Why Introverts Don’t Get Promoted (and What to Do About It)

It’s hard for anyone to get promoted at work, and can seem even harder for introverts — but the real reason introverts don’t get promoted isn’t because of our quiet tendencies. 

It’s hard to get promoted in business, and can seem even harder for professionals who lean more on the introverted side of the scale. Great employees who quietly kick butt at work are often overlooked by higher ups.

Introverted employees are told to speak up more, network more, be more visible, be more confident, or be more something else that pushes us to be more like the outgoing mainstream.

But in my experience, as an introvert who gradually advanced from admin assistant to c-suite executive, the most common barrier to getting promoted isn’t “overcoming” quiet tendencies and traits.

What is the Real Reason?

So, what is the real reason introverts don’t get promoted? Work beliefs. More specifically, the failure to recognize when your beliefs about work are working against you.

Work beliefs are what you consider to be important and true in your career. They reflect your personal values and standards of behavior and have the power to help or hinder your ability to get promoted.

Work Beliefs Can Work For and Against You

Often beliefs can be a source of ingenuity and resilience. For example, if you believe you learn more from failure than success, then it may be easier for you to bounce back from career disappointment.

But beliefs about work can also limit our choices and block us from doing what’s needed to advance our careers.

For instance, do you believe if you work hard enough, eventually you will be rewarded? If so, it’s probably served you well in your career—driving you to go above and beyond at work and be a high-performing employee.

But you’ve also likely learned the hard way that this belief about work is flawed. That it takes more than hard work to get rewarded and promoted in business — especially when you don’t get the credit you deserve for your hard work!

Yet once you learned being a high performer wasn’t enough to get promoted, what did you start doing differently based on this knowledge?

Well, if you struggle to answer this question, you’re not alone.

Many introverted professionals fail to do something different to advance their careers even after realizing their hard work and results aren’t enough to get promoted. This was certainly the case for me.

Work Beliefs Can Be Hard to Change

Like many of you, my beliefs about work were ingrained in me from an early age. My parents instilled their midwestern values of modesty and humility, a strong work ethic, and personal accountability. No bragging. No shortcuts. No excuses.

And these beliefs served me well throughout my career and continue to benefit me today. However, as the saying goes, there are two sides to every coin.

As a result of my work beliefs, and my introverted nature, my approach to advance my career centered on quietly working hard and believing I would eventually be rewarded (and if not, just working harder!).

And even when I came to realize this belief was hindering my advancement, it still took me a few years to fully internalize that I needed to embrace more empowering beliefs about work. Beliefs that would help me to develop skills and abilities essential to getting promoted.

But deeply held beliefs can do that to you. They hardwire your decision-making and behavior, making it very difficult to stop doing what’s not working and start doing something different.

It’s important we have beliefs that support our aspirations for career advancement. And if they don’t, we need to reconsider them. Or expand our belief system with additional convictions.

This is easier said than done. But altering or expanding career limiting beliefs is often essential to accelerate professional growth and development. And it all starts with understanding your current belief system.

3 Steps to Overcome Career-Limiting Beliefs About Work

Work beliefs and personal values are the guiding force behind how you show up and approach work. They control the actions you will or won’t take to get ahead. But they don’t have to be set in stone.

You have the power to change what isn’t working for you. Here’s 3 steps to get your started:

1. What Do You Believe and Value at Work?

Can you list off your top work beliefs and values? Can you explain them to others? If not, it’s time to tap into your introverted deep-thinking strengths and discover more about what makes you tick.

If you don’t understand what drives your decisions and behaviors, it will be difficult to identify what you need to adapt, and significantly hinder your ability to get ahead.

Here’s some questions to get you thinking…

  • Beliefs – what do you know to be true? It’s a feeling of certainty. You may believe hard work always pays off, well done is better than well said, or it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your favorite quotes, mottos, or sayings can be great indications of you what you believe.
  • Values – what do you hold dear? These are often qualities you admire in others: honesty, integrity, kindness. The attributes you dislike in others can also clue you into your values. If you’re annoyed by braggers, you probably value modesty. Dislike big egos? You value humility.

2. How Do Your Work Beliefs Help or Hinder You?

Once you understand your work beliefs and values, the next step is recognizing how they influence your decisions, behaviors, and everyday actions. Here’s a few common beliefs us introverts have about work:

  • We often believe it’s better to think before we speakThis makes it challenging to contribute during brainstorming sessions. As a result, our silence may be misinterpreted as a lack of interest in the business.


  • We tend to value humility and modesty. This makes it more difficult to get credit and visibility for our contributions to the business. Plus, our results can mistakenly get attributed to our coworkers or manager.


  • We sometimes believe it’s better to be safe than sorry. This can make it harder to get outside our comfort zones. In turn, it can be challenging to be seen as a high-potential employee who is ready to take on more responsibility.

Once you recognize how your beliefs are helping or hindering your career goals, then you can choose to take action in a way that remains true to who you are. This often means adopting a new, more empowering belief to reach your goals.

3. What Additional Beliefs Can You Adopt?

Beliefs are often impressed in us at an early age and difficult to change. But adapting career-limiting beliefs is one of the most important ways introverts can accelerate our path to a promotion.

Often this can be achieved by adding to your belief system.

For example, one of the many great qualities of introverts is the high value we place on being considerate of others—like quietly listening intently while we allow coworkers to speak without interruption.

As such, it can be disheartening for introverts to be told they need to communicate more forcefully or aggressively at work. Those words may even make it seem like you need to become someone you’re not to get promoted. You could find yourself saying things like, if that’s what it takes to get ahead, forget about it.

It’s at times like this you’ll want to consider leaning into additional, more empowering beliefs. Like believing career success is dependent upon sharing your point of view and advocating for your ideas.

You can value being a considerate coworker and believe it’s important to speak in an impactful, influential way.

By leaning into your belief that it’s essential to advocate for your ideas, you may conclude you need to present your point of view with more potency—with authority and conviction (instead of force or aggression) using declarative statements and supporting data points.

The result, you’re able to behave in alignment with both of your work beliefs: consideration for coworkers and advocating for your ideas. And best of all, your beliefs are helping you gain valuable skills and abilities that accelerate your path to a promotion.

Final Thoughts

By all means, stand by your beliefs and values. But also leverage your introverted super-powers and take time to reflect and consider what you believe to be true about work. Be open to expanding your belief system.

I’ll leave you with these questions to consider: How are your current beliefs about work helping or hindering your path to a promotion? Is it time to expand your thinking?


About Author

Alison started her 20+ year career as an admin assistant and eventually advanced to a CMO role. But, as a quiet introvert, she was often overlooked for promotions. And in 2012, while stuck in middle management, Alison made a goal to use her corporate career to achieve financial freedom and retire in her 40s. You can read more about her story here.



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