How to Engage the Employee You Didn’t Promote

BY Kathy Crosett
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We’ve all had times when we haven’t been able to give an employee a key assignment or the raise they deserve. Some employees will accept those situations and continue to be engaged. But, after a while, employees who receive too many pieces of bad news gradually disengage. Here’s what you can do to turn the situation around.

Paul LaRue, in a column for Upwardsleader​.com, uses a balance scale as a metaphor for employee engagement. The scale can easily become negatively unbalanced when employees feel they’re in an unfair work situation. LaRue states, “[n]egative impacts to your staff almost always outweigh the positive.” If you were thinking that letting people leave early one afternoon makes up for asking them to work late for months, you’re  wrong. Giving someone a different office or a new desk will not be enough to heal the wounds they feel after you give a co-​worker the job they wanted.

To keep employees engaged after a negative work action, you need to dig deep. Think about specific rewards the slighted employee might enjoy. They might want more flex time, or they might appreciate your public praise for their role in a big project. Remember that scoring points on the positive side of the scale is not a one-​for-​one initiative. Depending on the employee, you may need to come up with several positive actions to offset the damage done from one negative action.

To succeed as a leader, be mindful of how your specific actions impact employees. When you suspect that someone feels hurt or disappointed, talk with them directly. Explain why you made your decision and then offer to help. Maybe this employee would benefit from the chance to run your weekly meeting. Giving them a more visible role in your organization can build their confidence and allow you to train them to be ready when the next opportunity arises.