Today’s post is by John Walston, ResourcefulManager-in-Chief at ResourcefulManager.com.
Deciding who should get a promotion – and who should not – is a tough business.
It isn’t so much deciding who is best qualified – that’s a pleasant task and communicating to the lucky candidate that he or she is getting the job can be a real lift for both parties.
But then comes the hard part. Someone is not getting the job they wanted. That conversation is waiting for you, and it is much more difficult.
It’s easier if the winning candidate is already working for your organization, while the loser would’ve been an outside hire. This often happens when you have one leading candidate who’s already inside the company, but for the sake of competition you post the job and interview a few candidates from the outside, just to have a look-see.
But in the end, your inside candidate looked pretty good against what was available from the outside, so you decided to stay with the devil you know instead of the devil you don’t know.
You don’t owe much to the outside candidates, so telling them they didn’t get the job isn’t emotionally trying.
It gets harder when you choose the outside candidate over the long-term veteran from the inside. Naturally, the inside candidate’s hopes were dashed, and for a while he or she may feel that the company didn’t reward loyalty.
However, if the winning outside candidate really had a stellar resume, similar relevant experience and proved his or her immediate worth upon entering the department, the losing inside candidate may actually, within a short period of time, come to accept the decision.
The losing candidate might even come to the realization that he or she might learn something from the new addition, too, so that they can aspire to higher and better things the next time a similar opportunity presents itself.
You have to explain to the inside people who did not get the job that every organization has to attract new blood from time to time and expose itself to new ideas from the outside – otherwise stagnation inevitably sets in.
When it gets really tough
The situation gets even harder when two (or more) internal candidates with similar experience are vying for the same position. Eventually you have to tell the sad news to the folks who did not get the job. Plus, you have to explain why and still motivate them to continue to put forth an excellent effort in their old job.
All comparisons are odious and you probably won’t have much luck trying to explain to them that the winning candidate was just objectively better qualified.
They are probably convinced they deserved the job and that the fact they were passed over was due to internal politics or favoritism – that’s how people often rationalize disappointments.
To soften the blow of such communications, senior managers often scramble for something to offer the losing candidate. Is there a new job they can do that gives the appearance of more authority? The losing candidates have to go home and explain why they didn’t get the job. Is there something they can say to hold their head high? Is there some other job that will become vacant in the near future that they could aspire to?
If the losing candidate really appears to be embittered about being passed over, and looks like he or she will have a very difficult time giving full cooperation to the newly promoted manager who will be intensely resented, it is often better to do something fairly drastic right from the beginning.
Such moves may include consideration of a lateral transfer to another department as soon as feasible, if the person can still do good work for the organization, or in extreme cases even termination or a negotiated resignation with severance pay.
That may be a better solution than allowing the resentful employee to poison the atmosphere with negativity.
When deciding on promotions, never give the job to a particular candidate out of fear – fear for what he or she could do if they don’t get the job. Give the promotion to the best-qualified candidate and deal with other consequences later.
– John Walston, ResourcefulManager-in-Chief at ResourcefulManager.com, develops management training for executives and writes about leadership and communication.
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