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Tell employees why they’re not getting promoted

Feedback can help staff avoid bitterness and maybe even get the next posting
(Published in the Globe and Mail, Career Section, September 15, 2002)

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“Hi Haley, it’s Jill from human resources. We had several internal candidates for the Account Manager role and we’ve offered the job to someone who is more qualified than you.”

Haley has applied for four internal postings over the past six months and every time she’s heard the same thing. Over lunch in the company cafeteria, she complains loudly to her colleagues.

Organizations are filled with “Haleys,” employees who believe they are ready for a promotion and don’t understand why it’s not happening. With each decline, they become increasingly bitter.

Haley knows her colleagues well and doesn’t agree they are more qualified. The competence of HR and management is questioned, and Haley’s bitterness affects everyone she comes into contact with. The noise contributes to losses in productivity that hurt the bottom-line.

Staffing consultants must understand that while the hiring manager may be their primary client, the employee is also an important player who needs information to realize their career goals.

Haley, a satisfactory performer in her current role, needs to be more customer focused to be successful at the next level. She isn’t demonstrating this attribute in interviews and also has a reputation throughout the organization of being negative and riling up coworkers. There isn’t a manager in the company who’s willing to take her on!

Yet no one has explained to Haley her failings.

Why hasn’t anyone given Haley honest and direct feedback?

The hiring manager believes it’s not his place. He’s afraid of upsetting her and causing a morale issue in someone else’s department. Her own manager isn’t about to upset her either, since Haley is doing fine in her current role.

And finally, the staffing consultant feels uncomfortable giving Haley more than the standard “there’s someone more qualified than you” decline. A short interview hasn’t given her enough information to go by.

So, how do managers give Haley the feedback she needs?

  • In the initial decline, tell Haley she’s not getting the job and that the successful candidate demonstrated more of the skills and attributes required. Avoid saying “someone is more qualified”.

  • Offer to give more detailed feedback at a later date. Leave the onus on Haley to schedule the meeting - the decision to get this feedback needs to be hers. Do not meet with her on the day of the decline as she needs a few days to get over the initial emotional reaction before she will be able to fully hear the feedback.

  • In the feedback session don’t tell Haley she is not customer focused. This could lead to endless debate as she tries to convince you otherwise!

  • Help Haley understand how she did not demonstrate this attribute in her interview. Review the questions that were posed, and walk Haley through the answer she gave. Give an example of a great answer. Explain the difference between the two.

  • Help Haley discover whether her answers were weak because she just didn’t know how to tell the story or whether she truly isn’t approaching her work with customer focus.

  • Tell Haley what you’ve heard about her negative attitude and be honest about how many managers have commented on it. Help her realize the impact it’s having on other employees and on her candidacy for other jobs.

With this feedback, Haley is enabled to take action that may lead to a different outcome the next time she applies for a job. She now has several choices she didn’t know she needed to consider:

  • Learn to be more customer focused.

  • Apply for jobs that don’t require this attribute.

  • Work on changing attitudes and behaviour.

  • Start over in a new organization if it will be too difficult to change perceptions.

There may be tears and anger from Haley. Work through them, because at some point in the future, Haley will call to thank you for the honest decline.

Karen Todd is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant. She can be reached at 416-284-6752, karen@karentodd.com , or visit www.karentodd.com

Other Articles by Karen Todd
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Lessons learned from bad HR bosses
Published in the Canadian HR Reporter, May 9, 2005
Next to the CEO, the leader of the HR function can be the most influential and important person in an organization.
Creating a Culture of Feedback
360-degree feedback can be a way of life, not a program you impose
(Published in the Canadian HR Reporter, September 13, 2004)

Executive Assistants must use power, influence wisely
(Published in the Executive Assistant Update newsletter – December 2004)

“Once Upon a Time…”
Tell a Story Instead

(Published in York University Human Resources Student Association’s
The Network Newsletter, Edition 2, March 2005)

Tell employees why they’re not getting promoted.
Feedback can help staff avoid bitterness and maybe even get the next posting
(Published in the Globe and Mail, Career Section, September 15, 2002)

Very promising, very demanding
High potential employees often avoid lateral moves that would help them in the future
(Published in the Canadian HR Reporter, September 22, 2003)

Planning an Employee Meeting:
Model the future you’re trying to create
Mat Leave not Mat Left
Published in The Briefcase Diaries column at www.weewelcome.ca , November 25, 2005
Where Has Common Sense Gone?
A Grocery Store Service Saga
Ditch the Cape, Supermom
Published in The Briefcase Diaries column at www.weewelcome.ca,  October 7, 2005
Is Working From Home For You?
Unexpected Choices
(Published in the Canadian Down Syndrome Society Quarterly Newsletter, Winter 2005, Vol 18.1)
Please be Balanced: A Parent’s Ask of Healthcare Professionals
Published in the Ontario Association on Developmental Disabilities’ Journal on Development Disabilities
Vol 12 No 1

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