When someone wants a promotion RIGHT NOW

empty business cardIt’s too early for a promotion, but they refuse to wait?  A recurring situation in my recent conversations is the one where someone in your team with great talent and drive is demanding to be promoted to the next level role – only you don’t agree with them. 

How you got here  

On one hand, you and your business are very committed to your people, supporting and growing them in their careers and achieving their goals. You have implemented a sound process of appraisals, trainings, mentoring and feedback. You constantly, consistently, push your team and you love it when they reach up and succeed.

On the other hand, you are reluctant to agree with this one. This particular person is simply not quite ready, not quite ‘there’ yet – which you have already told them, pointing out how they could still improve more and perhaps giving the promotion a timeline. Yet they keep insisting that they are indeed ‘there’ already, arguing you down with the help of their performance reviews and recent projects, and they may well already have given you an ultimatum about leaving the business unless they get the promotion now rather than any later.

How to move forward 

1. Clarify your expectations on role impact

Make sure everyone knows what impact on team, clients and business is expected from every single role in your business. Having a clear job description and SMART objectives is only one part of helping your team thrive to get ‘there’. Focus on defining the ‘there’. How does it look like when someone is operating at a certain level in your business; how would they be behaving, how would they be making their mark. This will help you, together, to find areas of development and improvement even when all the more obvious achievement boxes have been ticked many times over.

2. Renew your commitment to the person

Remind yourself and your people why you hired them in the first place: What did you see in them? How do you now see those characteristics, those abilities, really working for your business? Are you living up to your side of the deal, providing every opportunity you can to help your team grow and succeed? Whilst they are waiting for the promotion, a grounding conversation about their value to the business will help demonstrate your trust and commitment to them, and trigger more of the same in return.

3. Activate the support system fully

Do everything in your power to enable your team to thrive. Don’t just offer internal and external support, demand that everyone takes advantage of all of it. Everyone, at every level, role, and type of business, will benefit from having a mentor or a coach (or both) and having access to external learning and inspiration, be it events, conferences, webinars, courses or simply a thoughtful TED talk or book suggestion. When you make sure that your team is surrounded by opportunities to learn and be challenged, even those with the greatest level of ambition, initiative, creativity and drive will stay engaged and interested.

Where does it get you 

My underlying thinking is around having a standard for how your business creates impact and how that impact gets created by individuals who work for you. There is immense power in having clarity over how success looks like. Not only does it create clarity for your team, their development and their goals; it creates clarity and ease for your decision-making over hires, promotions and, sometimes, fires.

You may or may not be acting in time to re-motivate this particular employee. But you might just find yourself wanting to give out the next promotion earlier than you expected. Wouldn’t that be brilliant!?


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