my manager keeps dangling a promotion in front of me, but it never happens

A reader writes:

My manager has been talking about promoting me for a pay grade increase for over a year. Every three months, it comes up in conversation, but she says something like “mistakes are getting in the way,” referring to mistakes I am making. I accept full responsibility for these mistakes and don’t expect a promotion.

But what bothers me is that I know for a fact that she promoted someone making those same mistakes. And since she has promoted that person, I continuously out-perform them and they still make the same mistakes.

At this point in time, I believe I will never get promoted. In 6 months, I made one made one mistake and it wiped out my chances for a promotion. I have accepted that.

Other than looking for a new job and continuing to work as hard as I can, is there anything else I can do? I guess I can’t say to my manager, “I know I will never be promoted.”

If I were in your shoes, I’d just smile and nod when your manager talks about this alleged promotion, while meanwhile actively looking for another job . In other words, tune out her charades and promote yourself by leaving for a new job, so that you’re not dependent on her to make it happen.

Now, I should say that it’s possible that you don’t know the full story about your coworker who got promoted. It’s possible that that person was excelling in other ways that you didn’t see, ways that trumped the mistakes you did see.

It’s also possible that that’s not the case at all, and that for some reason your manager is holding you to a higher standard than this other person, or doesn’t really want to promote you and is using your mistakes as a way to justify it. Who knows.

What you do know is that you’re probably not going to get promoted by her, so if you want to move up, finding another job outside this company is going to be the way to do it. So there’s no point in putting much energy into these “whoops, no promotion yet” conversations she holds with you every three month. Smile, nod, respond pleasantly, and put all your focus on moving somewhere else.

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