Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 34;   August 23, 2006: How to Get Promoted in Place

How to Get Promoted in Place

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Do you think you're overdue for a promotion? Many of us do, judging by the number of Web pages that talk about promotions, getting promoted, or asking for promotions. What you do to get a promotion depends on what you're aiming for.
A portion of the memorial to the Massachusetts 54th Regiment

A portion of the Augustus Saint-Gaudens memorial to the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the history of which was depicted in the 1989 film Glory. Its commander, Col. Robert Gould Shaw, received all three types of promotions during his career. Photo courtesy U.S. National Gallery of Art. Visit the memorial itself in downtown Boston, across the street from the State House.

There are three types of promotions: promotion in place, promotion in line, and the diagonal jump. A promotion in place is a change in grade with little change of responsibility; a promotion in line is a change in grade with substantially changed and increased responsibility, usually to the next supervisory level; and a diagonal jump is a change in grade combined with a move to a different organization. In this article, I'll focus on the promotion in place; I'll cover the other two in articles to come.

Promotion in general is no longer a reward for past performance. Rather, it's almost always about the needs of the employer. To achieve a promotion in place, your task is to present your employer with an enticing opportunity to get more value from you. Here are some tips for making your promotion in place a success.

Attend to relationships
Promotions in place are relatively rare, and everyone knows that if you're promoted, you'll still be around. Attend to your relationships with everyone you work with, especially your supervisor. Make them happy you were promoted.
Get known as a resource
Offer your expertise freely and publicly. Seek opportunities to present status, overviews, and reviews of your area of expertise. Read, network, and volunteer for cross-functional teams. Attend conferences, even without employer support.
Document your contributions
Keep a working journal, entering evidence of the value of your contributions, your positive attitude, and your willingness to go beyond expectations. Writing about these things creates an urge to do things you can write about.
Know that your contributions won't change in kind
Your contributions before and after promotion will be similar, but promotion creates opportunities to make more important contributions. You might find yourself attending higher-level meetings, or you might be offered spots on more mission-critical teams.
Understand your employer's goals
A promotion in place
is a change in grade
with little change
of responsibility.
If you get promoted in
place, you'll still be around.
We promote in place because we want to keep good people by keeping status, title, and compensation in alignment with value delivered. If value delivered gets ahead of status, title, or compensation, the organization begins to obstruct further contributions ("He's getting too uppity"), which can lead to conflict and frustration.
Check the resources
There are risks. Promotions in place are usually based on contributed value which we expect to increase after the promotion. But increased contributed value usually requires increased resources, including things like training, space, and access to conferences. Before you accept a promotion in place, consider whether the available resources will support it.

Because contributed value is so important to a promotion in place, the temptation to appropriate credit for contributions of others (especially subordinates) can be overwhelming. Be aware that you could become a target, or even succumb to temptation yourself. Openly public generosity is the key. Go to top Top  Next issue: Peek-a-Boo and Leadership  Next Issue

For more on promotions, see "How to Get a Promotion: the Inside Stuff," Point Lookout for August 16, 2006, and "How to Get a Promotion in Line," Point Lookout for September 13, 2006.

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