How to follow when your boss gets promoted

By Robert Half on 11 February 2015

One of best ways to climb the career ladder is to latch on to your boss and move up when they do.

But ensuring you ride the wave with your manager can result in months – even years – of conscious planning. So start now!

Be open about your intentions

The first step towards moving up the career ladder begins with communication. First, let your boss know you’re keen to move up when they do and be clear about why – is it because they provide great support and guidance? Are they good at giving you the reins to be an independent worker? Flattery won’t get you everywhere, but it might give you that extra bump.

You also need to have frank discussions about what they’d like you to do more of, less of or both in order to get promoted. Perhaps your boss needs you to be more intuitive about the support they need to do their job well? Or maybe you need to improve your problem-solving skills and manage issues more self-sufficiently when they arise. If you’re open to hearing this, chances are your manager will relish the opportunity to provide the kind of feedback usually reserved for review time.

Who are your manager’s main stakeholders?

These days, the responsibility of promoting an employee rarely falls on the shoulders of one person. So if it’s not just up to your boss to make the call about your role, find out who else contributes to the final decision. Who are their stakeholders? Figure out how to fit into this circle. Make the working lives of your manager’s stakeholders easier and more productive, and you’ll become a key player yourself. The machinations within a company can be akin to a political drama, so you may need to play the game.

Which qualities does the company’s work culture value?

What are the core values that the company, or at least the senior managers of the business, value? Is it innovation? Demonstrating a strong work ethic? If you’re not already the living, breathing model of these standards, get on board. Do what you need to do to show your manager that you’re serious about your future at the company.

Be gracious in defeat

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always play out the way you expect or hope. If your boss chooses not to take you with them, don’t spit the dummy (do it at home if you need to vent). Show that you’re still serious about moving up and contributing to the success of the company by being gracious in defeat. There may be reasons beyond your boss’s control that contributed to the decision. Perhaps there’s another role better suited to your skills for which management has you in mind. Play it cool and you can hedge your bets either way. If you decide to leave the company, you’ll do so on a good note.

Remember that however depressing a disappointment can be, it’s worth trying to learn from the experience. What can you do differently next time? Being self-aware in the workplace is one of the key factors to success. And perhaps using a career coach can help guide you towards the perfect role or industry for you.

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