How Asian employees might position themselves for promotions

In the past months, I worked with two clients (separately), one Indian, one Chinese, who originally came for American accent reduction and general communications training; however, toward the end of our sessions, both of them said that they were unsure how to approach their bosses for a) promotions and b) to let them know that they merited not only a higher position, but also more recognition.

Both of them were initially very hesitant to cause friction and were worried about not saying the right thing. We brainstormed for a while and decided to isolate what they were really after and how to get it.

We made an outline:

A What are the real reasons you want to talk to the supervisor?

B What points of discussion will you bring up?

a) Your own contributions to the project/company

b) Prerequisites for the next level

c) Involvement of HR

d) Who will follow up

C What is the win/win for you and the company if you get the promotion?

D What is the desired outcome of the discussion?

E What are you afraid will happen as a result of the meeting?

F What will you do if – after the discussion – nothing happens or only partly?

Questions to ask yourself:

a) Do you have an exit strategy in place?

b) Will you still want to stay and work at your company?

c) Do you want to stay because you enjoy the challenges of the job?

d) Is there further growth in the job if you don’t get this promotion?

e) Do you have a special relationship with your colleagues that you enjoy?

G What kind of language will you use to talk to your supervisor?

Phrases such as:

“It seems to me, I think, I would like to point out that, what do you think?” are good to use.

The important thing is you present yourself in the best light and not bring any comparisons to colleagues into the discussion ( “I am doing most of the work”, “he never really does anything concrete”, “he’s always late”…).


What came out of most of our discussions and outlines were that both were basically  happy with the companies they were in, they knew it could be better, but they were held back taking the initiative to talk to their supervisor by their own cultural traditions.


In the US, it’s fine and also expected that you speak for yourself and make a case of why you should be moved higher. It’s not an insult to a boss, nor a confrontation, nor is anyone losing face; it’s a business proposition and doesn’t (and shouldn’t) reach into a personal domain – that’s why it’s important to limit the discussion to facts and present your work and your experience in the best (win/win) way.


The Indian client did in fact talk to HR and to his supervisor; he was told he was already in line for a promotion, unfortunately he was not given an exact date when it would happen.

The Chinese client worked through the outline with me and still has to present his case. He’s still wondering if he really wants to speak up as we had talked about initially; he isn’t sure of the outcome and what he’ll do if he doesn’t get promoted.


In the meantime, since they were interested in expanding their skills, I advised they start speaking at events here in Silicon Valley; that way they can promote their expertise, get noticed and if nothing happens in their company, they’ll have made good contacts for new interviews and maybe a new job. In addition, we reworked their LinkedIn profiles so that it was clear where their strengths lay and they’re actively adding contacts to their list.

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