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Employee Promotion


Things to Consider When Promoting an Employee

We've all seen it.  An excellent worker gets promoted to a leadership position only to falter within a few months' time.  Why is that? Why is it that one who performs so well at a particular position can have such a difficult time leading others to do the same?  

It makes sense to me to say proficiency in a task does not necessitate the ability to lead or teach others.  We run into problems promoting employees when we forget that leadership and teaching are skill sets in and of themselves.

It is my opinion that leaders are not born, but rather they are made.  Sure, some people have natural leadership skill or are inherently good at teaching others.  But those people are rare. How then could we expect a freshly promoted employee to wake up one day and be a leader?  We certainly shouldn’t. I maintain that skill is not the only factor in determining employee should be promoted.

Role of a Manager

When considering which employee to promote to a leadership position, it is first important to reflect on the role of a manager.  A managers job isn’t to do the job of the front-line employees. If all the manager did all day is what everyone else does then we wouldn’t need a manager.

A manager is in place to lead.  In any organization, there are decisions that need to be made on a day to day basis.  These decisions can range from as simple as who gets to take a lunch break and when time off is acceptable to what project needs to take precedence or settling sensitive disputes among employees.

The employee you decide to promote has to be able to make those calls.  It has to be someone you trust to put in the driver's seat of this speeding train of a business.  But how can you possibly decide which employee has those qualities that seem impossible to quantify?  

The Three C’s of Employee Promotion

As with any business decisions I recommend that whenever possible, you do not simply “trust your gut” but use as much fact as possible.  This rings true for employee promotion as well. Anytime you're considering promoting someone you should look for what I call the "three C's" of employee promotion:  Character, culture, and commitment.


It seems like it would be obvious if an employee lacked character, but it is not always so.  I have worked in Human Resources for a long time and I have learned that some people are very good at having one face for their manager and another for their peers.  Ask the peers of the candidate about their character. The answers you get might surprise you.


The culture surrounding the candidate might not allow for them to be promoted.  A negative culture surrounding the candidate will be a detriment to any organization.  Even if the new candidate is great at their job and has inherent leadership qualities. You could always force compliance from your employees, but that feeds a negative company culture which can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor and employee turnover.  It is important to take note of the culture surrounding this employee and their promotion before making your decision.


The final step in considering an employee for promotion is gauging their commitment.  You need to ask yourself if the employee has the commitment it takes to be a leader. The candidate might  be an incredible front-line employee who loves the technical, hands-on involvement. But consider that they may not desire to be a leader.  I remember one employee who was promoted and stepped down only a few weeks later when they learned about leadership specific tasks such as performance reviews and giving disciplinary action.

Deciding on an Employee to Promote

There are scores of attributes, characteristics, peculiarities, etc. you must consider before choosing which employee to promote.  But these three points are the basis for a good decision. Start here and narrow down your list to those who are committed, of high character, and have a good surrounding culture.  Everything else can be trained.

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