Are you telling your team members the truth?

A good leader should take the time to explain why a promotion did not happen.

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I have no doubt your initial reaction is “Of course!” But based on the several hard conversations recently, I’m beginning to think some members of leadership are not entirely honest.

What am I talking about?

Promotions, or the lack thereof.

I hear the following comments from people looking for a promotion more times than I can count:

“They keep moving the bar.”
“They tell me when the promotion will happen, but then it doesn’t.”
“I feel like I’m stuck.”

In digging in deep, there are a couple of concerns that are clearly consistent in each situation.

The first is the role of the one seeking a promotion. Many have a lack of awareness of their own responsibility when it comes to getting promoted. I wrote about the concept of making oneself easy to promote recently. There is absolute accountability on the side of the individual.

The second is the falls on the shoulders of the manager. What I continue to see is a bit of a pattern. Their managers are not sharing the honest and yes sometimes painful truth as to WHY the employee is not getting promoted.

I get it. Telling someone, why the answer is no, is never easy and frequently fraught with perceived (real or otherwise) repercussions. Explaining “why” is often harder and significantly more time to consume than just rattling off some “not now” or “someone else has the power” explanation. And, as embarrassed as I am to share this, I confess that I’ve done this myself. It’s never ended well.

So here are some more truths:

  • You want to be known as a good leader.
  • You want your people to be engaged, successful and fulfilled by their work.


Flip the perspective for a second. Do you remember that boss or mentor, the one that gave you that probably painful but kind truth about you?

  • You’d work for them again in a second.
  • You delivered for them in a way you’ve never delivered before.
  • They are part of why you’re where you are where you are today.

Wouldn’t you want the truth? I would too.

It is possible by thoughtfully telling the truth that you’ll get a better employee in the process.

Just a thought.

Originally published at

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