Getting “selected” for promotion in the corporate world

By | January 31, 2018

Recently, Saurav Ganguly, who retired as India’s most successful captain, had this to say about getting selected for the Indian cricket team,

I retired because at some point you’ve had enough. The reason is not because you have had enough of playing the sport but because you’ve had enough of getting selected all the time. Dropped/selected that’s part and parcel of sport.—Ganguly

I share his sentiments, albeit from the vantage point of the corporate world. I had the same experience, while I was a worker bee in some of the world’s best organizations. Therefore, I can understand where he is coming from, because somebody else deciding your fate or your future—a decision mostly bereft of facts but based on their whims and fancies—eventually gets to you.

An employee moving higher in the corporate ladder.

You move higher only if the selection committee wants you to move higher. Icons made by Gregor Cresnar from is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

Once is happenstance

The first time the corporate-selector-gods did not “select” me for a promotion, they did so by saying that I am not a BTech or an MBA graduate. They did not say that my performance was sub par and, therefore, I did not deserve a promotion. They said my qualification was a problem, because promoting me to the next level would increase the number of non-BTechs and non-MBAs in that grade. And, all their marketing materials stated that “X percent” of the employees in a particular grade are BTechs and MBAs. Since I am neither they cannot promote me and dilute the “employee qualification pool.” It didn’t matter that I ran circles around the so-called BTechs and MBAs; however, I couldn’t get a promotion. A piece of paper was more powerful than all the great things you had done for your clients that year. Go figure!

So, there you go, only in our country can you get denied a promotion because of your qualification, even though you can be one of the best at your job. By the way, I was one of the best at my job. I have an excellence award from the company to prove my point.

Twice is coincidence

The second time I got hosed by the year-end-promotion-gods, they did so by not giving me the rating I so rightly deserved. Close to 80% of the project work was done by me, while it was my boss who took all the credit. After all he was the one who was liaising with the stakeholders. When I escalated this matter, along with facts to prove my point, to the management team and the HR, I was told “there is always next year. I shouldn’t lose faith in the process. Eventually, it all evens out.” Yeah, right!!!

Thrice is enemy-action

The third time I got screwed, it was because my boss was unwilling to fight for my promotion. In my book, that was one of the best years of my career, but I have nothing to show for it. Six Sigma certification and PMP, I got them both that year. However, come year-end, my boss even forgot to mention my achievements in his appraisal report. In his review, he mistakenly wrote that I am yet to get my PMP certification. When I brought it to his attention, he apologized and asked me to send him back the review for correction. I didn’t bother, because I was on my way out of corporate world in a few months time anyway.

Selected for promotion

Selected for promotion

You get selected based on whom you know. Icons made by Gregor Cresnar from is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

So, what’s all this got to do with Saurav Ganguly’s comment? Because at some point in your career, after you are not selected for the promotion(s) when you should have been, you do feel I have had enough. The sad truth about promotions in the corporate world is that, after a certain grade, they have very little to do with performance but everything to do with the connections you have in the organization.

Unless you hit the ball way out of the park, promotion are always about whom you know and not what you have done. It is all about you scratch my back, and I scratch yours. That’s why the citizens of the corporate world encourage “networking” so much. Knowing someone higher up in the ladder, who can pull some strings or put in a good word, is always helpful when it comes to the year-end review process. Those who don’t do that will experience what I have been through. I didn’t mind though, because my heart was in the right place.



Networking is a buzz-word in the corporate world. Icons made by Gregor Cresnar from is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

While slogging it out in the corporate world, I never indulged in the ever-prevalent-but-obsequious practice of networking. Neither did I genuflect in front of the higher-ups nor did I display any servile compliance. I did not buy chocolates for the visiting leadership team. I did not carry coffee or tea for them; did not invite them for lunch or dinner to my house. I did not act as a bootlicking or a fawning minion.

Many of my colleagues became sycophants to their corporate bosses. And they enjoyed their blessings come year-end. I, however, did not offer any prayers to my bosses. This, unfortunately, resulted in me not getting selected for promotions. I did my work, did my work well, and met the needs of my team. I fulfilled my obligations to the members of my team. Most importantly, I maintained my dignity and my self-respect. Rest I left it to hard work. However, unfortunately, in many instances, that wasn’t enough. That’s fine. I could sleep easy though. I slept well, because I didn’t have to worry about which flavor of chocolate to buy for next day’s meeting with the leadership team. 🙂

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