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Feeling Invisible At Work & Passed Over For Promotion Again

feeling invisible at work & passed over for promotionOkay, this may sound like whining and maybe it is, but really I’m just trying to describe the situation accurately to get the best advice.

I’ve been with this employer for almost 4 years and have been passed over for promotion again and again. I work for a large company and potential opportunities are not infrequent.

I believe that some of my personality traits that make me proficient at accounting, which as a short hand I’ll just call a “detailed focus,” have also held me back from promotion and greater responsibility. I spend none of my time promoting my achievements and am not overly social. I don’t think anyone has much of a clue about how I have specifically helped this company other than a general perception of competence.

I believe that I do a better job than most of my peers, yet time and again in this job and others in the past I’ve been passed over for promotion.

In addition, my supervisor is glacially slow to praise. In fairness, I’d blame her but this is not the first time I’ve found myself in this position. The longer work is like this, the less I enjoy being here. Although, I still enjoy the details of my profession.

Short of a personality make-over, does anyone have any ideas as to what I can do differently to improve this situation? For a variety of reasons, I don’t think now is a good time for me to find a new employer. Would appreciate ideas as to what I can do to convey my potential value to the employer I have, achieve a promotion and stop feeling so invisible at work.

Maybe that's two different problems or the same one. Not sure at this point.


Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I would start asking questions. Sit down with your leader and ask her if she can be candid with you about the reasons you are not being chosen for key positions that you feel you would be an asset. I can only assume you expressed interest when the positions became available. Just be aware when you ask tough questions be prepared to potentially hear a tough answer. I would approach it from the perspective of wanting to know what areas you need to work/improve upon to be considered for a future promotion.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

As you say, you're not very social and no one knows your accomplishments.

Simple: Become more social. Interact more on a professional level with those who can help your career move along.

I think you may have pointed out a similar trait in your supervisor that you yourself is showing - lack of sociability. While she is slow to praise, which is not a great leadership quality, your lack of sociability may show a equal lack of leadership qualities.

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

"I don’t think anyone has much of a clue about how I have specifically helped this company other than a general perception of competence."

You can be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if no one knows about how you've impacted ... does it matter? Keeping track of your value stories and using them during your performance review is a great way to "remind" your boss how you've impacted.

James Peters
Title: President
Company: T-Drill Industries
(President, T-Drill Industries) |

Have you made it clear to your supervisor and others in the company that you are interested in another position? If you are not a nature extrovert and do not enjoy talking about yourself others in the company may not be aware of your career goals. You cannot change your personality but you can make it clear that you want to move ahead..

Jim Holloway
Title: CFO
Company: Contract Lumber, Inc.
(CFO, Contract Lumber, Inc.) |

I think you need to make sure you understand the way you currently add value to your company and how you can increase that value. You say that you are "detail focused" and that raises a flag in my mind. I have people that are very good at their current function, but do not show traits beyond their current position. These people can get locked in as they do a good job and don't take a lot of attention. This can be very good for the employer as the job is getting done efficiently and there is little incentive for the company to look to make a change. This may be you?

The way to change this is to continue to perform quality work, but take the time to ask questions about what you are doing; ask for assignment or work outside of your current position; and (this one gets my attention) - learn about your industry, show passion about the business and let those both above and below you know you care. Then ask what you can do to help the company in ways outside your function. This can be as simple as getting involved with an outside activity that your company sponsors (help with a blood drive, deliver toys for tots, etc)

Showing these other interests lets the company know you care about the company beyond your current position and are someone they want around and to move up. Remember to network within the company, but be sure not to limit only to those above your position - treat everyone from the janitor and security guard to your immediate supervisor and up to the CEO with equal respect; wise leaders will see this as a positive trait and when you do move up in the organization you will be able to command the respect from all.

Philip Russell
Title: CFO
Company: FCB Homes
(CFO, FCB Homes) |

Here are some suggestions:
ask for and willingly receive blunt feedback on how you could be better, use that blunt feedback to improve yourself, volunteer for more assignments, improve your computer skills, go above and beyond in your current job, and practice effective time management.

Best of luck,


Mark Rome
Title: CFO
Company: Empower2adapt
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, Empower2adapt) |

You're certainly not alone. Many, if not most employees working for large organizations feel invisible. You certainly don't have to be sociable to contribute to performance.

Within many organizations, human capital is woefully underutilized. By empowering and engaging employees effectively, leadership can capitalize on more opportunities to innovate and drive performance improvements.

The challenge for leadership is to design and implement a framework that effectively empowers and engages employees at every level of the organization to make event-based decisions in a timely manner. Such a framework might look like:

1) Effective policy management (online policy library)
2) Ongoing assessments (people, process, systems & technology)
3) Performance Scorecards (hard & soft metrics)
4) Event management and reporting (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis)
5) Annual certificates to a Code of Conduct (reinforce values)
6) Enterprise data analytics (talent & workforce analytics)

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

How frequently are promotions made internally vs external hires at your organization?

(CPA) |

Thank you to everyone for the ideas and food for thought. I have read each of your answers many times and really thought about what you wrote. It means a lot to me that you would take time out of your busy day to help out a complete stranger.

Re Christie's & Phillip's comments, I have not sat down with anyone and asked what stands between me and promotion. That seems really uncomfortable, but an excellent suggestion that I will take action on. Really a good idea.

To Wayne and Cindy, I don't think I gave enough thought to performance reviews as something I needed to worry about really influencing. I think I assumed I didn't need to, as ridiculous as that sounds now. On sociability, it seemed phoney to me to make sure others knew my accomplishments. I certainly discounted the value of friends and allies. Wayne, you are right and that is a huge blind spot of mine.

To James, I thought I had made it clear that I wanted to move up, but maybe I didn't. I guess at the point of being internally interviewed, I thought they understood. Maybe they didn't.

To Jim (and others), to my regret I think I have been identified as someone good at their job but with little to no management ability due to a lack of people skills. It's a bit of a puzzle as to how to unmake that belief in others at this job at this point.

To Mark, I understand your point about organizations and the listed items they can do to more effectively manage people. At the same time, I recognize that no employer is ever going to be my dream date. So, even though they score variously on the items you listed, I have to deal with them as they are.

To Anonymous, I don't have stats on it, but I would say 2/3rds of the positions are filled internally.

Again, thank you to each of you. You gave me a lot to think about and take action on. I really appreciate it. BTW, I'm not ending the conversation - just thought it would be good to respond.

Carla Gordon
Title: Accountant
Company: Govt
(Accountant, Govt) |

If you can, try to become the "expert" on some niche that is important to the company. Then people will come to you and you will become known. I know it is hard for people who are introverted to become extroverted, and it usually doesn't work or takes a lot of mental energy.

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

Hi Anonymous - I think the previous feedback and suggestions were right on point. The only other thing I would add is that the way you've described your dilemma and responded to the feedback shows self-awareness. That is a great thing and means that you can definitely achieve your goals if you put your mind to it.

You need to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Have the uncomfortable conversations, find out why you might not have been considered for the opportunities you are interested in, and unfortunately understand that most companies view the best job for you is the one you are doing (especially if you are competent and drama free). That might mean simply leaving for the promotion you want and going through the discomfort of starting all over again somewhere else.

P.S. I'm a natural extrovert who needed to learn to be more guarded, and it's just as much of challenge going in the other direction.


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