Great performance should earn - not hamper – promotion

Dear Joan:
Recently, I came across an adage that perfectly describes the situation I’m in. “Don’t be irreplaceable; if you can’t be replaced, you won’t be promoted.”


I have been working at my current job for over five years—more than most of the people I work with—and I absolutely love my job and all the people I work with. I have consistently done more than is asked of me, especially if it is a challenge, and I have accepted extra tasks without griping. About five months ago, I asked for and received a couple of tasks that require more responsibility and it is a great boost to my self-esteem and a help to my coworkers. I feel I am a very good employee, and management often tells me that my performance and attitude is wonderful.


So what’s the problem? I have been trying to “move up” the ladder, take on more responsibilities and projects that really require me to use my brain and challenge me. But I find that my supervisors don’t want me to—not because I can’t do it, but because they say they depend on me to keep on doing what I am doing. Joan, I was even told that my performance is like a double-edged sword because I do it so well and without complaint, they really don’t want to change anything!


I was actually told this when I asked for a larger, more mutually beneficial role! I was told that my position probably wouldn’t be changed because they really “want and need me just where I am.” I want to move up and be challenged but have hit a brick wall right where I started. I feel as though I am being punished for being a great employee…why does this happen?



Here’s another adage: “It’s better to grow people and lose them than to not grow people and keep them.” While it is difficult to lose wonderful employees, it’s a lot smarter to develop good people while you have them. They will work harder for you and deliver far better results than good employees who are chained to their desks.


Let’s take two scenarios. First, we’ll trace the situation of Ellen, a bright, eager employee who works for a smart manager who develops his people. Ellen will leap tall buildings in a single bound for this guy. Why? Because her boss knows her goals and he is coaching her on the steps to get there.


He gives her assignments that stretch her. He exposes her to other managers in areas in which she’s interested. In fact, she ends up working for him longer than she thought she would, because he is always giving her new challenges.


And when she’s ready, he helps her look for opportunities within the organization. (If Ellen leaves, other employees know he has had her best interests at heart and he will help them, too, even if it means looking outside the organization for the right next step. Consequently, they will take a bullet for this guy and they perform like crazy.)


Now, let’s consider Cindy, who works for your boss. Praise and raises are great but Cindy wants to get ahead. Over time, Cindy will likely get restless and leave. In fact, your manager may lose good employees faster and get stuck with mediocre employees who don’t want to try new things. The manager will develop a reputation for stifling his employees, good employee won’t be eager to work for him and it may even affect his career.


Here’s what I’d suggest. Go to your manager and say, “I appreciate all the great things you say about my performance and I really enjoy my job and the people I work with. But I’m concerned about my career growth in the future. My goal is to move up the ladder and I’d like to stay here instead of having to leave to do it.”


When your supervisor presses you for more, repeat back what was said to you about staying where you are. Explain that you are happy where you are now and you are enjoying your new responsibilities. Tell him that you hope you will continue to grow not only on your current job but in future jobs as well.


If you don’t say anything, you will probably get frustrated and leave. If you do tell your manager how you feel, he will have a chance to correct his approach. Since you love your job, it’s worth a shot.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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