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He’s not ready to be promoted (but thinks he is)

3 min read


He thinks he’s ready to be promoted.  You don’t.  You don’t want to crush his spirits, but he’s not listening.  He blames you, the system, politics and that crazy project you gave him last year. He’s a strong performer and a vital member of your team. You know he’ll get there, but only if he listens.

Tell the truth without crushing his soul.

7 ways to get him to listen

1.  Understand his perspective

Work to uncover the source of his inflated perceptions. It’s likely that his strong performance is a factor. Perhaps he’s been told all along that he was on the fast track and he’s been paying his “dues” through special assignments and maybe even relocation. Get him to share his perspective and offer yours.

2. Compassionate straight talk

Share your point of view and offer support. ”You’re not ready now, and here’s why … If you really want this, and are willing to listen and work hard, I’m all in to help.”

3. Shadowing

Have him hang out with you for a day or two. Don’t hold back. Expose him to the political pressures, the late-night fire drills, the tough decisions. Every time I’ve done that I’ve heard, “I had no idea …” and sometimes, “I don’t want your job.”

4. Skip level meeting

Encourage him to meet with your boss. Have her share what she looks for when hiring at your level. Ask her to share her perceptions on his strengths and his developmental opportunities.

5. Stories

Share your own career story. Be open about your disappointments. Help him take the long view.

6. Expand his scope

Most promotions involve a substantial increase in scope and scale. Find ways to increase challenge and expose him to broader pressures in his current role.

7. Tangible actions

It’s likely he’s heard the feedback before, but it didn’t feel actionable. No one knows what to do with “you lack political savvy.” Much better to say, “Let’s work on building five new trusted connections in the next six months.”

Nurturing self-awareness is a gift. Help others to see themselves as others see them. Help them grow into their powerful potential.

Your turn: What would you add?  How do you work with an employee who thinks he’s ready for a promotion?

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Karin Hurt has a diverse background of executive leadership experience in sales, customer service, human resources, merger integration, training and leadership development. She currently serves as an executive at a large telecommunications provider. Her favorite work is to ask questions and inspire others to look deeply within themselves as they grow as leaders. Connect with Hurt on her blog, Let’s Grow Leaders, or on Twitter @letsgrowleaders.