Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Bosses love boldness – simply asking could snag you a promotion in 2024

More than a quarter of UK leaders (28%) say they make decisions about who to promote in their organisation based simply upon whether somebody has asked for a promotion or not, according to a survey of more than 2,000 employees and managers by global leadership experts Right Management.

Nearly a fifth (18%) of employees meanwhile, say that they don’t know how to go about advancing their career, while a quarter (24%) say they need greater clarity around what they need to do to progress, to help them to gain a promotion.  

“Asking for a promotion or support with your career development might not guarantee anything,” says Lorraine Mills, principal consultant, Right Management. “But it’s clear that it will significantly increase your chances.” 

 “The old adage, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’, comes to mind,” she adds. “As workplace dynamics become more complex, widespread and reliant on technology, we can sometimes forget the most obvious ways of going about things.”  

Responding to the survey, a quarter of leaders (26%) say they decide who to promote based on whether they think somebody will fit in, with 16% also saying such decisions are made on gut feeling.  

Thankfully a majority (57%) of leaders say they rely on data about people’s skills and abilities to decide who to promote. But employees might be interested to learn that it is loyalty and longevity of service that will also put them in good stead for a promotion, with 29% of leaders saying they base employee promotion and development decisions on the number of years somebody has worked at a company. This climbs even higher – to 42% - for respondents who are sole leaders, such as CEOs, founders and business owners.  

“It’s striking just how many leaders will admit that a long stint of service by an employee, as well as their own personal instincts, are such important factors when deciding who to promote”, says Mills. 

“It could be tempting to think that gut instinct and years of service might offer some advantages for leaders if they are combined with other subjective measures, but such measures should never be used to make key decisions, as there is too much danger of bias.”  

However, there appears to be some misalignment between employees and leaders on the topic of promotion. While most leaders cite these decisions as being data-driven, one in five employees (22%) believe such decisions are based on who you know, rather than what you know. 

“Leaders need to make sure their methods for deciding who to promote and develop are transparent and evidence-based,” says Mills. “It’s also important they nip potential issues in the bud by addressing any misperceptions in their workforce about how employees are promoted.   

“The way to promote and develop colleagues properly must be grounded in an inclusive and honest culture. When such decisions are made, communication and clarity is absolutely key. The wider business benefits when everybody understands why, and how, individuals have been promoted. That means line managers having all the necessary information readily available so that there cannot be any doubt or speculation around the process.”