To promote or not to promote


Superstars at workplaces are like a rising sun early morning, a fresh cold breeze on a hot day. As an employer, you love them and want to be with them forever. If a managerial or supervisory position then arises, you want to promote them immediately but is it the right decision? Are you sure you will retain the skill? Have you considered if the person wants to be promoted?

Promoting your best employee is a bit complicated and should not be rushed especially when dealing with skilled individuals like your technicians, sales people, designers or engineers. Although they are best employees in what they do, they might actually lack the skill or background tools to excel in management role. Some technicians are not great with people but very good with machines. If promoted, chances are those of a poor manager, or they may not comprehend the pressure, ending up resigning or if fortunate, they might adapt and gain qualities needed to become a great leader. You see, poor promotions are worse than poor recruitment choices. When you have recruited a wrong person, you can take advantage of the probation period and terminate the contract but if it’s an internal promotion, there is a lot to be lost. Your reputation and employee reputation has been compromised. The relationship with your employee is strained; other people will question your judgment about people and the consequence of your decision can spill to your suppliers and customers. You also cannot terminate the contract and won’t be good for the best employee to be demoted. It will crush his/her ego. So this is a delicate issue. It takes about 6months or more to train an employee to efficiency level. If you then promote your best technician or sales person – to fill that position again you will need half a year to get his replacement to a base level. Sometimes you may not be able to replace the previous role, which then forces your best employee to handle two jobs and this can be highly stressful for your Superstar, leading them to burn out and then later resignation. So what now?

It’s always good to consult first your best employee before preparing the promotion letter. Find out what motivates them and what do they consider as a reward. It’s not everyone who wants more money. Some people believe that their job is like a calling or gift. They enjoy it and have no plans to change it. Therefore promoting them will chase them away instead of retaining them. The other problem that I have seen is that some managers/employers promotes and assumes that since he/she is a star in his/her job, she/he will also be a good supervisor or manager. The person will then be thrown in deep end and told to swim with no training program in place.

So how best can you then treat your superstar?

  • You can choose to pay them above standard rates. Pay a bit more than the market rate that’s if money is a motivator to them.
  • Test them by letting them act on supervisory/managerial roles first before formalizing promotion. Can they comprehend the pressure? Can they do the job?
  • You can involve them in decision-making. Asking them what should be changed and hear their opinion. As a manager, you really need to value their input. If it’s a good idea, then apply it and reward the contributor. Avoid taking credit of the idea.
  • Build a creative innovative culture and then remove those people who slow everyone else down.
  • Encourage a bit of competition and reward the team or person with highest quality work.
  • Create a culture where there are a lot of options to advance within the organization. Being a manager/supervisor should not only be seen as the only promotion.

So who should lead or be promoted?

  • Someone who is capable of managing himself or herself. When an employee stop relying on instructions and work towards the welfare of the business than their own then they are able to take more responsibility.
  • When their aim becomes success of the business rather than their personal agenda. Then you will know they are ready.
  • When they start showing ownership and accountability. Great managers/leaders convert opportunities into success.
  • When they volunteer for Supervisory/managerial role. This means that they are willing to take more.

The person to promote should not be your best employee but rather a person with leadership skills or a person who know how to motivate and inspire people to engage with the company vision. One who coaches and builds a team to be more effective, is the right person to promote.

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