When To Promote

Dear Management Doctor:

I'm a Planning Director in a small agency and have lost my top quality Senior Planner. Salary makes it impossible to recruit an equivalent planner to replace the departing team member. Remaining staff is (1) a Senior Planner who is retired in place and cannot be motivated, removed, or depended upon; (2) an Assistant Planner with two years' experience, excellent motivation, great knowledge, weak writing skills, and still green behind the ears—overall great potential, but currently not capable of taking the ball carried by the departing planner.

The Assistant Planner basically says, "I'm already doing as much work or more as the Senior Planner. I meet the basic qualifications of the job description for the senior. I really need the difference in salary, so if you don't promote me, I am going to need to look for a higher paying job."

With the current market and the low salaries paid by our agency, he can easily find a job as an Associate Planner at a higher salary than he would make as a Senior Planner here. If he left, we have a poor performer and two new planners.

Do you promote the Assistant Planner?

Signed,
Stuck behind a rock and a hardplace

Dear Stuck,

This is a classic issue I hear over and over again. You will have to make your own decision on this but consider the following:

  1. I'm never convinced that a government employee can't be motivated, or removed. It takes work but can be done. You don't do either the employee or yourself any favor by putting up with it.
  2. The operating theory should be, when in doubt, don't hire or promote.
  3. All planners need good writing skills. Get this planner back to school to re-build the writing skills. Convince him or her that you can help build that writing skill, which will eventually hold him or her back anyway.
  4. If money is the only motivation, you will probably lose him or her anyway.
  5. Will you end up with yet another Senior Planner who doesn't meet the qualifications?
  6. I'm somewhat less bothered by the green behind the ears. I like to stretch the people with good potential.

The Management Doctor

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