Millennials, This Is Why You Haven’t Been Promoted

According to a recent millennial leadership survey from The Hartford, 80% of millennials see themselves as leaders today. Yet only 12% of Gen Y held management roles in 2013; and less than a third of The Hartford’s sample reported that they’re currently business leaders. Maybe we’re entitled and delusional.

Or maybe, explained millennial expert and author of Becoming the Boss, Lindsey Pollak, we have a progressive understanding of what it means to be a leader. “Millennials believe they can lead from whatever position they’re in,” she said. We know we don’t need an official title to impact our organization. But if millennials really are leading from behind, why aren’t we getting promoted?

If you’re ambitious but stuck on Level 1, below are six possible reasons. (Warning, tough love ahead.)

1. You overwork.

Slade Sundar, COO of Forte Interactive, Inc., observed that working 60-80 workweeks actually “devalues the work an employee does, because it shifts the measurement from results and quality to time and quantity.” When an employee’s work is measured simply by how much time she puts in, she seems cheaper and more expendable—“someone who is willing to do twice the work for half the salary.” Promoting her would thus ironically oppose the interests of the company. As a result, over-dedicated employees are “rewarded” not with a promotion but with more work at the same pay.

On the other hand, one survey revealed that 71% of managers didn’t promote employees because they were unwilling to take on additional responsibilities. Jennifer Dulski, president and COO of, speculated that employees who volunteer to do work outside the scope of their roles are “the most likely to be promoted.”

When you’re considering how to balance managing your time with new responsibilities, ask yourself where you’ll be most able to demonstrate leadership and problem solving abilities. Sundar explained, “We don’t hire people to create widgets anymore, we hire people to solve problems. Widget Makers are expendable, Problem Solvers are not.” To get promoted, wrote Sundar, “you’ll need to prove you’re more than just a nose-to-the-grindstone type.”

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