About six months ago, I coaxed a top performer into a stretch assignment – basically taking on the responsibilities for two people who left earlier in the year. He agreed to it on a few conditions – a company issued iPhone, a mid-cycle salary increase, some additional vacation days and a promotion to the level the two former employees were at (one grade level).

I agreed to it, knowing full well that I was not going to honor the last three items. Yes, he’s doing incredible work (far more achievements in a few months than the other two did in two years), but he’s in his late 20s, and needs to learn that promotions take time. I gave him the same merit increases I give the rest of the team, and it wouldn’t be fair to them to give him a mid-cycle increase.

On the promotion, I never bothered to submit the paperwork because promoting him to the top of the IC structure before he’s 30 will create problems, and now there’s a hiring/promotional freeze. This individual learned another peer in another group is being promoted to that level he wanted before the freeze was put in place, and he was dismayed to learn his promotion didn’t go through. The last two weeks, he’s been very quiet – still putting out good work, but not offering up ideas and strategies like I expect. Yesterday, he made a blatant effort to show he executed more cost savings projects this year than six co-workers combined.

Should I confront him for his attitude? I don’t want it spilling over to the rest of his co-workers.

pucciot's picture
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Hi :

I think there are two things to address here.

-- One :  His behavior -- as you describe "Yesterday, he made a blatant effort to show he executed more cost savings projects this year than six co-workers combined."

* This is a simple matter.  You may choose to "forgive" this one time.  

And if he does it again then offer him the Feedback that saying that in front of others sounds like personal bragging and at the same time a slight insult to the rest of the team.  He should improve on that. Because it tears down the team.

-- Two :  I will be as kind as I can and point out that what you have admitted to doing is a unethical to my eyes ....

"I agreed to it, knowing full well that I was not going to honor the last three items."--- " it wouldn’t be fair to them to give him a mid-cycle increase"  " I never bothered to submit the paperwork because promoting him to the top of the IC structure before he’s 30 will create problems."

I'm sorry, but it looks as though you may have lost a great deal of trust and credibility as a manager here.

An employee should expect his manager to be fair and honest.   If you could not really do a mid-cycle increase or a promotion, then you really needed to honestly let him know that.

I believe that you may want to consider apologizing to him that so much of what he wanted and expected,  you were not able to come through with.

You have a very critical moment here to repair and re-build your relationship with this direct.  And then _realistically_ Coach him up for promotion

It would have been much better for him to feel the pinch of the truth hurting earlier than the double punch of not getting what he wanted and knowing that you had lead him to believe it was possible.


I'd say something like :

"Jack, You really laid out some conditions that I, as a manager, don't have as much control over as I would have liked.  I'm sorry that I lead you to believe that mid-cycle raises and early promotions were within your grasp as this stage. This was a fault of mine.   You have indeed done so much great work and earned my respect and some great results that will be considered as we go forward.    I will do my best to make sure that you are recognized for your great results here in the workplace AND your great relationships with co-workers.   That is something that can do.   What I owe you now is a very realistic expectation for raises and promotions ...... 

Don't let this opportunity go by.  It sounds like this Direct has great potential.  

Don't be "that Boss" on his resume.    

Good Luck.




Prichm01's picture

Fortunately, it was in an O3, and not showing up other employees.  He’s trying to demonstrate how he’s going above and beyond for the organization, thinking I’m going to act on it and push that promotion through.  Then again, we do a dashboard of savings, so anyone can see it.  Why should he bother with petty statistics and measurements? 

We do mid-year adjustments and promotions on an as-needed basis, and his would not be an early promotion.  I already did that for a lesser experienced subordinate earlier in the year to keep her in the fold.  He’s been in the grade 16 months and the parameters are 18 months with 12 as an early consideration for exceptional performance ratings (which he does meet, but I’m working to knock that down a bit on the EOY review).  I figured I’d save some salary budget by not backfilling two roles, and keeping the salaries static until next year.   For every dollar I pay him, we’re getting about $300 in savings, so why mess with that?

Deals do get reneged all the time.  He’s probably mad I’m a better negotiator than he is.


kank's picture

see subject

mmcconkie's picture

Your employee is likely already looking for a new position. If he gets silent, but is still putting out good work, that would make me think that he is not wanting to damage his position in your company but wants to find a place where he can move up. Honestly, if I were your direct, I would probably start looking for a new position as well if I were your direct. Dishonesty from my manager specifically regarding my pay and career progression would be justification enough for me to start a search immediately. 

I hope that Kank is correct and that this isn't an actual event. If it is a real event then you have likely lost this top performer, and you need to never repeat that behavior again if you want to keep performers. Don't forget that a manager is responsible for 2 things, results and retention. This is going to severely damage your retention which will have a direct impact on your results as well. You HAVE to be honest with your directs if you want them to stay with your company and continue to increase in value. 

TJPuccio gave a great recommendation with the apology. Start there. See if you can repair the situation. If I were your employee, the only way the situation could really be salvaged were if you actually filed the paper work for the promotion and the pay increase. If you're shut down from there by those above you, fine. But if you don't even try to keep your word, that is a HUGE problem. 

mrreliable's picture

"Deals do get reneged all the time.  He’s probably mad I’m a better negotiator than he is."

No, he's not mad you're a better "negotiator." He's mad because you told him things that you knew weren't true in order to manipulate him. That's disrespectful. Respect is a two-way street. There are other words more accurate than "negotiate" to describe the situation.

How can you expect someone to trust you when you blatantly tell them things that you know aren't true? When someone makes specific agreements with you they had no intention of living up to, do you just shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, I guess that makes them a better negotiator than me?" Of course not. I don't mean to be negative, but you seem to wear commitments you never intended to follow through on like some kind of badge of honor. I guarantee you the people you're dealing with don't look at it the same way.

I've negotiated with people who have intentionallly misled me, and I never gave them a second chance. A reputation for honesty is something that can be easily lost and might never be regained. I feel bad for you that you're in an environment where intentional deceipt is looked upon as accepted strategy, but fortunately that's not the case everywhere. I agree with the other responses who say your best plan is to apologize, but that won't do any good unless you're sincere about it. You don't appear to believe you've done anything wrong.

We're not talking about "spin," where you might package something with a big red bow to put your best foot forward.

 I'm not successful because I'm the sharpest tool in the shed. I'm successful because I've earned the trust of good people around me, and vice versa. We negotiate all the time. When they make a commitment, I know they will follow through, as will I. I can't imagine the suspicion and antagonism that would result if people started saying things they know aren't true.

tabitharizzio's picture
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Sounds like you're not a manager who recognizes results & talent.

Age shouldn't be a factor w/respect to earning promotions.

How would you like it if executive leadership didn't promote you or even consider you cause you are too old! 

Furthermore, this arrangement doesn't sound like a true "stretch" assignment, rather an opportunity you, as a manger took to delegate two FTE positions into one.

As a manager it would be wise to recognize and acknowledge when a direct delivers results not only w/in their role but additional assignments w/in another FTE role.

Lastly, to never intend to honor your agreement violates one of the manager's tools philiosophies.  

Ask yourself, if this direct didn't fulfill their end of this agreement would you not have provided feedback on their lack of performance?  Agreements aren't and shouldn't be one-sided.

I'd recommend you review some manager's tools podcasts and start to re-build this relationship w/this direct.

You risk losing this direct as they clearly have significant drive, accomplishments, and deliver results which are recognized elsewhere.

Manager's should want to inspire and really motivate people to work for & with them.  Your management style is not one of inspiration, rather one-sided & filled w/sterotypes all of which don't produce results for companies.

timrutter's picture

I'm with kank on this one and if he and I are wrong, then there's someone who needs to get out of management today (if not sooner)

jsigned's picture

And post the name of your company, so we can avoid working for / doing business with a highly unethical organization.  If I got one word of one of my mangers behaving in the manner you describe it would be their job that was in jepordy.