Promotions that Lead to Attrition Part III: The Promotion on Paper But Not in Practice

This is the third in a six part series on promotion-related losses. Read Part I and Part II.


What it looks like initially: Alan is promoted to a new role at your organization that involves him moving from being a direct report to a peer of Bonnie. He joins the same management team and has taken on a load of direct reports that were stretching Bonnie too thin. Bonnie and Alan now both report into the VP.

Where it goes wrong: While the what of the new relationship and org chart have been made clear the how of their working together is never addressed. As a result the individuals involved still maintain the power dynamic of the previous relationship. Bonnie still largely makes or influences decisions related to the team Alan manages. As someone new to a leadership role – Alan may not know how to represent his interests at the new management level, is given limited autonomy, and feels excluded from decision-making. He may even feel like a junior or secondary member of the management team to which he was promoted.

How people usually leave: Attrition in these circumstances usually comes in one of two ways: an escalated personality conflict between Alan and Bonnie that requires the VP to intervene or Alan withdrawing from decision-making and leadership conversations, resulting in unrealized expectations or underperformance and eventual severance (either voluntarily or involuntarily).

What you can do about it: Anytime the management or leadership team changes there should be a proactive evaluation and establishment of decision-making norms and autonomy expectations. This process has to be lead by the head (in this case the Vice President or Chief Development Officer equivalent) and involve both focused discussion amongst the new leaders as well as one-on-one sessions between the VP and his/her direct reports.

Another helpful practice is to provide outreach and resources to any newly promoted individual rising to a new level be it a manager or a leader. Ensure that they have a professional mentor and consider investing in a 3-6 month leadership coach for him/her.

An alternative to this scenario that is seen more frequently on a lower level in the organizational chart is where someone is promoted from a peer to a manager of a close colleague. Without deliberate attention and conversation about new expectations and behavior the result ends up being the same.


Note: The book “Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice” is a great resource on understanding the new expectations and presence required when an employee’s promotion places them on a new decision-making level.


3 thoughts on “Promotions that Lead to Attrition Part III: The Promotion on Paper But Not in Practice

  1. Pingback: Promotions that Lead to Attrition Part IV: The Empty Promotion | Targeting Fundraising Talent

  2. Pingback: Promotions that Lead to Attrition Part V: The Too-Late, Falsely Promised Promotion | Targeting Fundraising Talent

  3. Pingback: Promotions that Lead to Attrition Part VI: The Unsolicited Promotion | Targeting Fundraising Talent

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