This article was updated on June 12, 2018.
Most reactions to promotions at work are positive, but occasionally, employees may feel slighted over not receiving a raise or new title that went to someone else. As a business owner, you want to reward and encourage strong performers, but you also want to ensure that the employees who are not promoted still feel valued.
As a company leader, you can't ignore negative reactions to promotions. So how can a manager tactfully address employees who express bitterness when someone else gets a promotion?
Give the Employee Immediate and Personalized Support
A small business may not have much upward mobility, and the management team may be strapped for time. A small or midsize business can, however, have greater flexibility in providing its employees immediate and personalized support. Consider the value each team member of your workforce offers your company and any areas of improvement you've noticed. Encourage managers to schedule individual meetings with your employees to discuss career goals, strengths and developmental opportunities. Give employees a chance to reach goals one performance metric at a time through skills-mapping.
Provide Space for Employees to Express Concerns
Employers should take all complaints seriously and thoroughly investigate any complaints that suggest an employer's failure to promote violated anti-discrimination or retaliation laws. When managing employees who've had negative reactions to promotions of others, it's important not to ignore them, but rather to provide an outlet for them to express their concerns to upper management without fear of retaliation. Send out surveys to employees encouraging them to provide feedback. Review feedback for any common themes around the performance or promotion process.
Transform Tension Into Friendly Competition
Most people long for their hard work to be recognized. As a small business owner, you have the opportunity to provide employees who have not yet been promoted a chance to shine with a challenge. Set up a friendly competition; for example, who will be the first to achieve a specific goal? Reward top performers with a spot bonus or some form of non-cash compensation for achieving top rank among their peers.
Put an End to the Rumor Mill
It will likely fall to you to maintain confidentiality and dispel any rumors surrounding promotions. As WiseStep notes, "Leaked information is unethical, unhealthy and will boost negativity, making the situation more complicated." Keep your workforce informed, and make sure they hear news directly from management. Clearly communicate performance measures that are necessary for promotion, and encourage employees to meet with managers to develop action plans and seek regular feedback to ensure they are meeting objectives.
Failure to recognize and respond to employee concerns can impact employee morale. Make sure you're prepared to handle both positive and negative reactions to promotions in your company.
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