A lot of managers brag about how they toil to find the best candidate to fill internal promotion openings. But the folks at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business say that’s a crock.
New research from the grad school indicates that favoritism drives most of those decisions. Canvassing about 300 top execs of companies with at least 1,000 workers, researchers found:
- 92% have seen favoritism in employee promotions
- 84% have seen it at their own companies
- 23% said they practiced favoritism themselves
- 29% said their most recent promotion considered only a single candidate
- 56% said that even when more than one candidate was considered, they already knew who they wanted to promote, and
- 96% said they’d promoted the person they favored in the first place.
Can’t say we’re totally shocked by these results. People connect with their co-workers and peers on an unequal basis. Favoritism is a normal human behavior.
We were, however, a little bit surprised to hear these two bits of news:
- 72% of respondents said their companies have strict procedures designed to make the promotions process more objective, and
- 83% agreed that favoritism leads to poorer decisions.
Seems like something of a disconnect there.
Aside from the obvious morale implications, what does this mean for your company? Should ambitious employees start sucking up to their supervisors (although some would argue that the truly ambitious ones already are)?
Sucking up probably isn’t the optimum tactic. The study cited five top leadership qualities valued by respondents: “good communicator; ethical; trustworthy; honest; and good listener.”
Jonathan Gardner, who headed up the research, said, “Employees should keep in mind that despite widespread favoritism, objective measures such as past performance, leadership potential, and job-related skills are viewed as key criteria by those in charge of promotion decisions …
“It’s important for young workers to focus their efforts on these factors that are well within their control.”
And it’s equally important to remind your managers that promotion decisions should be based on merit, not personal preference.
For a link to the Georgetown study, go here.