How to tell someone they aren’t being promoted without demotivating them.

Shivani Pradhan

Product Management, Azure DataBox Edge at Microsoft at Scality



"I had an above average employee, who was performing pretty well. We had no issues, complaints or concerns about his performance. He would meet all of his deadlines and was trustworthy and reliable. When he approached us asking for a promotion, it was a difficult conversation to have when I told him that he couldn't be promoted in that appraisal cycle. I had to make a judgment call about whether the employee would be a flight risk if I decided not to promote him. In that circumstance, I would have been willing to promote him. In this case, I did not want to lose him but promoting him would have meant lowering the bar for the next level. I decided to stand my ground and to give my best shot at motivating him."

Actions taken

"I decided to present the situation as positive news, and as an opportunity waiting around the corner. I told him he was on our watchlist for doing his job well and that he had shown promising potential."

"I shared my thoughts about how he could demonstrate thought leadership in his role without challenging authority, minimizing any likely friction, and how he could rally support and pursue his innovative ideas, earning appreciation and recognition for the effort. It was a welcome observation to see the monolog evolve into a conversation and brainstorming. At the end of the meeting, I told him I would send him some concrete initiatives as examples within the next few days and actually followed up with ideas of initiatives he could create time for to expand his horizons and his range of influence."

Lessons learned

"I tried to instill confidence in our unbiased performance-based promotion system and conveyed that he had my sincere support in enabling, guiding and empowering him to do well, to help him deliver on our expectations."

"We were able to retain him, motivate him and teach him, so he stepped up, took more responsibility, showed more self-drive and more thought leadership, and actually earned a few awards that year."

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Shivani Pradhan

Product Management, Azure DataBox Edge at Microsoft at Scality

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyPerformance MetricsPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill DevelopmentLeadership & Strategy

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