Promotions: not necessarily for the longest standing employee

Tenure based promotions?

While having lunch I overheard a striking statement that made me think about the topic of promotion and advancing up the ladder. The gentleman told his lunch mate that he was angry that he was not promoted, saying “after all, I have been there the longest”.

Certainly I do not know all the details of the company, this employee or the supervisor that is in charge of promotions and giving out raises. I don’t know the reasoning behind who received the promotion. I don’t know anything about this situation… except that I picked up on the fact that this guy was genuinely jaded that he was passed over. I sensed his pain as he felt overlooked, underappreciated, and un-valued.

Nevertheless, I also caught on to his expectation. He assumed that since he was the longest standing employee in that department it gave him the right to the job. He was next in line to receive the promotion of management. I wonder if this kind of thinking is outdated. Maybe its altogether wrong.

According to a December 21, 2015 Business Journal, tenure-based advancement to management is the norm in many organizations. But the same report and recent Gallup report reveals that the two most frequent reasons U.S. workers are named manager are tenure with their company and success in a non-managerial role. But neither necessarily indicates that a person has the right talent to succeed as a manager.

As I speak around the country to organizations, churches, and companies of all kinds and sizes, one of the common threads of things they want me to address is employee engagement and resiliency. And I am happy to do that. But as I leave the platform one of my questions that I challenge them with is: examine who is at the table and who needs to be there-but not. Perhaps one of the people who are there, that needs to be removed is the one who thinks they have a right because of tenure. Perhaps skill set, empathy, and knowledge should be at the top of the lists for advancement. Maybe these should trump tenure.

It makes sense to me- skill set, empathy, and job-based knowledge should replace the old fashioned tenure reason why people get promotions.

Certainly longevity is a value worthy of reward. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an employee being faithful to a company and its vision for long periods of time; throughout several kinds of seasons. Weathering the storms of business is a true test of integrity and should be rewarded. But maybe management is not the right kind of promotion. Maybe it’s a pay raise. Perhaps it’s time off, extra vacation days. Maybe it’s a sabbatical. Sometimes its just wrong to promote someone to management just because they have been there the longest.

I once knew a pastor who thought that he should become a regional director of his denomination because he and his wife had been in the area the longest. It would be his “last stop before retirement”, he told me. I asked him if he thought he would be good at it? His response,” it doesn’t matter if I am good or not, I am next in line”. Thankfully the denomination did not choose to promote him.

Promotions: it’s not just for those who have been there the longest.