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What to do when you don’t promote an employee

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A just-published study by HR consultancy Robert Half has revealed that many Hong Kong job candidates lack key leadership potential.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of Hong Kong bosses and senior HR practitioners surveyed have refused an employee a promotion in the past three years, with almost half (46%) citing a perceived lack of leadership skills as a top reason.

In other findings, 46% of bosses have allowed an individual employee to work within a different team to help maintain motivation after a promotion knock-back, while 42% have given them a different project to work on after being refused a promotion.

From dwindling morale to shrinking motivation, it’s clear that many Hong Kong employers recognise the potential negative impacts of denying promotions to employees. Other steps include allowing employees to shadow other employees (37%), delegating responsibilities (34%), and encouraging their input in challenging situations (21%).

“While being offered a promotion is an incredibly rewarding experience, failure to secure a promotion can demotivate employees, and make them lose their enthusiasm and confidence in their role and professional abilities,” said Elaine Lam, associate director of Robert Half Hong Kong.

“This is why employers need to take the necessary measures to make sure those team members still feel sufficiently engaged and motivated in their role by, for example, providing them with exciting projects, new responsibilities or other team members to work with.”

“Being denied a promotion is undoubtedly a disappointing experience, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be more career progression opportunities in the future. Because of this, employees must recognise the importance of resilience in the face of disappointment and maintain motivation and continuous improvement on their path to eventually achieving their goals.”

The survey by Robert Half of 225 Hong Kong business leaders was conducted in December 2018.



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