Ethics When Promoting

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Bailey Naples, CCEP
Manager of Compliance and Internal Audit

Dave is an amazing employee. He is dedicated, hardworking, and timely with all of his projects. Dave’s performance appraisals have documented an ability and willingness to adapt and learn in an ever-changing workplace. He is ready to grow and there is a promotional position open, but is he really ready? When preparing to promote an employee ethical consideration must be part of the process.

This ethical consideration has to go beyond the obvious potential conflicts of interest, though be sure to consider all angles of conflicts as well. Confirm that employees to be promoted will not be (1) in a position to be supervising a relative; (2)conducting negotiations with a current vendor whom they could have a conflict of interest with; or (3) working with a client where they have financial interests.

When an employee is doing well in his or her position, employers may feel conflicted about the disruption that a promotion may cause. Whoever is hired to replace the employee will have a learning curve and may not have the same natural ability. However, the right thing to do for the organization and for the star employee who feels ready for a promotion, is to allow growth. Good communication of employer expectations for performance at the next level is critically important.

For ethical reasons employees should not be promoted until they are ready. If an employee is promoted without the appropriate training and support structure he or she is being set up to struggle and potentially fail. The employer has the responsibility to consider the new tasks the employee will be taking on in a new position and prepare for this. Break out the tasks in an easy to track and train guide. Be sure to include the approximation of time the task takes so the employee can appropriately schedule time to meet deadlines. Set up a training plan from these tasks with timeframes of completion so that employees see progress being made towards their goal of promotion.

The employee may need to go to outside training to prepare for the promotion prior to being promoted. It is better for the employee, and the team, if the employee is prepared for the transition rather than learning after the fact. People make mistakes and there could be more growing pains than necessary without proper prior training. Employees that fail in their duties after being promoted may not be entirely responsible for their failure. When an employee is failing after promotion some self-reflections to be considered are: (1) Could we have prepared them better? (2) Could we have given them better structure and guidance? (3) Were they actually trained or did we just give them a binder of procedures and tell them to go at it?

Newly promoted employees may become resentful if they feel that they have not been properly trained or supported. Now with their new title on their resume, they may begin to look for a job elsewhere where they will get the support they need and desire. Let’s prevent this by preparing our star employees for the next step long before the time for promotion comes. Start giving and training them on responsibilities for the next level. Start sending them to leadership conferences and trainings about dealing with difficult people. Employees will be more likely to succeed and be more dedicated to an organization that offers a clear path to promotional opportunities.

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