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Harvard Business Review on Advancing Your Career by Harvard Business Review

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Why You Didn’t Get That Promotion

by John Beeson

YOU’VE BEEN passed over for a key promotion despite stellar results and glowing reviews. You’ve asked where you’re falling short, but the responses have been vague and unsatisfying, leaving you angry, frustrated, and unsure of how to get ahead. Promotion decisions seem arbitrary and political. What’s going on?

In most organizations, promotions are governed by unwritten rules—the often fuzzy, intuitive, and poorly expressed feelings of senior executives regarding individuals’ ability to succeed in C-suite positions. As an aspiring executive, you might not know those rules, much less the specific skills you need to develop or demonstrate to follow them. The bottom line: You’re left to your own devices ...

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