Don’t Let an Indifferent Boss Hold You Back


If you want a promotion and your boss isn’t investing in your professional development, it can be demoralizing and frustrating. There was a time early in my career when I felt like I was invisible and had no opportunity to reach out. One summer, my annual performance review was canceled multiple times at short notice for an extended period. This happened many times, but in the end I silently admitted defeat and stopped notifying my manager to reschedule.

No one noticed that my performance appraisal hadn’t been done that year. At that point, I thought, ‘If no one cares, why should I keep pushing the meeting? I let it slide that year, but soon realized it was a mistake. I learned from it and never made that mistake again.

If you feel underutilized and undervalued, remember: Your career is yours, defined and navigated only by you. Knowing your worth is essential, even if it is not reflected.

Through my work as a career coach, I have learned that managers should be advocates for promotion, but that is not always the case.Here are the 4 approaches from my book Ready, Push, Pivot Move forward without manager support.

focus on what you can control

Your thoughts and actions are the key to success. It’s not your boss’s actions (or omissions) that are critical to your promotion. It really matters how you react to situations and what you do next.

If you have a boss who is not invested in you, you have two options. You can scale back and pull back like I did when I first allowed annual performance reviews to expire. Or you can keep moving forward and find a visible way.

Option 2 accounts for the fact that bosses come and go, but your career is yours forever. Don’t let other people’s actions derail your goals or let others dictate how you feel about your work.

Embrace positive thinking. This is a positive choice that you can make in any situation. Do your best for your boss, strive to exceed expectations, keep communication open, and be a positive and engaged team member. At the same time, stay focused on your career goals and next steps.

make your own career commitment

Making a personal commitment can help you be a purposeful and influential person as you set goals and plan your next steps in your career.

To do this, look back over the next 12 months. Ask yourself:

  • What more do you want?
  • What do I want to be known for?
  • What skills would you like to acquire?
  • Want to start something you’ve never tried before?
  • Where should it appear?

Then look at the responses and assign one immediate action item to each. Then decide what to do first. Use your responses to create a career roadmap that aligns with your goals and puts you in the driver’s seat.

broaden one’s horizons

Having a boss who is fully committed to supporting your career goals is a great experience. When this happens, savor the moment and personally pledge to pay it forward in the future by being an advocate for someone else.

Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a supportive boss, the volatile nature of the business environment often leaves you with too many variables to rely on unwavering professional development support. How about broadening your horizons?

There are many stakeholders that influence how you work. In addition to your boss, make a list of people who are important to your career. This list may include peers, direct reports (if any), and senior leaders. Find ways to keep building relationships with them.

By creating this list and taking positive actions based on it, it serves as a reminder that your career doesn’t start and end with one dynamic relationship. Actions you can take include asking someone how they acquired the skill you want to learn, or looking for opportunities to participate in initiatives to expand your knowledge. Remember that even if your boss isn’t investing in your professional growth, there are other people who can influence your growth. We continue to explore options, ideas, opportunities, conversations and connections that help build

Build professional relationships that help you grow

Once you’ve created your “important people” list, think about the gaps in your network. The most important roles to consider are mentors and sponsors.

Do you currently have a mentor? If not, just concentrate on identifying multiples. Is there someone in your company who could be a sponsor? If your boss can’t fill that role, consider who will be your advocate.

Evaluate the list of people who are important to your career and circle the names of your senior leaders. Whenever possible, find opportunities to connect and have career-focused conversations. Clarify your goals and ask for feedback. If you’re worried that your interactions will be seen as evading your manager, start being proactive. To prepare, think about the important results your manager has achieved. When reaching out to other senior leaders, mention your manager’s achievements and explain how excited you are to grow your career. You can also let your manager know that you’re actively looking for a mentor and ask if you’d like to be kept up-to-date on the mentor’s progress.

When considering potential mentors, don’t forget your former bosses and co-workers. If you’ve worked with someone in the past and invested in you, stay connected. You can also take advantage of professional association opportunities to learn from and meet senior industry leaders.

. .

It doesn’t feel great if you and your boss are out of sync, but that’s not the end of your story. Your career is the most valuable—and most personal—investment ever. It is imperative to be proactive and reinvest in your potential during difficult times.

Embrace a positive mindset and review your career commitments quarterly to track your goals, achievements and insights. Continue to build your network and broaden your horizons. Intentionally engage others and initiate career-focused conversations. If you can be your own best advocate, you will soon look back on this moment and realize that it was the catalyst that helped move you forward.

Don’t let an indifferent manager derail your ambitions, career values, or goals. Align your actions with your ambitions. If you know you can do better, commit to keep aiming higher. No one else truly invests in your career from start to finish.



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