How to deal

Convincing a senior colleague you are ready for a promotion

Lily Garcia
Thursday, May 27, 2010; 1:20 PM

I am a senior manager at a local organization and I would like to be considered for a promotion. I currently work with someone who I've worked with in the past at a different organization where I was very junior to him. This colleague will have a lot of influence on whether or not I am eligible for the promotion, but he doesn't seem to take me seriously and still sees me as the junior person I was many years ago. I have recently been trying to assume more responsibility to establish myself as a director. In a recent meeting I made a recommendation and he shut me down. How do I work on changing his perception of me so I am not passed over for this promotion?

I think that you should concentrate your efforts not on changing one person's opinion of you, but rather on establishing a professional reputation that will make you a natural choice for promotion. Identify directors in your organization who are respected and accomplished. Ask them each about their professional philosophy and habits. What are the major turning points that led them to where they are? You should come away from these conversations with an emerging sense of the behaviors that are most valued in your organization and what you must do to position yourself for a director job.

In the process of familiarizing yourself with your would-be peers at the director level, I encourage you to also identify at least one person who will be able to mentor you more closely and consistently in your quest for a promotion. This should be a colleague you trust, who is fond of you, who genuinely appreciates your strengths and believes in your potential to successfully assume greater responsibility. In the context of such a relationship, you will be able to ask more direct and specific questions regarding what you should be doing to polish your image and what potential vulnerabilities you should address. When the time comes for the organization to consider your bid for promotion, your mentor will be able to serve as an advocate for your candidacy, identifying your strongest attributes and allaying concerns regarding the areas in which you still need to grow.

Meanwhile, these professional relationships will help to guide your day-to-day decisions regarding how you respond to a range of workplace scenarios, including how to frame your recommendations in meetings with that colleague from your earlier job. I understand that his recent response to you left you feeling "shut down," but I invite you to think about whether this type of response is atypical for him? Perhaps it was based on his perception of you as junior, but it could also have been rooted in a general inability to accept constructive criticism. And does it really matter in the end as long as you are able to consistently reflect the dignity and composure of a respected leader?

Lily Garcia has offered employment law and human resources advice to companies of all sizes for more than 10 years. To submit a question, e-mail We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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