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Does discrimination influence who gets promoted at your job?

For many people, internal promotions are the only way they will make progress in their careers. Not everyone will just apply blindly to outside companies in the hope of securing a better job. You may have chosen to work with a specific company because there’s room for upward mobility or they have earned a reputation for promoting from within.

Applying for a promotion can be a nerve-racking experience. You may worry about who to ask for recommendations and how to best present yourself. If you have the necessary experience, a positive work history and all the critical skills for a better position, it can be frustrating to lose out on a coveted promotion to someone else. It can be devastating to feel like you lost that opportunity because of discrimination.

Whether the company hired someone from outside or promoted someone internally, it’s possible that discrimination played a role in the decision about whom to promote.

Does the promoted person share characteristics with other managers?

Some companies have transparently biased hiring and promotion practices. For example, everyone in management might be the same gender. It’s also possible that they consistently pass over people of a specific race or religion when deciding whom to promote or give more responsibility to.

When there is an obvious trend in who gets promoted and who does not, you may be able to point to that as a pattern of behavior that constitutes discrimination. The same could be true if factors other than skill and work performance influence the decision. If management only promotes people with outside connections to other members of the team, that could also be a form of inappropriate discrimination.

Did someone say something to you that made you suspect discrimination?

Discrimination isn’t always about one group pushing back against another. It can also involve just a few people with a serious bias against one person or a certain set of characteristics.

Sometimes, qualified candidates realize that discrimination has affected their career when one of their supervisors says something inappropriate in a discussion. It may not even be during a formal interview. However, if they reference your age if you are over 40, your gender, your race or other protected characteristics in a negative way, even if they attempt to pass that language off as a joke, that could be a warning sign of discrimination at your workplace.