Which comes first? The Employee or the Promotion?

The Good Enough, The Bad and The Ugly Behavior – Nov. 7, 2018


When a Boss starts a new area within the firm, oftentimes she will look inside the company to reward loyalty through promotion, as well as encourage tenure and continued engagement.  Boss Handoff was ready for just such a role.  With a senior team member, Ben There, aging out of the firm soon, Boss Handoff was scouting a possible replacement for the sales department.


Employee Shiny was excellent at his job supporting the sales team.  He had shown a real “make it happen” capacity on several projects that had been handed over to him.  Boss Handoff called him into the office and had a direct and specific conversation on this opportunity. Employee Shiny was flattered and gung-ho at the possibility. Boss Handoff very specifically drilled in that she wanted someone that was going to “take on” the position, make it their own and bring in more current strategies and tools specific to their industry. Employee Shiny literally said “I’m your man.”


Employee Shiny was given the new role, under Ben There, but reporting directly to Boss Handoff. The Boss saw this as creating the space for Ben There to start to wind down and Shiny to step in and create a new direction.


The problem? Ben There was not ready to hand over the reins completely. In fact, Ben There would routinely instruct Shiny on how to do the new job. Ben There was obviously teaching the old ways and Shiny was quick to take him up on the mentorship. It eased the pressure of developing new process and finding different answers.  Then Boss Handoff wanted a meeting with Employee Shiny.




The meeting began with the Boss wearing a very disappointed look on her face.  Employee Shiny waited to let her start.  Shiny felt the tension as he entered.  “I thought I asked you to run with this section of the department?” “Yes. Yes, you did.’ Answered Shiny.  “So why did the proposal come through on our old framework?  I expected that you were redesigning the framework for proposals going forward.  What am I missing?” Asked Boss.  Shiny was quick to explain that every time he attempted to draft a new framework, Ben There, who had been working from home more and more, would reach out and offer instruction to “correct” the work. Shiny felt because he was senior still, that the chain of command still recognized him.

Further, as Boss Handoff spoke longer with Shiny, she was beginning to suspect that Shiny really had no idea how to develop new strategies, research new tools or roll them out for the company. In other words, Shiny was not qualified for the new role.

Now this is awkward.



Boss Handoff created chaos within her own company. Because she was trying to make it easy on the aging out team member, she never strategically pulled him out of the hierarchy.   This created bad feelings as Ben There was not consulted on the development of the new role because Boss Handoff saw the role about “going forward”.


Worse, Boss Handoff fit an employee she wanted to reward into a new role that partially addressed what the company needed and partially addressed what Boss Handoff observed as an employee’s past success.  The mis-read here was that Shiny had success on ASSIGNED projects.  His success was not around innovation or implementation.  That is a completely different skill set.

Promoting from within can work with some training or continue education parameters that must be addressed at the promotion offer. The Bad News?  Small businesses have a much bigger challenge with promoting from within.  If an employee CAN do a more senior or advanced position, it is HIGHLY unlikely they will stay with you until YOUR business is ready to hire for the role. Timing is NOT on the side of small business Bosses in this specific case.




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