Did You Just Get Offered a Trojan Horse Promotion?

May 29, 2019

by Soundview Editor-in-Chief, Sarah Dayton

There’s a reason we call your path up the ranks of an organization chart a career ladder. It’s not a slope, or a hill. It’s a series of distinct steps straight up to those hallowed executive offices with windows and nicer furniture. Whether you start in the mailroom or as an unpaid intern, your trajectory should always be up. Your company will expect it of you; your immediate boss should have created a development plan for you; and your peers will support you (with varying degrees of envy) for good measure.

When that first promotion opportunity arrives, you’ll be nervous and excited at the same time, but remember to beware Greeks bearing gifts. This now very politically incorrect phrase refers to the age-old story, first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, of how Greek soldiers gained entry into the city of Troy after a fruitless 10-year siege by hiding inside a giant wooden horse left as an offering to the goddess Athena.

Have you ever considered that your promotion could be a trojan horse? Everyone will expect you to take it, but what if it’s hiding an unpleasant surprise? We have come a long way from the days of lifetime employment and gold watches. Promotions aren’t what they used to be. Consider these possibilities:

  • The promotion may come with a better title, but it may also be a lateral move on the pay scale. In other words, new business cards but no more money.
  • The opportunity arose because the previous occupant was fired for incompetence or he or she resigned before being fired for incompetence.
  • You may not be the first person to have been offered the role.

Of course, it could also be the best opportunity of your life and the first step to a stellar leadership career, but you won’t know that without some investigation and careful consideration. Remember, the reason you put in those long hours for your boss is that you were holding out for that promotion. Make sure it’s the right fit rather than a ‘right now’ fit. Taking a promotion to get out of a miserable role puts you at risk of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Give it some careful thought.

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Soundview Editor-in-Chief Sarah Dayton

Sarah is the Editor-in-Chief at Soundview. When not in the office or at her desk at home, Sarah can be found on area walking trails or patronizing small, local businesses. She is also a board member of the local land trust. Sarah and her husband, Sam, are “empty nesters” and currently share their 1824 Chester County, PA farmhouse with two spoiled basset hounds.