My Executive


    Aug 23, 2013

    Treat employees like leaders, not with pity

    Promoting someone at work may seem like a pretty straightforward task - the candidate has performed very well and is ready to take on a higher level of work.

    But what happens when you promote someone and it does not work out? Can you return that person to his old job?

    The chief executive and founder of the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs, Mr Cliff Oxford, shares his views with The New York Times.

    What do you do when a high-performance-happy employee wants to do more, wants to learn more and wants more responsibility, but then struggles in his new role?

    We have three options. If we keep them in that new spot, we have suddenly shifted from being a high-performance-happy workplace (in which employees are happy because they're performing well and at a high level) to a phony happy workplace.

    If we fire them, we send out a message contrary to the notion that you must "work hard and you'll be rewarded".

    If we return them to their original position, we risk turning a formerly high-performance-happy employee into an unhappy employee.

    Which option would you suggest?

    Choosing option No. 1 would turn the employee into a loser.

    And option No. 2 would turn the company into a loser.

    I think option No. 3 is the best choice - but don't forget this reality: I don't know of a lot of examples of fast growth where going back ends well.

    So what is a company to do?

    I would suggest giving the employee an opportunity to go back and perform and be high-performance happy again. But don't try to over-manage the situation.

    That means no big announcements from the company, no welcome-back parties to the old job, and let the person keep the raise that came with the new position.

    Explain that the success of the move is entirely up to the employee. If the person goes back and mopes and complains, you can work out an exit package.

    Treat the person like a leader - not like a loser who needs pity. The CEO sets this message: We need winners in every role.