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over 4 years ago by Marc Caulfield, CEO of mental health consultancy, Demolish the Wall

Agony Uncle: overlooked for promotion.


"I’m on the cusp of promotion but have been told I’m ‘not quite there yet’. My boss says my work is excellent but has suggested that I need to work on my self-promotion internally. I’m not really sure how to do this as I’m not a natural show off. To be honest, it also really frustrates me that I’m being overlooked over other people who seem to play the game better. The work should speak for itself! What would you advise?"

(M/w from top 10 advertising agency)

We asked Marc Caulfield, advertising industry expert and CEO of mental health consultancy, Demolish The Wall, to weigh-in. Here's his take on the situation:

I feel your frustration! This is often used as a financial trick to appease the FD or should I say CFO nowadays. However, I suspect the underlying issue here is your boss and their position in the business. If your boss truly feels your work is excellent but your promotion is being blocked, I suspect their boss doesn’t rate you as highly as your boss does. The unfortunate thing in the ad game is perception and ensuring the right people see you doing the right things. Don’t forget most people’s perception is their reality. Agency leaders are not always the best at the craft skills; indeed, generally aren’t. However, they can be brilliant businesspeople, brilliant leaders, brilliant commercially etc etc.

Certain agencies or positions in agencies do require more ‘front’. Your situation maybe because your client would be upset if you came off their business or weren’t so involved. This is why sometimes brilliant client people don’t make the most senior positions.


If you are prepared to give this a go, the way to do it is to decide who is blocking your promotion and who needs to be more impressed by your work. Find reasons to show them; ask to do an all agency show and tell; run a lunch and learn etc. However, ask yourself is this sustainable for you as an individual? Does it fly in the face of your work ethic and belief system? My advice is don’t pretend you are something you aren’t, it never works long term and can be detrimental to your mental health. If they won’t give you the recognition you deserve then maybe you need to offer your skills elsewhere. I would also be concerned for your boss, they clearly don’t have the clout or respect of their boss.