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Promotions should be earned

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Getting a promotion may seem like a momentous event, but without the support of those you work with, and whom you will eventually manage, the joy of receiving a promotion may be short lived. What’s more, unless you are able to meet and exceed the expectations of your new job description, more than just your joy will be short lived.
Lyndy van den Barselaar, MD of workforce solutions provider Manpower South Africa, explains that it is imperative for anyone eying a promotion objective to ensure that they have a strong reputational standing within their organisation.
“Promotions are often expected by individuals after a certain tenure at an organisation. Employees seem to think that because they have worked in a position for a length of time, that they are automatically in line for a promotion and the associated increases and perks. What’s more is that many businesses similarly feel that in order to retain these long-service employees that they have to abide by these promotion expectations. Going down this road is not only extremely risky for the employer, but also for the employee, therefore it is imperative that promotions are managed very carefully, and that all expectations are divorced from the process.
“For the employee, it must be established that a promotion is something that must be worked towards, and that it is linked to the expectations of the job description. In many instances employers, particularly those in SMMEs believe that long-serving employees have naturally developed the ability to manage others in the operational implementation of their specific task. For the promoted employee, many seem to think that they have earned the managerial status through their tenure and that their position’s respect is naturally linked to the role. This is simply not true, and promotes a complete misunderstanding of the role and responsibilities of a manager.”
Drawing on international best practice, Manpower South Africa offers advice on promotion and post-promotion processes.
“First and foremost, both the employer and employee should have a sound understanding of the requirements for the promotion position. It should never be left open to assumption that because an individual is very good at delivering results within in their current role that they will be able to deliver on the role requirements once promoted. If an individual is promoted solely based on length of tenure, they are bound to fail at achieving results in their new role. Further, this would cause problems for the employer too; an employee in a role they are unfit for, and an employee that was once a star performer now shining less brightly.
“Secondly, the employer should groom the employee to take on the position over a period of time. This may be in the form of discussing the promotion opportunity with an employee, and then developing an upskilling programme to ensure that when the employee assumes the role full time that they are properly equipped and mentally prepared for the new role.”
In addition, employers and employees should understand that the promotional ladder does not always mean having to manage people.
“While the promotional process for many businesses point upwards towards managerial levels, this is not the only road for individuals who lack the ability or personality to manage others. Many businesses do not recognise the seniority of a technical specialist – an individual who has mastered their craft without the need to become a master at managing others.”
The Peter Principle was coined by coined by Canadian educator Laurence Peter, which states that “mangers tend to rise to the level of their incompetence”. The principle notes that employees often get promoted based on their performance in their current role, instead of what is required in their new role. Thus they continue up the promotional ladder until they find themselves in a job that they cannot perform, and then stay there until they retire or leave the company.
This principle underlines the importance of effective management in placing the right people in the right position. In addition to the aforementioned grooming and promotion to positions that maximise skills instead of expecting management competencies, leaders in the organisation must ensure that everyone is on the same page. This requires regular reviews where honest discussions on strengths, weaknesses, and the greater career arc are held. This will not only reduce frustration on both sides, but lead to the promotion of employees into the positions that they expect, deserve, and are more than capable of performing successfully.