7 Dark Reasons Why Good Workers Don’t Get Promoted

You might be one of the top performers in your company or department – maybe the top performer. But you don’t get promoted – why? It could be that you lack a critical skill, or maybe even a significant credential. But just as often – maybe even more often – is something less objective, less holy. Though we prefer to believe that the world truly works on a merit system and rewards top performers, there are dark reasons why good workers don’t get promoted.

Here are seven of them, and I’ll bet you can come up with a few more without even thinking about it for too long.

1. They Need You Right Where You Are

Every department relies heavily on a small group of people to carry the load. There may be 10 people in a department, but the heavy lifting is done by just one or two. These are the “go to people”, and everyone loves them, especially when there’s a difficult task to be parceled out, or a busy season to be survived.

7 Dark Reasons Why Good Workers Don't Get Promoted
7 Dark Reasons Why Good Workers Don’t Get Promoted

Sometimes go-to people do get promoted. But in too many situations, management wants such people right where they are, keeping the system in balance. Yes, promoting them may be the right thing to do, but it might not happen if doing so will significantly upset the workflow in the department.

For their own convenience, the powers-that-be may choose to leave you exactly where you are. Instead, they might promote somebody who is less capable, because the move won’t be as disruptive.

There’s even a name for this phenomenon: The Peter Principle. It holds that every employee tends to rise one step above their level of competence. It also goes a long way toward explaining why so many managers are mediocre – or worse.

2. You May be Too Independent

It’s often true that the most productive people in any organization are also the most independent. That’s because independence is a big part of what drives them to be so efficient. It’s one of the qualities that creates the much coveted self-starter.

But organizations and bosses don’t always see independence as a positive trait. They might politely tolerate it because you are so productive. But at the same time, they may not want to reward it either.

In an organization, everyone is first and foremost a link in the chain. Systems tend to promote people who recognize their link status, and are comfortable with it. Sadly, if you are an innovator, your efforts to change the workflow are not always considered in a positive light. It’s a phenomenon of the times that we can refer to as systems over people.

In such an environment, management may prefer people who are more compliant to those who are self-reliant. The compliant will be promoted precisely because they aren’t expected to rock the boat.

3. You May be a Threat to Your Boss

I’ve seen this in different organizations, and I’ll bet that you have too. There are people in the department who are more competent and capable than the manager who oversees them. It’s not just the rank-and-file who are aware of this either – the boss is only too aware of it.

The boss may have reached his position of rank due to some factors that we’ll discuss below. But suffice it to say that he may be keenly aware of the potential threats that exist in the food chain in his own department. He may even have evolved into an expert practitioner in regard to keeping those threats – the most productive people – from taking his job.

While on the one hand, as one of the most productive people in the department, you may insulate your boss from her own incompetence. But at the same time, if she believes you’re threatening her position, you can rest assured that your name is featured prominently on some sort of unwritten hit list.

This can also explain why from time to time your job is threatened. It’s not just how you feel, it’s what’s really happening. Every so often, a less-than-capable manager will execute an assault on people in the department who he considers to be a threat.

It’s something of a periodic beat-down process, in which the boss is letting you know who’s in charge. The least secure bosses tend to do it the most frequently. It can take the form of either unwarranted criticism of your performance, and extend even to threatening your job.

It’s not that you’re not getting the job done, but rather that you’re getting it done too well. It’s what can happen if your own competence and standing within the organization represents a threat to your boss.

4. You Don’t “Fit the Suit”

I once worked for a large pharmaceutical company where everyone in critical management positions were tall, white men. I also worked for a national mortgage company in which everyone of rank within our department chain was a woman. Then I worked for a smaller mortgage company where most of the sales staff were 20-something Ivy League (or equivalent) graduates. Get the picture?

While it’s comforting to believe that organizations hire the best and brightest candidates available as a matter of survival, it’s not always true.

Many organizations have an unspoken concept of who represents the most desirable employees. Very often, it’s an attempt to build a certain image. For example, a company may try to position itself as young, vibrant and attractive. They will attempt to make this image a reality by hiring people who are consistent with that profile.

This is a major reason for age discrimination, a particular form of employment discrimination that’s much more rampant than believed, but rarely challenged legally. If you don’t “fit the suit” you probably won’t be hired – and certainly not promoted. And if the “suit” is modified in a way that excludes you after you’ve been hired, you probably won’t be there for very long.

5. You’re Not an Insider

“Insider” can refer to different attributes, depending on the organization. Nepotism – the practice of hiring and promoting family members – is one example. Promoting people who fit the suit is another.

But insider status can also be acquired and maintained by those who are most adept at getting “in” with the boss. This can include coworkers who act as informants for the boss. Such types are particularly welcomed by less capable managers who feel threatened by certain members of the staff. The informant is seen by the boss as a welcome ally. The fact that the employee may otherwise be below average is secondary. When promotion time comes, the informant may very well be at the top of the list.

Some people are very good at brown-nosing their way to greater influence within the organization. They succeed at least in part because bosses value loyalty very highly. And the more insecure the boss is, the more that loyalty is likely to be rewarded in the form of both praise and promotions.

6. You Have Incompatible Outside Interests

What you do outside the job should have no effect on the job itself. But I think we all know that isn’t true.

Everybody likes surrounding themselves with people of similar interests, and the workplace is no exception. Management may have a preference for promoting people with certain interests, such as sports, religion or even family status. For example, management may prefer single people who don’t have family obligations to compete with the job. Or they may see single people as more likely to be party animals to hang out with.

Management may also see the job as extending into social activities. Have you ever worked in an organization where management was particularly fond of drinking after work, or at extracurricular activities? I have, and I learned that if you’re not a drinker yourself, your status in the organization will be lower.

I’ve worked in companies that made a regular practice of attending after work happy hours. Some purposely scheduled meetings after working hours and at venues that serve alcohol. Each meeting seamlessly melds into happy hour.

In such environments it often seems as if management is looking for drinking buddies more than competent, productive employees.

If you notice that the prominent people in the department or organization seem to have a common bond of certain extracurricular activities – that you don’t share – the likelihood of getting promoted will be greatly reduced.

7. Someone Doesn’t Like You

I saved this reason for last precisely because it’s the most obvious. But if your boss, your boss’s boss, or one of your boss’s informant first lieutenants doesn’t like you, you won’t be promoted. You may even spend a lot of time in the doghouse, despite being one of the most productive members of the staff.

Personal preferences do have an effect on promotions. In fact, they are central to the existence of the organization. The problem is that organizations can often resemble popularity contests – it’s like high school all over. And the rules are the same.

I’m guessing that everyone has been on the losing side of this arrangement. It doesn’t matter how well you do in your job, or even what other people in your department or your organization – or even the customers and clients – think about you. If the people who are in a position to promote you don’t like you on a personal level, your future with the organization is extremely limited.

Final Thoughts on Dark Reasons Why Good Workers Don’t Get Promoted

So what’s the point of detailing all these dreary circumstances? It’s to let you know that sometimes you’re just in the wrong place. This list can help you identify that fact. And if that’s where you are, you may need to move to a different department or employer in order to move forward in your career.

As an example, a very competent and highly productive coworker of mine – working in an organization where he was never going to be promoted – changed jobs and was immediately made the department head in the new company. You may have to do the same thing.

The other reason for this article is to help you to understand that when you seem to be under attack on your job it may have nothing to do with you or your performance. You may be doing everything right, but you’re being attacked because of the incompetence and insecurity of the people higher up in the chain of command.

Have you ever experienced any of these situations? What did you do about it? And how did it turn out?

( Photo by AFGE )

138 Responses to 7 Dark Reasons Why Good Workers Don’t Get Promoted

  1. I found every point to be true. When still working (in a government setting) we always commented that the person who got the job was the one most like the managers making the selection. Or perhaps even worse, the person who got the job was the one the managers wanted to hand off to someone else so they didn’t have to deal with that person any longer.

  2. Hi Kathy – It’s the same in private sector jobs. I think it’s all driven by human nature, so the setting doesn’t really matter, the end result is always the same. Managers are looking for continuity and loyalty. Continuity is best maintained by keeping the strong performers exactly where they are.

    I think this is one of the major reasons I chose to become self-employed. After moving from one employer to another, I began to realize that it was the same all over, and my best strategy was to exit the asylum for good.

  3. Having been that person who made life easier for others to get the job done and trained others to be ready for promotion, I tolerated it until the point came in my life that it was time to step up to the plate and push all blocks in my path aside. I had been passed over by several reasons–One, I did the work of multiple people, second, I could supervise department without a manager present third,even though I was working 40 hours, I had another job so it was thought I didn’t need a promotion, fourth, I wasn’t part of the social group outside of work (too busy working 80 hours to make ends meet). I could go on with many more excuses but I finally went up to the head manager of the store and asked if I could be considered for a full time position listed in another store that was easy for e to get to. (One of my job conditions was that I could get to job by public transportation easily). 3 days after I made request, I was given the position by HR who wanted to know why I hadn’t been promoted 3 years ago as I was more than qualified to not only be a full timer but could also be considered for a manager position. Within 6 months of getting that position, I got my own department and I didn’t quit my other job until the 2 companies merged into one company.

  4. Wow Maria, that’s quite a story! You could have been the subject of this article! You took a risk stepping up to the plate but it worked out. It doesn’t always. Sometimes the department or company is so entrenched that they resist change. Fortunately that wasn’t the case with you. I’m glad it had a happy ending because it usually doesn’t.

  5. I’ve seen it happen time and again…someone simply doesn’t mesh well with a particular supervisor or organization and spends an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to make it work but once that person finally leaves, he or she often does quite well. A friend of mine, for example, has a BIG personality yet was trying to fit into a fairly subdued corporate environment. She stayed there for years trying to make it work and being passed over by supervisors. To their credit, they did tell her that she might do better somewhere else but it took her years to leave. Once she did though, to a start up organization, she did quite well and is much happier. (Conversely, I’ve also seen the ‘wrong’ people get promoted simply because of timing such as when a position has to be filled quickly after the departure of someone.) In any case, I think the takeaway is that, as you say, no matter what, we are all responsible for ourselves – our supervisors are not our parents and it is not up to them (or anyone else) to make things happen for us. If our career isn’t happening where we are for whatever reason, it’s no one’s responsibility but our own to do change it, even if that means making the effort to move on…

  6. Hi Suzy – It can be tough to leave a job in this job market. As good as “they” say things are, it’s not easy to find a new job, and there are problems with all employers to one degree or another. But even with that all being true, you can’t thrive if you’re in the wrong place. You have to determine that for yourself, and create a strategy to make the change. If not, you can stagnate, or even burn-out till the point where you get fired.

    Each of us will work best if we can find the right niche. If you’re in the wrong one, you have to remedy the situation. Circumstances rarely improve when you’re in a bad fit.

  7. Kevin, thank you so much for this article.

    I am a 40-year-old stay at home mom, a role I have played for nearly 4 years now.

    Before that I worked steadily in Accounting at various companies. My strong Excel skills and advance degree was never enough to earn me a promotion. Nor was familiarizing myself with most of the duties in our department, taking part in outside activities with co-workers, nor receiving a hand-written compliment for my hard work from the CEO of one company. In time, I was either pushed out due to lay-offs or in one terrible case, outright fired (my fault for offering to help fix the manager’s billing mess, to which I was later blamed for despite issues dating before my employment).

    My last position was a lay-off and I felt defeated at that point. I decided to stay home with my then 2-year-old. I genuinely felt I was a failure as a working woman.

    Flash forward to now and I am going back to work. I decided to read some articles why I was never promoted, and they all have the same answer. Basically, it was my fault. I worked too hard. I was not a team player. I was too positive (seen as naive) or negative. I was too independent. Basically, everything I did was wrong and it was my own fault.

    Your article is the first article I read where things clicked more for me. I am not a big drinker and my past co-workers were. I am not a church goer and almost all were steadfast about their religious beliefs. I am her independent. How am I supposed to be a team player when my job is reviewing and adjusting spreadsheets for a manager to present to the CEO?

    I see now while it was me, in the same instance it was not. I am not worried about promotions now, however it always haunted me what I was doing wrong to be passed over in favour of less experienced people.

  8. Hi Heidi – Organizations have a way of making us think that it’s always our fault. That’s probably to deflect blame from the organization or the people who are orchestrating the conflict. What ever the reason or the methodology, it works surprisingly well. It helps to know how it works though, and to realize that it’s not your imagination. It’s hard not to take it personally though. And sometimes it IS our fault. But if you know you’re getting the job done, and others know it too, then more likely it’s bogus.

    A former coworker of mine who was in management referred to it as a “set up” – as in you’re being set up to fail, or be fired. I’ve also heard the word “targeted”, when they’re looking to get rid of you. She called me up one day, completely flummoxed, asking my opinion about participating in a company management program to run off several employees, but to make it look like it was their fault. Knowing the company (I got a very generous offer to work there but ultimately turned it down) it was hardly a surprise. She felt a strong moral dilemma and didn’t want to do it. But if she didn’t, she’d be targeted. She stayed on with that company so my guess is that she fell in line and cooperated. She was making too much money to do otherwise.

    Knowing this reality can help you to know when it’s time to “get out of Dodge”. It can also help you to avoid internalizing it. I think most organizations practice some sorts of periodic beat down, maybe even extending to their protected employees. It’s to remind all staff that the organization – or the individual boss – is supreme. It’s like an exercise in discipline to remind you how powerless you really are in an organization.

    I realize that all sounds cynical, but between my wife and I we’ve been in enough organizations to know that it’s a pattern. In this article, I’ve attempted to summarize the different methodologies organizations use, and especially in the way they work to marginalize the most productive employees. It’s a sad state of affairs, but we always have to remember that organizations are really artificial families. They have all the dysfunction typical to families, but none of the emotional glue that ultimately holds families together.

    I hope your new experiences will be more positive. There really are some good employers out there, but they’re becoming less common as the general economy becomes more competitive and cut throat.

  9. Hi, i currently work in company where i work too hard thinking that by working hard i will be faster promoted. Every time job needs to be done i’m the first person ask to and always tapped on shoulder you are our best worker we are dependent on you, but then they brought another woman with 70% less experience who doesn’t even know how to do her job sits whole day watching youtube videos and from beginner in just 1.5 years they promoted her to be above me. My first thought off course is to leave but here in every company is the same

  10. Hi AJ – I think it may be that you’re SO GOOD at what you do they want you right where you are. In a way that’s a compliment, but it also keeps you from moving forward. It’s such a typical situation that it’s not easy to get out of. You may have to take your case to the higher-ups and let them know you want to be promoted. Maybe they think you’re happy right where you are? Otherwise you may have to go with another company.

  11. Thank you for this. There has been a continuing theme in my work experience. Recently, I was getting feedback from an interview where I was passed over, while outwardly praising me this manager told me it is often the ‘intangibles’ or the ‘soft skills’ that can prevent one from being promoted.
    I see now it is code for you are undoubtedly competent I don’t fit the suit. I find comfort in truth no matter what it is.

  12. Hi Cassandra – I know what you mean about finding comfort in the truth. A few years ago, in a non-business situation, I discovered a difficult truth. I was comforted learning it. Not because it changed the situation for the better, but because it confirmed what I had long believed. Sometimes it’s comforting just to know you aren’t going crazy, and that was the payoff for me.

    But getting back to your specific situation, you may also find comfort in realizing what happened to you is hardly an isolated or uncommon occurrence. It happens all the time, and doesn’t reflect negatively on you or your work performance. Employers look to promote certain types of people. If you’re not one of them, you won’t be promoted. It’s often best to survey the management lineup to know if you fit in. If you don’t, you shouldn’t expect to be promoted.

    It’s not a happy place to be, but it’s better than waiting for something that will never happen. That said, keep your eyes and ears out for opportunities with other employers where you might be a better fit. “Fit” matters more on a job than any of us realize. For example, some places make it a habit of promoting the least qualified people. That’s not an organization I’d feel at home in. Why they do it is based on some deep level of dysfunction, but it’s not a good environment, even if you’re not looking to get promoted.

  13. I work in a company for 7yrs now..i’m the only employee that have gotten a certificate for most valuable,most liked by the customers,i got award all through their reviews.i’m also the best when it comes to customers safety…it was proven through track records,on top of that i maybe the most intelligent because i have to define words and guide co-workers even correct those in position who’s expectingly to be of intelligence yet i would never be promoted.They would hire someone with less experience and even been fired ahead of me…..truth is i see myself at each one of the 7 reasons mention in this forum….these ppl have done everything to destroy my psychi but amaze that i haven’t. They expect the best of me but think the worse of me.

  14. Hi Joe – If there’s a silver lining to your story it’s that it’s a common one – and that’s unfortunate. We like to BELIEVE that promotions are based on merit, but in most situations I’ve seen, it was based on something else. In your case, the main problem (which shouldn’t be a problem at all) is that you’re good at what you do, and they want you right where you are now. If you’ve been there for 7 years, it means two things – they like you and your work (which is why you’re still there), but they aren’t going to promote you. You’ll either have to get comfortable with where you are, or look for another job that might promote you. It’s a tough place to be in.

  15. Yes, I have experienced this type of behavior from each one of my employers over the years. It seems that wherever I go I seem to be worshiped at the time of hiring and crucified shortly afterwards. It still baffles me and continues to block my professional goals today. It all started with the 1st employer I had after receiving my bachelor’s degree. My department manager had an associate degree, 7 years of experience, and was rumored to have been sleeping with the boss. She also happened to be making dozens of mistakes due to her unwillingness to forward projects to her teammates (who happened to be better equipped at catching and fixing errors). And, according to the CEO, production processing, and statistical analysis, I was the only employee who submitted each project error-free). I merely double-checked my work. And, eliminating errors saved our company thousands of dollars each year. This benefited all of us, and it proved valuable as we all received great bonuses at the end of each year. Little did I know that my eye for detail and amazing job performance would cause problems for so many people. One day, I was working in my office when my door slammed open. It was my manager and she seemed upset for some reason. She said to me, “Look! If you want my job, then just go ahead and take it.” I asked her, “What are you talking about?” She responded, “The CEO says you are the best employee he has here. He said you have more education than I do and have saved the company thousands of dollars;whereas, I am costing the company thousands of dollars due to my errors. So, he now wants to demote me to your position and promote you to manager over me.” I told her, “I told her, “I’m sorry he said that to you. My goal is to do a good job and save us money for our bonuses. This should be viewed as a reflection of your management skills. I don’t want your job. I just wish to do my job well.” After she left my office, I met with the CEO to confirm or deny these allegations. He confirmed it was true, so I asked him, “Why didn’t you approach me about this matter prior to telling my manager you were going to replace her with me?” He said, “I wasn’t interested in how it effected her or you. I am only interested in what is best for my company.” I told him, “Well, I wouldn’t accept the promotion under these circumstances.” He asked me, “What circumstances?” I replied “because of the way this delicate process was poorly handled, there is now considerable dissention in our department. And, moving forward, it will make working together very difficult–whether or not a change of position for either party takes place.” Ultimately, I ended up leaving this job for other opportunities. But, this same scenario seems to repeat itself everywhere I go. They like me because I have talents they don’t possess. But, at the same time, they feel increasingly threatened by me. I just don’t get it.

  16. Hi “Hyphen” – It’s happening where ever you go because it’s the way things work. With all the sensitivity emphasis today, management is still amazingly clumsy. But that issue of manager insecurity is eternal. A lot of managers spend more time looking back over their shoulders at potential usurpers than trying to do a better job. It’s a sad state of affairs, but it helps some to be aware of the situation from a big picture angle.

  17. It truly is a shame that these managers feel so insecure about their positions. But, given prior experiences (as mentioned in my previous post), I can understand their paranoia. Another boss I had promoted me twice before blocking me from advancing any further. He would always ask me to apply for internal positions, then avoid me by interviewing external applicants, and never interviewing me. After the fourth time, I told him I would not be applying again. In one instance, each of my co-workers were in a meeting with him to decide which candidate would get the open position. To my surprise, they all voted for me (according to them). All except for the Director (my boss). He said, “Hyphen will not be able to accept the position because he is moving away.” Everyone was shocked. So, they all came out to the front desk where I was working during the time of their meeting, and asked me, “What is this rumor we heard about your leaving us? We all voted for you to get the promotion, and you don’t even have the decency to tell us that you are moving away. After five years of working together, we were surprised to hear this from the Director and not you.” Again, I replied, “What are you talking about? I’m not moving anywhere. Why would he say such a thing?” So, basically, he lied to my colleagues and made up some story about me leaving to make it seem as though I didn’t want the promotion. I loved my job and the people I worked for, as well as our customers. This didn’t make sense to me. Next, he approached me, suggesting, “Why don’t you look into other employment opportunities, Hyphen? You will have more opportunities if you expand your horizons.” My coworkers reminded me of what it was like when our boss was the Assistant Director. The said he took the Director’s spot after he got her fired. Now, they say, he is paranoid that I may be getting too close to the throne. So, he is trying to eliminate me as a possible threat. It wasn’t long after this that I decided to leave the company for another opportunity–only to repeat the cycle. I am currently wondering if advancement opportunities are in my future. It’s become quite discouraging, Kevin.

  18. I think there are two things going on here. One the paranoid, insecure boss is close to a business institution. The other is career advancement is getting harder to come by. Years ago you could follow a career path, especially in a large organization. Today, I’m hearing the career ceiling is coming earlier in life. Where it used to be at age 50, today its often 40 and sometimes earlier. People are being hired to do Job X, and nothing more. So they sit in Job X until the become discouraged, or get laid off in a downturn, or fired on trumped up charges. It’s like the pie is shrinking, so there’s greater competition for the promotions that are out there, and more paranoia for those in the higher ranks.

    It’s really the economy. It’s more constrained than ever for about a dozen different reasons, and everyone is feeling more vulnerable. I think it’s also the reason so many people dislike their jobs, and of course the prime source for perpetual stress, as well as the demand from employers to constantly do a mistake-free job.

    Also, if you do land in a job where things are working out, stay there! The experiences you’re describing are more common of the job market today, so the grass usually isn’t greener on the other side.

  19. It’s an interesting article. In my situation, my colleague and I were up for a promotion for the partner role. Both of us are bringing in similar revenues and have similar case success rates. Although I have won the Senior Associate of the year for 2 years running – an award where junior and senior associates nominate their peers. I did not get the promotion, although while my colleague did. The Managing Partner informed me that the only reason for missing out was that the business can afford 1 new partner this year, and length of tenure drove their decision. Also she refused to give any assurances of a future promotion as she was not sure how firm needs may change in future. How do I read in to this message and what next!

  20. Hi Azhar – It doesn’t look like you’ve been given any message to read! The other person got the promotion, and you’ve been given no guarantee you’ll be promoted going forward. However, it’s clear you’re a highly regarded member of your firm, and almost got the promotion. Your situation may not be as bleak as you think right now. Assess the firm’s future prospects, and decide for yourself if the potential is there for a promotion. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where you’re going to have to trust your instincts. They may tell you more than any facts can.

  21. I am about to leave my employer for the last 6 years because of this. I was up for promotion, everyone around me said I was the obvious choice. I know the operation inside and out, spent countless hours at work and have given up vacations in order to keep things running smoothly.

    What happens? A guy who has only been with the company for two years and has no experience in our division gets promoted over me. Oh, and I am expected to train him!!

    Needless to say I am looking elsewhere for an opportunity for advancement.

  22. Hi Mike – I’m really sorry to hear about your all-too common situation. Some might argue you should stay and tough it out – what ever that means. But my thinking is you’ve been passed over, so the jig is up with this employer for you. If you’re fully qualified for the job, and you don’t get it, then they’re using some mystery criteria you aren’t privy to, and probably never will be. If it’s any consolation, anyone I’ve ever known in your situation – including myself – ended up better off leaving. Look past this misguided episode, be confident in your abilities, and bring your skills somewhere else.

  23. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks a ton for penning this article. Am sure every1 who reads it can identify while getting neglected for promotion. Unfortunately (or fortunately :)), I too came across this article after getting the short end of the stick. The only thing I would like to ask is how to decide if you have had enough or continue to put in the fight. My take – till the time you do not start doubting yourself and your capabilities. Would be a great perspective to read a few instances where a person fought his way through against nepotism/”only compliant reportees expected” managers and what it took.


  24. Hi Sameer – Unfortunately, I think getting rolled over and having your confidence destroyed is probably the more typical outcome. I have have read of some overcomer stories, even on this thread, but they seem to be in the minority. In too many cases, it comes down to some variation of “you can’t fight city hall”. When you’re on the wrong side of the power structure, success is an uphill fight, and you have to decide how much of yourself you want to spend on the effort. The dividing line is different in each job, and by the amount of leverage you have as an employee. That last point seems to be in decline in the current work environment.

  25. I use to be a popular and well liked worker worker but a few changes to management and staff and I?m one of the most unpopular workers for what ever reason,
    I work my socks off And it gets me nowhere..
    That?s life,

  26. Hi Robert – Your experience points out another trend I’ve noticed. If management sucks, the situation on the job will never change. It doesn’t matter how much the rank and file changes, if the same management remains in charge, the situation never improves. But the opposite can also happen, as it has with you. If good management is replaced by bad management, the situation can only get worse. And for what it’s worth, I’ve found bad management has a way of hanging around longer than good managers.

    My theory on this is that one of the telltale signs of a bad manager is strong survival skills. While good managers move on to greener pastures, bad managers developed finely honed skills at keeping their positions. They’re opportunists who will take credit for others ideas, and are always looking over their shoulders for anyone who might threaten their positions. The better bad ones become so good at it they can hang on for years, even while the department or the organization is collapsing around them. I’ve seen enough of this to know it’s a pattern.

    In my experience, you can’t ever outlast these bizarre humanoids. They’re better at being bad than everyone else is at being good, and they thrive in an organizational environment, especially a larger one.

  27. Awesome explanations for the bizarre things that I saw happen in a previous job. With 20/20 hindsight, I saw it happen to many of my co-workers. In a family-owned business, the dysfunction within the family is superimposed on job performance. When it comes right down to the line, however, family will win. I am retired and advise everyone to do what ever you need to do to stash away $ for when it is time to “get out of Dodge”. The ability to thumb your nose and walk away when it is time will help you retain your self respect, health and sanity.

  28. Hi Jodie – I couldn’t agree more. Being frugal, and saving and investing money isn’t just about hoarding money to become rich. It’s more about preparing for whatever life might throw at us, and to give us options when it hits. If you have low living expenses, little or no debt, and a generous amount of savings and investments, you can walk away from bad situations without threatening your survival. Not to mention, it avoids all the stress and anger that comes any time we feel trapped.

    Folks, even if you’ll never be rich, you can be in a good place financially. If all it does is allow you to live life on your own terms, that’s all that really matters.

  29. Hi Kevin
    This was such a helpful article, thank you. I have worked in my company for 20+ years, and in that time I have transformed my area of the business: more impact, more income and a happier, more productive team. I was asked to deputise for my boss, taking on management of a larger group which I did very successfully for a year, my immediate boss was very happy with my performance. Then the organisation decided to re-structure and the interim job I had been doing was advertised as a permanent role. I applied and didn’t get it – instead they have hired someone who has been at the organisation for a very short time with much less experience than me and no understanding of our field. The feedback on my interview was insulting, informing me of all my development needs. In reality I know that my face doesn’t fit, I do have a habit of speaking out when I don’t agree with something. My immediate boss could not hide his surprise at the feedback. As much as I love my job and the team, I think now has to be the time to leave. And if this situation is the same the world over, I think working for myself has to be answer.

  30. Hi Faye – I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with money. You said the person they hired has much less experience. So maybe that person is being paid less than they’d have to pay you. Money is always an issue no matter what they say. But it could also be a power issue. If you did the job so well, and others in the department see it, it could be a threat to someone higher up the chain.

    Yes, this is a compelling reason to become self-employed. Even if you only start as a side business, you’ll be heading in the right direction and building a future for yourself, that will make the job more tolerable in the meantime. Then when you’re ready to take the leap of faith to full time self-employment, you’ll already have the business and a cash flow up and running.

  31. Thank you for this article. Your 7 reasons are 99.9% right on with me. So now I know why I will never get promoted. I will wait it out till Jan/Feb 2020 and have a recruiter get me a position where it is a move-up at another company. I will still give it 100% or more where I am at, but all I think about is my weekly paycheck.

  32. Thanks Paul, I’ve seen and experienced all seven myself. I think that’s a good strategy on your part. Usually, the only way to move forward is to move out. Maybe, just maybe, your current employer will recognize your value and see that you’re serious about moving forward, and come back with a solid counter offer. Often it takes a dramatic move just to get noticed because organizations like nothing better than the status quo. And if they don’t make a counter offer, you’ll have all the validation you need that it was time to go. Unfortunately, employers often can’t/won’t/refuse to see our value. That’s their problem, not ours.

  33. Hi Kevin!

    What a fantastic article and so spot on! I am pretty positive I have experienced all 7 of these in my current position at a company I have been with for 6 years. I really love the work I do and have spent the majority of my career never giving any less than 150%. I also went through a separation early in my career and lost focus, was put on an improvement plan and end getting my focus back and have given nothing less than 150% since. But after reading your article I realize that maybe I will just never be valued in a way that I deserve. Being a single mom makes it difficult to just find something else that has just as good pay and benefits. They know I can?t just up and leave so they have me right where they want me.

  34. Hi Corie – There’s one potential situation for you that may be holding you back, and that’s what you mentioned about being “put on an improvement plan”. It’s possible that that episode is still haunting you. Management still sees you as you were, and can’t move past it. They may feel that they did you a charity and now you owe them. Of course, I don’t know this for sure because I’m not there. But a lot of times your past may be forgiven, but it’s not forgotten. It’s just something to keep in mind as you move forward in life.

  35. Hi Kevin,
    I just love this post. It truly opened my eyes, because for years I’ve wondered what is going on?. I have applied for 20 positions since 2015 within my company. I work for the largest school district in Detroit Mich. by the way. I went back to school and obtained by BBM, MSA in PA, and my Ed.S. in General Education and still have not moved. I’m in the Central Office sector of the company (the business office if you will). However, I’ve always been seen as the POC of every department I work in and the work horse as well.

    I’ve been told that I am ridged/combative and vocal. That said, I realize that I have boundaries which I learned to implement earlier on in life. I am 54 years old with 3 1/2 years left here before I can retire. I’ve noticed that it has never been about my work (they love that) it’s always been personal. I’ve since realized that they never have hired based upon merit. One manager even said it in an email (how off was that? LOL).

    Well, you have actually shed some light for me because I knew something was wrong. They have written numerous people out of the budget, but I seem to always be kept, but just not promoted.

  36. Hi Valerie – Yours is an all to common conundrum. I suspect they want you exactly where you are and that’s become the obstacle, with the personality “issues” as a smoke screen. But since you have 3.5 years before retirement, maybe just ride it out, then go sailing off into the sunset when your eligibility arrives. They’ll be the worse for it, and at only 57 you’ll still be young enough to apply yourself in more suitable career situations, supported by a pension.

    The cream always rises to the top, and you need to think of yourself as the cream and go from there. And maybe between now and then you can start thinking about what you want to do with the next phase of your life, and make any necessary advanced preparations now. Preparing for your great escape is one of the most emotionally healthy ways to deal with an unpleasant situation. You have that opportunity now.

  37. Your comment on the importance of having the same outside interests hit home. Many years ago I found myself in a job where my coworkers loved to go to karaoke bars. (I was aghast when I found out). My coworkers also liked to party after-hours, which I’ve never liked to do. Needless to say, I lasted only a short time at this place, which was a shame because in a more serious environment, I could have polished my skills.

    You can — and,should be — respectful of your colleagues. But if you soon find yourself in an uncomfortable cultural and social milieu, it’s best to find work elsewhere.

  38. Hi Lobo – It’s unfortunate but true that if you’re an outsider in the group, your prospects are likely to be very limited. I’m guessing that by leaving and going to another employer your situation improved.

  39. This was an excellent article. Interestingly, I found it when I Googled “Why Worker Bees Aren’t Promoted.” You confirmed many things that were circling in my head. Another point for consideration: Sometimes a position is created with a certain person in mind. It has absolutely nothing to do with you as a faithful employee. The position might be for the son of the boss; as a favor to a colleague at another company by hiring the spouse of a person who another company desperately wants but needs to find something for the wife/husband. Sometimes the position is there to cultivate favors out of someone who has an important position in the government or a business, thus hiring this person’s son, daughter, etc., might yield results down the road.

  40. That’s the nepotism factor Jay, and I hadn’t thought about it as a common occurrence, but I think you might be right. I’ve been told in the past that many promotions are filled before the job is even posted. The candidate has already been selected, but the employer goes through the motions with the posting. It gives the appearance an exhaustive search was undertaken, when in fact that was never the case from the very beginning. It also neatly explains why fully qualified candidates apply for jobs and never hear back, even in this allegedly “tight” job market.

    I think nearly everyone can relate to at least some of the situations in this article. It isn’t any kind of brilliance on my part, but rather that they’re so obvious everyone can see them, and everyone’s experienced them on a personal level.

  41. I am an older white female and am continuously excluded from any opportunities at my workplace. All the favorites and promotions are hispanics. It is clear and obvious this is what is occurring but nothing is ever done about it. Minority’s dominate and give each other a hand up on a continuous basis. I feel very discouraged and know I will never be given an opportunity. This had been going on for 10 years. It was actually pointed out to me by a hispanic co-worker. I feel very unappreciated for my strengths. The truth is hispanics were mistreated in the past its true but now in only promoting hispanic coworkers they are repeating the same discrimination that was done to them.

  42. Hi Courtney – There’s no question there are various forms of reverse discrimination now taking place with many employers. I’ve seen it firsthand myself. Employers, particularly large ones, are under significant pressure to hire and promote minorities. For my own self, as a white male, I felt that self-employment was my best option in this kind of environment.

    That said, there’s no question that minorities, including Latinos, have been traditionally excluded or held in the lowest positions as a matter of cultural bias. The situation is even more pronounced with African-Americans. So on the one hand I get that there’s an intentional effort to reverse the injustices of the past.

    But on the other hand, as a productive member of the workforce, I’ve chosen to exclude myself from corporate/government employment, where these practices have become forced at the expense of often better qualified people. And given that I earn my living on the web, I regularly interact with people of all races and colors, as well as people in foreign countries. As long as people are motivated and trustworthy, their race or national origin isn’t an issue in my life. You find that to be true when you’re operating on a truly level playing field, which is easier to find when you’re self-employed. I prefer that kind of world to one dominated by white people, and find both life and work are richer when we openly accept others who are different from us.

    I must say though that I’ve never seen an employer intentionally favoring Latinos. Is your employer Latino owned? But in my own experience – and some would call this a form of discrimination ? Latinos generally outwork their American-born counterparts. They have a strong cultural emphasis on hard work, and will usually do the jobs others won’t.

    I have a lot of respect and admiration for Latinos, and feel they are making America a better place. They better embrace and embody the traditional American values of hard work and self-reliance than most of the rest of us.

    I know that’s not the response you were looking for, but I like to look at both sides of these complicated, big picture issues. I found myself resenting the forced work practices of large employers, but I have no problem working and dealing with people of all backgrounds out in the real world. But then, there was a lot about working in the corporate world that I couldn’t stand anyway. Reverse discrimination was only one of them. For example, watching slackers get themselves promoted through politics was much more irritating to me.

    If you find the situation where you are now to be intolerable, it’s probably time to move on to someplace else. All employers are doing this to one degree or another now, especially the larger ones. But it’s a matter of degree, and can vary significantly from one company to another. It may be decision time in your life.

  43. Working in the UK rail industry has taught me that being the “in with the boss” helps. But mostly they don’t promote the hard workers, they promote the lazy ones that know all the shortcuts. Our maintenance KPIs are not how good a fix is, is how many jobs are signed off as complete. Most won’t sign a job that is not done to satisfaction. Others will sign anything and when a train breaks down with passengers onboard they get blamed. The trick is signing off as much as you can without the train breaking down and being able to cover yourself when it does.

  44. Hi Robert – I think what you’re describing is a universal truth. It’s not who’s truly good who get the praise and promotions, but those who know how to make everything look good. It’s easier to do when you’re in with the boss or other higher ups. In my experience, such people develop a talent for effective window dressing, and it seems to work. My suspicion is that it works because many of the higher ups did the same thing to work their way up the ladder, and they have genuine respect for underlings who can do the same.

    For a deeper discussion of this topic, and how widespread it is, read this article. What’s sad is that NOTHING in it was a surprise to me at all! Stupefied: How organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door. I hated what that article said as much as I knew it to be true.

  45. I am working as an intern and my Boss is happy as I am outperforming my tasks well and also all Thnx to you my meetings and discussions are making me to get the job soon,Sir I had a query in one of the line where you said “good workers are not promoted” Sir i was reading about same topic on another article https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/8-things-you-should-avoid-want-make-your-monday-nehaa-beotra- Please let me know what correct measures I should implement to be the apple of my Boss eyes

  46. Hi Pravar – Thanks for sending that article link, it’s a good one. I especially liked #7 – “You are too busy being Good to everyone” – that really can be a problem. But I’d add that you maintain close contact with your boss, and find out what needs to be done that isn’t being done. You may need to add a skill or two. The combination could make you promotable, even if only out of fear of losing you. And if they don’t promote you, you may be in a better position to get a better job somewhere else.

    Sometimes we have to work to promote ourselves, rather than relying on our employers. We can do that by increasing our skills and becoming better than our coworkers at our jobs.

  47. I have read majority of everyone post and Kevin Mercadante responses. I am glad I came across this article. My story is a little different. It’s from religion organization. But the same outcome is the same as the secular organization. Like most of us. I worked hard, I proved myself and did what I suppose to do and help others. But when promotions came I was passed over not only twice but over 5 times. It was because I was a double threaten and jealous, envy, manipulation, slander, and pushing me under the bus. I agreed with everyone that mention, family, friends of the family, husband/wife, people will money, suck ups, snitches, hanging out, dress code, control, being railroad etc., Every time promotion came up. I passed up every time. However, I would be kept around to be used. But, I notice I would get set up all the time for someone else to get promoted. They would steal my work, my ideas and a whole lot of competitions against me and the opponents that they was already promoted but used me to embarrassing me. And, I felt strongly that people who I thought was my friends had a lot to do with it. Who had turned on me and I was shocked and in unbelief. Yes, I am not going to lie, it hurt, it was painful, it was depressing, it was humiliated to have to be around people who already knew the game and knew who was going to get promoted. Yes, I cried many nights and the funny thing about it. I was expected the promotion because, I have a special need child and they all knew it and even met my child. My daughter was at every gathering that we was inviting to, though I had to paid every time while everybody got in free. They all saw my up’s and down’s and even the boss let me bring my child to work. They all saw me struggle but maintain my professional status. And they was ok with me donating money to the causes. Money I didn’t have but they did not care. And, yes I do blame myself a little but I earned everything that I worked for but no promotions prevailed. And,two week ago, promotion came up again. Guess who did not get the promotion once again. You guess right me. I got to the point to say enough is enough. I am done and I am not going back. I am not going to let them use me anymore. I wasted 4 1/2 years of my time dealing with them. I done with them. There is a meeting coming up and they expect me to be there so they can use me. I am done. I am not going back. Companies and organizations of any kind that play those type of games are cruel and mean. I am working on myself respect, restore positive energy within me and improve my self dignity, self integrity and self-worth. I didn’t fail I just learned and moved on to become self-sufficient, self-reliant and be my own boss. Thank you for posting this article. I really needed to know that others are going through the same thing I been going through. I have a clear direction and picking up the broken pieces and shattered glass on the ground and make me a glass house to look out of and say. I made it out and thank all the people who post that I could move on and don’t have to be stand-still anymore. Thank you so much

  48. Thank you for this article! I found myself in each of the seven points, but especially the third point. My former supervisor often reminded me that she was the boss, as if I could ever forget. She also threatened me with poor performance and a suspension without pay for conduct issues. What made this difficult to believe is that the same former supervisor had submitted my name for an award for outstanding performance. She also indicated in a reference check that I was a good employee and did a good job. When the former supervisor tried to place me on a performance improvement plan along with the suspension, I decided to resign. I later retired. I’m so glad I refused to work the performance improvement plan and the suspension. I told management that I disagreed with both. In case you’re wondering what started the whole thing is this: the former supervisor told me to increase my numbers in an analysis and I refused. I reported my analysis based on supporting documentation. A coworker verified the accuracy of my analysis, thus disagreeing with the former supervisor. After that, the supervisor became more difficult to be around. I no longer have to put up with insecure and incompetent management, unfair performance appraisals and ratings, discrimination, a hostile work environment and office politics.

    Again, thank for this article. I thank everyone who shared their experiences. I see now what was going on and I’m not crazy!

  49. Hi Betty – One of the worst aspects of your situation and that of others is how it messes with your mind. You may be doing all the right things and have all the facts in your favor. But ultimately, the boss(es) have that all-important authority. There are departments and businesses that run on a “reality be damned” basis. It completely mystifies me that the even survive. But the fact that they do only solidifies the incompetence and bad decisions. After many years I’ve concluded that if you’re in a situation like that you have to get out. It won’t get better, you won’t outlast management, and they’ll be a mess long after you’re gone. But if you leave, you at least have a chance to salvage your sanity and self worth. Both are well worth protecting. Never let your life be destroyed by a job, there are too many other more serious issues to deal with in life.

  50. If transitioning from temp to full-time counts as a “promotion”, then I’ve had my fair share of experiences. I’m young and looking to settle down in a company for the foreseeable future but there’s just no luck. I’m always punctual, quick to adapt to the workplace, and I’m always working those extra hours when required to. Just recently I was “forced out” and it hurt me deeply. I’m working as a temp and before even starting I let my manager know I was looking for full time employment. He was supportive and encouraged me along the way but literally after reaching my required 500 hours or 3 months of work, I was let go due to work being slow. I was one of four from my department that were told that work was slow and not to come in for the remaining two days of the week. The following week arrives, there’s no call as to when I can return or if I can return so I decide to switch shifts from morning to afternoon after waiting two days. I ran into my supervisor and he said, “It was out of his control… you really are too smart for this place, etc…” The kicker in this conversation was that three of the four that were let go already had returned on Monday and the key factor that was the reason why I was not called back was because I had less hours than the others. You work hard, do your best but ultimately that doesn’t mean anything.

  51. Hi RJ – I hate to sound like a prophet of doom, but what you’re going through isn’t unusual. We all desperately want to believe that we live and work in a meritocracy, but that simply isn’t true – at least not anymore. Most employment situations today are setup to be “plug-and-play”. That is, every employee in the organization is readily replaceable. I’m even hearing stories of that in the tech and healthcare fields, which are the last careers you’d expect to find that.

    Unfortunately, the economic system as it is now has commodified everything, including employees. Employers may like employees who are good at what they do, but they seem to show little reluctance to replace them with less productive people if it works better in the short term.

    Also, I often think employers specifically target shedding more capable employees. It could be they’re more comfortable with the lower performers, and consider them less likely to either leave or to expect promotion. After all, it’s not just employees who are trying to keep their jobs, but also managers. One of the best ways to do that is by eliminating the best competitors. If I hadn’t seen that kind of thing happen firsthand, I’d never believe it myself.

  52. I relate myself to #s 1,2,6. For the #3 I am not sure. I have been awarded as well as the “Go-to person” but never got any promotion even if I always exceed my target. Someone else was awarded when I reached the 97% collection target which is far beyond the target for each individual in APAC region. Been in that company for more than 3yrs and still I remained in the associate position while my other colleagues during our process migration (being in the pioneer team) from other accounting dept are either senior or even handling people already. I even trained newbies. At the end of my 3rd yr. I got burned out to the set up and tried checking internal job posting but since most of the job openings are in the night shift which I am not capable of due to my insomnia, I rather deciced to leave the company and find another. I was surprised that in my new company almost all the people like my Teamlead, Finance Head and other colleagues from other dept.like in customer care, AP and GL appreciate all the efforts I did and even relied their inquiries to me in my 1st less than 2-month stay.

  53. Your experience goes to show that very often the only way to improve a stagnant job situation is to leave. Sometimes they keep you where you’re at because you lack certain qualifications. But I believe most times it’s because you’re doing such a good job where you’re at – including making the bosses look good – that they want you exactly where you’re at. In either case, your chance of being promoted is about zero. The evidence is always when less capable people are promoted over you. Any time you see something like that, it’s a definite sign that it’s time to leave.

    Good luck in your new job, it sounds better already!

  54. This article is such an eye-opener for me. I have spent my entire career thinking that it was me. And it is — being too productive, too analytical, too independent (even though my work requires it). I have also spent a good bit of my career thinking I could figure out the dynamics. Kevin, thank you for putting this information out there for me to receive.

  55. Hi Martha – Glad you stopped by and read this article. I felt pretty confident writing it because I’ve been on so many jobs where I saw this happen – to me and to others. It’s important not to internalize it. Sure, it helps to self-evaluate and make improvements where necessary. But in too many situations, we can find ourselves in jobs where one or more of these factors is conspiring against us. If you are, the best strategy is usually to move on to another job. There are places out there that do recognize and promote on merit – they’re just not that common.

    Also, if you change jobs, think long and hard about the personal qualities and behaviors you’ve exhibited in the past that may have led to you being pigeonholed on different jobs. Then try to make some adjustments in your performance to avoid a similar outcome. For example, while it may be desirable to continue to be highly productive, be careful not to allow yourself to become a dumping ground for work others are either unwilling to do or incapable of doing.

    There’s a difference between being productive and being taken advantage of. You’ll want to maintain the former while avoiding the latter.

  56. If someone try to.comply all above 7 reasons, he wont remain good n productive anymore 🙂

    So keep working without, if not ur boss, then your destiny has always something to reward you in other form.

  57. Thank you for this article highlighting some very important unspoken truths about the workplace. Having recently been let go, I have been grappling / agonising over what went wrong, and can now see that my incompetent / lazy boss felt threatened by my hard work / contribution / results. He even favoured the highly incompetent in the team, as he himself is very insecure. He fabricated nonsense about my underperformance. I was devastated, as I loved the work, but in reality, if you don’t get along with the boss, it makes working life a place of hell, and no job is worth that sacrifice! In hindsight, I wish I knew about these truths, so I could’ve cared less and not stressed so much.

  58. Hi Andy – If you’re one of the top producers in your company or department you’ll tend to care – and it will affect you deeply – even if you do know what’s going on. Some people are wired to care, while others are wired to do the minimum (or less if it’s permitted) and just get by. You can’t change who you are and how you’re wired. I also think that your wiring is the main reason you’re a go-to person. That’s not something that needs to be changed. People like you are the ones that move things forward and make things happen. Your old employer will need to find a similar person to carry the load like you were.

    Being let go was probably the best thing that could happen to you, because you were clearly in the wrong place. If you’re surrounded by people who don’t care or are incompetent you’ll be doomed to carrying more than your share, and you’ll never be recognized for it. The politics of the situation just doesn’t allow it. Also – very important – you were in a toxic environment that was probably dragging down your attitude and crushing your spirit. You can’t and shouldn’t stay in that kind of situation any longer than necessary.

    Do your best to find another job where merit and extra effort are appreciated and rewarded. Once you do, you’ll wonder why you ever stayed on that job as long as you did. But lesson learned, right?

  59. I pray for the day we see the end to at will employment and ageism in the workplace.

  60. Agreed, Dave. But there are serious obstacles. The virus has probably made ageism even more pronounced. A lot of jobs are likely to be reduced to part-time with no benefits. Those jobs will appeal most to younger workers, and younger workers will be preferred to older ones on the grounds that they’re less likely to contract the virus or some other condition. Anybody over 50 – or even 40 – is going to have to look outside-the-box to find ways to earn a living. I suspect the biggest change from the pandemic will be a wholesale change in employment. Companies will adapt, and cutting payrolls is always one of their favorite methods.

  61. Kevin, One ray of light at the end of the tunnel I see is this. I’m 62, and since this last recession, I’ve had to work both a full-time job, and a part-time job, yet still make 22% less than I did in 2010. I think older workers need to get side gigs (I teach part-time as an evening adjunct at a community college in a 9 month welding program. No masters degree required, I do have a bachelors degree, but just real world experience is the main requirement. Pays decent too and nice culture). In my day job I deal with industrial accounts that are crying for welders, machinists, millwrights, electricians, plumbers, etc. One can make a decent living as a machinist, and young people tend to shy away from less glamorous jobs and industries. Some employers are finding that hiring young and cheap is a slippery slope. I see a lot more CDL truck drivers in the 50s-70s range now. Maybe older displaced workers, who are still healthy, need to look towards dirty, nasty, less glamorous jobs, or retraining in 9-18 month vocational programs. I’ve spent 13 years in a dirty unglamorous industry. When I was interviewed I was told “this is a dirty unglamorous industry”. “Glamour doesn’t pay my mortgage”, I replied. That got me hired.

  62. I’ve heard the same thing about younger workers. Not motivated, not punctual, can’t be pushed, and don’t want to do the dirty jobs. I don’t want to paint with a broad brush, but there’s too much smoke coming out of that fire, and I’ve seen some of it myself.

    In a surprise turnaround, older workers could possibly have a better chance in this economy. A worker who is 62 or older may be able to collect Social Security, enabling him or her to make less employment income. And at 65 or older, being on Medicare means no need for health insurance. In combination with experience and reliability, older workers could actually turn out to be the favorite choice among employers in a whole bunch of industries.

    That’s me projecting this theoretically, and there’s no guarantee that’s how it will play out. But I can see it happening in certain industries. If you’re not in one of them, then I fully agree with your suggestion to create a side gig. With the under-employment I expect to see in the coming years, I think side hustles are going to become both necessary and common. It’s just a matter of how quickly the average worker will embrace that shift.

  63. Also, at will employment is another very egregious practice. The ability of employers to terminate employees on a whim for any willy nilly reason, or no reason at all, is terrible. I’ve been called in, blind sided, and kicked to the curb, and it’s a terrible experience. I understand in Canada that’s there’s no at will. There’s some kind of a reasonable notice, and an employer must show cause for the separation. Gross misconduct aside, I pray for the day the US ends at will employment. Maybe God will answer me.

  64. Unfortunately, at-will employment is part of the happy little “American way”. It’s part of how we maintain “full employment” while other industrialized countries struggle with double-digit unemployment. But as most of us know, it’s a hollow arrangement. A person who lacks long-term employment stability can’t make long-term plans, at least not any that are likely to stick. I don’t favor a return to the old union system, because having worked in unions I’m well aware how they carry the least productive workers, and even encourage low production. But there has to be some happy medium, in which the employer will owe the employee some sort of dignified termination. Of course, that’s hard to rationalize when an employee is seriously deficient.

    But the at-will employment arrangement is a lot of what drove me toward self-employment. If I won’t have any kind of real job security, I may as well work freelance – without the pretense or implication of job security – and get paid more for my work. The ironic outcome of that arrangement however is that I’ve had some clients for years, like longer than I’ve ever held a “permanent job”.

    We’re all going to have to get used to this less secure employment situation, and find ways to make it work to our own advantage. It’ll take letting go of our ideas of how the workplace should be, and a willingness to embrace change. As my wife often says, the current system isn’t working well anyway, so what difference does it make if it goes away? I have to agree.

    If you’re an older worker, with diverse work experience and some financial assets, you’ll probably be better able to make the adjustment than a lot of younger workers. That’ll be even more true if you have Social Security or a pension. Multiple income sources will be the key to surviving in the future. If anything, it’s likely that jobs will become even less stable than they are now.

    By the way, I’m not attempting to be a prophet of doom here. Rather, I’m trying to be a watchman on the wall warning people of what’s coming so they can prepare themselves to survive and thrive. There’s absolutely nothing noble about putting on the rose-colored glasses and being optimistic when circumstances are clearly going in the opposite direction.

    I’d advise anyone who thinks otherwise to read up on the Stockdale Paradox. That excessive optimism can often work against you is a real possibility because it leaves you unprepared for bad outcomes.

    I believe in God and have come to trust that He’ll enable me to provide for myself. It’s what I do with the opportunities He hands me that matters. People often sit around waiting for a miracle without realizing miracles typically come with requirements that we have to meet. That usually means taking a step in faith and putting out effort. I’ve never known it to fail.

  65. Kevin, Not trying time over post comments. I too am a man of faith. I once looked through rose colored glasses at what I thought life should be, rather than what life often is really like. After many years of slap downs, it took me well into middle age where I started trusting my gut, and stopped giving the benefit of the doubt so freely. Matthews gospel tells us “be wise as Selena’s and gentle as doves”. I now give an employer a good faith effort, and that’s it, but I don’t trust any employer as far as I can spit, and that’s not too far. Nor will I give any employer a 2 weeks notice. When I’m done, I’m done then and there. I refuse to live in fear of my shadow because I think this will result in some death sentence for life if I don’t give notice. Silly belief. Employers will soon forget you ever existed when they terminate you, so they’ll soon forget you when you just up and leave. Harsh words learned the harsh way. I’m working on my exit strategy and retirement jobs (plural) at 66-1/2 (4-1/2 years from now).

  66. Kevin, typos. Matthew’s gospel tells us be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves”.

  67. I knew what you meant, I’m the king of typos! That verse is very true. Being a believer doesn’t mean being naive. We live in a harsh world where there’s no percentage in allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. Giving our best effort is a requirement, but being crapped on isn’t.

  68. Thank you so much Kevin for your very thoughtful reply! Much appreciated & very kind of you.

    It definitely provided me with some comfort & solace in what has been a very difficult time.

  69. I’ve been in a very political organization for years–the problem is that I’m totally stuck. I’m older and more experienced and really good at my job, which is recognized by the client but ignored by my company when it comes time to showing me the money (I get praised and have never had my job threatened but that never translates to a decent raise beyond 2% or a promotion). I am told I can’t be promoted because I am not interested in a management position but I think that is just an excuse to keep me down since I’ve seen the company create positions for the directors’ friends (who aren’t even good at their jobs) that are not necessarily management roles. I know I need to leave but I can’t get hired elsewhere, I think because I’m too experienced and perhaps would be too costly, and from what I hear from colleagues elsewhere, all the companies in this industry operate in a similar manner. I don’t have an advanced degree that many of my colleagues do but I do the same work, often with better results. I’ve reached the position where I’m working far beyond my pay level role and responsibilities per the job description but the department has been dumbed down as has the job itself as the company hires younger, cheaper, inexperienced people or India staff (also cheaper). I’ve even offered to train the newbies, but mgmt seems too threatened to let me have any position of authority, even unofficially, probably because (ironically since it is my job to do so) I catch data errors everyone else misses and I actually understand the complex data I review (mgmt acts like that is such an unusual thing when it SHOULD be the expectation of the job). Everyone wants to feel valued–the constant rejection (from both my company and those I apply to for new positions) is causing me to suffer from depression and anxiety. I am hitting midlife and I honestly thought I’d be appreciated more and in a better position by letting my work record speak for itself. Sadly, in the Corporate American Cult, that is not the case and I just can’t muster the fake enthusiasm that it can be better for me elsewhere as I just struggle to survive.

  70. Hi Snowy – You hit the nail on the head with your use of the term “Corporate American Cult”. Unfortunately, that’s about the size of the situation. And it is at the core of your problems. You’re also correct in your assessment that options to go elsewhere are limited. I hear from a lot of people who are in the same situation, some a I know personally. I was also there myself, which is why I’m now self-employed. As much as I’d like to tell you it’s going to get better, I doubt it will. Companies have even more excuses to stagnate employees with Covid.

    Here’s a radical suggestion – since the client loves you, have you considered making the jump over to them? Maybe they’ll put you in a position on the opposite side of the transactions you are now handling.

    I realize this is extreme, but when you consider that the job market has become so static for so many employees, radical moves are often the only solution. As I’ve heard from different people along the way, “the only way up is to move out”. You may have to come up with some sort of strategy or set of strategies that will enable you to move out and up. My fear is that five or 10 years from now you’ll be in the same situation with that company. Only it’ll be worse, because as you get older, your options narrow.

    But if there is some encouragement I can give you, it’s that once you do break out you’ll be creating a whole new set of options for yourself that don’t exist at the moment. On a personal level, I found that the farther I plunged into uncharted territory, the more I discovered opportunities I never thought existed. I can tell you that even now new opportunities come my way on a regular basis. You just need to get yourself put into a position where those opportunities will find you, and where you can take advantage of them. You’re going to need to think out-of-the-box to make that happen, but it’s worth an investment of time and investigation.

    I’m in late middle age, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many opportunities are actually out there. However, you won’t find them in all the usual places, like the job boards or job networks. It may help if you shift your focus to finding opportunities from finding a job. I realize that sounds nebulous, but the occupational universe is changing rapidly. Many of the very best opportunities don’t come in the form of jobs anymore. The general workforce has been slow to recognize this and to adjust, and that’s why so many are stuck. But when so many people are stuck, it actually strengthens and reinforces employers to continue behaving the same way. Ultimately, that’s like being stuck in a room with no doors or windows.

    On a tactical level, let me suggest that you start investigating potential side hustles. Find something you really want to do, then plunge into it as a side business. It may eventually grow into something more substantial that will enable you to leave your job. But in the meantime, it’ll give you a sense of control over your situation – not over your job, but over your life – and that’s much more important.

  71. I’m the high performing contributor who provides leadership to the team, the department and the organization without the title or the pay. I’ve recently graduated with a Masters degree to update my knowledge, freshen my skills and renew my career objective to be a servant leader. After 2 1/2 years and 7 attempts at advancement, I’m no further along than I was. My most recent application was denied 20 minutes after submitting, why,,,, the position was only posted as required by policy, but someone within the department had already been given the position. I rarely know why I’m not selected. HR is not one for giving feedback. I really like my organization, the mission, the values, but the opportunity for advancement eludes me. It’s very demotivating, maybe I am “too good” at what I do, but that’s how I’m wired. I can’t slack off, I suppose I’ll have to learn to be less ambitious and continue to serve and contribute where I am.

  72. Hi BKK – One thing that stands out in your profile is 2 1/2 years on the job. Is it possible you don’t have enough seniority to be promoted? How long have others that have been promoted been with the company? I’m not saying that’s the reason you haven’t been promoted, only that it’s a potential issue that stands out.

    There’s one other darker possibility which is that in 2 1/2 years you’ve already made seven attempts to advance. It’s possible – and only a possibility – that your employer sees you as someone who won’t hang around very long. They may see you as someone who wants action quickly and frequently. That’s just an attempt on my part to look at your situation from a different angle.

    But as far as everything else you’ve reported, it sounds like a typical situation. You’re doing more than the job requires, and you may be more qualified than the people on the next rung above you. Many employers prefer employees who “know their place” and are willing to go along with the program without complaining or making waves.

    If you haven’t already done so, you might want to sit down with your boss or the HR manager and ask what they see your career path as being. Don’t make it the central point of your discussion, but find a way to slip in the fact that you’ve been repeatedly turned down for promotions and get explanations if they’ll provide them. (If they don’t that really elevates the darker side of your situation – secrecy is never a good operating system, especially when they’re feeding everyone that synergy and “we’re all one team” line.)

    Listen very carefully, be open to constructive criticism, but also be ready to hear a few things you’re not going to like. Based on that discussion, you might make a determination that your future is not with this employer. But it’s going to be a tough call because you are fairly new with this employer.

  73. This list can also be ascribed to why talented and competent people dont get hired.
    Unfortunate..but true.
    Conpanies hiring the managers are the ones who lose the most because they have lost talent when they shouldn’t have.
    No wonder thrn that these companies struggle to achieve world class (or somewhat even near it) status. You cannot build an A level company unless you have A players. Its as simple as that.

  74. Hi Qq – Thanks for weighing in. I agree with what you’ve written. Of course, a lot of the problem is with hiring algorithms. If you apply for a position you’re fully qualified for, but you don’t check all the “boxes” the algorithm is screening for, you won’t even get an interview.

    I get the need for companies to find ways to screen out the unqualified – there are too many people who are utterly unqualified applying for jobs under the “if you throw enough crap at the wall some of it will stick” doctrine. Employers do need to screen those out, and they’re extremely common.

    But the same filters that are keeping out the unqualified are also shutting out the highly qualified. That hurts the employers as much as it does the applicants. And if you think about it, just because a person’s profile checks all the boxes doesn’t mean they’re qualified. It just means they have the requisite credentials.

    That may not make them a good employee or manager. People skills and leadership ability are difficult to measure in an online app. The only way to make those determinations is with an in-person interview. And with so few of those being granted, there’s very limited opportunity to make an intelligent determination.

  75. I have worked at the same company for over 20 years now and have had 14 different bosses. The CEO has also changed almost 10 times. We went through a number of acquisitions of other companies and we ended up being acquired. I have worked with many different personalities and have seen all the various power plays and political games and battles you will find in a corporate environment.

    What I have learned is the individual is responsible for fighting their own battles based on the environment they are in. If you want to be promoted you have to prepare your plan on how to do that. It is not going to happen based on doing a good job. If you want something to change then you have to fight to make it happen. And remember it is never fair. Incompetence and mediocrity win many times.

    Functioning in the corporate world is never about doing good work. It is mostly politics, talking a good game, brownnosing, being liked, keeping your head down and not causing waves, or just doing your job (not the same as doing good work). Yes, there are exceptions and some good people but they are rare.

    You as an individual can still do good work if that is what you value. Sometimes you will go to battle just to do this. You may win or you may lose but it is all up to you.

  76. Hi TJ – As cold as that assessment sounds I consider it to be a valid synopsis of how the corporate world works. That’s a major reason why I got out. I knew if I didn’t it would literally kill me. I learned that many who succeed in that world are almost drone-like – very mechanical, able to avoid internalizing or emotionalizing what’s happening, and usually very manipulative. Since I’m none of those things, I had to exit. Since you’re fully aware of what’s going on do you have an exit strategy, or do you feel you can handle it?

  77. My problem is most people are too stupid to understand what I am talking about. I focus on technical things. I make no secret that I hate people (especially the stupid ones). And no…. I am not a “team player!” I hate all team building exercises.

    I want to do the job and leave and get paid. I almost don’t care what job it is. And nobody has ever accused me of brimming over with enthusiasm. AND I AM STILL MORE EFFICIENT than my coworkers. I know it doesn’t matter to the brainless idiots who run things.

    And I do try harder to bite my tongue, but it is hard not to want to strangle these morons. And it is not like I hate drinking to excess, or happy hours, I always said, the cure for introversion is cocaine and alcohol.

    However, I just want to drink myself to a stupor with my friends. I need all my wits about me, to be with co-workers who want to stab me in the back (and they will). It’s a waste of perfectly good booze to drink with your coworkers.

    I know that if everyone thought like me, work would not be a paradise, but it would be a whole lot better. You can invent the wheel and nobody gives a $#!T unless you are the annoying type who screams out loud because you won a ball point pen on a game show (that is called “being enthusiastic!”).

    I am never getting out of my rut because I am incapable of doing it. I have been trying to fake this for at least 30 years and I HAVE TOTALLY FAILED. IT IS ONLY BECAUSE I AM A MISER THAT I AM NOT LIVING IN THE GUTTER. There is not one company or person anywhere on this planet who is interested in people who can #STFU and work.

    If the pandemic can kill a few of these people off, that is a silver lining.

  78. Yeah, in my experience your personality doesn’t fit in the corporate mold. But have you considered working for the same employer(s) as an outside contractor? If you’re good at what you do, you can probably earn more money without having to deal with the personalities and politics. Being a miser will be a big help, since it means you know how to manage money.

  79. Understand these feelings…I feel the pain of the unfairness of corporate life that I have no choice but to live…we also need to stop blaming the victims here please for their own predetermined (by the corporation) fate when the system works against the best and brightest.

  80. I agree about not blaming the victims (employees) Snowy. Employers blame employees all the time. Falling sales, it’s the employees fault, customer complaints, it’s the employees fault; bad quarter (or year), it’s the employees fault. Management never accepts blame for boneheaded strategies or outright neglect. They’ll blame employees for lack of commitment. And they’ll blame the most responsible employees (the best and the brightest) because they’ll accept the blame, while the ones who don’t care just ignore it, do what they’ve always done, and get left alone. If things get bad enough, they’ll start laying off workers, which is the ultimate and final blaming of the employees. Rarely do you see a bad manager or VP get the ax, except in mergers.

  81. I understand pigbitinmad’s commentary. At least he’s kept his debt down, unlike me who’s deep in debt. I’ve not had a lot of heavy hitter corporate experience. It’s mostly been mom & pop clown shows. Current employer of 8 years fits this bill. I’ve also been teaching part-time too in the evenings at a community college as an adjunct. Love teaching, but the CC is rife with cronyism and nepotism. I mean in your face! The donut dunkers seem to succeed, while others kick the can down the road.

  82. Hi Antonio – I’ve heard the same about the education system. But then that “industry” is dominated by bureaucrats. Everything we’re discussing here is magnified with bureaucrats. Just a suggestion, but you may want to do whatever you need to do to get out of debt and get some money put away. That may give you the flexibility to get out of these situations, or at least to minimize the damage.

    I saw statistics that said that the average lifespan in America began falling in 2016 (I think) and my guess is job and economic stress are playing huge roles. There’s also been a rise in “deaths of dispair”, like suicide, drug addiction and depression. I think these things are all related. As human beings we can only take so much. Stress from a crisis is one thing, and we eventually come out of it when the crisis ends. But that nagging, everyday-is-stressful situation we have now is a slow killer.

  83. All good points. But debt is not the only reason we work. I am not in debt but I am solely responsible for rent, utilities, and groceries (which skyrocket higher and higher each year and take up a greater percentage of my take-home pay while my salary only creeps up about 1-2% a year, further tipping the balance in the favor of corporate power); I also need decent healthcare (besides catastrophic), which is provided mainly through corporate jobs. If you don’t have a partner’s income, all this ties you to a job. Freelancing or contracting work is not reliable or stable enough if it is the main or only income and does not provide much-needed benefits. It is like the arguments being made for Uber and Doordash type companies arguing that “freedom” is better than benefits and guaranteed pay. In theory, it might work for a select few but the stress of that uncertainty and how much harder they have to work to make the same amount is not reality for most.

  84. @Snowy, your points are spot on right! Most of us work to live (corporations hate this). I know all too well the 1-2% merit raises, and if and when it suits the employer. Then add to that the need for health insurance. I’ve had one small raise at my current job 4 years ago, and I’ve been there 8 years. All my employers have been “you have a job and a paycheck. That should be good enough”. And this so called “gig economy”, or freelancing. Being a contractor is fine for trust fund kids, or tolerant spouses/partners that have a decent job and health insurance to sustain such gig work efforts for another spouse/partner. As a 63 year old single man, I just came back to work after being flat on my back and near death with the Covid for nearly 3 weeks. I’m being treated even worse now than before I got sick. I found out who was in my court, and it sure wasn’t my employer. I’ve been job hunting on the side, but ageism is very real.

  85. I am so sorry. I do relate Antonio. I am glad you are recovering after COVID and am sorry you had to suffer that awful illness. I excel at my job and am always given more responsibilities outside of my job scope without the promotion or pay. I am gaslighted by the corporation daily when I question it. I am doing the work of writers (who are salaried) as I am comfortable working with patient data, whereas many mediocre employees in my position are not, while being paid hourly as if I make no intellectual contributions. It is insulting at best and seems borderline illegal. And this is despite it being in the STEM field (which usually involve salaried positions!). I worked for a large fortune 500 company for many many years successfully and then they outsourced all of the work, so I went to work for the vendor and now, long story short, I work with India. India work is not considered high profile and the company works them into the ground for very little pay.

  86. @Snowy- welcome to the club! In 2010 I was laid off after a buyout from a job I head held for 6 years, and one I thought I would retire from. Fast forward to 2013. After blowing through a couple of ill-fitted lack luster jobs in toxic cultures, I landed where I’m at currently. After 8 years, I’ve had one evaluation, and one modest merit raise. That was 4 years ago. The rub is I still make $20K less than I did in 2010, and I work for my former employer’s competitor in the exact same industry doing the exact same thing. A woman I‘d worked with at my current job left three years ago. Been there 19 years and never had an evaluation, nor a merit increase. Another guy I know of, who’s wife worked for a travel agency, worked there 10 years, then retired. She was earning the same wage when she retired as when she’d started 10 years prior. Mind numbing!!

  87. Antonio – A friend of mine who does recruiting for IT professionals said companies laid off workers in during the last recession who were getting $60 an hour. They hired them back after the recession at $35. Flat or declining wages is how companies stay “lean an mean” and maintain profits. Wall Street cheers the pay cuts, while workers suffer. It’s not just you, there are millions of others in similar situations.

    Another good friend of mine who works in IT says a career (in IT) tops out at age 40. I think that’s true in most fields today. I was watching a piece on NPR where an expert said age discrimination is no longer about people over 55, but 45 and even 35. But I’m hearing plenty of stagnation stories from people much younger. I think that’s why so few people get promoted these days, or go on to other jobs that pay more than their previous ones. The economic pie is shrinking and workers are getting the smaller slices. There’s a reason the gig economy is growing, and why a lot of people are working two or three jobs.

  88. Yes, everything in this article is spot on especially #4 and #7. Not “fitting the suit” and somebody not liking you play the most critical factors in advancement in one’s career. You can take your education and dismiss it as a benchmark for upward success. If that were true then the most highly educated people would be the ones advancing into leadership roles.
    I can attest to working tireless hours for a major accounting firm, only for my manager to comment on how I wasn’t performing while others were criticizing my efforts. It might be as simple as people in a firm not wanting to work with you from day one. When I told this to one of my friends, he simply mentioned that some people are assholes and you cannot change their behavior or mindset. Working long hours doesn’t mean much if you are working in a negative environment with people who want you out. It maybe very childish behavior, but that is what many companies look like.
    Also, another factor might simply be that you are working in the wrong industry or job for upward mobility. One of my friends who worked in finance years ago told me he got out of the profession because of the lack of promotability. He ended going into digital marketing because he felt there was a much higher chance of career advancement. I know many others who have followed this path as well.

  89. Hi frampton – You haven’t said how long you’ve been on the job, but if it’s as toxic as you say, you may want to move your talents and efforts elsewhere. In my experience, toxic environments don’t change. The people running the show either have an orientation in that direction, and either don’t know it’s toxic, or they think toxic is normal.

    My guess is that as an accountant, you have more alternatives than the average employee. You might want to take advantage of that if the right opportunity comes along. Staying in a bad job situation for too long will not only take a toll on your health, but it can also eventually degrade your work output and your attitude. Eventually you may beccome what your managers and coworkers think you are. Don’t sit in that situation too long.

  90. Frampton, You’ve said what I’ve been saying for a long time. The British have a saying “that’s just how life is”. I agree with this.
    I’ve stepped into hell holes too many times in my day, and I’ve faced the “I don’t like you” from the moment I signed my W4s. I once asked a hostile colleague at a new job why he held such animus for me. He replied “because you exist and breath the same air as I do”.
    I have been blind sided and let go for asinine reasons, or no reasons at all. How I loath at will employment.
    Jobs, like other things, can be a roll of the dice. For me, all I can do today is pray and trust my gut.

  91. Not to sound negative Antonio, but “all I can do today is pray and trust my gut” is the reality of life. Life IS tough and always has been. It only seems easy because that’s what we’re fed by the media.

    That said, I enjoy my life very much. But that’s probably because of 1) prayer, and 2) making the realistic assessment of how tough life really is and proceeding accordingly. Another reader described that as “rational pessimism”. That sounds like the way to go. If you’re too optimistic you don’t acknowledge or properly plan for the realities of life.

    When I was in the corporate world I got tired of just putting up with it, and that provided a kind of negative motivation. That may be the most powerful kind. We don’t always know what we want or even what’s good for us. But we can pretty easily spot what isn’t good for us.

  92. Kevin- our reward is in the kingdom of heaven, yet I’ve come to be a “realist” seeing life as it really is, not “rainbows and unicorns”. Your site, unlike others in this type of venue, is realistic and gritty.
    My late father loathed what he called “predatory capitalism”. I share his sentiments.
    I have some hope for Gen Z. I’ve supplemented my day job income for the past 5 years teaching 2 nights a week in a 9 month welding program at a local CC. As I mentor students, I see Gen Z students wanting to avoid corporate America, insurmountable educational debt for degrees as worthless as a park bench in hell, and wanting to work in trades or be self-employed entrepreneurs. They’ve seen what’s happened to family members and friends in the workplace. Most live minimalist lifestyles. I also mentor a group of young Gen Z men in my parish. These young guys are the same. I warn them to give a good faith effort and integrity, but never trust nor rely on an employer for anything.

  93. You’re giving good advice to those young people Antonio. It’s not that happy narrative the media and industry leaders feed us, but it will leave them better prepared for what’s ahead. I also suspect you’re not telling them anything they don’t already know. I think perhaps most people see things pretty much the way we do, but they may be suppressing their instincts and trying to live the good life in spite of the obstacles.

    I have nothing against living the good life, as long as you can comfortably afford it. But I worry about people who live that way and have little savings, too much debt, or a combination of both. I say “worried” because if too many people live that way, the general population becomes vulnerable to economic shocks. That affects everyone, even those who have exercised a greater level of financial responsibility. No matter what anyone wants to believe, we’re all sailing on the same ship. If it springs a leak or hits an iceberg, we’re all affected. Eventually, even the very wealthy will be negatively impacted.

    BTW, I’ve never been described with the word gritty, but I kind of like it. I’ve got to get into writing more of these articles, but of late time doesn’t permit.

  94. Great article! I have been the target of several bosses who were threatened by me because I was able to improve inefficiencies and was recognized by the c-level execs. It really is a jungle out there. I am currently unemployed because my previous co-worker who has always been threatened by my abilities was recently promoted to my supervisor. Many of my responsibilities were taken away and I was no longer allowed to do anything that she was incapable of doing… Which was not much. I am not moving backwards in my career. It will take three people to fill my shoes because I automated much of my job with python. I was even told by the new supervisor to stop reporting exact numbers on contracts… Many of them government contracts for affirmative action. I positioned myself to get fired so I did not walk away empty handed, but it was my goal to ‘get out of Dodge.’ I have had three jobs in a row like this but I am not going to sacrifice my work integrity any longer to companies who are mediocre. People with a high level of work integrity need to be very careful what type of company they choose to work for. One would assume that companies would prefer such integrity levels in the workplace but mediocrity seems to rule. I have always been hard on myself but graceful with others. Companies no longer want the best employees… They want employees who will tiptoe around their egos and not destroy their high school popularity contests.

    In the past 4 years I have been called upon twice to defend fellow co-workers for being wrongfully terminated by our bosses and both cases were won with huge settlements due to foul play in the workplace. Of course, my defending them also cost me my job.

    I am becoming very capable of smelling rats in the workplace.

    Thanks again for your article. It’s comforting to know I am not the only one who has seen this.


  95. Hi Lynn – I’m sorry to hear you lost your job due to an incompetent boss, but part of me is also happy for you. I’ve been in situations like that myself, and fully understand the relief that comes with exiting. There wasn’t one job like that that I didn’t count my blessings after the fact. Every day is a struggle in a bad job, and it saps you of the energy you need to move in a different direction. In those situations, a step out is a step up.

    But I want to focus on two sentences you wrote that I think are central to this whole discussion: “I have had three jobs in a row like this but I am not going to sacrifice my work integrity any longer to companies who are mediocre,” and “One would assume that companies would prefer such integrity levels in the workplace but mediocrity seems to rule”.

    That really gets to the root of the problem in most cases. Unfortunately, there are more mediocre – or worse – employers than good ones. And the more deficient they are, the more likely we are to experience negative outcomes. No matter how they try to position themselves as leaders and winners, the mediocre can’t help but show their true stripes. As they do, they rely on others to cover their tracks, willingly or otherwise. I think this is also why competent, capable workers are so often made out to be the fall guy/girl.

    The real problem, however, is finding employers with integrity. With competition in the economy being so heavy, companies are looking for any angle to survive. I think that also describes a multitude of government agencies. All are trying to be profitable or relevant in an unforgiving economy and social environment. They cut corners by hiring and promoting the mediocre, then engage in an unhealthy amount of “management by disaster”.

    I don’t envy anyone in the job market today. I exited the traditional job market in 1997, and haven’t looked back since. While anything’s possible, I hope I never have to return to it. I don’t think I have the stomach or the mindset for it anymore.

  96. Such a wonderful article. I have experienced such thing multiple times before and now recently again where in-spite of being hard working, managing team, someone else being offered senior position and that person does not have even credentials equivalent or neither expert in the area. Company offered me less and lower grade. In past I left companies but now I am getting older and accepted destiny with lower grade which I do not deserve. They even did not consider my experience of fifteen years with other organizations, three degrees in engineering etc and offered much junior entry level job grade. While at same time they offered better grade and positions to someone whom I know and they do not deserve. There are many other well qualified people who deserve that.
    It’s just feel very unfair. I am talking about here one of big semiconductor company that makes me wonder if their hiring practices are so nuts how company will survive and bad crowd is promoted to managers. I can not disclose names here but I am quite disappointed and frustrated and often question that why this injustice!

    Nevertheless your article is very helpful and many thanks for sharing this which will help millions of others.

  97. Hi Harrish – I’m sorry to hear about your situation but you can take some comfort in knowing that others have or are experiencing the same thing. That’s a major reason why I got out of the salaried job world – it isn’t fair, never was and never will be. A friend of mine used to say “most businesses survive in spite of themselves”, and I think that’s true. I can’t explain it, but they survive and often thrive despite doing stupid things, and even doing them routinely.

    I suspect that at least some of the rewarding of less capable employees/candidates has to do with money. A more qualified person will naturally want higher compensation. A less qualified person may accept much less. Also, a less qualified person may be more of a “company man/woman”. They’re so happy to have their job or promotion they’ll do anything the company asks of them. A more qualified person may be more independent because he/she knows better. We often forget companies value loyalty very highly, and they may see the less capable people as more loyal precisely because they’re less qualified. But that’s just a guess on my part.

  98. Thank you for sharing this. It resonated with me. After returning from maternity leave at a large corporate company I was told my lead position was no longer available. 6 months later the position was given to someone else that my director liked better. This is all because I defended and stood up for a co-worker that I had worked with for years. I am now at my job 7 years with no promotions while I’ve seen someone get promoted twice in one year. It’s really messed up. I’m an extremely hard worker, proficient, lovely to work with and my reviews are always positive. I believe my director does not like me because I’m a threat to him and his group of people he likes. I stay becasue it’s job security but I long to feel valued again.

  99. Hi Jane – You may be valued again if there’s a shake up in your department and especially if your director departs. That may happen eventually, but it’s my experience that bosses like yours have a much longer shelf life than we want to believe. By surrounding themselves with loyalists they can hang on for years.

    That said, job security is important, especially when you’re a parent, and even more when the job is providing your benefits. You’re going to need a lot of patience, which I know is much easier said then done. But after seven years on the job you’ve probably already developed plenty of that. Sooner or later, either the situation will change at work, or a new opportunity will present itself and you’ll be able to move out. In the meantime, focus on living your life, which your job enables you to do. It might also help you to de-emphasize what’s happening at work. Kind of that “I’m working to live, not living to work” mindset.

  100. Thank you so much for the reply! It’s nice to hear a fresh perspective. You’re absolutely right, job security And benefits is what matters the most right now with a family. Leveling up will happen when it’s right. Honestly, I’d rather level up on a different team elsewhere! Thank you for advice.

  101. Can relate to when a manager is stuck at his/her own role and does not want you to grow either…..

  102. Kevin, thank you for this article, and all of the advice within the comments.

    Your insight, at will employment law and the dynamics of work, should be a required course in high school and college.

  103. It’s true, we’ve all seen it. Life isn’t fair, there’s no moral compass or performance scale there to make it right at times. I’m dealing with it right now, heavy case of nepotism as a coworker has two relatives in high positions. Needless to say he’s on his way up and dumb as a brass tac. I would suggest to those frustrated as I am myself to search for things outside work to reconnect on while waiting for your turn. I found after stepping away I was getting TOO occupied with work. I make six figures, I would like a promotion but life is really good. No need to get Hell bent over the stupidity that is the zoo in the workplace.

  104. Thank you so much for writing this. Most of my life I was either an independent contractor or I had my own business. I had to re-enter the world of corporate working class this year. And it’s been so confusing to me. I care very much about doing a good job, at whatever I do, so I couldn’t understand why all I got from the manager was criticism. And why the only full time person there has so many complaints against her by co-workers and customers that they actively try to keep her away from customers. Now I get it. She knows her place, and allows them to treat her badly without saying anything (I think honestly because she’s not smart enough to understand that’s what they’re doing and/or she doesn’t care). So, yeah, I got hired because I’m smart yet now I’m so good at my job that apparently I’m a threat to my boss’ ego. After a particularly bad week and finding your article, I decided that I was not allowing him to verbally abuse me anymore. I went in today, saw him there (he wasn’t supposed to be there, but the other person who was is apparently still sick), looked at him and said – great (with a face that did not convey great in any way). He didn’t criticize me once all day, and the brief interactions I had with him made me realize, yes, I am smarter than he is, and yes, he sees that too, and is apparently threatened by it. Which – I don’t want his job, at all. But I had my own business, I know my worth, I’ve pushed there and made him actually get to the point of saying – you’re right and making a change. I see now why they can’t keep people. After I was there a month, they fired the smartest, most capable person there. Heavy lifting. Yep, that’s where they put me, because they know I’m good. But, to do that while being constantly criticized, and verbally abused was extremely stressful. Now I’m at the – fuck it point. I’m not tolerating that bullshit anymore. Stand up to a bully and that bully (whether they’re your boss or not) and they become very small, because they were always very small.

  105. Stand up to them, but be prepared to be unceremoniously terminated too! That’s just how it is.

  106. Kevin,
    I received a nice merit raise from my not so nice employer of 9 years. Enough so that I could quit my additional part-time job teaching as an adjunct in a CC that was starting to bother me (weird woke in your face agendas, couldn’t fail students who didn’t show up for class or do their work, etc.). I like teaching, and received favorable student evaluations, + the extra income was a godsend, but I don’t miss teaching or educators one bit either. Feels like a weight removed.
    I’ve been doing a discreet very selective job search. I’m starting to see hiring slowing a little in my area, and I’m seeing employers moving back to the ghosting and ultra picky “purple squirrel tactics. Plus the “cloak of secrecy” with wages for positions and expectations. I insist in wages up front and expectations, which ends up triggering them often, and me being disqualified or ghosted. It is what it is. Ageism is popping up more brazenly too. Saw an ad on Indeed that caught my eye; the wages that were divulged were in my range, and I was well qualified for the job. That is until I read in bold highlighted letters “a great opportunity for a young candidate”.

  107. Hi Antonio – I’ve heard similar stories on the education front. But same on the job ads you’re seeing. Cryptic job descriptions and evasiveness on compensation. It’s weird, on the one hand we see and hear there’s a shortage of workers, but on the other, employers are being just as stingy as ever. I read an article yesterday from a source I respect that said the employee shortage is a temporary hangover from the COVID giveaway and employers are banking on a return to normal, where they can be as picky as they want. We’ll have to see. But from what I’m hearing, the employee pool is under-performing and there’s a real shortage of competent, reliable workers. There’s so much crap going on out there that it’s hard to make sense of it, let alone bankable projections.

  108. Very rarely do I read an article that completely overhaul my world view. But damn, this is one of them. Thank you.

    I’m gonna stick with being a Union worker for now, but this advice will be very valuable in the future.

  109. Thanks Travis, your comment is the kind that motivates me to write this kind of article. This stuff is real, and we need to be able to discuss it in an open forum. If nothing else, it makes us all aware we’re not alone in what we’re dealing with.

  110. Kevin,
    I had lunch with my sister’s ex-husband today. Hadn’t seen the guy in years. Alcohol and drugs have certainly taken their toll on this poor soul. But by God’s grace go I not. He’ll be turning 64 next month, and I’ll be turning 64 soon after. He had to give up construction work due to declining health and now drives a tour bus for seniors. We talked about our fathers and grandfathers who worked for 40+ years for the same employers, then retired with nice pensions and drew social security to boot. How if a guy made it 10 years with an employer, unless he did something egregious or idiotic, that he was set up for life. How our fathers would say “take care of your job and it will take care of you” (my late father recanted that saying prior to his death in 2009 after seeing what happened to friends and family). How young people will need to jump from job-job with frequency in future years. He told me about a guy he knows who was a commercial pilot and flew freight for a name parcel and freight company for 40 years. They called him in and told him his number had been called up, and that he’d have to take mandatory diversity and sensitivity training. He refused and quit on the spot. He knew how to act in a civil and professional manner, and how to conduct himself. But employers have all but lost any semblance of decency, and they just don’t see it. Strange times we live in.

  111. I am at a point where I just finally figured out that no one will risk the political capital ti put me up for a promotion. I have been with my current org for years now and a few years back had a disastrous interview for a promotion with a senior exec. I was never put up for promotion again despite having learned lessons from the bad promotion interview and am one of the top performers in my group. No one wants to spend the political capital and be my champion to show that I grew and learned.

    I bring a ton of experience, have excellent reviews but am getting older by the minute and watching the staff I hired in get promoted way beyond me. I should have left years ago. I wish I had. Now I am over 50 and in a position that people 20 years younger are in while my peers are all promoted. God do I wish I could have figured this out quicker.

  112. Hi Merrit – Can you ride it out long enough to maximize benefits, like pension (if there is one) and 401k(if there is one)? If you can, maybe you can take a less stressful position somewhere else, even if it doesn’t pay as much. If you can’t be promoted, at least be somewhere with a comfortable work life, and not so many negative experiences. But for what it’s worth, I don’t think your experience is unique – as you can tell from other comments on this post. Once you get over 50 it’s open season to pass you over. It’s just the way the job market works, and yes, it’s terrible.

  113. Kevin, I appreciate the insights you provide here. I had never thought about the “too independent” angle, but it really hits home. I’m a bit of my own island at work and largely have the liberty to seek and execute on projects on my own. I got a glowing review for my work in 2020 and felt I was on the cusp of a long awaited promotion. So I slammed on the gas in 2021 and had my best year ever, bar none. The capstone was a process automation project I owned wing-to-wing that resolved a major pain point for our division and even reduced the workload for my manager. It was so well received I was asked to do several presentations for peers and managers. Senior level analyst here I come! I was certain a bonus was coming my way as I’ve received bonuses for lesser deliverables. Nothing ever came. Then last week I got my performance review for 2021. Not only did I not get the promotion I thought might have been coming my way, my review grade actually went down. It was a gut punch like none I’d ever experienced in my career. The performance discussion also included my manager telling me not to lose hope because some type of career roadmap was coming to show us what it takes to get to the next level. I’ve had that carrot dangled in front of me in the past with a previous manager. “You need to do x and y and you’ll get that promotion”. I do x and y, then I’m told I am not doing z. I promised myself I would never play that game again.
    I now realize that operating independently means your manager never gets to champion your successes and bask in your praise with their superiors. I’ve been keeping the cake to myself, not selfishly and not knowingly, but simply because when I see something I do it.
    I’ve accepted that I have no growth opportunities here. The job search has already begun. I have it good here otherwise, decent pay, lots of paid time off, good 401k match. But I can’t not work hard. It’s not in my nature to say look what I did. I could probably fit the suit really well with the execs here but I’m not wired to cozy up to people based on their job or status. So I guess it’s my ego that’s telling me to try my luck elsewhere. Deep down I’m not foolish enough to believe that it will be different anywhere else. Maybe I just need one more negative experience to finally cut all ties with the corporate world and find the independence that’s been creeping into my thoughts with greater frequency. Thanks for helping to open my eyes and explore my thoughts a bit further.

  114. Hi Josh – It sounds like a couple of things are going on here. The first is you’re too valuable right where you are. The second is that you may be a threat to your boss. It’s clear you’re a stronger employee than he is. Just a thought, but since you’re obviously a self-starter, maybe try picking up some side projects and begin branching out on your own. The corporate world was a jail to me as it is to many self-starters. But strong workers often suffer with imposter syndrome and don’t understand their own strengths. It may be time for you to spread your wings out there to see what you can really do when you’re let loose to do it. Don’t quit your job, because, yes, it’s likely to be some variation of the same situation wherever you go. But you can take low risk steps forward on your own time. Eventually you may experience enough success to take a full time plunge, but go slow at first. No need to take serious risks along the way. Give it some consideration.

  115. @Josh,
    Your story resonates with me.
    I’ll be turning 64 in one week. Due to life set backs (job loses over the years) my retirement package is anemic, and I’ll be working until I can’t as long as my health hold up. I just won’t be working at my current clown show toxic mom&pop employer of 9 years.
    I too am job hunting. Age, years of skills in the trenches, and not being one of the “cool kids” has taken its toll and is certainly working against me.
    Hopefully, you’re a lot younger than me, and you’ve clearly learned sooner in life that employers don’t have your back, and supervisors don’t toot your horn. Like you, I’m more modest (+ like Kevin, I’m a man of faith) so boasting or tooting one’s horn seems unnatural. And like you, my job, as bad of a culture as it is, allows me some autonomy and self-direction. I’ve learned to selectively toot my horn and accomplishments, document affirmation emails from bosses and owners in my case, while staying under the radar and away from dreaded micro-management.
    I’ve encountered dullard and younger bosses who can’t comprehend my independence and crafty aversion to collaborative “team” Ted Talk rah-rah baloney. I’ve become very adept at faking the “I’m engaged with my job you bet I’ll get right on that glad to help” load of crap, and this employer is totally duped. While I give a good faith effort and integrity, I’m planning on throwing a resignation letter in my bosses desk on a Friday at the end of the day and walking out once I land a new job. No more 2 weeks notice then get shown the door immediately with these unscrupulous employers.
    I wish you well, sir, in your job search and future endeavors. I too have faced to put down gut punch reviews after being told I’m an asset. Mental gymnastics neither of us want or deserve.

  116. Hi Antonio – I love “collaborative “team” Ted Talk rah-rah baloney” – that’s right on the money. But you mentioned something else toward the end of your comment that we should camp out on a bit. “Mental gymnastics”. When we sit and take the abuse – which includes lies and other forms of deception – it gradually wears us down to the point of losing confidence in ourselves and hope for the future. Those are two soft assets we should never take lightly. None of us are perfect of course, but we should never allow ourselves to be personally degraded, even if it’s disguised as “constructive/professional criticism”.

    I think I mentioned this somewhere in the article, but employers do like to periodically engage in beat downs. There are two reasons, first to assert their authority, and second to marginalize you (“you’re not as good as you think”). You can’t absorb too much of that and keep going forward. It’s also how employees self-destruct and get fired.

  117. I haven’t been in the workforce for long but the 7 reasons that you posted here are spot on. It’s been going on for a long time from what I’ve seen; quite honestly it’s a miracle that many organizations haven’t collapsed from their own internal incompetence.

  118. I’ve often wondered the same thing. But along the way I’ve learned that poorly run organizations can survive a lot longer than any of us believe is justified. That’s why it’s usually best to move on from a really bad one. No matter how long we try to wait it out, the incompetence and dysfunction is bigger than we are, and will last well after we’re gone. And as a headhunter once told me, “there are bad employees for bad companies”. Who knows, maybe that’s how the employers survive. The bad eggs soldier on no matter what, somehow keeping the ship afloat, if only at a low level.

  119. I’m not sure if this has been mentioned, but there is another type of situation where you won’t get promoted. I’d call it the government/quasi-government/not-for-profit employer where everyone realizes the gig is so easy no one is going anywhere. By that I mean no one is leaving their position or desk unless they retire or die. I worked at an entity like this for 4 years, and left for this reason. It’s been nearly 15 years since I left and a large number of persons in the higher level positions haven’t gone anywhere. It seems almost criminal. There were people there I couldn’t tell you what they did other than turn on their computer and struggle to look busy. Just thinking about that place makes me feel sick. Such a waste of life.

  120. Hi Joe – I get what you’re saying and that category is a good addition to the list of 7, though I’d have to say this one doesn’t qualify as a dark reason. But those jobs do serve a purpose. Not everyone wants a fast-track career. I’ve known a number of people who specifically go into government jobs because their primary interest is in job security, top-of-the-line benefits, and early retirement. Those jobs fill that need to the letter. Though I have a suspicion government jobs are not as secure as they once were.

    I’m with you, I could never work long term in a static work environment, like the ones you’re describing. I’ve worked in a number of jobs in different career fields, and while there’s been nothing like security along the way, I look back on my work life with great satisfaction. That’s probably because the different jobs and careers I worked have been a real benefit in starting and running this blog, as well as building a business writing articles for other websites. Bouncing from one employer to another has given me a perspective on the overall job market that’s missed by people who only have one or two jobs all their lives.

    The interesting thing is I haven’t missed the implied security of a stable job. First, many jobs turned out to be not so stable. Second, stability for me has always meant being trapped. I can’t stand that feeling. Third, in so many ways, I feel that my occupational path has been an adventure. This has added to the richness of my life. I feel that I’ve led a life well-lived.

    Finally, fourth, my wife and I have ended up in a pretty solid financial position, despite all our career wanderings. No doubt we had plenty of times along the way when things looked dark. But as the Chinese proverb says, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I agree with that. The somewhat bizarre occupational paths we’ve taken have made us adopt a comforting mix of flexibility and resilience that’s given us confidence we can face whatever the future holds.

    As you might guess, I’m a big proponent of stepping out and testing yourself. That’s the only way you really learn and grow, and come to understand what you’re really about. It would be tragic for me if I settled for security early in my life and made that my career path (which is also what my parents encouraged me to do). I’m now encouraging my adult kids to take chances in their careers, with the ultimate goal of becoming self-employed. After all, if you work for yourself, you don’t need a job and all the limitations it brings. But we can also add that security has largely become an illusion in today’s economy. I’d much rather have a set of transferable job skills than a theoretically secure job. I’m guessing that’s a sentiment you probably share.

  121. Thanks for this post! I’ve felt over the past year or so that my supervisor is against my getting promoted. It honestly hurts because I thought that he supported me and genuinely wanted the best for me. I’m a young professional and advancement is huge for me. I’ve worked for him for over 2 years and recently went to him after I inquired about a higher position. Of course, I didn’t have to go to him but I didn’t want to make it seem like I was going behind his back. I was excited when he initially gave me his blessing, only to retract it a few weeks after. He actually ended up telling me I wasn’t the right person for the job! Fast-forward a few months later and I’m actually doing the job on a part-time basis because his hands were tied and no one else wanted to take on extra work. However, I’m doing it on my own terms as a independent contractor and created my own title, which is going to set me up for the future. All in all, I learned that a supervisor is always going to be a supervisor, no matter how “good” and “nice” they are. But what he meant for evil, God is only using for my good! Keep pressing on!

  122. Hi, so at my current job, I documented an incident before that involved several arguments made between me and a coworker who tried to get rid of me and he only thing that saved my behind was that I emailed myself on the days of the incidents and showed the supervisor of the store. Then another coworker tried to sabotage me as well and I reported him to HR and he tried to make my life miserable by refusing to interact with me and pretends not to speak english to me and yet he is friendly with everyone else. Yet after six months at the company I got “promoted” to work in the corporate office after 6 months of working in the company, but then I got demoted and sent back to work in the same store I left and I am still part time after a year of working for the company. This one guy I helped train and has repeatedly made safety violations; and is getting promoted to full time over me. They have also started cutting my hours but they always ask me to cover a shift when the new moron manager makes a mistake on the schedule.

  123. Hi Jon, It’s clear you’re being used as a floater. They may have no other plans for you, and they’ll keep you in that position for as long as you’ll tolerate it. But I will tell you sometimes a floater ends up getting a promotion due to all the varied experience, especially troubleshooting. You’ll have to decide if that’s really what’s happening at this job or if you’re just being used.

  124. Wow, these seven points are on target. It’s been difficult for me to put a finger on how doing everything, “right” has gone so wrong. I’ve always been a top performer. I look back to my 20s and 30s and because I was expanding my skill set (healthcare), I changed jobs about every 2 years to different specialties. At that time I was not looking for a promotion, but I often became the target of bullies who didn’t like me and I see now that they were threatened by me. My patients loved me and always had wonderful things to say, this seemed to make my coworkers hate me!

    I took some time away to start a family and when I returned to work I was killing it. However, I found at a particular role that would have positioned me for promotion that my boss was extremely threatened by me because her bos, the head of organization loved my work and was grooming me for promotion. She did everything in her power to make my life miserable and to try to sabotage and deflate me, it all came to a head when she created a lie and she let it fly and told me yelled at me (in front of HR), that I was, “intimidating.” She kept repeating it and that is when it dawned at me that this woman’s insecurities (she was close to retirement with less than a year left) led her bad decisions. She loved claiming credit for my work which for the first time in the organization’s history got state and national attention. But she literally hated me and was willing to do everything in her power to make sure I wouldn’t promote. My coworkers liked me. She threatened to put me on pip, I quit, the board and head of organization were upset, they pushed her out soon after.

    I immediately got scooped up by a competitor who created a position for me. I was also the one who managed external partners, so when I left those relations left with me and this previous org lost funding, because I was also was the one who had a good relationship with our funders and when they found out I got run out they were unhappy and very aware of the incompetency of my manager. This new organization is huge, I thought for sure I would be able to continue to elevate my career. Instead I’ve discovered that it’s the popular kids club, and even though I’ve excelled in my role, won awards, work with executive leaders, I’ve applied for multiple transfers, many of them for the next level, I was never selected. I’ve gotten some lateral transfers but have been stuck. I’ve also had one manager who was also very insecure and decided to target me especially during covid, removing me from my role, not just once, but twice for almost a year to do scut work, it was miserable, and I wanted to quit so many times but due to the uncertainty of the pandemic I held on, which I see now was a mistake.

    Luckily, I was recruited by a different manager internally for my current role and I like my manager and staff but there is zero opportunity for growth. I know I will run into issue #1, where I am where they need me, so my manager won’t be championing me for promotion because I am very good at what I do, but I’m not challenged and working below my potential, but they need me where I’m at and they have had such a hard time finding someone with my skill set, that they will hold onto me as long as possible. I’ve been in this huge organization for almost 5 years, I see others get promoted, I see that they got championed and mentored with leadership training opportunities that seem to be off limits to someone like me. My colleagues like me and love my quality of work, but I guess those already in leadership roles don’t think I’d fit the suit, I suspect that they know I would shine and due to their own insecurities it’s a situation of them thinking I will make them look bad. So no it is definitely not a meritocracy, it’s the popular kids table, which I literally have always been excluded from my entire life.

    I’m in the final stages of a senior leadership position for a much smaller, but competing organization. I’ve worked with them before (remember, I am great at managing and building external partnerships, so they have had a chance to work with me before), and they were so pleased when they saw me throw my hat in. I am the final choice, we have a few more steps, I am sad to leave my current organization because my knowledge of navigating the system internally will be useless when I seitch to a different employer. However, I also know when the door has been left open for me, the writing in the wall that they see me as nothing more than a worker bee. So much talent has left the organization due to similar struggles that I’m expressing here. It has been very sad to see the best colleagues leave. So, wish me luck that everything lines up with this new role, and I am finally able to move into a formal leadership title. I’m tired of being the only person in the room without a title, it has been glaringly obvious to me how unusual it is to work side by side with executives and senior leadership, yet because I don’t hold a leadership title, I have trouble leveraging the respect needed to be as impactful as I wish to be. I am sure when I leave people will mention what a shame it is, but this is what happens when there is lack of mentorship and championing of those who aren’t the schmoozes and big talkers, even with a history of getting things done, it seems it is not enough.

  125. I have been working over and beyond in a role a transferred to internally almost 1 year ago. I have documented all of my contributions, including improvements, implementations and the differences in what I was hired to do vs what I have been doing which are more than clear. After suggesting my own new job title as well as writing my own job description, I was told they will give me a new title, new description but it too is considered lateral with no increase in pay or official promotion. This is a company that names people Sr. And directors of departments with no other people, so naturally, being someone in a unique role and the only one of its kind I took the fact they allowed me to write my own description after almost 1 year of working above and beyond as flattery. Very stupid and not so much when my above and beyond efforts were just eclipsed by now being “just my job.” There are a few things that come to mind like racism…or even the fact I’m not connected with their “religious” beliefs, but at the end of the day…it doesn’t make for a very enthusiastic employee that wants to continue to work at the same level but they win because now if I don’t work at a high level, I’m not doing “my job”.

  126. Hi Mina – It sounds like you’re the classic organizational foot soldier. Your roles have been to carry the load and even to innovate so others can look better than they really are. Not surprising. It explains why most organizations are dysfunctional and probably shouldn’t even continue in business. Cronies get promoted on the backs of the worker ants.

    I’m of the opinion that some people within an organization are targeted for advancement while others aren’t, and that’s the popularity contest you refer to. Like high school, some “kids” are better at inserting themselves in the popular clique than others, and they move ahead. Perhaps you can take some comfort in that you’ve developed a laundry list of skills and contacts that guarantees you’ll always have a job. By contrast, a lot of those who do get promotions crash and burn when they’re lack of talent is exposed – usually because they no longer have people like you behind them to make them look like superstars.

  127. @Kevin,
    Your sage wisdom and insight is a continuous blessing.
    I just started my 10th year at a toxic job. At 64, I have 2 years until full retirement. Oddly enough, I like the work, most of the accounts, and I’m good at what I do (or so the owners tell me).
    The sad reality is due to life set backs, job loses, and not earning major bank (not for the lack of not trying), I’ll be working into my 70s, but certainly not where I’m at currently. The place is spinning around the drain. I’m already searching for a new job to carry me upward and onward into this impending season of life
    Sir, you’re one of the few career style commentators, or coaches, or whatever your title, out there that really gets it, and has their finger on the pulse of how clown world and toxic many workplaces are today.
    I’m one of those “foot soldiers” you speak of. But I’m also an Everlast punching bag. I guess it’s what St Matthew speaks of “taking up your (emphasis on your) cross daily”. Watching entitled and unaccountable colleagues shirk duties, get raises, and get away with murder. Interesting what will happen when I eventually tenure my notice. Probably the “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”.
    Younger men, self-fund your own retirement and never rely on an employer for anything.

  128. Your last sentence is the most bankable advice on this entire thread Antonio! And thank you for your kind words. Though I’d like to add that I’m none of the titles you’ve listed, but rather a foot soldier who survived the School of Hard Knocks, took notes, lived to tell about it, and have been blessed with the God-given talent to put it into written words that might benefit others.

  129. Wow – I really appreciate this article but am both sad and comforted that it need exist. Like some others, I finally recognized that I wasn’t going to fit the desired promotable mold, so I left my government job and started my own business.

    It’s the best decision I could have possibly made, but I would not have “jumped without a net” had I not been so unhappy and overlooked for so long.

  130. Thank you for posting this article. It really sums up what I have experienced in my career. It seems like the more I do for a company, the less recognition I get and thus labeled as “unpromotable”. As I watch how others with less seniority and experience get promoted, the less satisfied I am at my company. My department has done a complete turnover where I’m the remaining piece (including me getting a new boss) that now I feel like the odd man out although having the most experience & knowledge over the rest of the department. I like to be considered a Mentor to the new staff members, but feel like my company does not support Mentorships. I feel like once I retire, all my hard work and knowledge will be lost. Yes, I’m one of those employees that does their job extremely well, but doesn’t reflect in my title or role within the company. I’m close to retirement, thus do not want to have to look for another job just to get recognition I deserve.

  131. Hi Tom, If you’re real close to retirement you should certainly wait it out, especially if there’s a pension waiting. But once you leave, don’t look back – it’ll be their loss. If you feel motivated, maybe you can launch a post-retirement career in a job and field where you’ll get more recognition for the work you do. Your experience is likely to be highly valued at another employer, especially one that does encourage mentorships.

  132. i am probably late to the party but this is a great article for anyone in the workforce!

    Like many who have replied i have encountered many of the reasons you list in this article. In the jobs i have had in healthcare i have come to look past all the things management and HR says. If you look at how the current employees work,the environment, the attitude of the department it will tell you A LOT. Seen managers that have no clue what they are doing and no idea or they don’t care about the workloads the people under them have. Workers will get tired of the “show” and will soon understand they will not be promoted or gain much even if they do their job well. I fully understand about not being liked. Seen clique mentalities which allows people to get away with things. i try to give my coworkers a sense of respect but do not pull that ‘were family” cause we are not and with the behaviors i have seen why would i want to be close to some of these people. It has been said by others but you have to understand there are some things you cant change. If the management is toxic and the environment is dysfunctional then you must do whats best for you and move on.

    Sooner or later people will realize this or be broken by it. The image is not the same as the reality

  133. Hi John – you’ve made some excellent observations. But the one I want to focus on is the “we’re family” comment.

    Employers like to use euphemisms and metaphors to keep the troops in line. I myself have heard that family reference in several places. It was never true in any of them. In fact, it often seemed the more the family reference was imposed, the less true it was. If an employer was a “family”, then I was clearly an in-law.

    Another one I despise is synergy. Not only is that term overworked, but it’s almost never true. It’s a metaphor for “you need to sacrifice and work harder to help the company succeed”. The reverse is never true, since the organization has no interest in helping their employees reach their potential and grow.

    Based on what I’ve seen in the past 20 or 30 years, I’m afraid the situation is only getting worse. Covid wasn’t the cause, but it accelerated a lot of negatives that were already in place. What’s making it worse is that where before we were dealing primarily with employer downsizing, now we have people quitting because of poor working conditions and compensation. That makes it worse for all the people left behind.

    I see no evidence employers care about that condition, or perhaps they’re not in a position to do anything constructive about it.

    My hope for many years has been that millions of Americans would turn to self-employment. The net result would be millions of potential workers exiting the job force. That would force employers to finally improve working conditions and compensation.

    But unless that happens, I see the whole situation continuing to circle the drain. Not to be pessimistic, but the reality is that all the negatives will accelerate when a recession hits, if we’re not already in one.

    Thank you for your comments!

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