Career progression is very important to young Singaporean employees. The ultimate nightmare is to be stuck in the same job, doing the same thing at the same pay for the rest of your life, as costs around you continue to rise. You might end up having to work from the grave at this rate.
Worst of all, you might face this nightmare scenario: an acquaintance gets that coveted promotion and pay rise after two to three years, makes a judicious job change or two, and before you know it that guy you went to school with is now sitting in front of you at an interview as you fumble with your CV. Ugh.
So why has your career been progressing so slowly? What is hindering you from getting that promotion year after year? Here are seven reasons that could be causing your bosses to withhold those promotions.
1. Your company offers no room for advancement
Are you working for an SME? If you’ve been kept waiting for a promotion for so many years you might as well be waiting for retirement, your company just might not have any room for advancement.
In a 2015 survey, lack of career progression was cited as the top reason Singapore employees were looking for a new job. The smaller your company is, the less room there normally is for growth. If the post you wish to be promoted to is occupied by someone who has no intention of leaving, or worse is occupied by your boss, it’s time to look elsewhere.
2. Your company is a family business
Family businesses are tricky. No matter how well you do at work, you night never be able to make it to the top if the top spots are reserved for members of the clan and their close contacts.
In addition, when there are numerous family members working in the same company, your evaluation can be affected, too.
I once worked in a company where anyone who was late by 15 minutes or more would be publicly shamed in the form of an email disseminated to the entire company. In addition, leaving at 6pm on the dot was frowned upon. On the other hand, management turned a blind eye to the family members of the big boss, who were allowed to do as they pleased.
Long-standing employees who weren’t part of the clan not only found themselves being appraised much more strictly, but also being forced to wait many years for promotions, which came only when the boss wanted to promote his own family members.
3. You’re underperforming
Just because your friend got promoted after two years doesn’t mean you can expect the same treatment. Performance does matter when you’re being considered for a promotion, and if you’ve been underperforming in the eyes of your boss, don’t expect much.
Issues arise when you and your boss have a different idea of what constitutes performing well. Your boss might think you’re underperforming because you leave at 6pm every day, while you might think you’re doing great because it shows you’re efficient. Have a talk with your boss at least once a year so you know exactly what his criteria are.
4. There is someone better or more well-connected than you in the running
In SMEs, there tends to be fiercer competition for promotions, since there’s a limited number of available posts in the company. If you have a colleague who’s doing your job but is better or more well-connected than you, don’t be surprised if he steals that coveted role you’ve been eyeing.
Instead of waiting a few more years until that colleague leaves or gets promoted again, when you’ve gotten the requisite experience it might be wiser to simply apply for a more senior role at a different company.
5. You don’t have the skills or connections to take on a more senior role
The truth hurts, but sometimes you’re not being promoted simply because you don’t have the skills or connections to take on a more senior role.
For instance, many senior lawyers find themselves stuck in salaried partner positions and unable to make the leap to equity partner simply because they lack the network to bring in clients. They might have decades of experience and be great at their jobs, but what the firm really needs is someone who can bring in business, not do more work.
A sure sign that you’re unqualified for a promotion is when your boss hires somebody from outside of the company to take on the position directly above yours.
6. You haven’t been clear that you want to be considered for a promotion
Your career is the last thing on your boss’s mind. Fail to speak up for yourself and make it clear that you wish to be considered for a promotion, and your boss might just forget you exist.
In big MNCs, it is common to signal to your boss if you wish to be considered for a promotion during your yearly appraisal. With so many employees, middle and upper management often cannot keep track of their various subordinates, and it’s easy to be overlooked.
But even if you work in an SME, your boss might be too busy to pay attention to your career progression. SMEs also often do not have proper HR systems in place, which makes things worse. Don’t be surprised if you need to do a little hand holding just so your boss remembers to consider you for a promotion.
7. Your boss just doesn’t like you
I’m sure you’re a wonderful person who’s loved by many. But if your boss isn’t part of your legion of fans, that can seriously hamper your career progress.
If your workplace is intensely political and your boss is someone who practises favouritism and will only promote those he personally likes, you might be fighting a losing battle by staying on.
This story was originally published in Moneysmart on April 12, 2017.