Xenium’s Senior HR Business Partners know a lot about human resources, and we want to share their knowledge and insight with you! Each week, we publish a question from you, our readers, and our experienced HR leaders provide thoughtful, helpful advice addressing your HR dilemmas. Submit questions by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking on the chat icon at the bottom of this page. We are excited to partner with you…one HR question at a time!
This week’s featured HR expert is Judy Lofurno.
I recently hired an employee who has been doing an excellent job, and I’m thinking about promoting her. This promotion would move her into a more senior role than some of the employees who have been here much longer than she has. How do I handle this promotion in a way that doesn’t destroy morale and ensures she is accepted and respected in her new role?
This is a tough one, but it’s great to have a new hire who is hitting it out of the park right off the bat! Really, the right way to do this would be to post the position internally so everyone has a chance to apply for it. If you want to follow absolute best practices, this would be the way to go, even though you’ve identified who you want in the role already. Leaving the position open for even just a week and vetting other employees who may be interested would minimize the potential for conflict.
If you decide not to post the position, keep in mind any employees who might feel like they should be in line for it. If somebody feels that this promotion should have been their next step in the company, and that they’re ready for it, they could feel like they were jumped over or ignored, and they may be resentful. Try to identify this person before you announce the news to the whole team, and give them a little time to digest it. Have a one-on-one with this employee; let them know how you view their performance and explain to them the organizational changes occurring, including that the new person is stepping into this role. This conversation shows them you respect them, and it keeps them from feeling blindsided during a group announcement.
At the end of your one-on-one, offer to regroup the next day so they can think it over and come up with some productive questions. “That’s not fair. I’ve been working hard for this and I deserve it” is a natural human response in the moment. Give this person some time to take a step back and let it sink in so they’ll be more likely to accept the situation more positively.
Remember: depending on the way your company is organized, more than one employee may end up feeling discouraged by this. You may have to connect with a few employees and give them all some time to process the change.
Also keep in mind that when you have these conversations, the news might trickle out before you have a chance to announce it. Weigh that risk with how much you’re able to trust your employees. These one-on-ones may be counterproductive if you feel like the information could get out.
Ultimately, if this new employee really is a top performer, and you are doing the right thing by promoting her, then any employee who thinks they should be next in line—if they are being honest with themselves and they have some integrity—should be able to recognize this new employee’s strengths and her natural progression into this role.
Your company culture and the makeup of the team that’s affected will all influence how people respond to this situation. There is no right answer for how to handle this, but these are all important things to consider before you decide how to move forward.