Here’s why not promoting your staff can be a good thing

Updated: Apr 21

Who doesn’t want to be promoted, right?

Not necessarily.

As leaders, it’s easy for us to assume our staff wants to be promoted to the next level.

But what happens when our employees are not looking for a promotion?

Promoting an employee who is happy in their current role can lead to discouragement, discontentment, potential poor performance in the new role, and perhaps a departure from the company.

Now you’ve lost a key resource in your organization.

If your team members love their job and have become quite efficient in it, it’s your responsibility as the leader to meet them where they are, and help them grow within that role.

The belief that the only way to grow within your company is through a promotion has become antiquated.

Many of us know it as “up or out”.

“…there are many ways you can engage your employees and invest in their growth without promoting them.”

Playing into this fallacy can hurt your employee retention. If your employees are happy in their role, why not keep them in the role where they can excel?

Before I dive into ways to nurture and engage your employees in their current role, I want to share some reasons why employees might not want to be promoted to offer perspective:

  1. New role may involve more time away from their home/personal life

  2. New role is out of the scope of what they do in their current job, which they love

  3. Implications on their long-term career goals

  4. Change in boss

  5. Moving into management when the employee doesn’t want to manage others

There are certainly many other reasons an employee might turn down a promotion but these mentioned above rank among the most common concerns. So, if your employee does not want to be promoted, or maybe they are not ready to be promoted, how can you invest in their growth to continue moving them forward in their career?

Here are few thoughts to consider in lieu of promoting your people.

Skill development: Help your employees develop their skills to enhance their performance in their current role. Skill development can range from soft skill development to enhance their technical skills. In a previous blog post, I discuss some creative ways to engage your employees in training, while being mindful of busy schedules. You can invest in their skill development by offering everything from on-the-go digital learning to collaborative lunch and learn sessions.

Speaking opportunities: Your skilled employees can share a wealth of information to others in the company through training or workshops. Or perhaps encourage them to submit speaking proposals to conferences representing the organization. If you have employees who want the opportunity to get in front of others and share their knowledge, this is a perfect way to expand their skill set in public speaking and transfer knowledge.

Shadow others or be shadowed: Shadowing is the perfect way to learn on the job. Provide your employees' opportunities to shadow senior team members to pick up on new methods or techniques to grow in their role. If your employee is more experienced, offer them a chance to mentor others in the organization or be shadowed to share their expertise.

Tap into their interest: It’s possible your employee may have interests or special skills that may fit other aspects of the organization. Provide opportunities to engage them in periodic or ongoing projects. This could be something as simple as a department newsletter if your employee loves being creative and writing or serving as a project manager over the company picnic.

Career ladder: Your employee can still grow with the company and expand their role without compromising their current position. A career ladder would enable your employee to progress to different levels within their same role that does not require a promotion to management. Moving your employees through a career ladder will demonstrate a commitment to their growth, while respecting their desire to hone their craft where they are.

As you can see, there are many ways you can engage your employees and invest in their growth without promoting them.

I want to clarify by saying promotions are not a bad thing. Some employees want to be promoted, so don’t overlook these individuals. But some are happy where they are and instead of assuming they should be promoted into a role where they may flounder, consider nurturing them where they are where they can flourish.

“Happiness. Contentment. Inner peace. Have you ever gone looking for something only to realize you had it with you the whole time?” –Anonymous

What are your thoughts on growing your team members right where they are with no promotion? Please share in the comments.

Resources: Cover image by


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