Getting Passed Over for Promotion: Does Remote Work Make It More Likely?

Getting passed over for a promotion is something most people experience at some point. Of course, this is disappointing. But if you’re not careful, that disappointment can fester into resentment and insecurity. Better to transform the disappointment into motivation as you reorient to your long-term goals. That said, if you’re motivated by advancing within your organization, you want to be strategic about positioning yourself for a promotion.

One thing you will certainly have to consider is whether working remotely will obstruct your goals of advancement. In this article, we’ll try to take a sober look at this issue. We’ll consider what the actual relationship between remote work and career advancement is. In addition, we’ll also help you figure out how to keep remote work from stopping you on your career trajectory. Let’s dive in.

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Remote Work Challenges

One of the most important business impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will be the incredible acceleration of remote work. A lot of work was already trending remote, but the pandemic turned it into a race. And while there were certainly growing pains or even uncontrollable problems in certain areas (education), many companies and employees have found the transition easier than expected. It turns out a lot of information and knowledge work really can be done remotely. For the most part, employees are good at managing themselves as they fulfill their responsibilities.

But that easier-than-expectedness should not obscure the many remote work challenges, which define some situations more than others. There are many pros and cons to remote work. In addition to the physical and practical limitations of remote work – imagine a plumber trying to fix your sink remotely – there are real implications for the worker and the workforce to consider. Communication and synchronization can sometimes be more challenging with remote work. Synergy and collaboration can be inhibited. Production can drop off. And compounding all this, workforce morale and cohesion can be compromised.

Passed Over For Promotion

One of the big concerns employees have about working remotely is that they’ll be more likely to be passed over for promotion. And if you’ve recently been passed over for promotion while working remotely, you may be wondering if it was connected.

Research suggests that working remotely actually does decrease the likelihood that you’ll be promoted. Some believe this has to do with the unconscious benefits of “passive facetime”. Or, all the incidental and ubiquitous in-person communication that managers and employees experience when sharing a workspace. We’ll lay out some of the statistics in the next section, but to put it succinctly: managers unconsciously perceive in-person employees to be more reliable and productive in a number of dimensions. This results in telecommuters being passed over for more promotions, being offered smaller raises, and being given inferior performance reviews. Keep in mind that much of this research was done pre-pandemic. Of course, with the pandemic a year old and (hopefully) slowing down, there is now a healthy mix of in-person and remote work in many organizations.

Remote Work Statistics

Let’s look at remote work statistics that have an impact on who will be passed over for promotion. According to a study from the MIT Sloan Management Review, managers were 9% likelier to describe in-person employees (employees who put in “expected face time”) as dependable or responsible. And when you consider employees who put in “extracurricular face time” at off-hours events, managers were a whopping 25% likelier to describe them as dedicated and committed. A 2014 study by Stanford economist Nichola Bloom concluded remote workers increased performance by 13% but were 50% less likely to earn a promotion than in-person workers. These are concerning statistics if you work remotely and are looking to be promoted!

Remote Work Culture

The above statistics are most relevant to workplaces that have a mix of in-person and remote employees, in which workers can theoretically choose to work remotely or not. In addition to the face time issue, these kinds of workplaces put remote employees at a disadvantage because they are cut off from much of the company’s culture. Spending 8+ hours in a physical workplace offers you ample opportunities to learn about – and to signal your participation in – a culture. These opportunities are fewer and farther between when working remotely. This can lead to actual or perceived divergence from company culture.

Some workplaces, either by choice or perhaps by circumstance (such as the pandemic), only offer employees the ability to work remotely. In these companies, there is an innate remote work culture. This means employees are on a level playing field. It also means no single employee is likelier to be passed over for promotion solely because of working remotely.

Should You Promote Yourself?

In the past, workers were largely disempowered when it came to their own career trajectory. Workers were limited in their options to best position themselves for promotion (within the bounds of talent, capacity, and education).The ultimate decision-making power rested with management. But in today’s economy, workers have more power – and more of the burden – to promote themselves than ever before.

When we mention promoting yourself, we simply mean selling your value to an employer. This does not mean you should email your boss asking for a raise right now. However, if you’re consistently being passed over for a promotion, then you can take more initiative. That may mean reaching out to your manager about possible advancement. If that doesn’t pan out, you may want to consider looking for a new role in a different organization.

However, it could also mean something far simpler. If you put in 2 hours of work in the evening, you may want to email something to your boss so that he sees you are online. Managers do make mental notes when they see employees working evening hours. If you don’t send that email, he or she may never know.

It could also be as simple as making sure you answer the phone when it rings during the day. Even if you miss the call and call back right away, it could still leave the impression that you were less available due to remote work. In either case, you’ll need to get comfortable with “promoting yourself” in terms of selling your value to an employer. Today, it’s often on workers to sell the story of how their experience and expertise enable them to create value for the company.


One of the realities of the post-Covid economy is that many of us are, either by force or by choice, working remotely. For the time being, this can prove something of a disadvantage for employees looking to advance. If you don’t want to be passed over for a promotion, you’ll need to take on the project of “promoting yourself”. By this, we don’t necessarily mean starting an Instagram dedicated to all the emails you send. Rather, be smart about communicating the ways you create value for the company. Good luck!

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Filed Under: Consulting skills, Leadership & Management, management consulting