How to Manage Expectations Around Career Advancement

By Paul Slezak - Dec. 13, 2012
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Consider the following scenario:

In a weekly catch up with one of your senior staff members, you confidentially tell him that another senior team member in the business has resigned.

You also let him know that you haven’t decided whether you will look start to look externally for a replacement in the coming weeks, or promote from within.

You have no idea at all that he actually wants that position – not instead of his current role, but over and above it. But rather than telling you there and then that he wants to be considered for the role, he takes a more strategic approach.

That evening he sends you an e-mail requesting a follow-up meeting to discuss the opportunity of transitioning into a dual role and taking on more responsibility. He then spends time carefully preparing his case, highlighting his achievements within the business to date, the reasons why he feels he should be considered, his rationale for wanting the additional responsibility, a picture of his ideal career path within the business, and finally, a carefully thought out transitioning strategy.

He knows his timing is right and he feels confident presenting his case to you.

His strategy works since you agree to move him into a role that will see him supervising two teams moving forward, thereby fulfilling his career aspirations.

*       *       *

Over the years I have witnessed many instances where people have been too scared to ask for a promotion because they felt their manager would either think they weren’t quite ready or perhaps that their request might be seen as an indication that they were not happy in their current role.

Then, when overlooked, they became jaded, and in many cases, left the organisation.

The notion of promotion can differ depending on who you speak to.

For some of your team it may mean more responsibility. For others it may equate to more seniority and a new title on a business card. However, it’s important to note that neither necessarily guarantees a salary increase.

If someone approaches you in your organisation wanting a promotion, you need to seriously consider whether they are in fact looking for a promotion, or a new job entirely – one that may in fact only exist beyond the company walls.

On the flip side, just because a team member has discussed the idea of taking on more responsibility, or even formally presented their case and asked for a promotion, there is still the possibility that you may decide to decline it.

In your time as a business owner or manager, you may one day encounter any or all of the following personality types (I certainly have!):

1: The Expector:

Confidently sends you an email stating: “I expect that you will promote me to Team Leader in January”.

2: The Ultimator:

Says, “If you don’t promote me in January then I will have to reconsider my place here”!

3: The Whinger:

If you don’t give them an answer straight away, or if you tell them you will re-assess the situation in six months, will ask “how much longer?” in every 1:1 catch-up between now and then.

4: The Dillusionist:

Has earned the title of prima donna, treats their colleagues like subordinates, but still asks for a promotion – not realising it will fall almost certainly on deaf ears.

5: The Opportunist:

Will ask for every possible promotion, thereby reinforcing that they have no real sense of career direction and in turn, no credibility behind their requests.

How you choose to handle these approaches is entirely up to you, but it’s important to be aware of the thought processes and strategy of each of your individual staff members when it comes to their career advancement.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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