“I’m seeking a promotion, without success. My boss says only HR can promote. What do I do?”

Question: I work for a manufacturing company. A colleague (we have the exact same job, but work for different divisions) was recently promoted. He is a level above me even though I have been with the company a year longer, and my workload is twice his.

I’ve asked my boss about a promotion, but she says her hands are tied, because HR makes promotion decisions. I’ve always gotten good reviews.

Your thoughts?

Wheeling, West Virginia

Answer: While every company is different, there are a few things that are true at every company:

1. First, at every company, someone (or several people) make promotion decisions. (In your case your boss claims it is HR; I do not know whether or not that is true.)

2. Second, whoever makes the promotion decisions, it can only help you to have your boss endorse your request for a promotion.

3. Third, promotions are given to those the “decision-makers” believe are “promotion material,” that is, employees who can handle the higher level position.

4. Fourth, there is rarely a downside to any request you make, so long as the request (a) is made with respect, (b) is for something reasonable, and (c) is based on a good rationale, that is, makes sense.

Putting these four “universal truths” together, this is what I suggest:

(a) Ask your boss to sign a letter to HR in which he or she endorses, that is, supports, your request for a promotion. (If he or she says no, or doesn’t “deliver,” you may find out very quickly the real reason for your difficulty getting promoted.)

(b) Draft a letter to the Head of HR, advising him or her that you seek a promotion, handle a large workload, have received good reviews, and believe you would do a good job in the higher position. Mention, too, that your boss has told you HR makes promotion decisions, and that he also has given you a letter of support, which is attached.

(c) In your letter to the Head of HR, ask that you be told, with candor, that: (1) you are in line for a promotion, or (2) what more or better you might do to become deserving of one, or (3) that you are not considered “promotion material” by HR, and are unlikely to ever get one. (It really comes down to those three alternatives.)

(d) If you do not receive a helpful response, keep seeking one from HR, or Senior-most Management.

You will very likely soon learn the answer to your quandary: (a) if you will one day get a promotion, or (b) what you need to do to get one, or (c) that you won’t get one at this company, no matter what you do. No response, or no “responsive” response, would indicate to me that you are – for some reason people don’t want to discuss – not likely to get a promotion in the future. Better to know that than not to know that.

Then the proverbial “ball is in your court.” That is, you need to make a decision: “Is this a company I want to stay working for, as it is likely I will never get promoted?”

That is my suggestion for your consideration, and I hope it helps you get the promotion you deserve.

Best, Al Sklover

P.S.: Don’t know what to say, or how to say it? We offer a Model Letter Requesting a Raise or Bonus. To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Print Article