Monday, July 2, 2007

Stressed for Success

Usually promoting an employee is cause for celebration and pride. But for some, it’s a source of deep anxiety. What can you do if a promotion leaves your employee plagued with anxiety?

There are several ways to understand why a promotion may paradoxically be undermining your employees’ confidence. For one thing, they may feel, correctly, that no one has prepared them for the new role. That’s fairly common. Someone in the organization has judged them as qualified and ready – and pretty much left it at that. To get the support they need, the staffers are going to have to set pride aside and ask for it directly. In a face-to-face conversation with the person who made the promotion decision (not in e-mail, which can get passed around), they should express that they are excited about the new opportunity and that in the interest of living up to expectations, they’ll be asking for help.

It’s also helpful for to understand the complex emotions that can be stirred up by success. The more these anxieties are acknowledged and normalized, the less they will interfere with the transition to a new position. For instance, it’s important to admit that along with the gain, promotions involve losses. Employees lose the comfort of a familiar role and the relationships that went with that. They may also harbor fears of being exposed as an imposter. It’s not unusual for the newly promoted to worry that their inadequacies were just hidden before and that they will now be suddenly revealed. Another common reaction: guilt. A promotion means becoming boss to former peers, or defeating other contenders, after all.

These strange, uncomfortable feelings will pass with time. That’s another thing to remember. Meanwhile, since some of the old buddies might now be your direct reports – or because they might not want to reveal vulnerability to anyone at the office – they should be advised to share their feelings safely, with an external confidant: a professional or a trusted former colleague. One of the worst mistakes executives make on being promoted is to compensate for the stress by denying their feelings and believing they know everything they need to know. Such denial is a good way to undo their one step forward with a step backward.

For more tips, Click here for a site that provides six helpful steps to easing the promotion transition.

For the full story, please visit Business Week

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