You’ve worked hard, have gotten great results, and the next step in your career would be a promotion. As you eye that next step, you have a sense that it might be harder to get there than it should be given your proven track record.

Maybe you start asking for more feedback, or you look at old performance reviews to find patterns that could get in the way of your next step. You don’t see anything that you think would get in your way, but you’re still not entirely satisfied that you would have the new opportunity in the bag if it were available.

You might be facing the Panda Paradox.

In my last blog post, I talked about pandas – a metaphor for the three issues identified by researchers that can derail careers: communication skills, poor peer relationships, and a lack of executive presence. The worst part of having a panda is that the behavior is often something not materially impacting one’s current job performance or is something a manager or peer is uncomfortable mentioning. 

Therein lies the paradox. No one is going to tell you about the panda.

Since my original post, pandas have been a topic of discussion in both our cohorts and coaching. In these conversations, we have uncovered a few consistent warnings signs:

  • They’re getting less praise than they used to for the same (or better) quality of work.
  • There are fewer conversations about “next steps” and “new opportunities.”
  • They are receiving feedback about being a “trusted performer,” “steady Eddie,” or “always there when something needs to be done.”
  • They are hearing about less-accomplished colleagues being considered for promotions or other moves.
  • They are receiving direct feedback about skills that relate to communication, relationships, or executive presence but are ignoring or minimizing it because those things “get in the way” of doing great work.

In my coaching sessions, we have been analyzing these situations and have found the following helpful in uncovering pandas:

  • Recognize that whatever job you have, the role has changed. Included in those responsibilities is the ability to communicate effectively, manage your peer relationships positively, and build a brand that others trust.
  • Those jokes about certain habits, tics, or tendencies that come from your colleagues? Shakespeare said, “Many a true word hath been spokenin jest.” They’re excellent sources of pandas.
  • Look around you and determine who is being rewarded and why. Are there things you’re doing (or not doing) that could be getting in your way? Are you ignoring patterns that are working for others that you’re not doing yourself?
  • Take a step back and think about the situations where you find yourself saying, “well, that’s just the way I am.” Is it? Are you using it as an excuse? There’s a good chance that you’re holding onto a behavior that doesn’t help you anymore.

Pandas are dangerous and are often behaviors that are tough to identify, and even tougher to overcome. It takes attention, effort, and trial and error.

Take a moment to consider where your pandas might lie. Addressing them might have a drastic impact on your career – and sooner than you think.