It can be frustrating, upsetting and downright unjust if there really is an unspoken limit imposed upon your ambitions. If you don’t want to put up with it, what are your options?
Know the key competencies valued by your company and industry
If you want to climb higher, be very clear about the key competencies, skills and attributes you need to progress further. Know for sure:
What behaviours are valued and rewarded within your company or industry
What type of person is promoted within your team
What sets your company and its leaders apart
Where your competencies align with company mission, culture and values
How you currently display these attributes
Set objectives to align your competencies with those at the top
If promotion is not being handed to you on a plate, be proactive and go after what you want. Set clear goals for yourself and build the competencies required to get to the next level. You could:
Ask directly for support and advice on the skills you need to develop
Let key people know about your specific ambitions
Work with them to set goals and objectives
Involve them in reviewing and measuring your progress
Diplomatically refuse to be overlooked
First off, try to focus on those goals that are most do-able so that you can gather confidence from your successes. One step at a time, acknowledge and seek acknowledgements of your efforts, climbing can be hard work.
Build your network
As a matter of course you need to stay visible. Try to build relationships with other people in your organization. When you support others, in an ideal world they are more likely to support you.
At whatever level, you can offer others valuable information and practical or moral backing, so where it feels appropriate:
Get involved with colleagues in other teams
Reach out to new people regularly formally and informally
Actively build your external networks
At the very least, if you are unable to break through current limitations you will be laying the foundations for success elsewhere and building a support network in the process.
Build your reputation
If your goal is to be perceived as someone with the potential to be a future manager or leader and a safe pair of hands, make sure that others know of your capabilities. Let your potential be obvious.
In any case, as much as strong communication skills, technical knowledge and experience are valued, great leaders are usually strategic thinkers. They are able to inspire others with their vision of the future, able to pre-empt as well as find solutions – how can you display these sorts of qualities too?
Imagining your ideal future, can also help remind you of your incentives for confronting the situation.
Get clear about what needs to be different, which may include...
Being more visible
Contributing in meetings
Taking a lead
Seeking high-profile projects
Being strategic in sharing your ideas with peers and those in higher positions
Putting your proposals or insights in writing where necessary
On the other hand, it may be nothing to do with your professional behaviours ...
Know your rights
If you feel that you are the victim of discriminatory behaviour, at some point you need to find ways to explain the effect upon your morale and your career - to face those difficult conversations.
Undoubtedly, that may not feel easy. It often takes real courage to speak up, it may even feel pointless to do so. This also explains why the first time that many companies realise there is a problem is when you decide to leave or when things have been escalated to formal grievance levels.
Finding the right support earlier on may result in swifter and less drastic resolutions. Once you have decided to take yourself seriously, you can garner the facts around the situation. Don’t suffer in silence, seek help where you need to – and be political.
Taking yourself seriously means not putting up with frustration and failure, it also means knowing your rights. Inform yourself of company policies and the law so that you know where you stand. Acas is a great place to find free, up-to-date and external advice - www.acas.org.uk
Be assertive, find the win-win
Acting upon unconscious bias is illegal. On the other hand, those involved may not even be aware of how their behaviours affect your right to be taken seriously where your work is of equal merit.
If you have been very poorly treated, there may be a great deal of anger or hurt involved. While wanting to prove how badly someone has behaved may feel like a win in the short term, play for the longer game. Give them an opportunity to appreciate your point of view, to remedy their actions. Their reputation and that of your company or organisation is also on the line.
As a tactic, this may mean giving them the benefit of the doubt in the first place. If your considered and forensic case is dismissed then you will have to take things further, but at least your behaviour will be seen as reasonable and fair by any adjudicating bodies involved at a later stage.
Whatever the outcome, rising above the strong emotions involved, staying calm, remaining objective and professional stands you in far better stead in terms of your wider future career.
To summarise, to break the glass ceiling you need to be your own best champion. It means taking yourself seriously and managing your career and future possibilities on your own terms.
For some that means getting clearer about the competencies and knowledge most valued by your company or organisation and being more active in displaying yourself as ideal for promotion. For others it means seeking the right support where you need to, finding yourself a mentor and involving your manager where you can. Your challenge is to find fair and do-able ways to make your case.
If you are more fortunate, where you have invested your time creating strong professional networks formally and informally, hammers often remain the very last resort to smashing ceilings.
read more about successful networking...