Being a manager means handling difficult conversations on a fairly regular basis. Most people aren’t naturally inclined to enjoy crushing their employees’ hopes and dreams, so when you have an employee not ready for a promotion, communicating that to them is typically not a shining moment for anyone.
However, these conversations can be turned into opportunities if you know how to approach them. Rather than completely rejecting someone hoping for a promotion, you can help them prepare to get there in the near future.
Let Them Know That You Care
Your employees are your company’s best asset. Promotions are a natural way to reward them for hard work, so you’ll want to be careful not to demotivate someone who isn’t quite ready and gets passed up for a position. They need to know their work is valued.
Expecting them to take the disappointment without much explanation and just “get over it” is a big mistake. They’ll develop their own reasons about why they didn’t get the promotion, either blaming themselves or others, creating resentment or frustration that isn’t valid.
You need to be as open and honest as you can, even if it’s difficult feedback to give. You are actually helping them by being candid and telling them why they are not ready for a promotion and how to work to get there. Honesty is the best policy, right? Right!
But hold on – just being honest without thinking through how they’ll take it isn’t a helpful approach if you want them to recover from the disappointment and still perform at a high level. It is your job to deliver the message, but it’s also your job to maintain good relationships with your employees and ensure that they know they can trust you.
Emotional intelligence is a critical skill for these types of conversations. Every employee wants to know how they’re performing and where they can improve, but not everyone will take brutal honesty well. You should go into this conversation knowing that disappointment, anger, sadness, etc. will likely be the reaction, but your delivery can affect the long-term response.
Focus on Improving Skills
It may be true that they lack a particular skill needed for a job promotion, but rather than focusing on where they fall short, focus on how they can improve it.
Does your company offer training and development opportunities? If so, this is a great way to help them improve soft skills like decision making, conflict management and active listening. This can help them develop the relationships, skills and behaviors needed to get to the next level.
Are there specific software or applications they need to become an expert in? Work with them to find an online training course or class that will help them improve.
Above all, show that you care. This is critical to maintaining a good relationship with them.
Help Them Find a Path to Promotion
Providing ways for them to develop their skills and expertise is the best way to follow news of a missed promotion. Even if they don’t like it and think they are ready for the next position, giving them action steps will show if they’re able to take the criticism and grow from it, rather than rejecting it and staying convinced that they were slighted. Once the disappointment has passed, hopefully you’ll see them humbly accept that there’s room for improvement.
What’s important here is not to let the idea of disappointing someone keep you from helping them grow. You can’t go into these conversations focused on what their reaction will be – instead, think about how your approach here is going to shape their response after the reactionary emotions have dissipated.
Our Difficult Conversations video training series by Jeff Havens is full of circumstances like this that make managers want to cringe. These videos will help you better understand how to have conversations like saying no to a promotion, letting someone go, addressing sexual harassment concerns and more.
Watch a 1-minute preview of “Difficult Conversations – Saying No to Promotions or New Jobs” from The BizLibrary Collection here: