Reasons You Were Not Promoted
—& Why He Was Instead—

That Are Totally Unrelated To Gender

by Homa Mojtabai

You don't smile enough

People don't like you

He's composed

People know what to expect when they're working with him

You smile too much

People don't take you seriously

He's so personable

He really motivates the team

You’re abrasive

For example, that time when you asked for a raise. It was awkward and you made the men on the senior leadership team uncomfortable

He's assertive

When he asked for a raise, he outlined it extensively, and the senior leadership team has really taken to him

You’re sloppy

Like when you sent that email with a typo. You need to proofread your work

He has a lot on his plate

His email had a typo, but it wasn't that important

You don’t speak up

We’d really like to see you take on more of a leadership role before we pay you for being a leader

He lets others have the floor

We really think he can grow into this role in leadership

You’re too focused on details

Leaders need to take the 50,000-foot fighter pilot view. No, I never served in the armed forces, what’s your point?

He's detail oriented

Leaders need to notice issues that no one else would even consider. That skill will serve us long term.

You’re not seasoned

Oh, wait, you’re 35? Well, you look young. Maybe if you were more mature, like if you were married or had kids (why don’t you have kids, by the way? We’re all a little curious) then we could envision you as being a leader in this organization

He's got new ideas

He's still not tied down, but with time I'm sure he'll settle down

Oh, you do have kids?

Well, we’re concerned about your ability to balance everything and you look really tired all the time and I feel guilty asking you to stay late so I just ask good old Tom who’s a great guy and simple and easy to talk to

He's a family man

Managing both work and family is difficult, but really gives him the perspective to lead the team

You’re argumentative

For example, right now you’re upset that you didn’t get a promotion and you’re asking for concrete examples of what you can do better. I really don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty and you should trust my judgment anyway

He stands his ground

When he demanded a raise, he showed confidence in his abilities

You’re a pushover

When Tom came up and gave you that totally platonic hug in the shareholders meeting you should have just told him to not touch you instead of telling me you thought it was inappropriate. Leaders handle their own problems

He's non-confrontational

Even if he has issues with a situation, he knows when and when not to bring it up

You’re not a team player

If you’d just wait a few years, there will be some great opportunities here for you, we need you in this role right now

He's a lone wolf

Giving him room to expand his role is the best way to have him guide the team

You aren’t good at promoting yourself

I mean, toot your own horn a little!

He's humble

He doesn't need validation that he's doing a good job

I’m not sexist and this organization is not sexist

I have to say you’re developing a little bit of a reputation as a troublemaker. Five years ago we promoted a woman who happens to be black—I mean, African-American… or maybe just African, I can’t remember—and that proves that we are tolerant and committed to diversity.