Promotions: 4 tips to handle them right

Some employees are happy doing what they’re doing and do it well. Others hunger for career development and growth within your organization. In other words, they want a promotion.
Providing such opportunities is often just the thing to keep top talent from jumping to another employer.
But before you haphazardly start promoting from the ranks, consider the following four tips to help the right workers move up the ladder, without setting the organization up for a legal fall.

1. Follow promotion procedures consistently. Failure to follow your organization’s promotion policy may give the perception of discrimination. Individuals within a protected class may claim that the company bypassed its own processes to favor other employees. Example: After unsuccessfully applying for several promotions, a black employee applied for a position that was offered to a white male colleague. When the white co-worker refused the offer, the company reposted the position. It did not offer the job to the black employee, despite the fact that he was the only remaining candidate. The black employee sued for race discrimination, pointing out that, according to the company’s usual practice, once a chosen candidate withdrew, the promotion would be granted to the remaining candidate. A court sent the case to trial. Reason: Departures from procedural regularity might signal discrimination. (Norris v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co.)

2. Promote the best employee for the job. If you fail to promote the most qualified individual, consider the effect on other staff members. Why would a star performer continue to work hard when the most important qualification for getting the promotion is whether one belongs to the department manager’s clique? Best bet: Rely on performance evaluations. If managers don’t do them effectively, they run a greater risk of making a poor or discriminatory decision.

3. Be realistic about promotion opportunities. Some departments don’t have any room for growth. Be honest about that fact, and discuss opportunities for lateral transfers to other departments. Also, some employees don’t deserve their desired promotion. Never give them false hope. Rather, discuss how they could improve (e.g., take a technical class, get more management experience, work on interpersonal skills).

4. Base promotions on impartial, job-related reasons. When deciding whom to promote, make sure you’re using an impartial selection process to pick the best candidate. That’s the only way to stay on safe legal ground if an employee you passed over for the slot sues you for discrimination.

The losing candidate would have a tough time proving that no reasonable person would have chosen the winner. Clearly demonstrating the winner’s superior qualifications will sink a failure-to-promote case.

By : Manager’s Legal Bulletin

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