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How to give a promotion you won’t regret

4 min read


Meet Will. Will was recently promoted to a management position after working with his company for nearly five years.

Although he initially seemed right for the job — he’d been with the company for some time, adopted the company mission as his own, and produced quality work — he’s had some ongoing issues juggling his workload and managing others. As a result, the quality of his work has gone downhill and the morale on his team is at an all-time low.

Promotion regret. Unfortunately, many of us are all too familiar with it. Whether you’ve regretted giving a promotion or taking one, the effects can be long-lasting and potentially detrimental to a company’s success. To avoid future organizational heartache, here are four things to consider before promoting your next employee:

Are you promoting for the right reason?

In Will’s case, promoting someone for the wrong reason at the wrong time had potentially lasting damage on a company’s success and employee morale. And, according to Gallup analytics, companies fail more than 80% of the time to hire the properly talented candidate.

To make sure the promotion is justified and won’t rub co-workers the wrong way, avoid giving a promotion for the following reasons:

  • The employee is a friend
  • They’re likely to quit otherwise
  • You need to fill the position quickly
  • They’ve worked at the company for a long time
  • They seem bored in their current position

Has the employee been properly assessed?

Just like when you’re shopping for a new car, when promoting an employee, don’t buy before you try. Test the employee’s ability to perform well in the new position before you make the promotion official (and avoid having to live with a bad decision).

Try giving the employee an assignment that closely resembles what they would be working on in the new role. Their comprehension of the assignment and ability to successfully complete it can give you a better idea of how they’ll perform after the fact. This step was obviously skipped in Will’s case.

In addition to testing and assessing employee performance, seek out feedback from people who work with the employee on a daily basis. They can help you gain insight on the employee you wouldn’t get otherwise. Not only does this help you make better decisions, but it shows employees that you value their opinions on the matter.

How will you communicate the promotion?

How you inform the employee and the entire organization of a promotion is critical. Failing to properly communicate the promotion to others can lead to resentment and a lack of motivation in employees. When a promotion is in order, explain to the company why that particular employee was chosen for the promotion.

Not only does this ensure that the employee is being promoted for a good reason, but it also helps their peers understand and support the decision. Additionally, explaining the reasons for a promotion can act as a motivational tool by showing employees exactly what you expect from them.

Have you considered all of your options?

We all welcome promotions with open arms, but they shouldn’t be used as the primary way to reward employees for their hard work — unless, of course, there is a need to promote someone at the time. Promotions shouldn’t be based on the employee’s want for growth but rather on the organizational need for growth.

If you’re looking for a way to honor an employee’s achievements, but a promotion just isn’t in the cards, look into other ways to reward them. For instance, try offering flexible work hours or celebrate the achievement with a company-wide potluck. At the very least, give the employee a well-deserved pat on the back. These are all affordable ways to let your employees know their worth.

What steps do you take before giving an employee a promotion? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

Matt Straz is the founder & CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world’s most exciting companies. Connect with Matt and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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