This is part of an ongoing series where we discuss the things that are killing your company culture. Who knows? You might read something all too familiar and realize it’s time to make a change.
Promoting people is a really great thing, usually. But if you’re a leader who’s on a mission to muck up your company’s culture, then you’re probably doing the following things like a champ:

  • You didn’t post for the job internally or externally in advance, because you knew you wanted Promoted Gal to get the job and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time (like your own) or get anyone’s hopes up for no reason. Also, you’re conflict-avoidant so why deal with discomfort?
  • You accidentally/conveniently forgot to tell Tim, who made it clear in his annual review six months ago that he was hoping for the job that Promoted Gal got, even though he’s unqualified (something else you accidentally/conveniently forgot to tell him, but that’s another Culture Killer article altogether).
  • You congratulate yourself because at least you didn’t repeat the mistakes from the last few promotion debacles like elevating the best sales guy to sales manager and wondering why that never works, promoting high-potential Pam too soon and wondering why she left so frustrated, or giving the top job to the expensive guy from the outside who overpromised, underdelivered, and demoralized the team. And oh yeah, there was that time you hired your niece and then promoted her to Acting Manager while Shantelle was out on maternity leave.
  • You forget to tell Maggie in HR about Promoted Gal’s new compensation plan and so her next two paychecks won’t be right. This also means that her 401K contributions were screwed up and so Promoted Gal has to spend 45 minutes filling out an online form to amend absolutely everything. (Just wait until bonus time comes around and you get to deal with the ambiguity of whether Promoted Gal’s bonus should be prorated, and based on what metrics, again?)
  • You decided to give Promoted Gal an AVP title up from her current role as a Director. This means she’s super happy and about 35 people who are Senior Directors are super pissed.
  • You sent out a “New Org Structure FYI” email a few days after Promoted Gal’s promotion actually took place, and forgot to include the Santa Clara team on the distribution list – so Promoted Gal had to delicately tell Tim that she would be needing the report from him on Friday – what with the new reporting structure and all.
  • You made it clear to Promoted Gal that she needs to clean up the whole staffing thing in her new department, ASAP, because Juan made a real mess of it before he left, didn’t he?
  • You go home satisfied that you’re building a culture where people get promoted from within, have opportunities for growth, and are absolutely and definitely “highly engaged”. You have no idea that you’re clueless, which is comforting because ignorance is bliss, right?

Any of those points sound familiar? Let’s all let out a heavy sigh together. Most of us aren’t trying to actively kill our cultures (except for the odd psychopath we’ve all come across at work, but thankfully they’re rare), so that means most of us care about making some of the mistakes above. Make the decision to revamp how you promote people, starting today.
Sit down with the key people on your team and draft the process to follow based on the missteps listed above. Just like making a mess of onboarding your new team members is a disastrous way to introduce them to your culture, you really can’t afford to mess this one up.

Jodi Wellman

Jodi is a co-founder of Happy Work Spectacular Life, loves red Skittles (maybe too much) and finally got a Happy Spectacular logo tattoo.