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7 signs you’ve been promoted but not prepared

3 min read


Promotions are about more than the Peter Principle — the concept that one can be promoted beyond one’s competence. Those who promote others have a responsibility to ensure they’re prepared to actually do the job, not just hold the title.

Athletes train to win medals; actors hone their craft to win Emmys and Oscars, but managers can be given a title without a minute of practice or an ounce of instruction. They’re supposed to be the “best of the best” and the best at what they do. But are they?

Here are seven signs that you — or your manager — have been promoted, but are not prepared.

  1. Trial and error is tried. How can you know what works unless you’ve made mistakes or learned from the wisdom of others? With no experience, managers will jump from tactic to tactic and plan to plan, leaving employees feeling frustrated because of the lack of direction and tired of trying to make sense of the mixed messages.
  2. Inequality persists. Equity and equality are not the same. If a manager is trying to reward employees equally, he or she will provide the same raise or bonus to an employee regardless of performance. Experienced leaders know that a better approach is about equitable distribution of the rewards, recognition, and consequences. Equitable distribution is the most motivating for each member of the team.
  3. Emotional outbursts are common. Stress brings out the worst in people, and it can be high within management ranks. Without a well-developed sense of emotional intelligence, often provided through an assessment tool or training, a manager may be prone to tantrum-throwing, door closing, or huffing and puffing simply due to an inability to handle their own level of stress.
  4. Confidence is uncommon. Poorly prepared managers want — as all humans do — to be liked. Their actions reflect a desire to be the “favorite one on the playground.” The result: Favoritism or conflict among employees vying for attention. Those who have learned to be more confident and comfortable in their own skin will make better decisions and develop more effective employees.
  5. Panic is prolific. When crisis hits or change is eminent, a manager who freaks out and hits the panic button is showing a lack of preparedness. Crises can be averted. Change can be managed and, yes, even survived. But you have to have survived a few changes and challenges in order to grow and the ability to keep calm and carry on. Others will likely panic, but well developed leaders remain composed. You and I know that more challenges lie ahead. Panic is overrated and quite tiring.
  6. Meetings make no sense. Getting the team together to accomplish something is powerful. Having them meet for the sake of meeting is annoying. Finding new ways to engage and improved processes for transferring information increases productivity and downtime.
  7. People are part of their list. A newly promoted manager may be more focused on getting things done than on the team he or she leads. We must remember that people are the reason products and services exist. Focusing on the human factor helps the new leader recognize the power and passion in the people he or she has the privilege of leading.

Monica Wofford, CSP, is a leadership-development expert who works with managers who’ve been promoted but not prepared. She is the author of “Contagious Leadership” and recent release “Make Difficult People Disappear.” Contact her at (866) 382-0121, or go to