How to Change Your Boss’ Mind About a Promotion By Using a Growth Mindset

Did you ever take an IQ test during high school? Was your class ever separated into the “advanced” or “honors” section and the no-name “regular” section?

The problem with these assessments is that they often lack context. Rather than revealing each of our unique talents and skills, they simply tell us that some people have a particular type of intelligence and some people don’t. 

We start to believe some people are good at math and some aren’t, some people are artists, while others just don’t have a creative bent. 

I don’t think this mental separation is healthy. Our communities lose out on so much potential when we adopt fixed mindsets like these. The fixed mindset is a concept from the brilliant mindset research of Carol Dweck, who argues that intelligence and personality are not static but can be developed. 

She contrasts “fixed” mindsets with “growth” mindsets, which believe intelligence and personality can be improved. People with growth mindsets are more successful, because they continually learn, grow and develop. Many elementary schools–including my 3rd grade daughter’s public school–are teaching growth mindset to young children, which I think is fantastic.

I want you to start applying a growth mindset to your workplace. Once you do, you’ll notice your team growing happier and stronger, and you’ll likely advance your career in the process. 

Here are three examples of applying a growth mindset to everyday office situations. Notice how growth mindsets are based on adding the simple word “yet” to an undesired situation. The desired result hasn’t happened yet (but could happen soon enough).

Change your boss’ mind about a colleague

Let’s say you’re a Baby Boomer who’s become friends with one of your Millennial colleagues. Your boss, however, doesn’t know this Millennial as well as you do. One day you hear your boss say, “That Katie is lazy and unprofessional. Instead of calling me to discuss her quarterly report, she thinks she can text me about it.”

That might not sound fair to you, so you suggest that maybe Katie isn’t lazy (fixed mindset). Maybe she hasn’t yet developed the communication skills expected in a corporate environment (growth mindset). Ideally, your boss will see Katie’s potential and then all three of you can sit down and discuss a solution.

Change your boss’ mind about a promotion

Most of us will hear this at least once in our careers: “We can’t give you a raise or promotion. Money is too tight right now.” This response often comes from a fixed mindset. A leader with a growth mindset might ask, “How can we make our business more efficient to increase our margins?”

If you find yourself in this position, try framing your desired promotion to your boss in terms of future growth. You might come up with a plan for how your team could double their sales goal by the end of the year with a new sales script and a few tweaks to the CRM. 

By painting the “yet” as clearly as possible, you’ll have a better chance of convincing your boss to look beyond present limitations.

Change your boss’ mind about the office’s communal space 

You meet with your boss to talk about installing a ping-pong table to spruce up the employee break room. Less than five minutes into the conversation, your boss says, “Ping-pong tables are a waste of time. They don’t build morale and they’re distracting.”

But you’ve noticed the high department turnover rate, and before he left, your friend Paul mentioned that the office culture made him depressed.

Your boss could shift toward a growth mindset by saying a more communal work environment hasn’t paid dividends yet. You remember that the ping-pong table was in the office for only one week before it disappeared. As you make your case for the ping-pong table, also meet your boss in the middle by recommending boundaries. Cap playing time to 30 minutes per day or set quiet hours during important meetings. 

“But Lindsey, my boss is so stubborn and old fashioned. She’s never going to see things my way.” If this is your response, then you might need a growth mindset yourself. Maybe you just haven’t found a way to successfully pitch new ideas to your boss in a way that she responds to yet. 

Have you had success applying a growth mindset? I’d love to know!

In episode 6 of The Work Remix Podcast, “Millennial Loving Boomer Wants Gen Xer Boss to Respect Millennial Coworkers,” I explore growth mindsets in more detail. The whole episode is about changing your boss’ mind about a Millennial colleague. Take a listen!

In The Work Remix, I answer your questions about thriving in the workplace of today and tomorrow. Each episode offers advice combining classic business practices from the past with modern ways of working so that you can achieve your personal and organizational goals.

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