I’m Not Getting the Promotion I Think I Deserve: Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I am senior manager for my firm with a large team reporting to me. I have been doing what I do for a long time and I am very good at it, as I have been told repeatedly.

A lot of what I do would be in the job description of a vice president, and I believe it’s time for me to get the title and salary to reflect this.

When I bring this up to my boss, who is the COO, he tells me there are obstacles that I must overcome before I am promoted. He says I rub a lot of people the wrong way and do not have the gravitas of a senior leader.

It is true that I don’t always see eye to eye with everyone in the organization, but I’m usually right in the end. I’m getting frustrated. Although I love my company, I’m thinking about looking for a new gig where my talents are recognized and—more importantly—properly compensated. —Undervalued

Dear Undervalued,

I can totally get how frustrated you are. Here’s the thing, though: there is a good chance that the situation you are in now will simply follow you to any new job. You have been given pretty clear feedback. Trying to run away from it won’t change the fact that you rub people the wrong way. If you do manage to get a new gig with the title you crave, you will be who you are now with more power. According to John Eldred, longtime professor of Mastering Organizational Politics and Power at the University of Pennsylvania, this means you will get compliance mainly when people’s goals align with yours. When their goals are different from yours, they will go around you in secret, they will fight you openly, or—worst case—they will sabotage you. At best, you will get compliance. Is that what you want? Probably not. You want your team to be brilliant, creative, innovative, and ultimately greater than the sum of its parts, including you.


What’s the worst thing that could happen if you were to listen to the feedback and try to do something about it? Seriously, no one is asking you to get a personality transplant, but you can start experimenting with getting along better with others. Anyone hiring at VP or C level is looking for someone who can bring out the best in others, create unity and cohesion in a group, and get things done with and through others. They are not looking for a leader who is “usually right in the end.” At this level, the fact that you know a lot and have good ideas is a given.

I’m pretty sure this is not what you wanted to hear, and for that I am sorry. But you owe it to your own talent to develop your leadership abilities so you can shine at the next level.

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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