Engaging The Ones Who Didn’t Get The Promotion

Reverse Engineering Internal Sabotage for Prevention [Part 2 of 3]

How can you choose the right person for promotion, but still make sure that those who didn’t receive a promotion stay engaged and working in the company‘s best interests?

There are three branches to this answer:

#1 – Make sure that the decision to promote someone was based on criteria that everyone would consider fair. You learned last week that the perception that a company or person has been unfair is what can trigger altruistic punishment.

#2 – Keep the talent engaged in alternative possibilities for growth.

#3 – Be mindful of the place from which you communicate.

So let’s just take a look at a fair process, and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you already know that bias has no place in selecting talent.

It can be stressful to be the one who has to choose between highly qualified and valuable talents for a promotion. Ultimately, two factors have to be taken into consideration – A) Is this talent going to perform the best in this role, and in order for A to be a yes, you have to also consider B) Is this position the best next step in this talent’s career.

This implies that a manager would have to be familiar with the career aspirations of his or her team members. As a best practice, this would be part of the annual review process. Unfortunately, if a company has minimal resources and growth is at a critical point, the prospect of exploring potential future opportunities within an organization with the talent seems like an exercise in imagination, so it will be avoided until performance, profit, and plans can accommodate growth. Seems logical, but it neglects to address the driving force of engagement among top talent – growth.

Referring back to my post on the success science of optimism, it’s not only okay to operate with optimism, it’s critical to success. While the nature of business does require planning for contingencies, the more you operate within the realm of optimism, the more motivated, engaged, and productive talent will be. It doesn’t require a lot of time to talk about your talents’ aspirations, but it does require trust. Sometimes, having a third party (like Epic Careering) come in for career development is necessary. People may fear for their job security if they suspect their aspirations will be a reason to be overlooked for positions, or even worse, let go. No one likes being put in a box, and sometimes the best opportunities are the ones that don’t look as expected. This is another reason why many companies neglect to incorporate professional development into their talent management practices, or why the focus is always on potentially limited growth opportunities within the company. When the process policies are based more on fear than on the best interests of the talent, fears become reality and top talent leaves for greater growth opportunities anyway.

Whether the manager or a 3rd party go through this process, give talent reasons to believe that opportunities will exist in alignment with their aspirations. Then, follow through. Work strategically among other leaders in the organization to bridge the present conditions with future aspirations. Even if it’s giving the employee an opportunity to attend a conference outside the industry, and then assigning them to come back with 1-3 ideas that could be applicable to the business. This also implies that they already know where the business is going.

This brings us to #2. When telling an employee that he or she was not selected for a promotion, keep focusing on the path ahead. Connecting the dots between where employees are and where they want to be can be challenging from within the organization. Again, a third party (like Epic Careering) may be able to propose ideas based on greater depth with the client and high-level perspective on the business/industry. Often the stretch an organization makes to make growth opportunities available for its talent is what opens up a new competitive edge. Engage employees in future possibilities. Like R&D, some things may not pan out, but your commitment to finding a way to best leverage their talents and aspirations will earn trust, engagement, and loyalty.

Don’t make it all about the company, but do share how particular skills (hard or soft) or experiences were perceived as integral for moving the company forward. Stick to explaining the assets you and other stakeholders weighed. Make sure the employee knows the reasons he or she was being considered in the first place.

#3 – Frank feedback is very tricky business.

Before you sit down with an employee that was not granted a promotion, check where your communication is coming from. Communication was my major in college, and that included learning broadcasting, journalism, public speaking, and advertising, but it also included interpersonal communication. It seems like this would be something you pick up during the course of your life, but consider all that can go wrong in communication. Yes, I learned a lot about communication, but I had the most breakthroughs in communication in my own life in Landmark Education’s Communication Curriculum. The most significant revelation that had the most impact in my life was when I realized that what we can control in communication is the most critical part of sending communications that land – the emotions behind them.

Take a few moments to be centered and mindful. Notice and let go of any feelings of pity, regret, defensiveness, judgments of the person’s mistakes or shortcomings, and fears. Visualize delivering the messages in the highest interests of the employee. Be intentional for the overall experience. What impression do you want the person to walk away from the meeting with?

When you intentionally choose the emotion from which you communicate, you naturally choose words in alignment with that emotion. Effective communication is so much more about where you are coming from when you communicate rather than what you say. Epic Careering offers training in this, and it’s transformative for individuals and organizations. It’s not something that comes naturally. Naturally, we have emotions, and we react in accordance with them. In fast-paced environments, this is the M.O. Thankfully, the techniques for achieving consciousness in communication take only a few minutes and eliminate hardships that stifle progress and innovation.

Of course, everything advised above is focused on keeping the talent you didn’t promote engaged so that the company doesn’t suffer from sabotage, at worst, but also losses in productivity or talent. Consider applying #3 to external candidates who didn’t get the job, as well. You may not have wanted them for this role, and you have decided they’re not even a fit for your culture at all. However, if you see them a potential new node in your network who may refer talent, resources, clients/customers, etc. you expand your employer brand visibility by that person’s network.

I wish I had completed the Landmark Communication curriculum while I was a recruiter. I was very well-intentioned in giving feedback to candidates but found that at times, it induced a defensive reaction. Though most people received feedback very well, the people who didn’t discouraged me from making it a practice. I wish I had known how to communicate more consciously then. It might not have made the difference in all circumstances, but I know it would have made a difference for many of the candidates I intended to help, and maybe they would have been clients.

Just as Brené Brown says that we won’t do empathy perfectly, there’s hardly a thing as perfect communication. There certainly is optimal communication, however.

Fairness in process and consciousness in communication are the best preventions for sabotage, but also the best conductors of highly engaged talent.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.

She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and recently instructed for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy at Cabrini College, where her students won the national competition and were named America’s Top Young Entrepreneurs.

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