Companies are very focused on being cost conscious, especially in the current economic climate. Many bosses have promoted their key employees too quickly, beyond their skill level — to their level of incompetence. Bosses falsely believe they are saving time and money, but this type of reactive decision-making ends up being costly and has a detrimental impact on the company. Sadly, the once successful employee feels forced to leave the company when her/his continued contribution is short-circuited, and will rarely go quietly.
Since the person was previously treated as an asset to the company, it is often unclear as to why this sudden experience of failure is happening. Instead of having a professional conversation with her/his boss to provide solutions to this dilemma, s/he blames extraneous factors and looks for a new job, outside the company. The real issues? The newly promoted person may not have taken the time, or taken advantage of the opportunities, to develop the interpersonal skills required for the new position. Perhaps s/he has not learned how to delegate or is unable to prioritize and manage multiple issues well. S/he may simply lack the interest and ability to quickly learn the skills required for performance success (e.g., technology, financial, mechanical, sales, etc.) in this new position.
Time to get real. Newly promoted people may be unable to acclimate appropriately when business needs change rapidly. Where did the old adage, “sink or swim” come from? It didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. Unfortunately, employees feel they can not say “no” to their bosses’ requests without hurting their career. If they may agree, their naiveté can create additional issues and stresses since they do not possess the required depth and breadth of experience. It’s time to create a win-win development plan that helps the employee succeed and meets the needs of the business. Be realistic – it takes time. Employees won’t suddenly become great managers if they have poor people skills. Employees with no interest in financial monitoring will not handle their budgets well. Top sales people will not make the best bosses. Remember, accepting mediocrity loses customers internally and externally.
Provide an outside coach. An outside coach can provide insights that the corporate mindset and culture may overlook. The employee will feel more comfortable sharing her/his challenges and fears, confidentially. They know many bosses have long memories, and don’t want the risk. Ensure there is clarity of goals to be accomplished every three months. Write them down. Put together action plans for implementation. Monitor effectiveness. Keep it simple and smart!
Keep valued employees. Although egos play an important role in a person’s ability to stay and thrive after a failure, it requires the boss’s dedicated intention to keep a valued employee! Find a position within the company where s/he can be successful. Don’t be afraid to create a new position to keep the person, but use a scientifically validated assessment tool to ensure you’re not simply creating another new issue. The cost of hiring a replacement is much greater than realigning a job description to match up employee skills with business needs. Provide focused training and development so the employee can gain the skills s/he lacked that caused the demotion in the first place. This allows the employee to experience success once again, and provides her/him with the opportunity to be promoted in the future.
©Jeannette L. Seibly, 2010