Why getting promoted is like brand repositioning.
Congratulations! You’ve been promoted to a senior level position in your company, and your colleagues are giving you well-deserved high fives. But once the celebration settles, you realize some challenges to what just occurred have nothing to do with your ability to do your new job.
The problem is repositioning your personal brand.
Just like in marketing, repositioning a brand is difficult. The memories and perceptions of the old brand remain prominent for much longer than the company desires for the new brand. The same is true for the promoted employee. While leadership trusts that you’re able to perform your new role, they and the rest of the company have previously only seen you in your prior position. This is particularly evident in a smaller company. The problems extend beyond just perception and can also include resentment of others, wage discrepancy, and difficulty securing authority.
The person who didn’t get promoted will be resentful and may be part of your new department. So are all their loyalists. While it should never be this polarizing, the unfortunate truth is that it is human nature for people to develop loyalty to other. The result is strong backing for the candidate during the selection process that turns into resentment toward the “winner” when the announcement is made.
While this will eventually fade over time, it should be noted that it quite certainly will exist when more than one employee bid for the promotion. And how much time it takes to fade or how significant the loyalty toward the non-winning candidate is can make for an extremely uncomfortable work environment.
When you’re the new leader in a department where several team members applied, you will need to acknowledge the emotion related to this situation and demonstrate patience and empathy toward the members of your team.
Sadly the subject of wage discrepancy exists in the scenario where advancement prevails. It costs a company more to recruit, hire, and train a new employee than to promote an existing employee. However, often the compensation plan for the promoted employee does not reflect this. In fact, many times the promoted employee is “cheaper” than a new hire. Why is a signing bonus not offered for the promotion? Is the same wage offered to the promoted employee as to the outside hire?
It’s always up to you to negotiate your wage, whether you’re promoted or coming into a new organization. Make sure you know the going industry rate for the position you’re accepting, and use this as a baseline for your negotiations.
Difficulty Securing Authority
There are too many assumptions made by management when promoting an employee. A formal onboarding is rare, and this leaves the newly promoted leader in a precarious position of navigating their new role solo.
When a new incoming team member is introduced in a leadership role, introductory meetings abound. Team members meet and describe their position in the department, and the new leader describes their background and history. This level-setting is the most instrumental part of establishing new leadership relationships. Naturally, existing team members feel the need to impress and capture the attention of their new leader to start the relationship off strong.
When this step is skipped, the promoted leader suffers. Among the concerns – just how much authority do you now have? How did my promotion change my relationship with my team? Sure, I’m “in charge” now, but precisely what does that mean?
I understand it’s not this black and white and it is certainly not about exerting authority. But this exaggeration illuminates the differences in the two scenarios highlighting the challenges that will now face the new manager. When it comes time to be the decision-maker, the team may not automatically adopt the authority of the promoted leader to make such a decision.
The truth is, for all these challenges, management should have a plan to handle your promotion with the same rigor and proactivity given to a brand new employee. An official onboarding process where the manager introduces you in your new role to your team, outlining your responsibilities and providing guidance about how the reporting structure will occur on a day-to-day basis should be included during your orientation.
Candid discussions between management and the other internal candidates must clarify expectations about how the other candidate may position themselves for future promotion consideration. And yes, salary offers should be made to ensure the promoted employee is given fair consideration based upon job responsibilities, experience inclusive of their entire resume, industry standards, and company budget guidelines.
My best advice? Just be you.
Know that you earned your new role and all its challenges. Focus on demonstrating your strengths and meeting the challenge of your new accountabilities. Lead with knowledge and unbiased strategy. You’re not trying to win something – you already have. You’re only demonstrating your excellence.
And by all means, demonstrate empathy to your new team. They need time to understand your new role and how they fit into your new organization.
In the end, earning a promotion can be as challenging as a brand attempting to reposition its product. You should not assume the audience will automatically adopt the newly positioned brand, but instead, recognize the impending challenges and proactively work to confront them – with grace.
I openly acknowledge there are many shades of this scenario. However, by drawing attention to some of these possibilities may better equip both the new leader and the management team to make the promotion the celebration for the new leader that it should be.