On my recent performance review I was identified as a high performer with a low potential on a McKinsey 9 box matrix even though my leadership, motivation and entrepreneurial skills were all rated about 9/10 and overall sum was 90/100. The reason given to me for my low potential score (no chance of promotion) was that I would be too missed in the development team.

I have eight years of experience and a set of very specific skills needed for this industry. In my recent years I've done a lot to improve general processes in the company with very measurable results. My daily tasks include mentoring my younger colleagues and maintaining and setting standards for writing code and testing. I've felt ready for a next step in my career for a few years now.

What would be the best way to convince my company to promote me to a team leading or a similar position?

  • 5
    Did the person who went over this assessment with you suggest that the company had a problem and knew they needed to do something about it, or more that you had a problem and they wanted to tell you? Commented May 26, 2018 at 12:30
  • 3
    "should I leave" is a matter of opinion, but if your goal is a more senior position and they said they can't afford to lose you from your current position then I suggest you can either leave, or use a job offer from elsewhere as leverage if you don't want to leave. They might hate you for that second option though.
    – user16259
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 13:00
  • 4
    Someone is willing to hold you back because it makes their job uncomfortable. Even if there was a way to "convince the company", should you really have to? Is that really the kind of company you want to work for? Commented May 26, 2018 at 14:01
  • 19
    They are getting “high performer” work for “low potential” pay so they’ve no incentive to fix this. Go be a high performer somewhere else.
    – Gaius
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 16:55
  • 6
    Congratulations, you’re an example of the Dilbert principle.
    – Laurent S.
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 20:15

3 Answers 3


There's the old saying that making yourself irreplaceable prevents you from getting fired but also from getting promoted.

If they deem you too important for the team to promote you out of there, there won't be much you can do to change that immediately. Stomping your feet and shouting "But I want to" typically doesn't work in a workplace environment. What you can do in the longer run if you decide to stay is make yourself less involved. That is, enable people to solve their problems without relying on you and/or train some colleague to be able to do your responsibilities as well who could then act as your successor. However, those measures will take time.

When you think about leaving, think critically about how likely it is that some other company will hire you for a "promoted" position – i.e. one that is equivalent to the position you might have had after a promotion – if you never have had such a position before. So even if you leave and try it somewhere else you would have to take into account some time to get into a promoted position there as well.

  • 8
    Note that if there are openings for the promoted position in a different company there is nothing preventing him from directly applying to those positions. It is one method that people use to get the promotion they are seeking, when their existing company won't give it.
    – Anketam
    Commented May 26, 2018 at 20:05

My response would be something along these lines:

I enjoy the work I do here, but it's not healthy for me to stay in this role forever, and it's a serious business risk if the dev team can't function without me. If I go on holiday or get hit by the proverbial bus, they will need to be able to manage without me. It'd be better for everybody if we do some succession planning so the team won't always be dependent on me. Can we talk about what sort of arrangements you'd like me to put in place here?

Depending on your relationship with your managers, it may or may not be helpful to discuss that you're feeling frustrated with this situation. (At least, I'm assuming you're feeling frustrated, because I certainly would be in your shoes!) Some places understand that supporting employees' career development is good for long-term retention, even if it means some trade-offs in the short term, and in that sort of environment it can help to be candid about how you're feeling. Others aren't as enlightened and may hold it against you; that's something you'll need to gauge for yourself.

If they say no to that, then it's definitely time to start looking for opportunities elsewhere. Good management doesn't penalise people for making themselves useful!

  • Great, though I'd remove the I think part. A definitive statement is more likely to have the desired effect.
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 21:40
  • @Kaz You are absolutely right. That "I think" is a bad habit of mine and I've been trying to train myself out of it but it's stubborn!
    – G_B
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 22:17
  • You and me both! I keep having to remind myself: Simpler words. Shorter sentences. Direct, positive statements. No negations.
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 17, 2020 at 22:46

If they need you so badly, they better find a way to promote you, or else you have to leave. But don't send out your CV just yet.

A "promotion" can have various forms. What exactly do you expect from your promotion?

  • A more managerial role
  • New/different things to do
  • A new job title for your CV
  • Prestige/merits, standing out from the crowd
  • Being pushed around less by your manager
  • More money
  • ...

Do they know what you expect from your promotion? Are they really unwilling to give what you want? What do your colleagues think would be appropriate?

Without more insight, I'd say they don't want to make you a manager, because a manager has to manage and has no time to use all the intricate knowledge you have to the best of the company.

Some companies have multiple ways of promotion for their developers, like a "technical specialist", a "manager", or an "evangelist". Which role would you want to take, and does your company know? If you don't need the manager role, and development teams in your company right now have one manager and many developers, maybe they could start to differentiate to reflect your status as a very high-value asset.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .