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Promotion – an opportunity or a threat?

Changes at the highest levels of management are often accompanied by changes at the lower levels. In addition to external opportunities, there is the possibility of internal promotion in the organization. It happens that a member of the team is offered the opportunity to take the position of managing his/her colleagues. Then what?

Analysis of the organizational system
Looking at the possibility of promotion, you should look at this situation from a broader perspective and answer some basic questions.
Who, in the company, depends on my promotion and why is that so?
It is no secret that the informal structure in the organization is of the same importance, if not bigger, than formal structure. There are groups of interests that shape the organization. The higher the hierarchy, the more importance they hold.
If we receive a promotion proposal, it is possible that apart from our professional competences our values and attitude related to the informal structure and our role in its future have been appreciated. Very often another thing happens too. There is a promotion proposal, because there is a need for someone who will prepare the team for a new boss, who, for various reasons, is not ready to take up this position, and we are exceptionally suitable for this task. And after a while, it may turn out that what we thought was a promotion, consequently, turned out to be a temporary assignment to new duties.
Of course, this information is rarely stated straightforwardly, but it is worth taking some time to do a preliminary analysis and make some hypotheses that we can then test in the organization.
How does this proposal fit into my career path?
This question allows us to create alternative scenarios when we consider saying „Yes” to the proposition. Writing down all possible arguments „for” and „against” in four areas widens the prospect of looking at the situation, and can make us aware of the potential opportunities and threats that, because of positive emotions, are not noticeable at first.

It may be helpful to do an exercise. Complete the following matrix according to the pattern shown.

What will happen? What will not happen?
I will accept 1 2
I will not accept 3 4

What happens if I accept the promotion offer? There are four fields in which to answer the following questions:

1 What will happen if I accept the promotion offer?
2 What will not happen if I accept the offer of promotion?
3 What will happen if I do not accept the promotion proposal?
4 What will not happen if I do not accept the promotion proposal?

This exercise requires time to focus and distance oneself from current affairs. It also involves asking oneself a few questions about long-term personal goals and the potential consequences of our decision.
If we still think we are ready to accept the proposal, another question arises:
Is this proposal consistent with my social motives profile?
I discussed a few months ago the model of David McClelland’s social motives and their impact on personal performance at the workplace. The theory is that when the job is tailored to the individual motive profile, then it is possible to achieve over-standard results in a long time. However, in a mismatch situation, it turns out that, despite many efforts on the part of the employee, he/she gets at most average results.
As a personal counselor, I have the opportunity to encounter situations where management believes that coaching is able to solve all difficulties. Unfortunately, when the problem is structural, behavioral changes are not permanent. After time, the person returns to his personal preferences.

Many organizations experience the phenomenon of converting a very good salesman into an average manager or a brilliant operational manager into a frustrated departmental manager. Often, the difficulty lies with the internal structure of the person and the degree of non-adjustment to the new duties and responsibilities. As Marshall Goldsmith writes in his book on executive coaching „What Got You Here, Won’t Take You There” people who find themselves in a new position, qualitatively different from the former, and who want to use their own usual behavior instead of the behavior suitable for the new role often fail spectacularly. This is due to not only to the lack of adjustment to the changed role, but also to the change in expectations of both our employees and supervisors towards our people after promotion.
So the answer to the above question is important because it increases the likelihood of accomplishing the goals entrusted on the new position, because they are consistent with the individual profile and instead of experiencing burnout – people are fulfilled at work.
If, after asking the above questions, we are determined to accept a promotion, it would be important to look at the boundary conditions of performing the duties entrusted.

Do I get ant management tools in addition to the new responsibilities?
In case of internal promotions – from the team – a direct supervisor often decides on the gradual transition of management tools such as salary and bonus arrangements, team structure, division of roles and responsibilities among its members, etc. This approach is justified because the new person should be introduced to the particular issues step-by-step. However, the difficulty arises when a direct supervisor has a vision of keeping most of the tools to himself, and the new boss is going to be left out with an increased responsibility. There is a risk emerging the so-called ”organizational bypasses” double reporting by team members (to the new boss and his supervisor) and potential conflicts.
In order to counter this, it is a good idea to draw up a list of available tools and talk to your potential supervisor about how they will be handed in over time.

Is the current team able to meet its organizational goals?
By taking up a new position, it is necessary to analyze team resources and to answer whether they are sufficient for the organization’s performance. Several times I encountered a situation of internal promotion and locking positions. Which in practice meant a job lock and a doubling duties of a new boss. What may seem as an attractive approach from the perspective of HR indicators, is extremely burdensome for the department or unit concerned.
It may turn out that what has been only an interesting topic during coffee breaks becomes a personal challenge for us. A colleague who has so far pursued most of his passions outside of work and has had an insufficient effect on his duties is now a subordinate creating problems that are no longer solved with friendly pleas and suggestions.
The question then arises:

Do I have the power to restructure the team and if so, to what extent?
It concerns not only the resources and organizational capabilities, but also our decision-making in the new position. Perhaps, the desire to change the way the team works or even introduce new people to it, will be met with resistance from the organization.
Being aware of those threats, it should be one of the topics to be discussed before deciding on a promotion.
It may turn out that within the team there are the so-called ”sacred cows” – employees who, despite their low performance rates, have for various reasons secured their place in the organization. It is good to be well aware of the context in which we will act when we choose to advance.

Let’s summarize
The promotion proposal is usually a positive event in our career. On the one hand, it shows that the organization appreciates our competence and commitment to work, and on the other gives us a chance to develop and take another step in professional career. However, such a decision can involve many unknown threats to our careers, so it’s worth taking some time to find the answer to the key questions before accepting it.
I used to have a supervisor who used to say that there are two kinds of decisions that need to be taken immediately:
First decisions are those, which save a person’s life, and the second – those unreasonable ones.
If someone is limiting us time for making a decision, the red light should light up – maybe that person does not want us to think this through.

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