How to Tell Someone They Did Not Get a Promotion

No one likes breaking bad news to people. As a leader, sometimes that goes with the job description. It may be logistical issues or maybe even breaking the news to someone about a promotion they will not be getting.

In this episode, I will answer a listener question along these lines.

This week’s question comes from a listener who was actually in this situation. How do you navigate any fallout from having to hire only one person out of a pool of leadership options?

Often, we want to overcomplicate things. We end up spending more time and effort worrying about the outcome than needed. The best answer is always to tell them the truth. Sit down one on one and explain to them. There can be only one person, and sometimes, it is a matter of one person being the best fit out of a strong pool of candidates. Let them know if there was a key differentiator. If there is hope for a promotion in the future, communicate that.

Don’t try to manipulate it, and don’t overcomplicate it. Deal in facts. Most of the time, people will understand. Sometimes, they may leave. Each person has to make the decision they feel is best for them. Great leaders know how to have hard discussions, free from manipulation and in a way that communicates the point with empathy and discipline. It’s part of your job: Be fair, be firm, and you will be fine.

The quicker you have the conversation, the better it is for everyone. Be to the point. Be clear. Be respectful and be kind. Success takes time. Help them to understand, you don’t have to do it all at once, you just have to get it done.

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