Dear Matt: I feel like my career has hit a plateau. I’ve done everything asked of me, but just can’t get that promotion. What am I doing wrong?

Matt says: You work hard, have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience and are viewed as a go-to person, the leader of your department. As great as that sounds, it could be the reason you aren’t getting promoted.

Some employees perform their role so well that they create the impression that they are the best and only person for the job. Unfortunately if you have created such an impression, whether intentional or not, why would your boss promote you and risk the department not running like a well-oiled engine?

“Not getting promoted to the next level because the organization will suffer without you in your current role is a very real issue and unfortunately will likely get worse,” says Jeff Gerkin, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Edina branch of Right Management (, a global workforce solutions and talent management provider.

Most organizations don’t want to lose the momentum or success that you’ve created because they don’t have anyone to fill your shoes, says Gerkin. So others get promoted over you because a management role can equal less production. The best software developer isn’t as productive if she’s managing people and processes. The best sales person isn’t going to move into a management role when they are crushing it with key clients and bringing in big accounts. The most efficient production worker won’t be taken off the floor to lead others who aren’t as good.

That’s why if you want to move up, you must own your own succession plan, says Gerkin. Identify a shortlist of individuals who could take over your job and start developing them to do so. Developing a replacement can be intimidating to some because, although they want to get promoted, they don’t want the threat of someone else looking better than them. If this is you, then you may not be ready for the next level.

“A critical responsibility of leadership is to hire and develop people that ultimately become better than you,” says Gerkin. “When this happens, everyone wins. You get your promotion, other people get a chance at development and a promotion. And, with all that capability, the organization performs better.”

Ask your boss for work and projects that he/she can hand off to you as part of your development plan. You’ll be doing the work without the higher pay, but think of it as part of your investment in yourself.

If your current employer doesn’t notice, your next one will. “Even if you don’t get the promotion,” says Gerkin, “you’ve now made yourself much more marketable externally because you can demonstrate that you’ve successfully done the work required for the next level of responsibility.”

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