I’m Ready for a Promotion, but My Employer Won’t Give Me One!

Content Therapy is Managing Editor’s monthly advice column, where Paul Chaney responds to your questions about the messy dilemmas content marketers face in their work. We are (obviously) not licensed therapists.

Should I Leave After Getting Passed Over for a Promotion — Again?

Dear Content Therapist: I’ve hit my goals and exceeded the expectations of my role, but I was passed up for that promotion — again.

I’ve worked for this company for nearly three years as a content strategist. While I was new to the role, I gained the skills and knowledge to handle the responsibilities of my role and learn more about the position and the duties above mine. I did the continuing education, got certifications and even took on a few responsibilities delegated to a content marketing manager as the previous manager left.

During that time, I proved that I was ready for the position and would do well. However, I was passed up when it came time for the company to hire a replacement for that manager role. I understood that I was still only a year in and they wanted me to get more experience, but it still stung. About a year later, the manager decided to leave, and the position was made available again. Yet again, I was overlooked — this time by another one of her colleagues in the same role but with less experience.

What should I do after being with the company for that long? Talk to the leadership team? Or start looking for another position?—MY TITLE DOESN’T MATCH MY TASKS

Paul Chaney: Here’s the TL;DR answer: Should you talk to the leadership team? Yes. Should you start looking for another job? Maybe. Talk to the leadership team first.

It sounds to me as if you’ve paid your dues. As you said, you gained skills and knowledge, did continuing education, received certifications and took on extra duties. The fact that you’ve been there for three years is evidence the company values your skill set and work ethic. Otherwise, they likely would have let you go. So, I understand that it stings. Even worse, it has you questioning your value.

It’s time for you to “grab the bull by the horns” and request a meeting with the leadership team (I would start with your supervisor). Lay out your case, but rather than asking why you have been overlooked — that might come across as sour grapes — let them know you want to advance in the company, and ask what you need to do to make that happen. Be assertive, put a smile on your face, and have an optimistic attitude. Their response will provide the answer to your question about whether to stay or go.

Rarely is there ever a 100% correlation between what you do, what you want and what you get. In your case, the only way to know if you can expect to get what you want is to talk to the people who have the authority to make that happen.

But always remember that you have the power to chart your own course. Never give up on your goals, even if that means finding another place to work.

I Thought I Got My Job Based on Skill. Instead, It’s Because of Tokenism. What Should I Do?

After months of unemployment, I finally got a job, but I couldn’t escape the tokenism. Now I’m wondering if I should stay or go, especially with a recession right around the corner. I’d been out of work for some time before landing this content manager position. I applied for this role in February 2020 and didn’t hear back initially for an interview, but then I was hired in August 2020.

Despite everything that was happening in the world with police brutality and the BLM protests, I was excited to get a job, as my savings were depleting. At first, it was great, but I soon realized little things here and there. My input is not necessarily being considered, I’m noticing that there aren’t many people that look like me, there are stereotypical comments and more. Then, I was promoted, and people automatically thought it was because of “pressure” from outside forces.

How can I continue to do my job while the company doesn’t seem to push for more diversity and inclusion? Does pushing diversity in the workplace fall solely under my responsibility?—TIRED TOKEN EMPLOYEE

Paul Chaney: I understand that you see yourself as being caught between a rock and a hard place. That’s never a good feeling. On the one hand, it sounds like you fear leaving your job because of how long it took to get hired. The recession’s foreboding clouds looming over the horizon certainly don’t help.

On the other hand, you find yourself faced with a company culture that’s anything but accepting and appreciative of the value you bring. In an ideal world, diversity, equity and inclusion would be the catalyst for a welcoming culture at every company, including yours.

Let me be emphatic: Pushing for a more diverse culture doesn’t sit with you primarily but rather with your employer. That doesn’t mean you can’t encourage a more diverse culture. One example is Kelley Butler, a content marketing director who started a platform for that very purpose.

Rather than lament your situation, however, let’s focus on some steps you can take to act on your behalf:

  1. Realize you are not alone. Take solace in the fact that many people face the same stereotyping as you.
  2. Avail yourself of every opportunity to build relationships (and I’m not suggesting you haven’t tried). The better people get to know you, the less likely they will be to stereotype you. You may find that others share your sentiments but have been afraid to stand up to the oppressive culture. Getting to know you may give them the courage to change their behavior.
  3. Find supportive relationships off the job if you can’t find them at work. We can all benefit from encouragement, and these relationships may give you the confidence to face another day.
  4. Take care of yourself. You can’t allow the work situation to affect your mental health. If it is, talk to someone who can help, a counselor or trusted friend.
  5. Keep track of discrimination. If tokenism has crossed the line into outright discrimination, especially something you can cite specifically (an email, for example, or other tangible evidence), keep a record and speak with human resources. The law protects you. HR should know the laws and have workplace policies to prevent discrimination. Familiarize yourself with them, and act in your best interests.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Being a victim of tokenism is a serious matter. Don’t be silent. Take care of yourself first, then advocate for change.

Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed mental health provider, health care provider or legal professional.

Paul Chaney
Paul Chaney is a freelance B2B writer, editor, blogger, journalist, marketer, ghostwriter, and author (that was a mouthful!) with more than 25 years of experience in the content marketing space. As president of Prescriptive Writing, he creates content that helps brands connect with their customers in meaningful, substantive ways.

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