Employee Performance and Promotion Myths

By Michelle Malay Carter on October 4, 2007 

Relative Potential?Employees should be promoted based on contribution.? ?Jim Stroup, Managing Leadership Blog*

Not many would argue with that statement, but I am going to take a shot at it.

Employee Performance Myths

Employee Performance Truisms

1. Employees should be promoted not based on contribution but rather on POTENTIAL contribution. Unfortunately, organizations do not know what this means, much less do they have a systematic process for identifying it.

2. Excellent contribution in a current role means they are excellently suited for that role. They may or may not be ready for a promotion. Promotions should be based on work level, problem-solving capability. When their mental bandwidth matures into the next level, they should be promoted to the next level. Unfortunately, organizations? development plans do not track this factor, and therefore, do not align individual development planning with this. This leaves some employees with problem-solving capability ahead of their knowledge, skills and experiences and leaves others receiving training and developmental experiences prematurely.

3. High potential people are not always your best performers. Why?

Jim Stroup?s blog post also made the comment that: ?Employers are complaining that it is so hard to find the right people that they are frequently settling for second best.? With our research showing that one in five employees is currently capable of higher level work, I wonder how they feel being past over for promotions and then asked to commit themselves to the leadership of second best?

*I agree with the basic premise of Jim’s post which was not specifically about this issue.

Filed Under Employee Engagement, High Potential, Managerial Leadership, Talent Management


3 Responses to “Employee Performance and Promotion Myths”

  1. Jim Stroup on October 4th, 2007 4:12 pm


    I agree with your myth explosion about potential not equalling performance. I also agree that superior performance is not proof that a person has found his or her optimal niche.

    I also, as it happens, agree that promotion should be based on potential, and I love the insightful argumentation you provide for it in your presentation. You highlight a very difficult but vital duty for managers to shoulder and discharge. They need to find ways to uncover the potential of their employees so it can be expressed for the benefit of both the employees and the firm.

    Actually, this can be done, but it requires some thought and intelligent application. Many managers, though, don’t understand the need for it and don’t bother with it. But your explanation about how being underutilized can cause morale and productivity problems is right on the money and should be carefully and thoroughly explored more by people interested in this topic.

    As for my comment in my post, I was trying to contrast ‘contribution’ in an expansive sense with the sort of seniority calculations that often go into promotion decisions, and which would place part-timers at a distinct disadvantage.

    On the one hand, I wish I had made clear the broad manner in which I was using the term. But, on the other, if I hadn’t, we might not have had the benefit of such a great response!

    Thank you for your visit, your terrific observations, and your work.

  2. Michelle Malay Carter on October 4th, 2007 5:59 pm


    Thanks for being so gracious when I did take your comment out of context. I tried to clarify that with my asterisk, but I don’t know how clear that was.

    I wasn’t using your words in order to directly contradict you; I was using your words because they provoked some ideas that I wanted to express.

    Sounds like we have many similar philosophies. I look forward to continued dialog. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Adekola Aeez Adewunmi on June 1st, 2011 6:49 am

    promotion is the advacemaent of an employeee rank or position in an organizational hierachy system. however, pronotion is a tool to motivate an employee in an organization, if an employee is motivated he or she will put his best into the productivity of such an organization.