How to get that promotion

Left Brain vs. Right Brain

I had an interesting experience the other day. There's a job open in my department. We have interviewed and interviewed and interviewed and interviewed and... hm? Oh. Sorry. Got caught in a mobius strip there.

At any rate, we were still looking for just the right person when I got a knock on my door. It was Fred, a fellow who has worked for us for a long time, as long as I've been here, in fact. Fred's a good guy and a reliable, creative player at his job function. Never saw him as a manager, though. There are many, many great people like that, who slice through their job functions like hot scimitars through camel flesh, but you just can't imagine them leading a pack of wolverines into the hunt.

Anyhow, Fred was standing in my doorway and he said, "You found anybody for that manager slot yet?" And I think, oh no, this is going to be a bad deal. I like Fred. I don't want to hurt Fred's feelings. But Fred as a manager? Come on.

"May I come in?" said Fred. So of course what am I going to do. "Sure, Fred," I said.

"I've been thinking a lot about this job you're trying to fill and I think I could be pretty good at it," said Fred. He had a file on his lap and he opened it and referred to some notes. "I think there's an organizational issue at the center of the problem this job would address," he continued. I noticed he wasn't one bit nervous. Usually Fred seems a little nervous to me and this was sort of interesting.

There was, all in all, something new about him all of a sudden.  He was going on in a very rational fashion about the need for central control over a function that so far had enjoyed, at best, what Tom Peters would call "simulaneous loose-tight properties" in that ridiculous way Peters has of saying dumb things that stick in your mind for decades.

But Fred was continuing. "I've been here for a long time," he said. "And I'm finding that thinking about even the possibility of getting this job has energized me in a whole new way. I'm getting all kinds of ideas on how I could do new things to do my own job better, and also how all of us could work together more aggressively to make the most of a really great team we've got here."

Why not? I thought. We had no real answer yet. And if not Fred, who? Hadn't he in a sense earned the right to try this new thing, even to screw it up if it came to that? Why don't we ever see the good things that display ourselves too closely to our eyes? Why is a prophet never honored in his own country?

"Okay, Fred," I said. He stopped and looked at me with very big eyes, eyes gleaming with ambition and hope. "We have a couple more people to see, but I assure you that I'm going to think very seriously about what you've said."

"I have a lot more to tell you about if you want to hear it," he offered.

"No, Fred," I said. "I like what you've shown me today. Let me just think about things a little."

Fred rose to his feet with a somewhat timid smile, and a flash of the old fellow I knew popped out. I like him too. Then he left.

And now I'm thinking. If Fred hadn't been able to envision himself in the new role, I wouldn't have seen him that way either. But since he does? I do too. I don't really know what I'm going to do yet, not at least with the left side of my brain that thinks it's in control. The right side? I think it's already made up its very subjective little mind.

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I've got a receptionist who is better at bean-counting than any of my clerks. My Magic 8 ball says that one of them will be flying the coop shortly, and this girl would be great in the position. My boss is wary. He thinks she may lack some fundamentally necessary personality traits. She doesn't. She'll have to change her perspective and approach a little, but it's not much of a stretch for her. I've said all that to him, but he's as stubborn as.... an elephant...

If Fred is well-enough liked and respected by his co-workers whom he would now be managing, then you will reap unexpected benefits from giving him the promotion.

- you got a new manager on the cheap with no relocation or signing bonuses or outlandish salary to lure them away from their current employer

- you get to motivate the rest of your staff by showing them that it is possible to get ahead in your organization without having to leave your company to do it.

- you already know how to relate to Fred and Fred already knows how to relate to you and your organization, so his learning curve should be short

I would recommend that you make him spend a few days in some new-manager training right away though. One of the more useful things I learned was that when I was promoted to management because I was such a good Engineer, I had to learn to stop being an Engineer and start being a manager of Engineers.

Give Fred a chance. You seem like you would be a good mentor. It could turn out to be an achievement for you too for a couple of reasons. A. It is always more motivational to company employees to know that their company does promote from within and, B. If his ideas are initiated and are successful, it is an awesome reflection on you and your dept. I think you have a chance to mentor this person and harness his creative ideas into a winning situation for both of you.

Good points Tom!

A different Peter once wrote, "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." Fred is competent and a successful contributor at his current job. It is only natural that he would want to move on to big and better things. But is he really ready for the new position? That nagging voice (aka "intuition") is telling you to beware.

Assuming that Fred gets the promo, suddenly you have an unknown quantity as a manager AND you have to replace Fred's former position. This is a very risky move. What happens if Fred isn't any good as a manager? Do you think he'll take being busted back to his old position?

The safe bet is to continue to look for a manager. In order to keep Fred happy and performing at his current job, give him the usual line about being too valuable in his current position.

In the U.S., we have ended up with a work culture that rewards personality over performance- and we are reaping what we have sown. "Slic[ing]through their job functions like hot scimitars through camel flesh" isn't enough anymore, even though people like Fred have been auditioning to keep their jobs every day, and have been passing.

I don't claim to know the minds of middle and upper management. I am a temp. This wasn't my life goal- I studied psychology. I'm a writer. I have been a performer and have had many other wonderful experiences. But I am now a temp- and I have worked as an executive assistant at three different companies this year. Each each one of my three superiors did something I'm told is unprecedented- (s)he called my agency to say that I did a great job. Not one has offered to hire me permanently. I have worked at my current firm for over four months- an assignment that was supposed to last a week, before I kept being asked back. I watch my boss interview candidate after candidate for a job I am already doing, and doing well. Why is this? Why do my co-workers all look at me with incredulity when I answer "who knows?" to the question, "Why doesn't he just hire you?" Perhaps it is because 100 different "management gurus" and a thousand books have told management to respect their "guts" over hard work and performance. They are told what a manager/assistant/plumber/clerk/Indian Chief "type" is, and they put their blinders on.

I apply for "real" jobs, too, you know. They look at my resume, they see my highly-placed refernces, and they see the fact that I have worked successfully in several different industries doing many different things- and they're impressed. But rather than seeing me as someone verastile who can learn how to do anything, I'm always told, "we really wanted someone who has been more focused on this particular industry." More stereotyping. More blinkered thinking. When employers stop looking for stereotypes and start actually paying attention to individual records, to the assets in front of them, things may begin to improve in this country. But it doesn't look likely.

If Fred doesn't get the promotion, I hope he has the good sense to quit and find a place that actually appreciates someone who does his job well.

There is nothing as good for morale (and PR) as promoting from within. This is a great article with a moral. Aside from which, Fred sounds like a valuable team player.

Give Fred a chance, sometimes the best things come out of taking a chance on someone unexpected.

The response from Ivan is one from the type of management that has seen its day and needs to move on. When you tell someone that is excellent in their job that they are too valuable in their current position to get that promotion, do you really think there is any incentive to keep 'being too valuable in their current position'? From personal experience I can tell you, if the management values your effort and commitment, and contantly refers to you as 'their go-to guy' then refuses to promote you when the opportunity to do so is there, it is NOT a compliment, or a motivator. When given this choice, the only one that is left is to move on. Then you have two unknowns to deal with, the person you promoted over the excellent worker, and the position left empty by the excellent worker who was more appreciated by a different firm.

Eat your pizza by the slice, not all at once. Do not fill the management vacancy right away. Promote Fred to "Lead Senior Widget-Analyst", and tell him, "We cannot afford to your contribution to the operation all at once, but I would really like to see you pursue XYZ process improvement."

This way, Fred sees his path to management, and if unsuccesful, both you and he understand why the position went to someone else.

Mr. Bing - Here is how I see it. When you interview from outside the company you are being sold on the candidate by their resume and what they say. You don't really know much about this person. Since you are looking for some ideal worker in this role you tend to fill in the gaps with something closer to what you hope for. But you know Fred. There aren't any gaps to fill. You have to rationalize an unknown with potential both good and bad versus someone that is steady. I say go with Fred.

CS, your point is well taken. However, there may be things going on behind the scenes of which you are unaware. It is common for a temp agency to demand a substantial fee for hiring to a permanent job. After all, they would be losing your valuable services. Even if the fee is not substantial, it is entirely possible that your current assignment does not have a pot of money out of which to pay it.

It is a crazy world in which we live.

Ivan's comment is the typical micro-manager response that forces people to move on from company to company. I work in a culture that promotes from within, and if any of us on the manager-level were to be heard saying "you're staying put because we can't take the risk of promoting you and you'll be happier that way," we'd be skeward and find ourselves speaking with HR shortly thereafter. Sometimes its not only about what YOU want, its about what's best for the company and for the employee. Creating an environment of empowerment leads to new innovative ways of working. These are basic leader behaviors that unfortunately go unnoticed by a large number of the manager population; behaviors that help people succeed both as a manager and as a direct report. To keep people happy, you don't keep them down. You trust that they will perform when given the chance and take the risk. Its how business evolves and succeeds.

So, you have interviewed ad nauseum. Seems the problem is you do not know what you want, or you set the standard so high that the "right candidate" does not exist. In either case, you'll enjoy the prospect of continuing to interview until such time as the work winds up being done by others and then you can eliminate the position and save money. You will be a hero for having cut costs. It all makes good sense in the long run.

fred, maybe? The leadership paradigm focuses on tradition.

Traditionally the personnel manager falls prey to management control. I've seen people buck the line in job and promotion selections.

Who you have as a reference on your job app., in addition who in management is curently mentoring you, is 99% of the task.

70,000 Swiss watch makers lost their jobs when one innovation (quartz movement) by Swiss r&d was disregarded.

Management opined that: "Who would want a time piece not made with precision movements made out of intricate wheely gears"?

Seiko picked it up in Chicago; the rest is history! Quartz movement!!! 70,000 Swiss watchmakers lost their jobs! Management didn't listen!!!

Today, with A-123 systems lithium- ion cells are used to power cars. Technology is picking up momentum and is turning out to be a sure pop. Anybody listening? O.P.E.C.?

Today, if you want move up, you must apply for an upper level position. Talent is above that! Fred, no doubt, could write a good desk procedure. Can anybody else in the department write a good desk procedure??

People that come from low places become privy to banter such as: "If you need a patsy, go to the golf course; there are plenty out there. Just pick out a j---a--. Put the j---a-- in charge and you can do anything you want--party time!!

Some of the most successful managemnet people I knew sharpened their instincts in low places.

It is always assumed that fearless and gregarious people make the best leaders. Well, maybe for CEOs but what kind of job is it here? A mid level corporate manager? Thoughtful and likeable are better qualities for many of these jobs. Employers think they need to hire JFK or General Patton for every manager job out there but odds are, they really don't and would get better results from a steady eddy with knowledge and experience.


I love the closemindedness that comes with being a manager.

Loosen up. Enjoy life.

I know I do.


Before you stoop down from on high and give timid little Fred a chance, why don't you schedule a solid hour, shut the **** up, and listen to what he has to say? Maybe you will learn enough to justify one tenth of your arrogant self-important delusional way of thinking.

Give him the chance, you'll be surprised to see how he'll rise to it! If you don't he'll quit, or worse yet, he'll stay and underperform, derail company because he's not valued as important.

Go with Fred. Please. Show everyone who works for you that hard work can get you somewhere inside the same company. It's just so damn wonderful when people can get excited about their work. Go with Fred, or be prepared to lose him.

Dear Sir
I am of the belief that you hire for attituted and train for skill.
By all accounts he has the right attitude and therefore is likely to be easily trained. Perhaps you might want to consider that your hesitation lies with your abilities/desire/time to train and not his to learn. My gut tells me that anyone who is that competent, diligent and patient will attack his new found responsibilities in the same manner that has garnered your respect to date.

OK Bing - First a question for you... would you be settling for your man Fred, or cast in his new light is he really "just the right person" now that he's thought about his career and how he might fit the role?

If you were in a post lunch glow and it turns out you are settling then have the tough conversation and move back into your mobius strip.

If Fred looks like he might be just the right fit and may be a little later to the managerial game than others then for god's sake don't listen to that wimp Ivan and promote him today.

Be ready for the rest of the team to come knocking on the door looking for their next move but hey, that's why they pay you the big bucks.

Not so fast. How can Fred wallflower all night long and then expect the prettiest girl in the room to go home with him? Here's what Fred should have been told:

"Fred, I really appreciate your coming to me and I am impressed with your presentation and idea. And I must also be quite frank with you. This is the first time you have displayed any initiative that would impress me that you are a good candidate for a managerial position. Had you been doing this all along and had expressed interest in this postion from the start, your chances of getting it would have been rather good. After all, we want our best people to be upwardly mobile in their careers and hiring from within is always preferrable to going with an unknown from outside. There's an old saying that the best way to get a promotion is to do the work first. Your work here has been rock-solid and we're glad you're on the team. So here's what I'm going to do for you Fred. I'm going to communicate that you want to be considered for the position. We will but you through the selection process, just like every other candidate. We're very diligent in our selection of managers, so get your game on. Show us that you are ready to take on this role and you have an excellent chance of getting it."

Anyone can practice up on a few ideas they have read or heard about elsewhere and pawn them off as their own. But that does not mean that he is a good candidate. Just because an employee can envision himself in a new role, does not mean that he is qualified to get it. I once thought I'd make a good rock star and I never got any groupies.

Ivan asserts that promoting Fred is a problem because he is now creating two job positions to fill and because it goes against Bing's "intutition." The thing is, if you give Fred the "line" (Ivan's word) that "he's too valuable where he is," you will end up having far more than two empty positions. Fred is presumably just as good at recognizing "lines" as Ivan is, after all, and will realize that he has no chance of advancement in his company and thus no real incentive to keep working there. Bye bye, Fred! Meanwhile, all the other veteran employees at Fred's level will see what happened to Fred when he showed a little ambition and realize they're working in a corporate culture that will not reward them with opportunity. Bye bye, Fred's co-workers! All because "intuition" says it's better to gamble on an unknown commodity than it is to actually give credit where it's due. Even though "intuition" has been proven to often simply be a reinforcement of the "intuitor's" prejudices.

Promote if he can do the job. Where I work, promotion are given to those who "suck up" to upper management instead of those that can perform. We now have 49 people doing the work that 25 qualified people could do. This is because promotions are based on being "yes" men and women instead of based on skills. The good employees continually leave after 2 to 3 years.

There's no guarantee about anybody in this world.

Pass by Fred and hire Larry who may appear to be perfect but in the end is a schlep.

Fred may or may not work out, but the pro side of hiring him outweigh the cons: He knows the business, the people, from what you said he's already well received in the workplace. And he was courageous enough to put himself out there. He's already thinking about the tasks ahead.

He might not be "manager material" as you've seen before or read about before, but there's more than one way to get a job done.

I'm a project manager at a large consulting company. I have the fortune to interview many people for various positions in the organization for my projects. I strongly believe that the best talents generally come within the group or department. It is these folks for know the business and ways to make improvements like Fred. His renewed enthusiasm is refreshing and will provide him the drive to be successful. He has a vested interest in succeedng since he's a veteran at the company. I also strongly believe in gut instinct. When in doubt, go with your gut. If you're right in the middle, then give Fred a chance. It sounds like he has a lot to offer.

You go, Fred! And be advised Mr. Boss, if I were him and you passed me over after years of hard, loyal work, I'd stick it to you. Fred sounds like he is your golden gem, maybe in need of some real mentoring, but one of well worth the effort. I once had that opportunity at a Washington, DC hotel. The manager instead decided to hire, first some girl who smiled but had nothing in her head and second, his best friend. After babaysitting these two nitwits for a few months, I found something better than I even imagined and have since advanced well beyond the level those bozos could ever achieve.

Fred is expressing he is ready to move on to bigger and more challenging opportunities. If you don't promote Fred, he will most likely leave for another company that will. Then, you will be looking for a manager and Fred’s replacement.


It is that type of thinking that encourages people to climb the corporate ladder by working a couple of years at a firm and then moving on to greener pastures. Conventional hiring wisdon then says, "this person doesn't stay very long in one place". That outdated thinking is a one way ticket for multiple, company wide HR problems. The new school of thinking, ESPECIALLY with Gen X and even more w/ Gen Y coming into the job market forefront, is that if you have been in a position for 5 years or more without a promotion, your career potential is getting hosed. Any HR department that employs people under the age of 40 will know this.

Sure, there's a lot to be said for instinct. But I can tell you this as well, too. Always playing safe doesn't get you ahead, whether it's a companies staffing, technology, department planning or bottom line.

You ask what would happen to Fred if he didn't work out in the new position and the old one is filled. That is what HR departments are for. Working with your HR department to find another position for Fred so that he can still contribute, is exactly what would happen with a company that values it's more experienced, longer employed employees. Frankly, if a company wants to have any type of competitive edge, it cannot afford to disregard those values. And again, SHOWS that a company values its employees and cares, boosts employees amicable feelings toward their employer and prevents turn over in a company helping costs and moral. Those are always HR priorities.

In addition, I keep seeing stories asking what is going to happen when the baby boomer generation retires and the younger generations come into "power". My guess is that they will have a clearer idea of the latest statistics of how many "careers" the average person has in their lifetime, put more of a focus on transferable skills as opposed to a lifetime in one industry and won't be quite as apprehensive on giving someone an opportunity.

A gold watch at 67 just don't cut it no mo'. Lord knows, pensions and healthcare benefits in retirement sure aren't primary reasons for employment longevity anymore. There have to be other reasons provided by a company to motivate the person to stay. Internal promotion is one of them and accomplishes many company goals at the same time.

Oh, and if the argument of being to valuable in the old position is used, the $$ had better be there at raise time to back that statement up. If not, guess what will happen??? Bye bye, Freds of the world, on to greener pastures.

As for CS in NY, you hang in there, brush up on your selling skills, then start selling yourself and your transferable skills. Someone will snatch you up, you just wait and see.

If you decide that he earned the Promotion, do both him and yourself a favor. Schedule and send him to a "first time supervisor/manager" class and get him a really good mentor from another, but related, department. Do not try to mentor him yourself. This way both you and he can succeed.

This is in response to CS, about why (s)he cannot go from temping a position to being hired permanently for that same job.

1) The agency you're working through may have provisions in their contract to make that difficult and/or expensive.

2) The company you're temping for may have a policy against hiring a temp into a permanent position.

3) Your rate as a temp may be more than they're willing to pay a permanent employee.

So, what to do? Have a talk with your boss, telling him/her you're looking for permanent employment, at about 'X' dollars per year, and ask for their written recommendation and possible leads.

Don't mention being hired on for the job you're doing. Let your boss realize it would hurt to lose you, and realize they'd do better buying off your agency to keep you -- a proven performer -- especially since you'd be willing to come on board for only 'X' dollars per year.

At worst, you'll get a written recommendation and some leads. (Heck, they KNOW you're a temp. It's not like they're going to fire you for disloyalty.) At best you may get hired.

It seems to me that it's always best to source managers from within the company. The best managers know their companies and their teams well; only someone who already works at the company know those things.

I don't understand this mentality that managers must come from outside the company. Perhaps a large number of companies would be in better shape if they'd promote from within and let people who know the company run the company.

But that's contrary to what MBA schools teach, so that line of thinking isn't likely to take hold anytime soon.

Find a way to recognize Fred's advisory skills and promote him to a higher level of advisor positon to show him you value his contribution and to profit from his abilities at a higher level. He's shown he can do that. But, it does not sound like he is a manager. I have done both, and I am better suited to the senior advisor role. Managers must deal with people and not get sidetracked with innovation or consulting. Sad fact is that it is not fun to fire, hire, discipline, or develop people, unless you have the knack. I was often creative in finding ways to motivate and keep my group moving forward, but really preferred setting strategy. Hated the admin work. Seeing the long view and developing ideas is a gift, and every successful organization should find ways to reward those individual contributors. Another sad fact that many organizations give lip service to this but do not do it.

Promote Fred.

To Ed Bianchi and the others who have offered me temp advice, thanks. :) I actually know how the system works- my agency has assured me that at this point any fees would be waived. It is also important to know that hiring me as a temp actually costs the business MORE money than it would be to hire me "at my present salary." In New York, at least, it is not at all uncommon for an agency like mine to get a 50%(!) commission- in other words, my current place of employment is paying my agency twice as much money as I'm actually seeing in my paycheck. I've crunched all the numbers regarding salary and benefits, and this company could actually afford to hire me at a two-dollar-an-hour-raise with full benefits, and they would still be saving a good deal of money.
Update: Someone from "outside" has been hired for my current position and I have just been given two weeks notice (which is to their credit, since traditionally temps get no notice at all.)
Thank you, though- I appreciate your taking the time to encourage me, and I will keep plugging away.
Hire Fred!

Be sure to offer him only $500 more than he is paid now.. You don't want him to be greedy in the future..

Of course if he does not work out.. you can always pay a person from outside the company 20% more...

This happened to me.. I got the lowball offer and I turned it down and offered to negotiate but was rejected. One week later a new person was hired for $11k more or 20%...exactly what I thought the job was worth on the free market.

So it goes.

From reading these posts, it's easy to see who the managers are. Effective hiring managers are very careful in their selection of employees. A mis-hire, especially of a manager, is very expensive to a company. Every manager in his or her right mind will always seek to hire from within before putting a position announcement on the street. HR can really be a big help in this regard, but they can only do so much and ultimately, the responsibility falls to the hiring manager. Just because an employee "knows the business" doesn't not mean that he has the qualities and experience necessary to be a manager. In fred's cars he stood silently by and watched the manager work through several candidates before stepping up. Had he any real interest in the position and truly believed he was qualified, he should have applied for it before the manager had began screening external applicants. Sorry, but Fred blew it. He did not demonstrate that he really thingks like a manager.

Fred ,from the time he knocks on that door, he remove all the negative thoughts of rejection that may be given to him.

Do you know how hard it is to think to stand and knock and enter a door the will change everything whatever the result maybe. And having that done is not something every one can achieve.

I myself encountered a same situation but in my case i was rejected because they think im to young. But still i tried, after doing so rejection will surely hurt, but its better than asking everyday of your life "what if".

Believe me, the only way to know what the other person is thinking of you is to ask him.. Thats all.. Thanks..

We need more Freds in this world... and we also need more people in the right roles!

As a professional cognitive capacity consultant, I believe it is essential that employers and managers understand far more about human potential than the standard 'Meyers-Briggs' psychological assessments reveal.

You touch on the typical left-brain, right-brain dilemma decision problem that too often results in 'paralysis by analysis'.

May I suggest you (and your readers) interested in discovering more about job-role suitability do the quick, simple and free quiz at http://thebrainteacher.com/BrainBalanceQuiz.html

Some roles require analysis and others creativity. This quiz will help you and the Freds of this world make better choices!

Jonathan Crabtree