Having a boss who doesn’t advocate for you can feel incredibly detrimental to your long-term career. When you have a boss who doesn’t bring up your name for promotions or give helpful feedback, they are essentially stunting your growth, even if unintentionally. If you are like most women in tech, you’ve probably had a boss like this at some point in your career, which is why I want to help you navigate dealing with a boss who won’t advocate for you.
Know Your Value and Speak Up
First, you want to look at yourself and the work you’ve been putting in. Have you been putting in the effort and working on standing out and getting ahead in your career? And, if so, are you advocating for yourself?
The more you advocate for yourself, the more people are going to know about you. The more people know about you, the more doors and opportunities will come your way.
Early in my career, I thought if I kept my head down and worked really hard, my work would speak for itself. I was so wrong. When I asked my boss why I wasn’t ranked in the top tier of analysts, he said I was doing great work, but the problem was that the people at headquarters didn’t know who I was.
As women, we often want our work to speak for itself, but if you’re a heads-down worker like I used to be, you put yourself in a very unfortunate position. While you become essential to your company, you are not actually seen as essential. Not being known by others means we often get passed over for promotions.
So, when I returned to the tech world years later, I knew I needed to step it up a notch to get the career I wanted for myself. Now, I’m adamant about the importance of advocating for myself and knowing my worth, and you should be, too. I even dedicate an entire chapter to it in my best-selling book, The DevelopHer Playbook.
Ask for Feedback
A great way to figure out where you’re at in your company is by talking to your boss. Consider going to them for feedback and outright ask what it would take to earn their advocacy or get a promotion. Talk to them about what you can do for the company and get a feel for what their idea of excellence looks like. Understanding your boss’s expectations early on in your career can help you avoid falling short later.
Think you are alone? Think again – I’m right there with you!
Three years ago, I point-blank asked my boss for feedback and direction on what I needed to do to get promoted at the company. His feedback laid the foundation and helped me create a measurable action plan to propel myself forward. And guess what? After applying my action plan repeatedly and consistently and working really hard, I got promoted!
It won’t always perfectly work out like that, but it’s a great place to start to understand what your boss expects of you and if you’re meeting their expectations.
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
Now, if you’ve continuously been putting in the work and advocating for yourself at your company and your boss still isn’t advocating for you, the issue may lie with your boss. While this can be highly frustrating, it’s not the end of the world.
It’s important not to take it personally. Your boss may want to advocate for you but simply lacks the social ability to advocate for anyone. Maybe your boss sees you as competition or doesn’t want to lose you to another position by backing you. Or perhaps they just are the “fly under the radar” type of boss and don’t even advocate for themselves, much less you. There are plenty of reasons why your boss may not advocate for you that are out of your control.
Build Your Network
Rather than focus on what you can’t control, let’s look at what’s in your control – building a solid network. Chances are your boss isn’t the only one running the company, and there are plenty of other people you can develop strong ties and relationships with.
The most successful people have advocacy from those above them, besides them, and all around them. Staying connected with people at your level and knowing what projects and technologies others are working on gives you the ability to make sure your team runs efficiently. Reaching out and developing relationships with junior co-workers helps you establish yourself in a leadership position. Working with colleagues in other departments and touting your own accomplishments internally and externally can help your name reach even further.
Work on developing strong ties with everyone around you, regardless of their position. You’d be surprised at how much good can come from creating genuine bonds with your peers and colleagues.
Don’t Let it Hold You Back
Try not to get too discouraged when you have a boss who won’t advocate for you. Look at it as just a bump in the road – while frustrating and inconvenient, not impossible to overcome. There are many ways to advance your career in tech that don’t revolve around having a great boss in your corner. Chances are you’re closer than you think to that next promotion or career advancement, so don’t give up and keep pushing forward! Keep communicating your value, building your reputation, and creating solid relationships with those around you, and doors will start to open up. I know it!