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Dear Workforce How Do We Soften the Blow for Those Not Chosen for Promotions

Dear Sensitive:



A promotion represents an exciting opportunity for an employee. It is a chance to get recognized by the company and colleagues as a strong contributor. For those not promoted, it can be a painful reminder of their shortcomings, whether actual or imagined.

Regardless of the criteria used to determine who gets promoted, it’s important to effectively communicate the reasons for your decision to the people who weren’t selected. If this information is not communicated clearly, you miss an opportunity to provide feedback and direction to an important population of your workforce: those who are motivated and lack but a few skills to go from good to great. Below are some tips on how to have that tough conversation.

1. Thank the applicants. Be sure to thank each employee for applying for the position. Keep it brief as they likely know the “but…” is coming.

2. Communicate the criteria used in the decision-making process, specifically the key strengths you think will make an individual successful in that particular role. It is helpful for applicants to know how the winning candidates were judged and measured.

3. Allow time for reactions. Give the employee a chance to ask questions and articulate his or her feelings, disappointments, desires, etc.

4. Use this as an opportunity to explore areas for development. Be specific about each individual’s strengths and the traits they need to develop for that role, and why. Make recommendations for developing these new skills so the employee might become a stronger candidate during the next opportunity. Have the employee explore your recommended areas for development, and then help him make some commitments toward developing the necessary skills.

5. Highlight the positive. Even though the applicant did not get the position, this was a great exercise for polishing the individual’s résumé, practicing interviewing skills and reviewing long-term personal and development goals. More important, by throwing his name in the hat for promotion consideration, the employee is giving a clear message about his interest in growing with the company and taking on more responsibilities. Make sure you let the employee know that you, and the company, have heard him loud and clear.

SOURCE: Dr. Thuy Sindell and Milo Sindell, Hit the Ground Running, San Francisco, authors of Sink or Swim: New Job, New Boss, Twelve Weeks to Get It Right, June 30, 2006.

LEARN MORE: Please read a previously published article on how companies can plan curricula for employee development.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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