How To Approach Your Manager With Confidence When You Don't Get Promoted

Women have been subject to the glass ceiling – sexist barriers that hold women back from senior-level positions in their jobs – for decades. Abysmally, a recent study found that gender gaps still exist in promotions, with women at a large retail chain being 13% less likely to be promoted than men, even when receiving higher performance ratings from managers. If your manager passes you over for a promotion, don't hesitate to bring up the issue in a professional manner, especially if you are confident in your work performance.

Women may also find themselves in a double-bind at work – having the challenge of being more assertive in order to compete with male coworkers, yet finding that being "overly" assertive is viewed unfavorably by coworkers and managers. Asking for a promotion when you feel you deserve one is anxiety-ridden enough; add in embedded sexism at your workplace and it may seem like an impossible task. But don't despair; there are many ways to boost your chance of being promoted when talking with your manager or human resources director. We've rounded up the most practical tips ahead.

Show them you've done your homework

When you meet with your manager to discuss a promotion, make sure to come prepared. Speaking to Refinery 29, Lauren McGoodwin, CEO and founder of Career Contessa, advised meeting with your manager to provide an overview of your accomplishments from the past year, as well as a list of comparable jobs with salaries to show the market value for your skills. Coming in with solid research (you can look up salaries for free through websites like Glassdoor, Indeed,, or the Bureau of Labor Statistics) is an objective, matter-of-fact way to discuss salary requirements and can reduce some of the anxiety you may feel when asking for a raise.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of says that when one of her employees wants to be promoted they have to prove they are ready, understanding that with a promotion not only is there a pay raise, but an increase in responsibilities as well. If you can demonstrate that you are willing to go the extra mile and not settle for mediocrity, your boss may be more likely to see leadership potential in you, hopefully resulting in a promotion. When you approach your boss, come prepared with a document showing the times you've gone above and beyond at work; for instance, taking on challenging tasks, creating work programs (a diversity and inclusion initiative, for example), or rewriting guidelines to make processes more efficient.

Be confident in your leadership qualtities

When approaching your manager to discuss a promotion, do your best to avoid feeling like you are overstepping or over-selling yourself; you know your worth and your company should know it too. According to Psychology Today, in her book, That's What She Said; What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together, Joanne Lipman says that because women are long taught to undervalue their abilities, they're usually met with pushback when they assert themselves. "People find us bossy, or uncompromising, or difficult. They don't want to work with us." So how can women get ahead?

According to Lindsay Walega, the co-founder of Siren-PR,it takes bravery and high performance to get promoted. "High performance means more than being good at your job. It means looking around the next curve and helping our team prepare for it, no matter which level you're at," she tells Refinery29. You can show your high performance and leadership skills through actions such as volunteering to take the lead on a project, helping train and acclimate new employees, and communicating effectively with your coworkers. 

While women face extra hurdles in being promoted, approaching your manager to discuss a promotion does not have to incur anxiety. Being able to speak about the times you went above and beyond what was required of you, demonstrating your leadership skills, and having examples of salaries in similar positions are great ways to confidently ask for the promotion you deserve.