How to let someone down for promotion gently

It’s not a good feeling when you must tell your employee they didn’t get the promotion they were hoping for.

It can be disappointing and demoralising for the employee, so it’s important to let them down gently, especially if they’re a good worker that you want to remain in their current role.

Here are some pointers that can help you let your employee down gently while keeping their spirits up and maintaining interest in their current role.

Make sure they hear the news from you first

It can be easy to want to procrastinate sharing bad news with someone, but in this situation, you want to tell them the news as soon as you can. It’s also especially important that they hear it from you first.

If you’ve chosen someone else for the promotion, it would be very demoralising for the employee to hear their colleague celebrate getting the promotion before being able to have a discussion with you.

Prepare what you’re going to say

Think carefully about what you’re going to say and don’t just ‘wing it’. Be empathetic and really consider how your employee may respond to the news that they didn’t receive the promotion.

They will probably feel disappointed and potentially hurt about the decision, so prepare for these emotions and think about the best way to deal with them before you start the meeting.

Be completely honest

Be open and transparent about how you came to the decision of not selecting them for the promotion. Give them as much information as you can so that they can better understand the situation and realise that the hiring process was a fair one.

You can discuss what factors went into the promotion process, what skills and experience you were looking for etc.

It’s always better to over-explain, rather than leaving the employee with more questions. We tend to think that other people understand our thoughts and feelings, but this isn’t always the case, so make sure that your employee really understands your thought process.

Offer a future meeting to discuss the employee’s development

One of the main questions your employee will want to know is “What can I do to get the promotion next time?” But it’s important to save this conversation for another time.

Your initial meeting should be about informing them of the decision and how you came to make it. Their professional development is a different matter, so is something that you should discuss with them at a formal performance review meeting.

Schedule a date for a performance review when you can talk about your employee’s work and what they can do differently to be successful in future promotions.

Written by
Scott Dylan
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Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan is the Co-founder of Inc & Co, a seasoned entrepreneur, investor, and business strategist renowned for his adeptness in turning around struggling companies and driving sustainable growth.

As the Co-Founder of Inc & Co, Scott has been instrumental in the acquisition and revitalization of various businesses across multiple industries, from digital marketing to logistics and retail. With a robust background that includes a mix of creative pursuits and legal studies, Scott brings a unique blend of creativity and strategic rigor to his ventures. Beyond his professional endeavors, he is deeply committed to philanthropy, with a special focus on mental health initiatives and community welfare.

Scott's insights and experiences inform his writings, which aim to inspire and guide other entrepreneurs and business leaders. His blog serves as a platform for sharing his expert strategies, lessons learned, and the latest trends affecting the business world.


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