Promoting from within is a valuable retention strategy. With opportunities for advancement, employees will be open to new challenges and responsibilities. It also prevents top talent from jumping ship. Reaching the next level in their career within the same organization offers an incentive to stay put.
However, promoting the next rising star doesn't come without its challenges. When more than one person on the team is applying for the role, colleagues become competition. Even if there is a clear reason why an employee was promoted, there will always be someone who feels your decision was unfair. Sometimes you just can't win.
It can be tempting to dismiss jealous behavior as a personal issue rather than a corporate issue, but you'll only be playing with fire. Remember: These are not just regular applicants. These are still your employees. You have to see them day in and day out, and so does the newly promoted staff member.
In circumstances like these, leaders have to act fast. One bitter employee is an issue; several is dangerous.
If you're about to deliver the good news to your next manager, ensure you do these three initiatives immediately afterwards:
1. Stand by your decision
You've promoted someone because the company needs their leadership. The person is qualified, loyal, and deserves the position. Now stand by that.
You'll only aggravate the situation further with statements like, "It was such a hard decision because you're both so qualified for the role." This will only leave lingering questions and frustrate those who weren't chosen.
When delivering the bad news to those who weren't given the gig, don't be apologetic. Instead, be transparent. It's easier said than done, but if you're in a position of leadership, there is no other option than honesty.
2. Embrace the awkward
One day someone is a colleague, the next day they're your new boss. Awkward? You bet.
It can be a hard pill for anyone to swallow, especially if they feel it was unjust. And let's be real--whoever has been appointed in the new position is going to be the topic of conversation, and likely not in a good way.
As a leader, you're prepared for scrutiny. But for a colleague-turned-manager, it could be a much harder transition. That's why you have to come up with a strategy together on how they'll handle any negativity from less-than-thrilled well-wishers.
Give them a little pep talk on what they can expect. The first few weeks will likely be hardest, but after they start proving themselves and lead by example, it won't take long before they'll start earning respect and admiration from the team.
3. Make a plan
For those who didn't get the job, schedule a career planning session. Explain that they might not have been right for a role right now, but with more experience, you can foresee an opportunity in their future.
Trust them with projects where they can prove themselves. Meet with them one-on-one at least once per quarter to track their progress and see which skills need developing and which ones are excelling.
A word of caution: Only do this if you actually see potential. Don't be that boss that dangles a carrot and never delivers. Never commit to a time, salary, or title. You never know where the business will be or how they'll perform in a year's time.