Many people have expressed to me their desire for a promotion at work. These are individual contributors who perform at a high level in their current roles, but they want the opportunity to lead a team or to take on more responsibilities. In my previous articles, I have discussed primarily the role of a leader and some of the disciplines that leaders should embody in order to lead the right way. In this article, however, I want to turn our attention to the things that you should start doing today if you desire to be trusted with more responsibility at work.
The main thing to keep in mind as you read this article is that you must build trust with your manager and colleagues wherever you are right now. The only way to do that is by having the right character and integrity. The Bible provides clear instructions on how to do these things.
#1 Be diligent in your current role.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl 9:10). Elsewhere the Bible says, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).
Diligence in your current role is not an option. I have met many people who want others to notice them and give them more responsibility at work, but they are slackers in their current jobs. There is a sense of entitlement that is permeating our culture. Many believe that promotions and raises come as a result of seniority instead of delivering strong results. However, it is the little things that count: come to work on time, put all of your strength and energy into what it is you’re getting paid to do, and serve customers with a smile. No one can undervalue these things.
Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee University, taught his students that they bring dignity to their work and not the other way around. He believed that people should not seek affirmation and fulfillment in their work. Instead, they should do the work in such a way that all the hosts of heaven will marvel at their handiwork. In so doing, they would add great value to their community. They would also raise the work out of the plane of drudgery and onto the plane of the dignified. By mastering their craft, they would, in turn, become distinguished. You too can create satisfaction in the work you do and get others to notice you. Be diligent and master your current craft well!
#2 Be reliable.
I still remember the first time I got fired from a job. I was a freshman in high school and working as a receptionist at the front desk. My job was simple: answer the phone and connect callers to the right department or individual. I worked the Sunday evening shift, and I don’t remember ever getting more than five phone calls per night. After missing my third shift, my boss saw me in the hallway during school hours and fired me right on the stop. I was not reliable and suffered the consequences.
The Bible says, “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refreshes the soul of his masters” (Prov 25:13). The converse of this statement is also true. An unreliable, unfaithful person wearies the soul of those who send him.
Reliability, like diligence, is the best way to add value to an organization. I challenge you to pursue excellence in your work. Be the type of employee that your boss and colleagues can rely on to get the job done. When someone delegates an assignment to you, he or she should not worry whether or not the assignment will be accomplished on time and with great quality. Get into the habit of helping those in your department and even across other departments. Find small ways to add value to other people’s work. Endeavor to have the reputation of a reliable, faithful employee, wherever you are. In time, you will find yourself being asked to take on more responsibility.
#3 Obey those in authority over you.
“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God” (Col 3:22).
I know that this is unpopular advice but it is true and important. Having served on both sides of the fence, first as an individual contributor and now as a manager, I have seen first-hand the importance of obedience. Obedience has received a negative connotation because frankly many people have abused their authority in the workplace. No one should make you feel like a rag doll or a doormat. Nor am I advocating for cowardly obedience, where one just does as he is told, even though he knows that the task is wrong or unjust. Obedience is not the opposite of strength: the two actually go hand-in-hand.
Nowhere is this truth more apparent than in the military. Soldiers are taught to obey their platoon leader’s command because if everyone starts doing whatever they want to do on the battlefield and there is not a clear standard in place, this can mean disaster for the entire platoon.
At the end of the day, we are all under some form of authority. Your manager has certain directives he or she must follow and will make requests of you from time to time. When asked to call a client and close the deal, be sure to do it. When asked to place a supply order for the office, do it timely and with great care. Of course, there will be times when you will disagree with a certain decision your manager makes, and in these instances, you should speak up and express your opinion. However, if the request is not unjust, choosing not do it is a sign of pride and it is wrong. No one wants to work with someone who shuns their responsibility in this way.
#4 Ask for a promotion.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt 7:7, 8).
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that keeps people from getting a promotion is that they don’t ask. Many people are simply turning at the wheels incessantly. They want recognition, but have yet to express their desire for a promotion or more responsibility. Your manager does not have psychic powers, so don’t expect him or her to read your mind.
I know of an instance where a department hired 12 new employees over a short period of time. After the hires were made, one of the front-line team members approached his manager to express his disappointment for not having been considered for one of the open positions. However, he had never expressed interest in the role before. Fortunately, the manager was able to find something for him, but the outcome is not always so certain.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, at the heart of this issue is trust. Unless those you work with can trust your competence, integrity, and character, it will be an uphill battle for you to get a promotion. And if you have been doing these things consistently, and are still awaiting your “big break,” don’t be discouraged. You never know who is watching.
– Led by the Book