Who Should You Promote

Your director wants you to fill an open leadership position by promoting an employee from your team. Who should you promote? No pressure, right?

Generally, you want to find out some things about which employee you’ll pick to promote to management:

  • Which one wants to do more than collect checks (not that getting paid is frowned upon!)
  • Who on your team has a passion for your industry?
  • Does anyone on the team stand out as a leader when you’re absent or busy?
  • Are they good at their job, at least?

You might be tempted to bump up an employee with tenure like it’s some lifetime achievement award. Perhaps you want to promote the high achiever to have bigger responsibilities to go with their accolades. Don’t get caught up in that hoopla because they are not signs those employees will be credible leaders.

Here are four things to look for in an employee you want to promote into management.

  1. They want feedback. Some employees avoid performance reviews like a plague. Look for the employee that requests your review of their work. It shows you they want to improve, not just for themselves, but for the organization.
  2. They want to move up. Here we go again with proactivity. The employee you want to promote will vocalize their intent to move up the ladder. Don’t feel threatened by this news—be open to them sharing it with you. Recognize that your employee wants to invest their future within the organization.
  3. They have ideas and solutions. People complain, but they’re not doing anything to help. The right employee doesn’t only complain, but they bring forward an actionable idea and solution. That employee is prepared to handle the responsibility of the idea’s success or failure—kind of reminds you of your responsibilities now as a manager, right?
  4. They care about the organization. This employee wants to grow as a professional and see the organization grow, too. They’ll put in the extra time and effort needed (within the right work-life balance of course) to help the team. They are willing to share gained knowledge and can lead their peers to overcome professional challenges.

When you see those four qualities in one of your employees, you’ve caught lightning there. Picking the right person for a promotion will be rewarding, not only for them, but for your own career and for the organization. Just be ready to give them the facts of life about what could happen after the promotion.


WorkCompass’s award-winning performance management software is built for progressive organisations. Some of the most successful organizations in the US use it to transform their appraisals from dreaded annual conversations focused on judging the past to ongoing coaching focused on improving performance for the future.

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