Posted on 28th February 2018 by Jon Terry

Here's How You Should Tell an Employee They Didn't Get a Promotion

Here's How You Should Tell an Employee They Didn't Get a Promotion

Telling your employees they didn’t get the internal promotion they were hoping for is never easy, especially if they work hard and you value them and their contribution to your team. However sometimes the other candidate is just that bit stronger and sometimes you need to go with an external candidates more varied skill set. With this in mind, we thought we could share some top tips on how you can give them the bad news while ensuring they still feel motivated about their current position.

Don’t wing it, prepare

In this situation, you can’t just wing it and hope for the best. You must plan and prepare what you want to say and how you want to say it. You don’t want to cause offence or lose a good employee, so you must ensure that you do your best to make sure the conversation goes smoothly. One way to do this would be to write down your thoughts and notes on a piece of paper and read them out loud to ensure your tone is not condescending or offensive.

Show empathy

Being empathetic during this process is essential, you want to retain your employees so you must be mindful and thank them for applying for the job. Let them down gently and inform them that you think it was a good thing they applied for the position. You should then be clear and inform them that you’ve decided to go for someone else, but this shouldn’t stop them from trying again in the future. Nor does it mean you don’t value you them highly.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep

While delivering the bad news, it may seem like a good idea to make promises for the future. However, this is could be dangerous territory if you are setting unrealistic expectations. You don’t want to leave the employee feeling even worse in the future. Therefore, you must be truthful and set realistic growth goals. You don’t want to lose a great employee by promising too much, so make some suggestions on what they could do better next time. Focus on them growing as a professional.

Agree a Personal Development Plan

The chances are that they didn’t get the job because of a skill set they didn’t have or experience they have not been able to gain. If you are telling them that but are not explaining how you plan to be able to give them the chance to develop at the same time, then you are in danger of sounding like they’ll never get that job in the future either. Talk to them now about how much you value you them and how you are going to help them get the job next time.

Arrange a follow up meeting

Once you have delivered this news, it is important that you arrange a follow-up meeting, even if you feel as though the employee has taken the news rather well. This may not be their true feelings so you must ensure that you check on them later on while emphasising their value. Again, this is where you could make suggestions on how they could improve and grow. Get them motivated about their current position.

Always remember these simple rules

To summarise, it is important that you always remember these tips when giving an employee the bad news that they aren’t getting the promotion they are after:

Do’s Don'ts
Be mindful Go in unprepared
Show compassion Overpromise later promotions
Praise and thank the employee Wing it
Discuss growth and development Offer opportunities that may not occur

Want some more advice?

Wright Solutions have over twenty years experience in the HR sector and work personally to provide high-calibre candidates for specialist executive roles in human resources and learning and development.

Please feel free to call us on 0121 222 5599 for an informal discussion or send us an email to

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Jon Terry

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