Photo of a bonehead looking out of a shopfront window.

4 Common Bonehead Behaviors That Minimise Your Chances of Being Promoted

Everyday mistakes people could stop making to improve their career progress.

Most employees work hard and show up every day with good intent and admirable integrity. Despite modelling great values and aligning with corporate culture, some of the best employees never get promoted. Why is that?

They work hard, are dedicated and receive comments like “ She/he always takes one for the team”,  “We admire her tenacity “, “He perseveres despite the challenging roadblocks”, “Huge capacity” and many more similar accolades.

These comments though are not actually accolades, but rather observations that do not necessarily translate into potential career progression.

Here is what you need to consider. Do you exhibit any of the following behaviors? If you do, I suggest you look closely in the mirror as these behaviors will rarely translate into anything tangible, or at worst keep you in the shadows.


Shopfront display of skeletons driving a red car

1. The Declaration “I want to be a Vice President”

So many employees inform their managers or the powers that be that they want to be an executive.

Do you know that nothing irks a senior leader more than that statement? Executives hear it as a desire for title and status. You instead must figure out how you can add greater value.

What is your offering that makes you executive ready? How is your proposed value equated with an executive-level contribution rather than a senior manager level value add?

2. Solving for Today

Yes, that is your mandate. However, almost weekly, I hear from senior leaders that employees are responsive to immediate demands but rarely step back and ask themselves the bigger question.

In other words, are you able to improve or change things that are better for the future or have wider applicability? If you are solely responding to immediate needs, then you may be a great problem solver which is reactive rather than a proactive solution.

3. Whining and Lots of It

Yes, life is not fair. Didn’t your mother teach you that? How on earth do you think whining and complaining about your lot in life is anything but attractive? You deplete the energy from the room. Furthermore, you are stating the obvious.

Instead, your posture must be one of proposing constructive ideas on how to remedy the situation. You are looked upon not to be a detractor but rather a resourceful problem solver.

4. The Pushover

Being so nice and accommodating means you do not set boundaries. Your boss will rightly assume that you will not be able to navigate a more complex mandate.

Equally important, you will have difficulty with strong voices. At the senior level, you are required to stand tall for your ideas. The art of saying no and negotiating for what you need or what is best for the enterprise is paramount.


The bottom line is both simple and complex. But here it is. This is the fundamental framework you must adopt.

It might help if you approached your job as an entrepreneur, running your own business. Running your own business means that attitudinally you are invested in enhancing productivity, increasing employee morale, improving teamwork and devising ways to innovate and be creative.

This applies to your clients, whether internal or external. Your currency will escalate, and so will the views of those who will determine whether you are promotable.

Cindy Wahler, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in executive coaching and talent management.

She can be contacted at [email protected]

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