You’re conscientious, loyal and hard-working. So why haven’t you been offered a promotion? Before you blame office politics, difficult people or your boss, it’s worth considering whether you’re sabotaging your own success.

In particular, ask yourself whether a passive, unassertive communication style is holding you back. Here are four behaviours you need to drop if you want to be taken seriously the next time a promotion opportunity comes up.

1. Staying silent in meetings

If you want senior people to take you seriously, you need to voice your opinions and ideas. Meetings are an ideal place to do this. So make sure you speak up assertively. If you feel nervous about doing so, use the following three tips to build your confidence levels.

  • Prepare by reviewing the meeting agenda and writing brief notes on ideas you can contribute or questions you can ask. Make sure that your contributions and queries are constructive, so you’ll make a great impression. You don’t want to look like a difficult person.
  • Speak within the first five minutes of the meeting. Research had shown that people who do this tend to be given more attention than those who sit silently through the start of a meeting.
  • Volunteer to deliver a paper or presentation. This doesn’t have to be long. But it should be carefully prepared so that you come across as well organised and in command of your topic. Aim to speak assertively and with a solution focused approach

2. Leaving problems for other people to solve

People in senior roles are expected to have strong collaborative problem-solving and decision-making skills. You’ll stand out as a candidate for promotion if you have a reputation for sorting out problems in your current position. So don’t sit back and wait for someone else to fix things – do it yourself. Be assertive and tackle difficult conversations.

Not confident that you know how to solve problems well? Then it’s time to learn. To improve your problem-solving skills, try the following ideas.

  • Enrol in a short course on collaborative problem solving and decision-making
  • Ask your boss to coach you in problem-solving skills, or find a coach who can help in this area
  • Volunteer for special tasks and projects which will stretch your thinking skills
  • Join a social group or hobby group and volunteer to take an active role which will develop your problem-solving skills

Change is natural

3. Sticking to your comfort zone

You’re more likely to be promoted if you stand out as someone proactive and willing to take risks. So if you’ve been doing the same tasks for more than 6 months, it’s time to expand your repertoire. Some ways to do this include:

  • Offering to review and improve standard operating procedures
  • Putting your hand up for new projects
  • Enrolling in a course to upgrade your qualifications
  • Asking your boss to increase your responsibilities
  • Offering to train or mentor new staff
  • Participating in a secondment or job exchange
  • Learning how to improve your conflict resolution skills

4. Failing to build your personal brand

Nobody likes a braggart. But nobody promotes a wallflower. So you need to get active about building your profile, expanding your professional networks and managing your personal brand. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Review your LinkedIn profile (or create one if you haven’t done so already). Make sure this highlights your skills and achievements. And check that your photo looks professional and creates a good impression.
  • Submit articles to in-house publications or professional journals. The aim is to get your name out there. Write about what you know best: you’ll be amazed at how positively others respond when you share your expertise.
  • Comment on social networking sites. Do this at least once a week, so that you have a regular online presence. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just spend a few minutes a day responding to others’ posts or contributing answers to questions.
  • Attend functions and networking events. If you feel shy about socialising, it helps to set goals before attending events. This will help you avoid looking passive and unconfident. For example, you might decide to meet three new people, to speak to someone from another department, or to offer to help someone less experienced build their skills.