more than 2,200 U.S. employees and they’ve found that 44% of workers who are over 50 plan on postponing their retirement. Just to make things even worse, about half of these folks are now planning on working at least three years longer than they had originally planned on.

The Promotion Problem

So let’s talk frankly here: no matter what level your IT career is currently at, you are going to be blocked. Just to make things even worse, the experts are telling us that we shouldn’t expect promotions to come back any time soon.

So what should you do? Quit? In this economy? I don’t think so. Instead we should take a look and see if we can come up with a different solution.

As always, if you are expecting a promotion and you don’t get it, you need to take a look at the underlying reasons for you not getting the promotion. If you determine that your promotion was postponed because of either the company’s economic situation is poor or because there is a human logjam before you, then you still have hope.

Now you’ve got to plot your next step.


The easiest way to solve this problem is if you are willing to accept an alternative to a promotion – like money. This is sometimes called a “retention reward” and it’s a bonus that is paid to employees when they deserve a promotion but one is not currently possible.

Once you realize that your deserved promotion may be delayed, you need to start to take steps to boost your value to the company. What you really want to do is to make it very easy for the company to slide you into the promotion once it becomes available. This means having a talk with your boss in order to find out if there are ways to get some of the experience that goes along with the promotion position even if you can’t get the title right now.

As with all requests like this, you do need to be careful. You don’t want the company to get too comfortable with you doing the work of the higher level position while being paid at your current lower rate.

What All Of This Means For You

The world is working against you – just when you are expecting a promotion, everything gets flipped upside down and you find your way up the career ladder blocked. These things happen and you need to find ways to deal with it.

Quitting is always an option; however, unless you have another job already lined up it’s probably not the way to go right now. Instead, ask if you can get a bonus to replace the promotion that you won’t be getting right now. At the same time see if there is any way that you can gain more experience doing the type of work that you will be doing when the promotions free up once again.

Promotions will eventually return. As a top-notch IT Leader you need to use this delay to build the skills that will ensure that you will be one of the first to get promoted once things start moving again. Take these actions now and you’ll be ready for the big day whenever it finally comes…

If your next promotion gets delayed, what steps would you take?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As an IT leader you’ve got a lot to do. As though it wasn’t enough to stay on top of your staff keeping them happy, engaged, and productive, you are also constantly working to stay on top of all of that changing technology. It turns out that you have an additional task that you might not be taking the time to do: figuring out where your company is trying to get to.