How To Promote the Right Employee or Risk Demotivating the Team

The other day I was having an interesting conversation with a good friend who was sharing a little about things happening at their place of work. I always love these little chats I get to have with people because they more often than not give me an idea for my tribe. They inspire me to write or create something that (I hope) will be of service to others.

It’s a classic case of taking one persons pain and turning it into another persons victory.

So, on this classic case today, we are talking about promoting people properly…not because “they've put in their time,” but because their talent and results show they are worthy. My friend was sharing how their boss, the buck stops here, leader in their company has elevated someone to a position of leadership who doesn’t appear to be ready. Worse, it has the appearance that they are promoting this individual because of their friendship, not skill and ability. It looks a lot like what webesters calls Cronyism.

  1. the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.

What does this do to the team you may be asking? It limits their personal view of what is possible for promotion in your company. It also attacks morale and trust in a big way. It demotivates them.

What Your People Want

See, people want to follow leaders that they trust. A leader who models what good work ethic looks like and is valued in the company. And they want to work with and for a leader who acknowledges effort before time, not the other way around. And perhaps most important, they want to work with a leader who while they value relationship, they do not make emotional decisions based on those relationships in the workplace. That’s a game changer in the output of your team and sabotages their intrinsic motivation as well. Check out the amazing Daniel H. Pink for more on motivation. His book Drive is my neverfail resource

What You Want

When you look at promoting an individual to a leader role, especially one who will advance beyond their peers, you want to document well their output in effort, success measures and ability to build people up around them. You want to communicate your why before you sign on that dotted line. If you are promoting someone that you have a good friendship with, I would offer you bring on a team of advisors to help you make the right, healthy decision for the team as a whole. Otherwise it looks a lot like nepotism and that stinks like last week’s trash in the workplace.

Be cautious promoting an individual before they have proven they are ready for the new position and before you have prepared the team around them for the change. (a.k.a. creating buy-in) You are setting yourself and everyone else, up for failure that will ultimately attack overall performance.

What You Want To Do

Managing people is hard enough, so why add to it by promoting someone before they are ready. Push pause, go back to your mentors and team of advisors, get clear on the good next steps. Because, if you elect not to, that appointment of a friend may be have a long lasting result of a friendship gone bad, or even worse you could be invited into a new opportunity...outside your current thriving role.

Next week I will tackle the topic of “What Do I Do Now That I Promoted Them?”