Periodically, we ask three HR pros how they’d handle a difficult situation at work. Today’s problem: Employees are grumbling that management picked the wrong candidate for a supervisor’s slot.
Executive VP Brian Bullock poked his head into HR manager Butch Rosenbaum’s office. “Hey, have you heard any rumors going around about Sean Ferry?”
Butch looked up, confused. “No,” he said. “Why?”
“Well,” said Brian, closing the door to Butch’s office and grabbing a seat, “I’m thinking our decision to promote Jen instead of Sean might not have been a popular one.”
Butch leaned back in his chair. “OK, we picked Jen because she was the most qualified and because she had the most experience. I think we made the right decision. Don’t you?”
“Yes, of course,” said Brian. “We mulled it over, and I do believe we made the right decision for the company.”
“But …?” Butch asked.
“But I’ve been hearing that the rest of the department isn’t exactly in love with our decision,” said Brian. “I think they would have preferred Sean.
“Plus,” Brian added, “based on Sean’s demeanor and behavior since the decision, I’m a little concerned that he may be thinking about jumping ship to a place where he can move into a managerial position.”
“Well, we definitely want to keep Sean,” said Butch. “Just because he isn’t ready to supervise people now doesn’t mean he isn’t a valuable employee.”
“Right,” said Brian. “So the question is: How do we prevent Sean from leaving? And what about getting the rest of the department to warm up to Jen? Is there a way we can do both at the same time?”
If you were Butch, what would you do next?
What your peers had to say
A VP of HR in Minnesota
What he’d do: First, I’d make sure we schedule a three-month evaluation for Jen. Then I’d speak with Sean to see how he’s feeling. If he says he’s thinking of leaving, I’d speak with upper management about potentially getting him a slight pay increase and some new responsibilities.
Reason: We think we made the right decision now, but we need to check on that a couple months down the line to make sure. And if Sean is as valuable as we say he is, let’s make him feel that way by giving him some extra compensation and new work.
A senior VP/HR director in Tennessee
What she’d do: First I’d sit down with Sean and let him vent about how he’s feeling. Then I’d explain to him why we made our decision to promote Jen instead of him and let him know he’s of great value to the firm and has a bright future with us.
Reason: We made our promotional decision based on qualifications and experience, and I think that’s the right way to go. If Sean decides to leave, then that’s his decision, but the least we can do is let him know his value to the company and where we see him going with us in the future.
An executive director in Texas
What she’d do: I wouldn’t do anything about the employees complaining in the department. I would speak with Sean, though, and ask him if he’s concerned about how Jen will do running the department.
Reason: This is a matter of Jen proving herself. We don’t owe an explanation to the rest of the employees about our decision, and once Jen gets her feet under her, things will turn around. And asking Sean how he thinks Jen will do should let us know how he’s feeling and allow us to take some action to hold on to him.