There may be some credence to the old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

At least 44 percent of employees surveyed by Right Management, a career management group within Manpower Group, think that’s true.

According to the survey, more workers believe “who you know” is more important than job performance in order to get ahead in their organization.

Right Management surveyed more than 500 employees throughout North America and more of them think who you know is what determines advancement, while 39 percent think job advancement is based on job performance.

For 4 percent it is job tenure, and another 13 percent say they have no idea since their employer never provides clear criteria.

“Workplace cynicism sure runs deep when merely one-in-three thinks it is merit that opens up opportunities or influences advancement,” said Mary Haskins, career management practice leader for the western region for Right Management, which provides employees, career and placement services to Fortune 500 companies. “It’s unfortunate so many workers think politics drives promotion. And it’s certainly wrong too, since organizations are doing more to identify promising talent and shape their development.”

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The survey found that some employees claim there are no clear criteria for advancement. That should be of major concern to top management, Haskins said.

“If we add together the politics people and the puzzled group we get 60 percent who aren’t plugged in to what ought to be open and fair development options,” she said. “No wonder employers so often find their people so unsatisfied or disengaged from their work.”

Read tips on how to overcome being left out of the advancement loop at Right Management.