When You Don’t Trust Your Boss Will Promote You

  • Counting on your boss to promote you can be a big mistake – for many reasons.

    • Here’s what to do when you don’t fully trust your boss will (or can) promote you.

    What does it mean to have a trustworthy relationship with your boss?

    Having a trustworthy relationship with your boss means when they say you’re on a path to a promotion, that you believe them. And eventually, if you keep doing a great job, they will follow through and promote you. A trustworthy boss doesn’t make promises they can’t keep. 

    But unfortunately, in the business world, things aren’t always this straightforward. Leaders can’t always be counted on to do the right thing. 

    But here’s the good news: even if a trust issue exists with your boss, with a little hard work, you can still advance your career and get promoted.

    Career Growth: Trust Your Boss with Caution

    While it’s true that working hard to gain your boss’s trust and support is a smart move, it doesn’t always pay off with a promotion. In fact, relying solely on your boss to promote you can be a risky move.  

    Even a trustworthy leader with good intentions may not be able to push your promotion forward.

    Sure, having your boss on your side is a good start for career advancement, but it’s important to know it can’t stop there. Especially if you’ve been passed over for promotions and stuck in the same role for a while. 

    Maybe your boss isn’t someone you can fully trust?

    Lesson Learned: A Violation of Trust

    If you want to advance your career, the most important person you need to impress is your boss, right? I used to believe this was true.

    Back in the day, I worked for a manager who thought I was a rock star. He’d give me glowing performance reviews and solid pay raises. We talked about my professional goals and he made me feel like my career path was a high priority. 

    And when he got promoted in recognition for his contributions to the company’s success, he even sent me a heartfelt thank-you note for my role in his achievement. 

    I trusted him and thought he was a good boss. But you know what? He never promoted me. 

    Even though I had a positive relationship with my boss and he kept saying he was pushing for me to get that next promotion, it just never happened while I was working for him. Year after year I was passed over.

    That’s when I learned the tough lesson that putting all your hope on your manager to promote you can be a big mistake — especially when you don’t fully trust your boss has your back.

    Identify the Source of Trust Issues

    Is your boss worthy of your trust? Certainly, giving your boss the benefit of the doubt is fair, but if you’re starting to doubt their intentions, it’s a good idea to identify the cause of your mistrust.  

    Here are 3 common scenarios when trusting your boss can backfire. 

    1. Your Boss Hoards Talent

    Maybe your boss isn’t pushing hard for your next promotion because they want to keep you right where you are—as their invaluable right-hand rockstar. If you have a sense your manager could be holding you back, there’s a real chance you might be onto something. 

    Sadly, this kind of bad behavior is all too common in the corporate world. Did you know more than three-quarters of large companies have identified talent hoarding as a serious issue? 

    2. Your Boss Lacks Clout

    It’s also possible that your boss doesn’t have the final say in your promotion, and you need other trustworthy leaders in the organization to recognize your potential. 

    There are more people than you may realize who will have a say in whether you get promoted or not. And the people who matter most will change and grow as you move up the ladder.

    3. Your Boss Suddenly Quits

    There’s a good chance the person you report to at work today won’t be the same a year from now. A recent LinkedIn survey reported that a whopping 85% of U.S. professionals are thinking about switching jobs this year! 

    If your manager suddenly finds a better opportunity elsewhere and quits, where does that leave you and your promised promotion?

    Expand Your Network of Trusted Connections

    Simply put, counting on your boss to advance your career can be a risky move. Even if your manager has the best of intentions to promote you, it doesn’t always work out as planned.

    So, how can you increase your chances of success when there’s a lack of trust in your boss?

    The best way to advance your career when you don’t fully trust your boss is by growing your network of trusted relationships with key individuals.  

    1. Your Boss’s Boss

    If you don’t trust your manager is pushing for your promotion, taking steps to impress your boss’s boss can be just what’s needed to prompt (or gently pressure) your manager to take action.

    If you’ve already established a trusting relationship with your boss’ boss and they’ve seen your awesomeness first-hand, then you’re in a great position to request a skip-level meeting to discuss how you can add even more value to the business.

    On the other hand, if the big boss barely knows your name, you may have a problem. You need to find ways to gain more face time with senior management and show your value to the business. 

    2. Human Resources

    And then there’s the HR factor. You can’t underestimate the influence your HR manager can have on your career advancement. I’ve seen more than one promotion request get denied simply because human resources wasn’t on board with the move.

    On the flip side, I’ve also seen HR managers work wonders to combat talent hoarders and help valued employees bypass bad managers to make career moves up the ladder. Developing a strategic relationship with your HR manager can be a smart move.


    3. Coworkers

    Your team members matter too, especially when it comes to your professional growth and advancing into a managerial role. Because career success isn’t a solo sport — gaining support and advocacy from the right people can be a game changer.

    It won’t go unnoticed by senior leaders that you have a coalition of strong supporters, which can also be a consideration for promotions. Leaders want to promote people who are liked and respected by others, and whose promotion would be a welcomed celebration.

    So take the time to get to know your coworkers, not just on a professional level, but on a personal level too.

    How Can You Quickly Build Trust With Your Coworkers?

    An easy way to quickly build trust with your coworkers is by offering your help. By finding ways to help others be more successful, you’ll instantly create goodwill. 

    Of course, you need to offer your help from a genuine place of service. It can’t be given with an expectation of reciprocity in an “I scratch your back, you scratch mine,” kind of way. It’s all about building an authentic relationship based on mutual trust.

    And here’s one more tip: asking for help from others also helps to build trusting relationships. When you ask others for assistance, it shows you trust them and their expertise — which means they may be more likely to trust you too!

    More Advice About How to Get Promoted at Work

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    Passed Over for a Promotion: Should You Stay or Quit?

    Here are 3 key considerations to help you confidently decide your next career move.

    When is the Best Time to Get Promoted at Work

    When is the Best Time to Get Promoted at Work

    The best time to advance your career and get promoted could be much sooner than you think — here’s why.

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    When Your Boss Promised to Promote You But Then Quits

    Here’s 5 steps to take when your boss promised to promote you but then quits before following through.

    Don’t Let a Lack of Trust in Your Boss Hold You Back

    Bottom line, relying solely on your manager to promote you is a gamble you shouldn’t take — especially if you don’t fully trust your boss has your back.

    Building up trust with a variety of people, from senior leaders to human resources and coworkers is essential to keep your career on track. It’s not just about impressing your immediate manager; it’s about developing trusting relationships with a network of advocates across the organization.

    This was the situation for me. When I finally stopped giving my boss the benefit of the doubt and began to proactively build authentic connections with other influential leaders across my company, I was able to get promoted into a new role working for a new manager. 

    So, be strategic, diversify your relationships, and ensure that when the time comes, you’ve built a high level of trust with the right people  – individuals who will be rooting for your next career move.


    About Author

    As a former CMO who started her career as an admin assistant, Alison writes about climbing the corporate ladder.

    After several frustrating years stuck in middle management, Alison set a goal to use her corporate career to achieve financial freedom – and make work optional.

    You can read more about her story here.



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