Confidently Manage the Person You Passed Up for Promotion

If your company decided to fill a higher position with someone already inside the company, they’re not alone—many companies have seen real benefits of promoting from within.

Confidently manage

But what about that person you passed up for the promotion? Where does she fit into the picture now? Read on for some tips on how to manage the employee who did not quite make the cut.

Don’t doubt your decision

Whoever you did ultimately choose to promote deserves his new position. Remind yourself of that before any interactions with the injured party. According to Inc., you only stand to make things worse by lamenting aloud that it was a “hard decision because you’re both so qualified for the role.” That will definitely not soothe the feelings of the non-promoted employee—and, in fact, will likely just raise more questions (“Then why wasn’t I chosen?”) and exacerbate the frustration that is already there. Instead of coming off apologetic, be sure to exude confidence about your decision, about the candidate you chose to promote, and about the ability of the passed-over employee to thrive in her current position.

Have a heart

Understandably, not receiving the promotion you really wanted is going to hurt. This is just a simple fact of being human. So as much as you would like to put the whole thing behind you and just get on with the way things used to be, it is important to not only acknowledge your employee’s feelings but also reassure them that they are an extremely valued part of the company. The Harvard Business Review suggests offering “specific and behavior-based positive feedback” and reminding your employee that he is an important part of the team can help dispel doubts about the future.

Don’t overpromise

While you should strive to be an empathetic manager, be careful not to veer off in the opposite direction and make promises you have absolutely no power to keep. Promising the jilted employee will definitely get a promotion “next time” will just create unrealistic expectations for the employee and huge problems for you if she does not, in fact, get promoted during the next round. You definitely do not want to lose a good employee just because he got frustrated with you for not keeping your word.

Help refocus on the task at hand

Losing out on a promotion can send even the hardest worker’s head spinning. Help your employee find her footing again by offering some morale-boosting tasks that can help move things forward. Recruiter suggests assigning a particularly exciting project or handing out a coveted responsibility. Actions like these can show that you recognize his ambition, and can go a long way in helping the employee feel like this is less of a step back and more of an opportunity to hone some new and existing skills.

Figure out a way to get there

Your employee has shown that she wants to be promoted. So, help find a way to get that path started! Have a one-on-one meeting to discuss a plan of action. How can he further develop the skills needed to achieve the goal of promotion? Provide constructive criticism as fuel for her ambition. Then, once you have given her some ideas on how to move forward, think about what you, as the manager, can do to set her up for success. Can you let your employee work with a different team that might further accentuate his strengths? Offer extra training or workshops? Set her up with a mentor-like figure who may be able to provide additional advice?

No matter how delicately you handle the matter, feelings are likely to be hurt. There is no reason, however, that passing over an employee for promotion (this time!) cannot serve as a step forward in her career path—and a learning opportunity for you.

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