I am seeking a bit of advice on a promotion scenario I am facing.

I have been in my current position for 5 years with a steady increase in job responsibility, job enlargement, salary increases and excellent annual reviews. I listen to M-T, so you all know how effective we are... right? :D

Two positions are open in my organization. I have the qualifications, education and experience to fill either. Both look like an excellent fit for me.

My problem is this: my bosses have been known to keep people that are highly effective in their current positions instead of promoting them to positions where they could grow personally and professionally. The reasons are usually like the title, "You are doing a great job where you are! We need you in your position because it would be too difficult to replace you."

I want to grow - they want to stunt my growth.

Do you folks have any suggestions of what i should say to overcome this 'argument' in upcoming interviews?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

jhack's picture

Do you have a direct who could fill your position? Through coaching, delegation, etc, you should have someone who is capable of taking on your current job. Be prepared to discuss this person (or persons) with your bosses, being specific on how you coached them, things they've done, and why they're ready.

colleen's picture

First of all, don't assume that they will do that to you. If you go into the interview expecting them to try to hold you back, then your body language may betray you. (you may look wary or anxious) Worse, you may misinterpret an innocent statement or question to be "the stunting" question and react badly (ie: defensively).

Be confident and know that you will get the job.

IF they do explicitly ask you to stay where you are because you are so good, jhack's suggestion is good and I would add: Tell them that you appreciate their vote of confidence and that you promise to do everything you can to be even better in your new position. (Assuming you would actually mean that.) Remain very confident during this line of questioning [u]almost [/u] (but not quite) to the point of being dismissive of the idea of staying where you are. Do this by answering confidently and concisely and getting off the topic fast.

If their reasoning really is as you say (and you might want to be sure) then the question is - How long are you willing to wait around until [u]they [/u] are ready to let you reach for your goals. Eight years? 15 years? Don't let them manage your career.

If this really is the mentality and you don't see a growth path then I think that is just flat out unacceptable (crazy-talk) and I would find someplace else to work

sklosky's picture


There's an old expression I recall.

"Replace yourself"

I'm not sure where this came from, but the general point is that by bringing resources to bear on your current duties, you can offload those duties and focus on strategic goals. The strategic stuff is where you add the most value and part of that stuff is promoting yourself and your programs.

By bringing resources to the table, I mean do things like John mentioned -- promote someone else in the org to take your current role. Or, implement more efficient or effective processes to lessen the load. Or, put systems in place to make the load lighter.

Just some thoughts.

Good luck,

bflynn's picture

There is no argument.

There are three cases:
1) If they believed that you could make more money for the company by being promoted, you would be promoted whether you wanted it or not. 2) If you believe that you could make more money and they don't promote you, then you have failed to convince them. 3) The last possibility is that neither of you believe you would make the company more money by being promoted. In this case, why would you expect a promotion?

The only situation where they believe you would perform better and they don't promote you also involves some kind of negative behavior at their level. I presume that as a manager, they are good and ethical people, so we can rule this one out, right?

Work to show how you'll be better for the company at the new position.


LouFlorence's picture
Training Badge


Are you committed to staying with your present employer? Are you willing to put your position at risk in order to further your development?

Saying that they don't want you to get promoted because you are too hard to replace is a poor excuse. They are putting their own interests (not the company's) over yours.

You have some choices. You can look outside. You can tell your boss that you will be forced to look outside if he or she does not help you. You can stay where you are and try to influence people who can help you get one of the desired internal positions. You can sit tight.

Best of luck whatever you choose.


tron's picture

Thanks for replies. I regret that I didn't state the position I am in is with a non-profit, specifically in education.

I think you hit it on the head. I have witnessed some of the negative behavior regarding others who should have been promoted who were not.
The managers are pretty good people, but i think the short term pain of replacing people overshadows their thinking strategically about the future.

Thanks for the help. I needed the bit of a confidence boost each of you has provided me.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

First: Brian, are you nuts? :wink: You can't imagine negative behavior? Boy, I sure can.

Now: are we talking about your present boss, or both of the two whom you would be working for? This makes a huge difference.


tron's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]First: Brian, are you nuts? :wink: You can't imagine negative behavior? Boy, I sure can.

Now: are we talking about your present boss, or both of the two whom you would be working for? This makes a huge difference.



Thanks for your reply.

I would be working for a new boss, in another building on campus. My present boss would influence the decision if he decides to do the 'we can't live without him' thing.

Thanks in advance for your insight.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Just make your case. Ideally, you could compare impact to the firm in real terms (income, profit, development, talent, strategy, whatever). You can also take it from the lost opportunity point of view (in other words, glass half empty in the position you wouldn't get, versus half full if you got it).

Think about what your boss would say, and come up with a rejoinder. "Tara can take over my role and be ready in 90 days. It took you guys two years to promote to here...she can do it in 90 days." Or, "how long will it take to fill the other role, and how much will it cost?"

Or, "right now I believe my career needs development, so this is the best plan for me (promotion)." To send the right message about your readiness to interview, give them your resume to help them see your value. It will show them something else too, which you will politely deny, of course.


tron's picture


I don't how to to thank you for the prompt response - except to say thank you! It's no wonder you make the big bucks.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

You're welcome. Glad we helped.


bflynn's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]First: Brian, are you nuts? :wink: You can't imagine negative behavior? Boy, I sure can.[/quote]

Ok, point made. I suppose a better thing to have said is that if that kind of negative behavior is going on by your bosses, perhaps getting promoted isn't the only important issue.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


Yes, I think you're right...but this kind of behavior is why Manager Tools is's SO widespread you could almost infer it's normal.

But it DOES bear watching, so good eye.