The Best Strategy for Letting an Employee Know They Weren’t Chosen for a Promotion

One of the toughest conversations you can have as a manager is to let your employee know that they weren’t chosen for a promotion. This can be a large disappointment for many staff members, so you should manage the conversation with as much empathy and clear communication as possible. You will want to make sure your information is clear and your goals strategic before going into such a conversation. Here are a few tips to help you prepare.

Timing is Everything

You will definitely want to pick the optimal time to have such a difficult conversation with an employee. Don’t approach them when they are obviously stressed or having a bad day. Their reaction to your news should not be influenced by other frustrations because that can make the news that much harder to hear. Try to have the conversation in the morning, when employees are refreshed and likely to be more receptive to any constructive criticism you might need to relay. Also make sure that you deliver the news in private, and take the time to have a full-fledged conversation regarding the loss of the promotion. You don’t want to be rushed to attend other meetings when delivering the news. Give your employee the benefit of your full and unfiltered attention so they feel that they are important and valued despite not receiving the desired promotion.

Stay Focused and Positive

This is a conversation where you don’t want to beat around the bush. No amount of pleasant chit chat will soften the blow. Rather, you should get to the point early on in the conversation and focus any on positive feedback that you might have. Help the employee develop a plan to work toward their goals in the coming months and years. You need to rebuild some trust and help bolster the confidence of your disappointed employee to make sure that they walk away from the meeting feeling supported if not pleased by the news.

Be as Tactful as Possible

Don’t spend too much time talking about the person who did win the promotion. It can be very disheartening to hear managers go on about all the qualifications the employee doesn’t have. You want to be honest and forthcoming about your rational behind the decision, but remember to be thoughtful of the impact of your words. Remember to focus on how this employee can improve in the future and what support you can provide as a supervisor to help them meet their goals. Take time to answer all questions that the employee is likely to have. Avoiding these questions or not being transparent in your decision making can lead to employees becoming unnecessarily frustrated and ultimately losing faith in upper leadership.

End on a High Note

Ideally, you want this employee to walk away from the conversation feeling as positive as possible about the interaction, if not the news itself. Reinforce the message that you are happy with progress the employee has made, and their performance on the job.

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