Pitfalls to avoid when promoting staff from within your company

Internal promotions can lead to teething problems and it’s up to managers and senior leaders to recognise these potential pitfalls and try to avoid them for the sake of the newly promoted employee.


Internal promotions are generally fantastic. It shows you’ve been recognised by your company, your hard work has paid off and now you get to move up the ranks with more responsibilities and most likely, more money. But they do come with their own problems and can make the transition very difficult for some people – especially if they were competing with others for the job.

While those who are in line for an internal promotion should be prepared for these teething problems, it’s up to managers and senior leaders to recognise these potential pitfalls and try to avoid them for the sake of the newly promoted employee.

A frosty reception 

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When an internal job comes up, there will likely be a number of people going for it, which means when one person gets hired, the rest get rejected. This could give way to resentment and lead to a frosty reception for the newly promoted employee, particularly if some of the unsuccessful candidates have been there longer.

If enough people are treating you like you don’t deserve the job, there’s a good chance that you’ll start to believe it.

This can make the promotion incredibly difficult for the successful employee and can even create a toxic work environment that will make them not want the job.

After all, if enough people are treating you like you don’t deserve the job, there’s a good chance that you’ll start to believe it and even if you don’t, feeling like everyone hates you isn’t much better.

Lack of formal training

Depending on how far away the new job is from the old one, whether it’s a new department, a different floor or just a direct move up on the same team, an internal promotion can often leave out a lot of the training that might normally be given to an external candidate. Instead, internal hires are left to sink or swim.

Think about it: an external candidate will need to be familiarised to the company, shown around, introduced to people and more than likely, given a handover and directed in the initial months of the job. While an internal hire may not need a tour of the building, they should still be mostly treated as a new candidate because it’s still a new job with a certain amount of settling in – especially if they have become a people manager for the first time.

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Internal hires being left to fend for themselves as if they should already know everything can leave talented employees looking to hand the job back.

As a matter of fact, research cited in the Harvard Business Review showed that 35% of employees rated internal moves they had made to be as difficult if not more difficult than joining a new company.

Internal hires being left to fend for themselves as if they should already know everything can have a really negative impact and leave talented employees looking to hand the job back.

No onboarding

Aside from the training that can often be left by the wayside, employees who are already in a company’s system can often be forgotten about when it comes to updating HR records. When a new starter is coming in, this often sets off a series of events such as getting their equipment ready, making sure they have a swipe card, setting them up on payroll, etc.

There is nothing more disheartening for a newly promoted employee than to discover that their pay has not been corrected only when that first month passes.

But when a newly promoted employee is already in the system, there is a danger that those updates can be forgotten about. Are they entitled to extra benefits in their new role? Do they need a company laptop that they didn’t need before? Do they need extra permissions or logins for their new role?

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Everything that would be set up for an external candidate should be set up for an internal one too as if it’s their first day on the job.

Not to mention, the increase in their salary. There is nothing more disheartening for a newly promoted employee than to discover that their pay has not been corrected only when that first month passes.

Not a straightforward move

Finally, because a newly promoted employee is already in the building, the lines around giving notice and leaving their old post can be blurred. If they left a company for a new job, they’d have to give a certain amount of notice, usually a month and once they left, they wouldn’t be expected to continue working for their old company.

However, it’s not so easy to escape this way when you’re still in the same building. It’s important for managers and employers to make sure there are systems in place to make it as clean and smooth of a transition as possible.

The promoted employee shouldn’t have to straddle their old job and their new job at the same time, especially while trying to figure out their new job with very little onboarding, no company laptop and bitter colleagues to contend with.

Be prepared for bitter colleagues who were not successful. Talk to them once they find out they didn’t get the job.

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All leaders, hiring managers and HR professionals should be aware of these potential struggles an internally promoted employee may be going through and check in with them to ensure they’re okay.

Make sure you have a step-by-step onboarding guide for internal hires in the same way you may have one for external hires. Treat their first day in the new job the same way you would treat anyone’s first day and have everything ready to go.

Finally, be prepared for bitter colleagues who were not successful. Talk to them once they find out they didn’t get the job, make sure they are understanding of the decision and watch out for negative or toxic behaviour.

Jenny Darmody is the growth editor at RECRUITERS.ie, Ireland’s most trusted recruitment partner. Jenny is also a former journalist, specialising in all things career-related and work-life balance.

Featured image: Getty


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