How to Know if Your Star Employee is Not Right for Promotion

You know that simply because employees are outstanding in their current roles does not mean they have what it takes to manage the team, right?  Sometimes the qualities that make them star performers—reliability, consistency, conflict avoidance, seniority—are not sufficient to merit their appointment to the top slot, no matter how much they desire the post . . . or at least the income that comes along with it.

Here are six things that might disqualify your star employees  for that promotion:

They have not formally applied for the position. Post the opening and see who applies. They may recognize they are not well qualified and decide not to apply…problem solved. No need to explain your decision if they have already taken themselves out of the running.

They do not have the numbers of an achiever. Measurable performance does not in itself justify promotions. However, it is clearly a plus. If individuals seem like stars but do not have the results to back up appearances, they are not ready for bigger opportunities.

They complain rather than offering solutions. Almost everyone complains from time to time, but to assume the mantle of leadership, a person must look for solutions. You want managers who can take responsibility and resolve issues, not simply whine about unhappy circumstances. They can appear to be stars by the quantity of work they handle, but stepping up to the next level demands a positive outlook.

They lack necessary interpersonal skills. Some key workers avoid confrontation. They keep their heads low and go with the flow. However, to be managers, they must be comfortable addressing staff conflicts and shortcomings. On the other hand, it’s not about getting inappropriately angry or argumentative. In leadership roles, they must be able to manage their own emotions.

They avoid feedback and resent advice on how to improve. They are confident they know everything they need to know. However, to assume career advancement, they must be willing to accept guidance or employee coaching as they step into a new role.

Behavioral assessments show they do not have the traits necessary for a managerial promotion. Assessments do not tell the whole story. If someone has been in your employ for years, you should have many observations in the HR files and in your own store of experience to understand if they are ready for greater responsibilities without relying on assessments. Still, formal assessments are valuable tools in your decision making. They aid in interpreting miscellaneous performance appraisals and filed notes to determine if candidates merit promotion.

How to tell employees they will not be promoted in five not-so-easy steps

First, speak with employees privately and in person. Help them avoid the embarrassment of rejection in a group setting.

Second, be forthright in presenting the information so they know exactly where they stand. Don’t prolong these meetings with idle chatter and unnecessary chitchat.

Third, let employees know that you understand their disappointment in not getting the promotion. Allow time for the employees to process their thoughts and discuss the situation.

Fourth, share with employees why you chose someone else for the promotion. If there is more than one reason, present all of them. Don’t leave employees thinking the decision was wrong because they object to one single factor.

Fifth, give advice on how employees can improve and qualify for promotion in the future. If behavioral assessment and other factors suggest that the promotion in question is the wrong career path, suggest other career paths—ideally within the current organization—that may be appropriate and offer your support for career change if possible.

Ideally, losing out on promotions can be growth opportunities for employees if you, the supervisor, handle the situation with honesty, effective communication, and compassion.

 

 

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I have freelanced and consulted since 1992 while also holding full-time corporate marketing positions during some of that period. Freelance writer specializing in the insurance industry. Marketing communications, market research reports and competitive intelligence for insurance, asset management and general business.
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