Professional Development

6 Reasons High Performers Fail to Get Promoted

why do high performers fail to get promoted

You’re exceeding performance goals. Your feedback is top-notch. 

But for one reason or another, you aren’t getting promoted.

Sounds familiar? 

In school, high performance means good grades. But in the workplace, high performance doesn’t necessarily get you promoted.

If you’re a high performer and have been passed up for a promotion. 

The good news is that some of the reasons could have nothing to do with you. Let’s explore them!

Why do high performers fail to get promoted?

High performers fail to get promoted because they have been taught to work hard and focus on mastering the job itself.

This hyper-focus on work performance can lead to missed opportunities (like a promotion). 

A survey found that 24% of workers believe that working hard is most helpful in receiving a job promotion. 

This belief is also common in marginalized communities like first-generation immigrants, where working hard is often the only option.

Hard work is important for success. But alone isn’t always enough. 

Here are 6 reasons why high performers often fail to get promoted.

1. No one knows you 

You go to work and get tunnel-visioned on the task at hand. Work happy hours aren’t your thing. You skip office parties. And you’re not part of the “work clique.”

Does this sound like you?

If so, something has to change. It doesn’t mean you need to become everyone’s work bestie.

But you do have to invest time to build your brand at work. Check out this article on ways to increase your visibility at work!

2. You aren’t “playing the game”

In school, if you work hard, you get good grades. If you get good grades, you graduate.

So you’re likely programmed to believe that hard work and following the rules, will get you what you want.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple in the workforce. You have to understand how to “play the game.” And learn the unwritten rules of the workplace. 

Playing the game at work refers to learning how to deal with office politics. It means working smart, managing perceptions, and building strategic relationships. 

3. You’re too humble 

You think your hard work will speak for itself. Or you think bragging about your work is cocky. You don’t shut down co-workers who take credit for your work. 

Sounds about right? 

Let me tell you something. Being too humble can leave you underpaid, underemployed, and undervalued.

If your leaders don’t know how you’re adding value to the company. It will be hard to justify promoting you. 

Spend time practicing these self-advocacy skills. It’ll help you normalize sharing your accomplishments at work.  

 
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4. You’re too good at your job

If you’re reading this, you’re likely very good at your job. And that’s great. 

But the downside of being too good at your job is that your employer may be hesitant to promote you out of fear of losing you. 

This looks like your boss giving you vague feedback on why you aren’t getting promoted. Or giving reasons that aren’t supported by data. 

If you’re making your boss’s life too easy. They might be hesitant to promote you. 

To avoid this, make sure to validate any feedback received regarding your promotion request. 

5. Your Boss is threatened by you

When you’re a high performer, it’s easy to attract haters. And your boss can be one of them. 

This can look like your boss giving you average reviews on projects. Even though you know you exceeded expectations. 

If your boss is threatened by you, you may have to find sponsors in other departments. And you’ll need to work harder to be visible outside of your immediate team.  

Get a second opinion from a trusted mentor about how to go about navigating your promotion request.  

Remember, sometimes your promotion may have to be at another company.  

6. It’s not you – It’s your company

Sometimes the reason you’re not getting a promotion has absolutely nothing to do with you. There could be things going on behind the scenes at your company that you’re not aware of. 

Your company may be struggling financially. They might be downsizing or in the process of being acquired. Whatever the reason may be, this has nothing to do with you.

And if that’s the case, you might need to reconsider your loyalty to the company. 

Getting Promoted at Work

There are several reasons high performers fail to get promoted. If you’re a high performer and want a promotion, be loyal to nothing but yourself. 

Get out there and demand what you deserve. Remember to entertain opportunities outside of your employer. 

Our professional development plan can help you create a strategic plan for getting promoted at work. 

It’ll hold you accountable for your leadership development goals and personal branding strategy. And will help you prep for your next performance review meeting. 

Grab our professional development plan at NetWerk® University!

Over to You

After reading this, what do you think is holding you back from getting promoted at work? Let us know in the comments section on social @netwerkmovement. Share this with someone that was passed up for a promotion. 


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