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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Promotions from Both Sides of the Barricade

I had quite an insightful discussion lately about promotions. When people hit the ceiling. Why it is so. What to do in that kind of situation.

Of course, as always, I won’t give you a sure-shot answer but from my observations a number of promotion issues have sources on both sides of the barricade.

Managers suck with promoting people.

Above generalization is built from small pieces including:
• Poor knowledge about people working in the team.
• Inability to take the risk.
• Virtually no information about how people are willing to build their career paths.
• Poor judgment.
• Lack of will to train or coach promoted people.

I don’t say every manager can be blamed for every of above points but probably almost every manager can be blamed for at least one or a couple of them. I’m no saint here if you ask me.

With all those problems managers often tend to choose outsiders instead of insiders as all those issues supports fear of failure. Then the most important thing kicks in. When you promote good specialist from your team to another position you actually lose specialist with no guarantee you gain suitable person on the new position. The fear skyrockets. The question pops: is promoting an insider really a good decision?

Most likely it is. Not allowing people to develop themselves you risk of losing them at all. You end up with no specialist on either position. And from my experience outsiders are much more risky than insiders. It’s much harder to judge a person after one or a couple of one-hour meetings than after a couple of years working in the team.

The fear is the most important issue on manager’s side. But it should be overcome.

People suck with promoting themselves.

How many times you hear a friend or colleague who is complaining how hard is to get promotion and you want to ask if her manager actually knows she want to be promoted? How many times you see people who don’t try to do anything with their career just waiting for bosses to do something about that? I can add a number of people who haven’t even tried to talk about what they like and what they don’t like about the job with their bosses. They just left rejecting a chance to change anything within their workplace. Even when the chance was just waiting for a smallest piece of initiative from them.

Sure, managers aren’t cool with promotions but most of them are in fear of losing good people. And sometimes they’re just lost with looking for a good candidate in the team and giving them some hints what you’d like to do can be really helpful for both sides.

Remember managers don’t know everything about their people’s professional goals. They should but they don’t. As far as you leave all in their hands you put your career in risk.

Don’t fear talking with bosses. You can’t lose much as far as your superior isn’t a kind of psycho. Help them. Put a pressure on them. Hey, that’s what they’re paid for. Managing their teams.

Among the best promotions I remember there’s a significant place for those which were made in difficult situations when both manager and employee overcame their fears, started talking with each other and found a way out. Profitable for both sides. And it all began with honest discussion about future with a boss.

in: personal development, team management

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