Employees' beliefs about how promotions are awarded within their organizations can have important consequences. We conducted two studies that focus on perceptions of the criteria used to make promotion decisions. In Study 1, we identified two types of perceived promotion criteria, performance-based and nonperformance-based. Then we use justice and social exchange theories to develop a model linking employee perceptions of promotion criteria to performance via their relationships with promotional justice and organizational commitment. In a sample of 305 employee–supervisor pairs, we found that both promotional justice and organizational commitment mediated between perceptions of promotion criteria and supervisor rated in-role and extra-role performance, and that having received a promotion in the past predicted attributions that promotions were based relatively more on performance or nonperformance criteria. Study 2 further examined the role of promotions themselves in the formation of perceptions of promotion criteria. Drawing from image and attribution theories, we hypothesized that the relationship between having received a promotion or not and perceptions of promotion criteria depends on ego defensiveness. In a sample of 145 employees, we found that those who scored high on ego defensiveness and who had not been promoted were especially likely to attribute promotion decisions to nonperformance criteria. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.