Category Archives: Occupational Racism

Why didn’t I get promoted?

Everybody has goals. Some have plans on way to achieve their goal and others decide they will just get on with what they have to do with the hope that they will reach their goal eventually.

I worked for a small, family run company in London, and I immediately fell in love with the company’s ethos. Although it was a relatively small team when I joined, it was slowly expanding with new people and new jobs being created. The bosses were great. They showed me nothing but love and encouragement, which I will be forever grateful for. I knew right from the start that I wanted to progress in this company and I set myself a goal – I will be promoted and get paid more in a year and a half.

With the desire to prove myself, and a burning appetite for success, I went head first in to the role during working hours and spent evenings and weekends reading up on the industry I was in (estate agency). Not only did I learn legislation, I also studied popular books on how to get promoted, how to be successful. I quickly realised that I must prove myself by working hard and in order to do that, I had to make the company money. That’s what it all boiled down to. I spent hours perfecting my skills in selling and it paid off – I made the company a quarter of a million before the end of the first year. I had also gained the relevant qualifications in my industry to show that I’m more than capable of performing at a higher role. I also spent time working with other departments within the company to showcase my versatile skills.

I earned nothing but praise and was confident I would get promoted. All I had to do was wait for the right job opening. I made my intentions clear in quarterly reviews and was assured that if my performance continued positively, I would achieve my goals. This only made me more determined to reach my goal.

The first year had passed and I was the longest serving member at that point in my team. I took it upon myself to teach the other member how to conduct themselves, what they should be doing, what they should avoid doing, how they should be thinking and how they can make more money. Again, I earned praise from the bosses for motivating staff and managing them to an extent. We didn’t have a line manager so a lot of the managerial duties fell on my hands. I didn’t mind. I saw it as an opportunity to show that I could step up to a more demanding role by leading the team. Without bragging too much, the team loved me. They listened to my advice, my criticisms and my praise and they all took it upon themselves to exercise my tips.

A few months later, the bosses announced that a new role had opened – the one that I had been working for and they were encouraging applications for the job. To say I was excited was an understatement. This is what I had been working for. At the same time, I was slightly confused. Why were they advertising the role if they knew that I could do it well? I didn’t think too much of it. I created my CV and applied for it and followed processes like as if it was another job. I practiced interview questions, asked other team members for advice, and did some research on the role’s requirements.

The bosses called me in for an interview the following week, and I gave it my all. I presented them with a report I had created detailing the amount of deals I had made and the amount of money I had made for them. They seemed impressed.

‘You’ve done your homework’, they said with a smile. I also made it a point to remind them that when I first started in the company, I had no prior knowledge or experience of the industry but through my own desire to succeed, I spent my own time bettering myself, which they were aware of. They asked a few more questions, and I answered them honestly and it went well. We smiled throughout the interview and although it was very formal, we were all slightly relaxed as we all knew each other. The interview lasted am hour and they informed me they would let me know the following week whether I had been successful.

As the day of my follow-up meeting approached, I started to get nervous. What if I didn’t get the job? I couldn’t bear the thought of not getting the job. I turned my attention to my current role as a final effort to give them proof of my abilities, and in that particular week, I closed more deals than anyone had ever done in the company in a week.

It was now Thursday. The day of the meeting. My heart was beating as the appointment time drew closer. They finally called me in and as I entered the room, they smiled at me. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? I had no idea.

‘Thank you for applying for the position. As you know, we interviewed a number of people for the role. Your application was very strong and we kept you at the forefront of our mind. We are pleased with how you have progressed and we appreciate everything you have done for us since you started. The team has improved it’s figures and we cannot ignore the fact that you played a major part in that improvement’, said the boss.

‘We reviewed everyone’s application thoroughly, and unfortunately, on this occasion your application was unsuccessful. You’re progressing at a good rate but we don’t think you’re ready for it right now. Michael will be joining the company on Monday and I’m sure you will learn a lot from him.’

I sat there, shocked. What did I just hear? My stomach turned and I can honestly say I had never felt so disappointed and angry in my entire life. I wasn’t going to keep quiet. I asked them what has Michael got that I didn’t? They didn’t really have an answer for this. He had never been in that role either, and did not have the industry qualifications like I did. I had a proven track record in the company but it felt like it wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t going to beg though. They could see the disappointment in my face. They asked me if I’m okay.

‘Yes’, I replied. ‘There’s not anything else I can say as the job has already been offered to him. I feel as though I’ve been let down. Throughout the past year, you’ve reassured me that I’m on the way to get promoted and I should continue what I’m doing and I’ll get promoted. Well, that’s what I did. And it hasn’t got me anywhere. You can understand why I’m upset, but as there isn’t anything else to talk about, I’d like to go back to my desk.’

I shook their hand and left the room. I felt the entire office watching me as I walked to the desk. How embarrassing. I had worked like a dog all year long, and for what? What do I have to show for it?

Monday arrived and I met Michael. We exchanged pleasantries and the boss approached us.

‘Michael, he’ll be showing you around today and will teach you how to get on with your role. Any questions, feel free to ask’, said the boss.

That was the final insult for me. They want ME to teach him his new job? I called an appointment with the bosses that same day. I told them I’m not willing to teach him anything as it will not be benefiting me. I also handed in my notice as I did not want to give any more of my effort to a company who doesn’t want to put any effort in to me. They tried to persuade me against it, but I stuck with my decision. Four weeks later I was out the door and never turned back.

I still don’t understand why I didn’t get promoted. I had gone above and beyond my role to prove myself. Not just once, but consistently over a year and a half. I felt betrayed, and I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t shed a tear from the disappointment of losing out on my dream job.

The only reason I could think of was my skin colour. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time but was that the reason? I was the only Asian person in the company. My colleagues in the other departments all managed to get promoted, and they worked less than me, and put in minimal effort. I’m not saying the bosses are racist, but subconsciously, would they have preferred to have a white person occupying a senior role? I’m not the type of person who has used that as an excuse in the past, as I genuinely (and possibly naively) believe society is meritocratic. But based on my experience, I actually cannot think of any other reason.