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50 Ways To Avoid Screwing Up Your New Promotion (series)

2014 June 16
tags: Development, Effectiveness, Leadership, Promotion, Reputation, Self-Care, Valuing Others
by Andrew   

Note: This will be a series of five posts, each with ten points essential to making and maintaining a good impression in a new promotion.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Part 3

So, you’ve been promoted. Congratulations! The hard part isn’t over. Sure, you prepared for, competed for, perhaps longed or fought for the promotion, and you got it. But there are plenty of ways to fail to keep it, and many of them can have your executives questioning their decision if you aren’t careful.

The fifty tips in this series, ten a week, are intended to help you set a sustainable pace in your new role and avoid some all-too-common problems that can befall people.

The list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it hopefully will build a framework for you to fill in with your own additional notes as you read.


  • Don’t assume your senior managers want you to ask for permission before you take initiative. It’s a natural inclination to seek validation or approval from people whose goodwill you need, particularly when they’re more senior in your organization. But don’t assume they will always want you to seek that validation, and don’t assume you always need it, even for seemingly risky departures from the way things are done. Sometimes, you need to obtain approval, concurrence, backing, or support, but oftentimes, you simply need to demonstrate initiative, show thorough planning and risk assessments, and execute on improvements or ventures within your authority.
  • Don’t avoid all risk. Be prudent in your assumption of risk, but remember that prudence or risk tolerance does not equal risk aversion. The assumption of some risk is necessary to pursue new ventures, deviation from the norm when it comes to organizational change, advocating for departures from the status quo, and approaching senior executives or even peer executives with a platform for change. An awareness of risk and the willingness to incur certain levels of it can demonstrate a willingness to strive toward taking the organization forward despite the absence of a complete safety net.
  • Don’t bestow lavish gifts upon your manager(s). In government organizations, it is illegal. In many organizations, it violates policies. In most organizations, if not all, it is unethical. The successful performance of your duties does not require bribery. If it does, perhaps you should consider a different working environment. Bestowing lavish gifts is fraught with problems: it can alienate the recipient and your coworkers, it can appear as though you’re trying to buy favor, and it can result in you appearing untrustworthy. Even with the best of intentions behind the gift, it is prudent to consider the type of gifts that may be given by others or that are commonly considered acceptable in your organization before you buy.
  • Don’t create the perception you’re abusing your expense account. Ever. Your expense account, or a reimbursable organizational credit card, is a privilege (even when it is an unpleasant burden to administer). It avoids the need for you to spend your own money on business expenses. But it is also a potential source of tremendous problems if not managed properly. And even when you’ve committed no wrong with an expense account, the perception can arise that you have. It is a good idea to retain records of expenses and reservations for a period of time in case you need to demonstrate that all of the transactions are above board. Some examples of things to avoid easily include spending beyond the authorized limit, incurring charges from questionable or unverifiable sources, or engaging in what is commonly – although nebulously – described as excessive personal indulgence.
  • Don’t create the perception you’re abusing your travel privileges. As with the above, avoid the perception that wrongdoing has occurred, and keep good records to demonstrate that your transactions are legitimate.  Evernote and Scanner Pro make keeping up with receipts easy, particularly when you aren’t being emailed receipts. When you are receiving receipts by email, SaneBox can make organizing them much easier. When you’re making your travel reservations, adhere whenever possible to your organization’s travel policies, and diligently document any need to deviate. Even in cases where you’re willing to pay out-of-pocket for upgraded flights, hotel rooms, or cars, it’s often a much better idea not to do so because it will help avoid alienating colleagues, raising questions about your spending habits, and creating negative perceptions about your travel.
  • Don’t use travel opportunities for personal gain. Bonuses don’t count. Have legitimate reasons for your travel. They need to be legitimate to your manager and to your colleagues, at least those with the ability to know what you’re job entails. Avoid trips that might make sense, but that don’t need to be made as frequently as you can barely get away with. Leverage opportunities to accomplish more than one thing, or renew business relationships with multiple people, whenever possible.
  • Don’t hire your friends without a really good reason. This one should be easy for everyone to understand, even if it isn’t palatable. Hiring friends looks like favoritism, and you don’t have a job for all of your friends who might want one. Firing friends when they don’t work out feels terrible and often ruins friendships. Not firing friends if they aren’t working out will ruin your career, and even if you take the high road and help the friend develop into a better performer, you’ll have to live with several people knowing it was a problem.
  • Don’t promise jobs you don’t have. Self-explanatory. But, in case it isn’t, you’ll appear dishonest, manipulative, and unreliable. These things are not good for your reputation or your career potential. If there’s someone you’d really like to have in your organization, be honest with them. Let them know. But don’t promise a job that isn’t available, or that isn’t yours to offer.
  • Don’t fire people for little things. Ending someone’s employment should be an action of last resort. It should never be undertaken because it’s easy (it isn’t), or because it avoids dealing with a difficult situation (it doesn’t), or because you don’t know how to resolve a problem. Even a lot of little things aren’t sufficient reason to fire someone. Firing someone, or even suggesting the action, should only be undertaken when other means have been exhausted, except when the person has been demonstrated to be a threat to security or safety. Under those circumstances, they aren’t little things.
  • Don’t harbor resentments. They build up. They add burden. Resentments cause your day to begin badly, ensuring it rarely ends positively. Find effective ways of dealing with stress. Seek out mentors to help you work through difficult situations, either directly or as sounding boards for ideas and sources of different perspectives. Resentments never result, in and of themselves, in positive developments. Only positive action taken in response to resentment can ever result in positive resolution, or even the ability to move past the resentment if the source can’t be resolved.

Take care, and enjoy life,


Photo Credit: Flickr (Robert S. Donovan)


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