"Gibby? They promoted Gibby?"
"Yes! And I did all the work! Gibby didn't even show up for half the meetings!"
"Isn't Gibby actually a chinstrap penguin?"
"Yes! And he uses my filing cabinets as a nest!"
"And they gave him the director position."
"The bosses are idiots."
Of course the bosses are idiots, but it still doesn't really explain why a chinstrap penguin is heading purchasing. I learned over the years the secret of how and why some people get promoted and others don't, but before I get to revealing "The Secret," let me offer up some of the reasons people usually think are the way to promotion.
Finishing a project on time and on budget
Making coworkers happy
Making the boss happy
Showing up sober
Yet we've all seen people promoted (and elected) after getting most (if not all) of the five tasks above completely wrong. So those can't be it. Here are the real reasons in reverse order:
5. Being an asshole
4. Asking over and over to be promoted
3. Threatening to quit
2. Reminding the boss about a "favor owed"
1. Being loyal
Being an asshole: An asshole is someone who answers every question with 10 questions, and even statements with questions. For example, "We are launching the new product on the 21st?" An asshole says, "Why the 21st? Purchasing is full of penguins at the end of the month. The system has been designed for years for only the 20th, why are you changing it? Where is your project plan? Where are your spare penguins?"
This person is promoted, often to another department to get them out of the local boss's life.
Asking to be promoted: Surprisingly, this works. The boss is usually focused on the job at hand (or their own career) and isn't really thinking about the career paths of their employees. Asking reminds the boss that work is done for "pay" and not because you'd rather be at work than playing Wii Sports.
Threatening to quit: By focusing a laser of attention on yourself when you are critical for the success of project, you can often get a promotion. However, if you aren't critical, then you are instead focusing a laser on the phone number for the unemployment office.
A "favor owed": Maybe you've actually done something good for the boss and that's what you are reminding him or her of. But let's be honest: blackmail or, uh, a paycheck for keeping quiet, has been a favorite throughout the ages.
Being loyal: This is the number one reason why aquatic waterfowl run large organizations. Given a choice between an employee who has proven they will "do the right thing" and one who will "keep supporting the boss no matter how moronic their decisions," who would you, as that moron boss, choose?
Books mentioned in this post
David Silverman is the author of Typo