So the research is in: men get promoted more often on the basis of future potential, and women get promoted on the basis of past performance. Reluctance to deal with this minefield issue is something we persistently encounter with the women we consult. And for them, we're in the habit of writing scripts. Negotiation comebacks, if you will.
Take a look:
HE: I don't think you've demonstrated that you're ready for a promotion to director.
SHE: What do you think is missing in my skillset...my strengths?
HE: It's not about your skills or strengths, you just need more time performing at a consistently high level.
SHE: What is the standard timeline or structure for advancement in this company?
HE: It's not that linear. My job is to track performance and promote on an individual, case by case basis.
SHE: So what metrics do you apply across the board? And what do I need to do for you to say, "Yeah, that's it. She's ready"?
HE: Look, there isn't a spot for you right now. Dave just took over as Team Director, so let's just set our sights for doing amazing things this year and we'll revisit during your review.
SHE: I'm happy to do that, but this is an issue of fairness and clarity. I am already doing the job of director. I'm hiring and managing the team, running the tests and demos, and you say I'm not ready for the job I'm already doing. What's missing?
(Notice the persistent use of diagnostic questions anyone?)
HE: It's risky for me to formally promote you. You're not a fit. I think you would get trampled. And besides, leadership doesn't really know you.
SHE: I'm really sorry to hear that. The truth is, you constantly say how I make you look good and if I were going to get trampled, it would have happened by now. So what will it take for you to put some skin in the game for me, and promote me based not only on my performance, which is great, but also on my future potential?
HE: That's a pretty risky proposition. Besides, you've set some pretty audacious goals this year, and I'd like to be sure they'll be met.
SHE: What if I ask you to trust that promoting me will demonstrate my ability to perform at a consistently high level? You know, like Dave. I mean, when have I ever demonstrated anything less?
HE: It's not that simple. Trust me.
SHE: I get that it may not be simple, but I'm asking you to trust me. And to be clear and fair. In the meantime, I'm going to write the white paper for our company on "The Path to Leadership."
IS YOUR HAIR ON FIRE YET?
Okay, let's pause there... If I kept at it, I'd run the risk of getting all Norma Rae on you. Not a bad thing, but I'm going to turn it over to you. How would you advise our female leader? And how would you conclude this conversation?