A couple of years ago, I ran a survey among tech professionals, and it came out that “Managing up/Self-promotion” was the top concern. I was not too surprised. Talking about ourselves seems opposite to humility – it contradicts our values, yet managing up is essential for reward and recognition. Over the years, I learned that it might feel more altruistic if we see it as helping our managers and others do their job better.
When I became a manager for the first time at a large corporation, I got a new team from another division. Since it was close to the annual review time, their previous manager prepared their performance data for me to submit to the system. So naturally, I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry about it; instead, I focused on acclimating with the team. But alas, little did I know what was waiting for me!
As I started a series of 1:1 meetings with the team, one of the reports, Sarah (not her real name), mentioned she was expecting a promotion that year. It came up as a surprise to me as her review notes suggested quite the opposite – she was barely performing! I didn’t disclose it to her. Instead, I got curious and asked her to make a case for her promotion. Over the next few days, I validated her data with other leaders she worked with in the past year. I got convinced she was right; she was a great candidate for a promotion. Armed with the data and the pre-work with my leadership, I presented her case to the review committee. Naturally, there were a lot of tough questions, but finally, I got the approval! It felt so refreshingly unreal that I had to ask the committee head afterward if it was final.
If Sarah hadn’t stood up for herself and hadn’t helped me with the case, she would have ended up as another unhappy employee feeling “not getting recognition.” Instead, her self-advocacy made my job easier.
I understand there is a lot to be done system wide as there are incompetent managers, unconscious biases, etc. However, it is also true that there is something each of us can do right now to make things a little better.
The bigger question is, how much conviction do we have for our abilities, and how ready are we to take that uncomfortable, challenging path to advocate for ourselves? The good news is that with some coaching and practice, we can get a little better at it while being true to our values.
Related reading: “Tell Me About Yourself” – Why It Is Hard and What To Do About It.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn. The feature image is from Pixabay.com