10 reasons you’re not the boss

Wondering why you can’t get promoted to a management position? One or more of these 10 common problems might be the reason why.

1. You don’t look the part. It might seem superficial and unfair, but appearances really do count. You might be able to get away with pushing your office’s dress code to the limit, but it’s probably impacting the way people perceive you and what opportunities you’re offered.

2. You’re terrible at time management. Managers need to keep track not only of their own work, but also keep track of other people’s too. If you can’t stay on top of your own projects, your employer isn’t likely to have faith that you’ll be able to monitor the work of an entire team.

3. You aren’t very good at tough conversations. A manager needs to have to have tough conversations, make decisions that may be unpopular, and enforce standards and consequences. If you shy away from difficult conversations – or the opposite, if you’re too aggressive and confrontational in them – you likely won’t be seen as manager material.

4. You gossip or are part of a clique. Managers need to be unbiased and objective – and not only that, they need to appear unbiased too. If you’ve already crossed professional boundaries within the office, it will be difficult to rebuild those lines as a manager.

5. You don’t know how to prioritize. Managers need to look at a landscape of dozens of possible projects and identify the most important ones to spend time and resources on – and then stay focused on those goals without letting distractions intervene. If you already have trouble figuring out the best place to spend your time, the problems would only compound.

6. You’re act entitled. Entitlement from someone at a junior level is hard enough to deal with; entitlement in a manager is even worse. No employer wants to deal with a manager who thinks her department deserves a higher budget or more staff allocations than everyone else, or who tries to exempt herself from the policies and procedures that everyone else has to follow.

7. You don’t manage your own boss well. The ability to manage upwards gets more and more important as you move up the ladder. If you’re not skilled at managing your relationship with your manager now – including communicating well, getting aligned on expectations, and getting her what she needs in the manner she prefers it – it’s likely to hold you back from higher-level roles.

8. You’re a complainer. Managers need to have the maturity and perspective to understand how policies that might be annoying still server the larger good of the company. They also need the judgment to raise concerns professionally and through the correct channels, rather than sharing them with anyone who will listen.

9. You do your job duties and nothing else. Average work might satisfy the requirements of your current job, but it’s not enough to get you promoted. Promotions go to people who go above and beyond the minimum and seek out ways to constantly improve.

10. You don’t make your accomplishments visible. You might be doing a fantastic job, but if no one knows that, you won’t be rewarded for it. So don’t be shy about sharing accomplishments with your manager, whether it’s rave reviews from a client or a tricky problem that you solved before it caused damage.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 90 comments… read them below }

  1. Sophie*

    #10 really struck me. I recently had a long overdue conversation with my top-level boss about my work and he was quite surprised to learn about a lot of things that I had accomplished – he just wasn’t aware of them. He is now giving me more special assignments and asking my advice more often.

    P.S. I was able to have a successful conversation with him because of Alison’s excellent advice. :)

  2. Eric*

    What about, “There’s no room at your company.” I’ve known a few people that say their boss will tell them there is just not room in the budget to promote them, but I guess it’s possible they are just blowing them BS.

    1. Jamie*

      There are instances where this can be true. There are also times when someone can outgrow a company altogether.

      In an SMB you can only go so far…both for position and salary. There are a lot of people who are very happy with that – making it to the top of the ladder there. There are some who really want to advance beyond that and as much as a company would like to keep them they can only offer to much.

      In those instances it behooves both the company and the employee to work out a smooth transition when the employee moves on – so there are no bridges burnt on either side.

    2. KayDay*

      Yep, this can be so true at many places–they might be able to swing giving you more challenging projects and stuff, but at many small organizations with very few middle managers, there just simply be no place for even a great employee to get into management.

      I also agree with Jame that, “it behooves both the company and the employee to work out a smooth transition when the employee moves on.” In cases where an employee “outgrows” the company, it is usually apparent to both parties, so I’m (a little teeny weeny bit) surprised that more companies don’t do a better job of being upfront with employees and/or allowing employees to be upfront with them (without showing the employee the door right away).

      1. twentymilehike*

        Very true.

        I’m in that boat right now. I started in this position, and the next step up would be OWNER, so … not likely to happen. Its just a shame that they tell me how much they never want me to EVER LEAVE, but yet, I haven’t had a raise in going on four years, I get no benefits, and they ask me to work less days a week when we are slow. I’ve been here for almost a decade and its a shame that the business has become stagnant and now I’m the one secretly job hunting. I’m working on a master’s degree, so I realistically can’t expect to stay in this position!

  3. Joey*

    Tact is what I see that a lot of people need to greatly improve on. Knowing when and how to say things greatly improves your chances of being a great manager.

  4. Hugo*

    I know this is off-topic a bit, but I’ve been a boss for 12 years now and would really like to move away from it and into project management, consulting, or even something technical. I know this question is pretty broad and very dependent on someone’s particular experience and backgrounds, but it would be nice to see a general article on how to move away from “people management” and into something more collaborative in nature. In other words, less babysitting, and more working alongside peers with zero (or close to zero) direct reports.

    1. Jamie*

      There has to be a way of stepping down gracefully, without losing respect, back to doing what you love.

  5. Anony Mouse*

    Unfortunately, #1 can also include “you don’t look like what the leaders at your company think you should look like”, and not limited to things you can change. Of course, you certainly can’t do much if you are, for example, a woman, and women aren’t seen as managers in your company, but it’s a really important thing to keep in mind when you are interviewing for jobs. If the current management is all old white dudes, just be aware of what you are getting into.

    1. Tiff*


      If you used pictures, our organizational chart would look like a snow capped mountain.

    2. Charles*

      Sorry – but I do see “all old white dudes” as a racist, sexist, and ageist remark – nice one!

      1. Jamie*

        Not to mention that some of these “old white dudes” have wives, daughters, etc. with high powered careers themselves and wouldn’t think of ruling out half of the talent pool.

        And some of us not-quite-so-old-women have definitely benefited from being mentored by said old white dude…some of which saw more in me than I saw in myself at the time and championed my cause accordingly.

        It’s dangerous to make assumptions about anyone based on race, age, or gender…and just because older white males have traditionally held their share of positions of power doesn’t mean it’s okay to paint them all with the same brush, either.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m not saying that a white guy can’t be a good manager; I’m saying that, if the culture of the company is such that all of the managers are white guys, someone who doesn’t fit that profile is going to have a harder time making it into management.

          1. Jamie*

            That isn’t necessarily the case, though. If the company culture is that they want management to be all of any particular type of person that’s a problem.

            1. Anonymous*

              Sure, it could be “must have a degree from Notre Dame” or “must be a Yankees fan” or any other arbitrary thing. I would argue that gender/race discrimination is the most prominent, though, because it permeates on a sub-conscious level that one must actively work to overcome.

              In any case, my point is that you may run up against this type of BS in the workplace, and the best strategy I know of to combat it is to pay attention to the composition of management during the interviewing process. Personally, I’ve also discussed workplace diversity with hiring managers when it was a concern for me; one company was very clear that it was taking steps to change its reputation.

          2. Long Time Admin*

            That’s very true, especially here in the South. Possibly less in the really big cities, but where I live it’s very common.

      2. Anonymous*

        Um, no. Saying someone is white, old, or male is not racist, ageist, or sexist. It is a descriptive statement.

        1. Charles*

          Thta is one very lame defense for a stupid comment – really lame.

          As Jamie says above- don’t paint everyone with the same brush. That’s what makes that comment rude!

          (It will be very sad to see another good blog go down because some folks cannot show respect for others. – I, and many, others come here to see what AAM has to say and realize that most of her commenters have good things to add; please don’t ruin that by being rude)

          1. Anonymous*

            In this day and age, if a company has no women or minorities in management, we are past the point where we can say that it just happened to work out that way. I’m not saying that white men are jerks; I am saying that a company culture that has, up until this point in time, only allowed for the promotion of white men into management is problematic, and someone working there who can’t get promoted may have a problem that is not resolvable unless they plan to upend an entire culture.

            If “old white dudes” was too callous a word choice, I apologize for using it, but the fact remains that this is the type of thing people should pay attention to when choosing a job.

            1. Liz*

              That was how I took your original comment, and I think you’re right about it being a red flag if a company’s management is all from the same demographic. I think sometimes people add a premise “that person must have meant to do that wrong thing because he/she is BAD” when the original statement is just meant to be descriptive.

              I run into it a lot because I work with legal types, who like to be precise, and non-profit types, who tend to have a richer set of associations for words.

            2. KellyK*

              I think that’s a totally valid point, though it depends on company size and area demographics. It’s much easier for it to “just work out that way” in a company with 10 people in upper management than in one with 200.

            3. Charles*

              While I understand (and respect) your viewpoint I was “bothered” by your choice of words.

              Apology accepted. thank you!

          1. Jamie*

            I can see both sides. I understand the deeper intent of the commenters who are worried that their careers could be hampered if there is unspoken discrimination in promotions.

            I can also see how the verbiage could be taken as insulting as well – even though apparently that was not the intention.

            If you replace “old white dudes” in the sentence with “young minority chicks” and it would read just as harshly.

            I also understand the viewpoint some have that white males have had preferential treatment over the years and some who have benefited from that treatment are currently in upper management at some companies. But the white guys who are applying to jobs today shouldn’t pay the price for that, because they have as much right to be judged, hired, and promoted on their merits as do everyone else.

            I think there can be a flippancy when discussing older white males that you don’t typically see when talking about other demographic groups which, imo, isn’t fair.

            I really hope that one day everything in every company is based on merit alone, which will render conversations like this moot.

            1. Charles*

              “If you replace “old white dudes” in the sentence with “young minority chicks” and it would read just as harshly.”

              Thank you Jamie – that was exactly my point – it is never okay to mock a group of people based upon race, gender, etc. (“white males” does often seem to be the exception to this common courtesy)

                1. Charles*

                  And are you saying it is okay to mock white males?

                  Yes, it is true that white and male have been signs of privileged and that is the “reason” for this rude exception; But, keep in mind that not all white males share that privilege.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m saying that you can’t compare this kind of statement about white males with this kind of statement about groups that have traditionally gotten the short end of the stick.

      3. Mike C.*

        Hmm yes, as a white male I truly feel discriminated against. Thanks for coming to my defense Charles.

      4. Chinook*

        Plus it may reflect the community 20 years ago when they all hired. Case in point is my company in Calgary. The community has become more diverse in the last few decades (random footage from the last 100 years of Stampede used in recent commercials showed one black guy and a few Asians. That is no longer the case here) so it looks wrong to have 90% white male partnership until you realize all their colleagues were white male (the one female partner started her own business). The partner track, though, is very diverse and, ironically, full of people not born in Calgary.

    3. Another Anonymous*

      The posts addressing the reality that organizations where most (or all) of the managers are older white males do exist make very good points. Acknowledging this fact does not indicate that all of those managers are ageist, racist and/or sexist. Doing so would do nothing to help address the issues with diversity that run rampant in this country. There is a difference between calling an individual in a company racist, ageist or sexist and recognizing the fact that a company’s corporate culture can make it challenging for those who appear (to those in authority) to be “different”. While those differences can be rooted in just about anything, it is true that in many organizations, institutional ageism, institutional racism and institutional sexism make it extremely difficult for those who are not older white males to advance. A person looking to join an organization whose top leadership’s gender, race and/or approximate age is different from his/hers should be aware of the situation and make plans to handle it with patience, wisdom and respect.

      1. Jamie*

        With respect to age, I wouldn’t expect a 20-something to find many peers among upper management of most companies.

        There are certain positions that are typically held by people mid-late career and that’s due to experience required…so I just wanted to throw out there that if you are young seeing a lot of older people in upper management isn’t necessarily a red flag.

        We need to get to the point where no one is discriminated against, or favored, in hiring based on factors beyond their control like race or gender. I just don’t want to see us go the other way where young white males (who will someday be old white males, if they live long enough) don’t get a shot because of their their mere presence in management is interpreted as a sign of the status quo.

        If I’m up for a job and a white male is more qualified I sure as heck don’t want to be given the offer because I’m a woman. I want the offer if I’m the best fit for the position.

        I’m just saying that maybe the demographics of upper management is indicative of an exclusive culture, but maybe (especially in small companies where you don’t have huge numbers for a control sample) they happened to have been the most qualified when jobs were being filled.

        Being aware of potential problems is really smart…it’s just important to make sure to get a correct evaluation before passing on a job based on external factors.

        1. Anonymous*

          There’s ample evidence that being older doesn’t magically impart leadership skills. It’s as ageist to suggest that as is is to suggest that old people shouldn’t be leaders at all.

          The fact that so many businesses are dominated by older people (and old white guys in particular) has more to do with wealth distribution than any other factor – wealth is increasingly skewed to older people and away from young people, and it’s hard to start a business without capital or credit. Whether that age-based wealth distribution is sensible or not is a discussion for another blog and time.

          1. Jamie*

            Of course age doesn’t magically impart leadership skills – I never implied that it did. However I specifically referred to upper management in my comment and yes, positions in the C-Suite are generally awarded based on a proven track record of accomplishment over a period of time. It logically follows that they will tend to be held by people mid to late career, because of the time it takes to hone that level of experience. There is nothing agist about that statement.

            Even taking the microcosm of this blog – Alison’s advice resonates with so many people because it’s logical and brilliant…sure. But it has credibility because she’s been in the trenches and she knows what works in the real world. If she were just out of school and had never managed anyone, never hired/never fired, then I don’t believe even she could bring this level of wisdom to the table.

            It’s not about having an AARP card – Alison is younger than I am and I’d work for her in a hot minute if she ever gets that Chocolate Teapot, Inc. up and running. But it is about upper management tending to have more more experience – not that there aren’t successful exceptions to that rule.

            Regarding wealth being skewed toward older people and away from younger people – I don’t even understand that statement. Older people tend to have been working longer and have amassed more wealth over their lifetimes…because their lifetimes have been longer.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Jamie wrote: “If I’m up for a job and a white male is more qualified I sure as heck don’t want to be given the offer because I’m a woman. I want the offer if I’m the best fit for the position.”

          Bravo to this.

          Anonymous, being older doesn’t magically impart leadership skills, but you nearly always need experience to lead/manage well — and for obvious reasons, older people tend to have more experience than younger people.

          1. Liz*

            Isn’t that kind of a false dichotomy, though? When a company determines fit they usually aren’t just deciding based on qualifications, so the choices really aren’t “Guy who’s qualified” or “less qualified non-white male.”

            You’ve said several times that a lot goes into that decision. So I agree with the overall point – less qualified candidates shouldn’t get a pity vote because of sex or race – but if it is more subjective than that, I think there’s room to admit that some of the subjective factors probably should weight “let’s not have an office where everyone looks the same” a little more.

              1. JT*

                Yeah. But the question is, is it “token” or are they trying to change (or at least open to it) and think you can be the start of that.

                My father was one of the first tow or three black guys in an entire industry, and the first in his position at his company. He was treated OK, though the pace of change was nowhere near what he would have liked.

              2. Anony Mouse*

                Actively recruiting top women and minorities is NOT the same thing as hiring tokens.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Sure, but the situation in question was ““if I’m up for a job and a white male is more qualified.” I don’t want that job — I didn’t earn it.

                2. Anony Mouse*

                  I agree, but the problem is that “more qualified” is, as you know, very subjective. Many managers have a very hard time quantifying things like leadership, and often recognize the types of leadership that are similar to their own. The good ones make a conscious effort not to overlook other styles that are just as effective.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Sure, but if the guy is more qualified, or if they think he’s more qualified, I don’t want the condescension. I’ll do it on my own without them, thanks.

                4. Jamie*

                  “Sure, but if the guy is more qualified, or if they think he’s more qualified, I don’t want the condescension. I’ll do it on my own without them, thanks.”

                  This is exactly how I feel. I don’t need a favor – I want to work for people who chose me on my own merits.

                  I don’t ever want anyone to settle for me, or to use my career to make a diversity statement.

              3. Anonymous*

                And if everyone felt like that, we would’ve never gotten any women or blacks or into many jobs. The only reason you have the luxury of choosing companies that value you for your skills is because many women took jobs that were only given to them out of pity or legal requirements, and then went on to do a great job and prove they were actually worthwhile staff once they had their foot in the door.

                I can respect that you, personally, don’t want to go out and be one of those people, but please don’t talk about those job opportunities as if nothing good ever came of them.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m not sure where I talked about these jobs as if nothing good ever came of them. I said I personally wouldn’t take one.

                  But for what it’s worth, I also don’t feel that I need to make decisions for myself based on what would be best for a demographic group that I happen to belong to. I am very aware of and grateful for what feminism has accomplished, but now I intend to live my life the way I want to. Which I think is what earlier wave feminists intended.

              4. Anonymous*

                Regular comment person going Anonymous.

                If you’ve ever had to fill out a ton of EEOC paperwork for your Diversity Department (and they do exist in some organizations) you’ll appreciate how frustrating it is to not just hire the most qualified person without having to cite why.

                I don’t want to be the token white person/woman/Christian/whatever in my department. I want to be there because I’m qualified and fit well with the group. Not because someone decided we needed to have X percentage or quantity of women/whites/Christians/whatevers to make our department whatever it is someone wants it to be.

                Besides, forcing things never works. Forcing diversity is just as bad as trying to force camaraderie. If people don’t fit together, you’ll have the same problems. Trust me, seen that in action.

                1. Liz*

                  The issue is that “most qualified” is usually a subjective measure. Alison has said that at several points when talking about applications.

                  Organizations rarely do a straight up count of skills and experience acquired when making a hire. Things like what type of skills, fit with the organization, and so on will also go into that determination. When these other factors are considered, giving the job to someone who is not white or male isn’t a pity vote. And it really isn’t fair to pretend hiring decisions are objective when that isn’t the real world.

                  I know the paperwork is a pain. Unfortunately so many people broke the law for so long that now we have to document things more carefully than we would if the hiring system hadn’t been abused for so long.

        3. Esra*

          The more qualified white guy vs less qualified not-white and maybe a woman argument is often a straw man. When people bring up hiring more diverse staff, they’re talking about hiring qualified diverse staff. It’s not about hiring any woman for the sake of hiring a woman, for example, it’s about hiring a qualified woman because she’ll bring her qualifications and a slightly different perspective to your organization.

          1. starts & ends with A*

            Let’s look more importantly at companies who are bringing up staff from within – are women being promoted/elevated to the next level? Do they stay in the company long enough to do so – or is it an environment that promotes “work-life balance” thus losing them to careers that are more conducive to 2-earner families? Are they actually trying to develop female staff to take these roles, or is it just happenstance when someone does?

            (Disc. I am female, thus, written about females in the workplace not minorities or whatever other non-white-male class that is relevant to you. Also “work-life balance” above was in implied air quotes.)

        4. Liz*

          What if you’re up for a job at a company where most management attended a state school with a statute of a confederate soldier erected the same year the KKK was founded? This is a real school, and there are companies that recruit there. I wouldn’t go to that school, and honestly if the company wanted to change its culture they would have to redefine “most qualified” to adjust for feeders like that, or I would never be one of their most qualified.

          But because they can redefine “most qualified” I wouldnt feel at all condescended to if they changed that definition to include “someone with the social skills to avoid an association with the Klan.”

          It isn’t as simple as “how many people with accounting degrees are in our hiring pool.” If the pool contains many more of one type of person, it is highly likely that a subjective factor caused that. So it isn’t really as fair or objective as the seemingly objective criteria makes it appear.

          1. Liz*

            PS- the klan was founded more than 60 years after the end f the Civil War. I’m not implying all confederate memorials are tied to the KKK. Just that the confederate memorial set up the same year and donated by a klan member seems suspect.

    4. Mike C.*

      In all seriousness this is like discussing female circumcision and then claiming that it’s no big deal because men are circumcised too.

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        Oh I <3 you Mike C.
        (I hope AAM doesn't ban me for coming back here and potentially opening this comment thread can of worms though)

    5. Anon2*

      “If the current management is all old white dudes, just be aware of what you are getting into.”

      Soooo, you mean about 85-90% of the big corporations out there?

      No fact-based statistic there, but it’s a fact that white males make up the majority of executives out there in corporate america. If you avoided every company because their C-level is not diverse enough, then you’re going to really cripple your job search. Besides, whatever happened to changing things from within?

      1. Anony Mouse*

        Nowhere did I say C-level. I interviewed at one company that had a very homogeneous C-level, but the levels below it were very diverse. That indicated to me that there was a change in progress, and I took that as a positive sign.

  6. Liz in the City*

    I’m in a work situation that I’d like to leave, in part due to my ineffective boss, and most of the reasons Alison gives as to what makes a good boss are the reasons my boss isn’t. I would love to know how she became a manager in the first place–or if her current state of ineffectiveness is from years of becoming complacent.

    1. Liz in a Library*

      Yep…it can make things pretty miserable.

      As Alison’s said before, I think a lot of people end up promoted to management because they are good at the functions of their pre-management jobs. Unfortunately, those skills don’t always transfer well. :/

      1. Sophie*

        Or they were great a schmoozing and landed in a place where upper management doesn’t like to make changes. I, too, have an ineffective boss and after 7 years of bad reviews and constant reprimands he’s still here. My workplace doesn’t fire anyone…they just replace the good ones who eventually leave.

      2. KellyK*

        I think this ties in with Hugo’s comment too.

        In a lot of places, supervising people is the only step “up.” People who are good at their existing, non-management jobs who want to develop more skills, take on greater responsibilities, and get better pay and benefits pretty much have to become managers, even if they don’t want to manage people.

        Ideally, organizations would have career paths for people who want to do the thing they were originally hired for, with increasing levels of responsibility and skill, rather than only being able to advance through direct supervision.

        Unfortunately, depending on what you need done (and how well you can pay for it), that may not always be feasible.

        1. Anonymous*

          People who are good at their existing, non-management jobs who want to develop more skills, take on greater responsibilities, and get better pay and benefits pretty much have to become managers, even if they don’t want to manage people.

          It does seem a bit short-sighted: if the only promotion path is through cat-herder, how do you expect to get lions?

      3. Liz*

        Are we up to three Liz’s now? I need to think of a descriptive name, but I’m blanking :) Sorry. Didn’t mean to hog it. I don’t often run into more of us!

  7. John Quincy Adding Machine*

    I don’t know how often this happens at ‘grown-up’ jobs, but in the crappy service industry jobs I work, people often aren’t promoted because they’re *too* good at their jobs. My husband always tells the story of the dishwasher who frequently asked to be transferred/promoted… and management wouldn’t do it, because they couldn’t stand the idea of losing him as a dishwasher.

    1. Sophie*

      This type of thing happens A LOT, I believe. And companies don’t realize they are driving away their best employees because of it.

    2. BW*

      This happened to me, even worse my own manager wanted to put me into the position I wanted and was giving me as much of that type of work as she could, but HR repeatedly refused to allow her to consider me for what was actually a lateral move for me, just into another career path. She eventually won out, but not without a lot of drama. HR was content to just let me do the work related to this position without ever officially allowing me to have the title and be in that career path, and where I had been regarded as an excellent “Tea Pot Seller”, I was an even better “Tea Pot Maker”.

      Had HR not pulled it’s collect head out of their butts, I would have simply moved on then rather than staying on another 7 years until my project was winding down, and I found that I had outgrown the company and was ready for the next big thing.

      I’ll also mention that during all this, I was up front about my intention to leave, and people in HR actually tried to convince me that leaving would be a bad idea by claiming the job market wasn’t so good (not entirely true) and I was just better off staying put and not taking any chances out there. Seriously.

      That was 10 years ago, and we’ve both moved on and out of that company, and she still remarks at how stupid ridiculous that whole scenario was. Attitudes like that did drive away plenty of good employees during my time there. I hung on because I really enjoyed my team and my project, and my supervisor was top notch and always gave me new challenging work. Once I was pulled from that team after some company restructuring, I was not long for that world.

  8. Scott M*

    All these are good reasons why I’m not the boss and still a programmer.

    Which is exactly where I want to remain.

  9. Camellia*

    One of the best workers I’ve ever met was the woman who ‘serviced’ our restrooms. She came to our company from the bank up the street where she had worked at setting up the conference room the banked rented out. She had asked for a raise, was denied and started job hunting, and we were lucky to snap her up, although we didn’t know it at the time.

    It was easy to tell when she started the job; suddenly the rolls of toilet paper were mounted correctly and she even ‘started’ each new roll. Paper towels dispensers were never packed so full that you couldn’t pull one out. Sinks and counters were always mopped. And she worked quickly, covering all eight floors four or five times a day instead of only one or two.

    Sadly, she only lasted a few months with us. Why? THE BANK CAME BACK TO HER and persuaded her to return to her former job, FOR EVEN MORE MONEY! After she left, they realized what a treasure she was and set out to win her back. And she was sorely missed at our company when she left.

    This was about eighteen years ago but I will always remember and be inspired by this woman who did such a fantastic job where many people would have seen only a menial job, not worth much effort on their part. How can I do any less for any of my jobs?

    1. Anonymous*

      It’s amazing the little things that you don’t notice until they’re not there any more. The garbage that never overflows because of the extra round on conference days. The never-ending coffee supplies. The never-expired milk in the fridge. It’s amazing how the little things that make our lives so much easier can go by so unnoticed.

    2. Liz*

      That’s a great story! I hope she made enough to cover child care and rent and save for retirement. I worked in housekeeping during college and I always worry about them now. What I made at the time barely paid for gas to get to the job.

    3. Job Seeker*

      This story reminds me of a wonderful lady named Ida. One of my first jobs as a teenager was a receptionist for a large savings and loan. Ida was a older lady that cleaned for this large company everyday. She wore a white uniform and dusted and kept the break room neat and listen to all the other employees stories when they were on break. She stayed in the break room all day after her housekeeping was done. She made sure there was coffee and cleaned the tables. Many times she listened to me and helped me know what to do if I was upset about something with my job. This was in a large southern town and Ida was the most wonderful, sweetest black co-worker and my friend. I am sorry to say she was only one of three black employees there. We also had one teller and one other switchboard operator. She was very motherly to me and everyone loved her. Many people could have thought Ida’s job was menial, but she was a important part of this company. The company president and vice- president loved her. I think this may have been why her job was full-time. Many years later after I left I ran into her again and she had retired but was the same wonderful person. People like this teach you a valuable lesson.

  10. Jenn*

    I really don’t want to be the boss…….I would, however, like to chuck my boss out the nearest window.

    I just don’t have much upper-body strength…….sigh.

    1. Anonymous*

      I really don’t want to be the boss…….I would, however, like to chuck my boss out the nearest window.

      That could put you at risk of a “Klingon Promotion.”

      1. Editor*

        But chucking the boss out the window involves my absolute favorite word: defenestration.

        It’s my No. 1 word since seventh grade — no other word will ever be my favorite for as long a time (been watching lots of Olympics, if you can’t tell).

  11. Kelly O*

    As a general rule the worst bosses I’ve ever had were the ones who became bosses purely because they had been there the longest, and lots of things on this list applied to them.

    They’re part of existing cliques and don’t change their behavior when they get the promotion.

    They act like they deserved it because they put in their time, and see the management position as the next step up, whether it fits them at all or not.

    Lots of times they’ve been with the company so long, they feel like they can complain about everything in the spirit of “being honest”, even if they do it on smoke breaks or lunches out. (Or they feel like it connects them with the people they manage, so they continue the behavior.)

    And lord help me, they usually dress the worst (again, my own anecdotal experience here) – but they’re the ones in knit pants, “sensible” shoes and over-sized t-shirts or matronly blazers and calf-length skirts in matching colors. Or the guys in wrinkled khakis and stained polos or button-downs, who think they got there on their “merit” or “loyalty” and so appearance doesn’t matter. It’s hard to take someone seriously when it looks like they dress in the dark, or just don’t care. (And I know it shouldn’t, but it does. How can you expect me to want to follow you when I just want to teach you what “a size that fits you” means.)

    1. Anon2*

      I will nitpick on the fashion critique – it’s one thing if the clothing is stained/dirty/wrinkly or if it’s clearly in violation of the dress code – but some of those people in matronly blazers or calf-length matching skirts probably think they look good. Your aesthetic is not their aesthetic, nor does it have to be. You’re making a big assumption thinking that they’re dressing out of fashion or ugly (to you) because they “don’t care” or “dressed in the dark”.

      1. Jenn*

        I like Joan from Mad Men’s advice: “If you want to be taken seriously, stop dressing like a little girl.”

      2. KellyK*

        I think it’s totally fair to criticize wrinkled, stained, mismatched, or ill-fitting clothes, or clothes that are outside the level of formality for the workplace or inappropriately sexual. Everything else is a matter of taste and personal preference.

        Some people have (what I consider) really bad taste, but they probably think I look just as bad.

      3. Kelly O*

        I realize the whole fashion critique is open for nitpicking. I think it all has to do with your office and what is acceptable, and that has a lot to do with your industry and the whole culture of your office.

        And I also know that there are people who feel your appearance doesn’t or shouldn’t matter at work as long as you’re capable and performing your job well. I totally understand and in theory you’re correct.

        However, as a manager you are the person to whom your direct reports (and their direct reports in many cases, ad nauseum until you get through the ranks) must go when they need an authority on a particular issue. You are ultimately responsible for the actions of that group, and for making sure information is disseminated to them.

        I may be the odd bird on this, but I have a hard time taking someone seriously when it looks like they can’t even get themselves together, much less a whole department. It’s not even about looking “made up” or “fashionable” – it’s about being in touch with the world around you, and being cognizant of the image you’re projecting.

        And I know this doesn’t matter to everyone. But if you’re supposed to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, what does it say if you come in looking frazzled, wrinkled, and twenty years out of date, and you’re supposed to be the one in charge? Not just to your employees, but to vendors, guests, and all the people you see out in the course of your day.

        1. Laura L*

          I tend to agree. I’m not a very fashionable person, but it bothers me when people don’t dress either for the job they have or the job they want (e.g. people don’t look put-together in a professional setting)

        2. fposte*

          I think that the “twenty years out of date” (whether because you’re not that size any more or because it’s really unfashionable now) can suggest somebody who gets stuck in their ways, which is not what you want to suggest.

  12. Vicki*

    Whereas for me, I never wonder why I’m not the boss. :-) One of my minor worries has been that someday some misguided manager might try to suggest I become a tech lead, if only because at most companies, raises & promotions assume that eventually everyone will “manage” something. No!. No no no no never.

  13. Sandrine*

    Ha, I know why I’m not the boss.

    I really, REALLY don’t want to. And given the changing circumstances at work and me realizing more things, I don’t want to risk turning into one of those people (I’m talking about my job specifically, not generally) .

    1. Anonymous*

      Me too. I don’t have problems with the circumstances at work (luckily) however I have on more than one occasion said to my boss “I’m happy right here… I don’t want to go any more rungs up the ladder!”

      I know where my skills lie and I’m sensible enough to realise I can develop in my role but I don’t have the skills or the temperament for the next level which includes managing people!

  14. Elizabeth West*

    Bleah. I don’t want to be the boss either. Also, I can’t do the payroll/hours stuff. I have a math LD. So there’s no chance I would get the job even if I applied.

  15. Shari*

    In regards to the comment about money not being in the budget, what about being told that “you are to valuable in your current position for us to move you up and lose you in that position.”

    It almost makes it as though possibly excelling in your job and doing all the right things to GET noticed and be promoted really do not pay off because the second you excel at your job, they claim to not be able to replace you.

    In my case its a matter of not wanting to rock the boat because no other employee will go above and beyond as I have. So therefore I have done myself a huge disservice by being good at my job. I have hit the glass ceiling for raises and promotions leading up to full management. My job no longer actually challenges me. And instead of offering me a promotion, they give me 13 hour shifts multiple days in a row because they can not do without me (and from my perspective, all this is doing is telling the other employees that they cant possibly function without me which is NOT the case).

    I do agree with all ten of these reasons why people dont get the job and I can assure you that possibly the ONLY reason they have to stand on (based on the ten in the article) is the looking professional part. But in my profession and working in very very hot conditions outside of public view, I am not sure how tucking my shirt in is going to make me any better of an employee!

    So I think that sometimes bosses are not willing to promote you based on their own needs and not the betterment of you, your career, or the company.

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