How Being Too Productive Could Cost You A Promotion

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Photo: Tor Lindstrand via flickr

You think that if you put in extra hours and meet your deadlines, you’ll eventually be considered for a promotion or a raise.But being productive doesn’t guarantee you a promotion and it can actually work against you, especially if you’re too good. 

Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, says that performance matters less than you might imagine because 

it “has many different dimensions” and “what matters to your boss may not be the same things that you think are important.”

In the book, Pfeffer offers a scenario where bosses were not willing to promote their employees because they see them as “extremely effective in their current position” and don’t want to lose them in that specific role. Furthermore, they might not want to “to do anything that would bring [you] to the attention of others and thereby, risk losing [you].” 

The only way to ensure that your competence in your job will be fairly evaluated is if you get noticed and are able to manage your own superiors — without them knowing it.  

“You need to be noticed, influence the dimensions used to measure your accomplishments, and mostly make sure you are effective at managing those in power — which requires the ability to enhance the ego of those above you.”

This is because your relationship with those in power is critical to your own success, and you should worry about this relationship as much as you worry about your job performance. In fact, you should be careful when delivering bad news to your manager, so that they don’t associate the negative feeling that follows that news with you. 

Pfeffer says that by broadening your influences and “managing up,” you are displaying your own powers over your superiors. 

“Your driving ambitions and even your great performance are not going to be sufficient to assure success in a typical hierarchical organisation. The people responsible for your success are those above you, with the power to either promote you block your rise up the organisation chart. And there are always people above you, regardless of your position.” 

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