Handling promotions at the workplace

Do promotions need handling? What does this mean? When each person is promoted according to merit, where is the question of handling it? This is the problem for HR –not everyone thinks that every promotion is well-earned and merited. Almost every time an employee is promoted, there is some element of resentment and jealousy. It is human nature, after all. Even when the promotion is well-deserved and just; it does not save the peers from heartburn.

The first reaction at a peer’s promotion, at least inside a person, can range from surprise to shock. Most people would be initially upset and would come to terms with it over time. Yet, this is a generalized and simplistic statement. Whatever said and done, it is almost certain that the feeling of ill will could persist till the next promotion.

HR plays the most important role in handling promotions

HR is an important agency in the promotion process. Although managers choose individual employees for promotion; it is the HR that is in the loop primarily. How much of a role it has a say in the promotion depends on the organization’s style of working, although it is not likely that it is the decider in most organizations. HR can offers suggestions on the promotion aspect, but that is it in most cases.

However, there is one area in which HR plays the most important role. That is in fact, when its work begins. It is when the promotion is already decided upon, and the news has to be conveyed to the employee. Conveying the news of a promotion is seldom a problem. Dealing with peers after the promotion is! Let us not debate about whether this is justified or not, because take it or leave it; HR’s work most of the time is carrying out the unpleasant aspects of most things.

Dealing with the promoted employee

There are two aspects here: HR has to first deal with the promoted employee/s. If the employee is happy with the promotion, that is a great situation to be in. This is not always the case.  Many a time, even the promoted employee may not always be entirely happy with the promotion. He could be indignant that it has come too late.

Or it could be that the promoted employee could feel that the promotion was not sufficient in relation to the work he did to earn it.

In the third kind of scenario; an employee could be promoted as a means of appeasement.

These are very common and usual issues that keep coming up from time to time. Although these are mostly management decisions, it is HR’s job to convey and convince employees in all these situations. HR has to handle these with tact. It has to explain to the employee the reasons for the delay or the justification for the quantum of promotion.

Dealing with peers in the group

The second aspect, which is that of dealing with the peers in the group, is certainly the tougher of the two. This is where HR is put to test.

If an employee has performed so badly that he himself does not feel the need to question a colleague’s promotion; it is less of a challenge to HR. It only needs to convey to such an employee that he had better up his performance, or his job is on the line.

When it comes to handling employees who feel they have done just as well as the promoted employee, but were denied it for no fault of theirs; HR has to summon all is wit and tact. These are how it can do this:


Even if the non-promoted employee is reticent by nature and has not talked about the promotion but is visibly upset; HR has a duty to have a discussion with that person. Of course, this is because as we have seen; the angered employee has been in the reckoning for the promotion and was neck and neck with the promoted employee in terms of performance. Some employees may be waiting for an opportunity to speak out and may be rude and uncooperative. Such reactions are to be expected from an employee who has been a close second in a race in which the winners were judged subjectively.

HR has to be polite and has to give a patient ear to this employee’s grievance. When the employee has spoken up; it becomes easier for HR to understand the reservation that employee has about the promotion. Its deftness lies in how it convinces that employee about the decision and how much conviction it has in its words about promises for the future. If it gives an assurance that his own promotion is round the corner; it has to make sure the organization implements it, or else it risks losing a good employee. It has to show very clearly what was it that made the other employee gain promotion. It can give a convincing explanation only when the promotion is evenhanded. Or else, HR would be aware that it is making a specious argument, but would still be needed to defend it.

Ensuring motivation:

It is also important for HR to ensure that the non-promoted employee continues with work with the same level of motivation. This is another challenge, because what it conveys to this employee at this meeting and how it says it is the deciding factor in keeping the employee motivated and in ensuring that he does not make denial of promotion a reason for leaving the organization.

Taking tough decisions:

If the employee gets tough to the point of becoming combative; HR has to put its foot down and has to be very firm. It is not going to let the employee vent out his frustration in this manner. It has to clearly state that the decision is irreversible and that the employee had better deal with it. Of course, this is not the way to deal with an aggrieved employee; but if his behavior is aggressive and has the potential to vitiate the working atmosphere in the future, HR has to act tough.



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43337 Livermore Common | Fremont| CA | USA | 94539


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