I Want My Promotion and I Want It Now!

Dear Midas Jones – I have been working as a programmer for the same software company since I graduated from college ten years ago. I am still in basically the same position I was in when I was hired, writing code for new products as part of a programming team. There are many teams in my company. My work is good and so are my work habits. I have never given any of my supervisors a moment of trouble. I meet all deadlines. My problem is that I am beginning to feel that I am a small cog in a large machine and always will be, unrecognized, unrewarded, and bored. I want to be someone special. I want to be important, to make important decisions, to make a lot of money, and to buy all of the neat stuff that prosperous families fill their houses with. I want people to recognize me and to defer to me. Apparently ordinary competence is not going to get me any of those things. I need to be doing something that I am not doing, but I don’t know what it is. Help! – Clueless

Dear Clueless – You will be amused when you realize how simple a problem you’ve given me. Your problem is this: to attain your goals of corporate stardom and prosperity, you must be on a fast track to the top. High-achievers are typically fast-track people. You, however, are still at the station waiting for the train. To get on the fast-track to a top-floor corner office, you must choose to change (1) where you are or (2) who you are. Only you can decide whether you should move to another employer or to change yourself to suit the employer you have now. It is certainly easier for you to get another job than it is for you to change yourself. But, do you think that another company would be so different from your present employer? It could be that your company is not the kind of environment in which your skills and unique contributions are valued. Maybe another company would appreciate you more. Only you can decide.

 If, on the other hand, you decide that the problem is you rather than your company, then you have a lot of thinking to do. The applicable Machiavellian principle is this: If you want to change your circumstances, you must be willing to change yourself. You have become a creature of your environment. You are good at what you do, but no one believes that you will be good at anything else, and they may be right. You have to look at who is getting the promotions you covet and figure out what they did that you didn’t do and what they said that you didn’t say. Notice that I did not write “what did they have that you didn’t have” as it is typically expressed. No one can see what your inner nature is; they can only see what you do and hear what you say. You must change what you do and what you say so that those who give promotions want to give you one. You must start saying and doing the things that the like to hear and see. Do not imagine that they can peer into your inner nature, somehow, and reward you for your hidden virtues. You must exhibit, conspicuously, the behaviors that they like. You must say, often, the things that they like to hear.

 This means that you will have to spend some time observing the people in your corporation who could promote you and thinking about what kind of people they are? On what basis do they make their decisions? Your competency as a programmer? Their perception of how well you fit in? Whether they like you? You are going to have to spend less time programming and more time schmoozing. 

 You must also decide whether you want to change yourself that much. Is the promotion worth the changes you will have to make in yourself? Will you like being yourself any better after you have changed? Is the extra money and status worth the effort? Are there other things you could do with that same energy and time that would be more satisfying?

 You have a lot of thinking to do.  Good Luck -- Midas

 

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