Managers have a hard job. Although they have to fulfill some specialist functions within an organization, they usually also have to manage a group of people. If your business has an exceptional employee who is now underperforming as a manager, this could be why.
1. The Lack of Soft Skills
The lack of soft skills is a scenario familiar to most people, and perhaps it is the situation your business is in now. You have a fantastic technical person, maybe an engineer or a salesperson. They are great at their job, and you desperately want to keep them in the business, but they have been making it known that they are thinking about moving on. What do you do?
If you have a vacancy, you promote them to a managerial position, give them a pay rise, a team of people to supervise, and secure them for another year.
However, suddenly that department starts becoming problematic. The once excellent employee starts producing shoddy work. Maybe they show signs of burnout; they take on too much and eventually leave. Are you left confused? Why did your star employee go after your generous promotion?
Promoting a technical expert to a manager is not a bad idea. You benefit from having somebody who can impart their knowledge to a group of employees and help your business sustain much-needed talent. The issue is when technical people are promoted immediately, without a proper progression planned for their new role.
Effective people management requires a particular skill set. Often, technical people are used to being subject matter experts, putting their ideas and opinions across, and then moving on. However, during these promotions, the constant communication, scheduling, and human resources skills required to manage people are entirely new and frequently overlooked. The new manager is expected to either understand these aspects of their new role right away or take a short course and become experts very quickly.
If you’re considering promoting a technical person to a management position, try assigning them a management mentor first. Then, treat the promotion as a way to upskill your engineer/technical officer and give them the time they need to become comfortable and confident people managers before letting them loose on a team. You are guaranteed to produce a far more capable manager this way.
2. The Lack of Desire
So you have done the right thing and promoted a current employee into a management position. You have mentored and trained them, and they are capable of performing the role. Why then are they still failing? It might be that the employee had no desire to be promoted at all.
Promotions are not always a positive thing for some employees. Sometimes a promotion can be seen as a burden the employee has to take on rather than a reward for a job well done. When considering promoting an employee to a management position, ensure your reasons for doing so are valid, in line with the employee’s progression plans, and ensure the employee has a meaningful new role in the business. Progression for its own sake is not enough. For example, you might have promoted someone who has no desire to be a manager but feels that they do not have any other progression paths at your business. In this situation, the newly promoted manager usually negates their extra responsibilities. Either somebody else picks up the slack, they leave anyway, or you manage them out of the situation.
If you want to progress an employee to a management role, start by discussing the vacancy with the employee first, develop a training and mentorship plan to help engage them and prepare them for the position, and ensure that they understand the new role requirements before taking it on.
3. The Unaddressed Internal Issues
Promoting internal employees is often seen as the right thing to do by your employees. It has the advantage of identifying a candidate who knows the business, the staff, and what the job entails. But unfortunately, sometimes, it is the wrong decision, and you end up promoting an ineffectual leader who causes more problems than they solve.
Your employees will have formed relationships with each other during their time at work. Hopefully, these relationships are healthy and based on trust and mutual respect. However, sometimes these relationships are strained, and employees work together because they have to. On the other hand, you might have employees who have worked together for so long that they are a solid team, socializing outside of work. Would your new manager be able to manage their friends?
Perhaps your business suffers from poor workplace culture, and you find yourself dealing with personnel issues more often than not. Regardless of the situation at your workplace, promoting somebody to a management position is fraught with danger. Any unresolved issues will escalate as the new manager attempts to exert authority over their former colleagues. The rest of the employees may be resentful of their promoted colleague. They may not respect the new chain of command, and your new manager may not enforce your wishes because of loyalty to their former teammates.
It is crucial to ensure any internal issues get resolved before the new manager starts in their new role. It is also a good idea to clarify your expectations, outlining the difficulties they may face and offering support and training in managing the negative impacts of the situation. For example, you might decide that somebody from outside the organization is required to add a fresh perspective to a stale team or help manage strong personalities in a tight-knit group.
Promoting from within is a great strategy. First, however, you need to consider the reasons behind the promotion, why you are selecting the person you are, and if you are ready to support that new manager in their role. If not, the damage to your business because of your lack of preparedness could be catastrophic.
Before helming Perpetual Talent Solutions as President, Jim Hickey held several senior leadership roles in both sales and operations for two of the world’s largest Commercial Staffing organizations. Jim is a dedicated professional who has been formally recognized as a Staffing Industry Subject Matter Expert.