How to motivate employees after they didn't get promoted

Written by simon foden Google
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How to motivate employees after they didn't get promoted
A brief lull in morale is normal, but negative feelings must not be allowed to linger. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Failing to get a promotion can be a huge disappointment for any employee. It’s a manager’s job to ensure that any such disappointment doesn’t affect a worker's performance. Letting a staff member's morale dip after an unsuccessful promotion bid could have a negative effect on her output. Help keep your employee motivated with a combination of encouragement and constructive criticism.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging


  1. 1

    Explain why your disappointed employee wasn't promoted, but don’t go into too much detail immediately. It’s hard to hear you’ve been unsuccessful, and many people will not want to hear all about why they fell short. Karen Todd, a human resources consultant, suggests saying simply that the successful candidate met the criteria for promotion more closely. Explain clearly that there were more applicants than there were openings.

  2. 2

    Offer feedback, but don’t give unsolicited feedback. Invite the unsuccessful candidate to attend an optional meeting to further discuss why she didn’t get the job. If she chooses to attend the meeting, outline the specific reasons why she wasn't offered the promotion. It’s fine to be honest about your disappointed employee's weaknesses here, but don’t focus the entire meeting on these areas. Highlight the aspects of her job she performs well in. If she doesn’t wish to attend, ask her if there is anything you can do to assist her. You could, for example, provide a feedback document.

  3. 3

    Give advice for improvement. The advice must be constructive and relevant to the employee’s job aspirations. For example, if your disappointed worker was passed over for a promotion for a project management role, give her advice on experience required for that role that she currently doesn't have.

  4. 4

    Provide mentoring for the employee. You can do this yourself, or have another member of your team do it. This gives the employee the chance to fill the gaps in her competence and experience and may help her get that promotion next time around. The employee should value the opportunity to improve with the help of structured guidance.

  5. 5

    Acknowledge improvements. Keep a close eye on performance to assess how your employee is getting on. It may be that her performance briefly dips. This is to be expected and provided it isn’t a prolonged decline, avoid bringing it up. Once she's taken your feedback on board and has had the benefit of your advice and mentoring, improvements should be noticed. Send an email, copying in a senior colleague that the employee respects, saying that you’re impressed with her recent performance and wanted to say thanks. Tell her how her performance directly benefits the organisation.

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