Is Your Employee Pissed He or She Wasn’t Promoted? Here’s How to Handle It

Since our days on the playground we have identified leaders, followers, and those who believe they should be leaders. Typically, those vying for the leadership role are excellent workers who are vital to the group, but they’re often simply not leadership material — they’re understudies, at best. They’re not going to be promoted, and they’re not going to be happy about it.

How do you deal with employees who want to be promoted and given more prestigious titles, but who you aren’t ready to move up or lose?

One of the most respectable moves a manager can make is maintaining loyalty with an employee. If you find your understudies resenting your up-and-coming leader there are a few things you can do:

  • First, address the situation: Acknowledge their hard work and the fact that they are valuable to the organization. Then address their concern of not being promoted to their desired position. Make them recognize and understand that you are on their team and see their frustration.
  • Remember- nothing is set in stone: Especially in an expansion stage or growing company. So this employee is not perfect for a leadership role where they manage people, but could they manage a process? Look for other ways to promote them. The last thing an employee should ever feel is hopeless or frustrated that they will never make it to the next step.
  • Tread lightly: You should never make it seem like the employee is wrong to consider him or herself a leader. Everyone is a hero in their own mind, and things always start to unravel when someone’s self-schema does not fit with yours. The best thing to do is show them why they are not the right choice for a particular promotion, as opposed to just telling them. Then point out that their strengths are better suited elsewhere.
  • Warm fuzzies: While you should by no means be stroking every employee’s ego every time someone else gets promoted it is beneficial to do so if you have a particularly strong employee you fear losing. If the employee feels you aren’t valuing them they will search for an employer who will.

It is human nature to harbor a grudge for being passed over for a promotion, especially when someone has been working towards that goal. After addressing an employee’s concerns, keep an eye on how he or she responds. If the employee is not still striving towards improving, then chances are he or she will never be a leader in your company. If he or she uses your constructive criticism to improve then you can revisit the employee for the next promotional opportunity.

Lindsey Gurian
Lindsey Gurian
Senior Corporate Recruiter

Lindsey Gurian is the Senior Corporate Recruiter at Acquia. She was previously a Senior Talent Specialist at Sonian, responsible for recruiting initiatives at both the firm and its portfolio companies.
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