You’re doing it wrong | Stop turning high performers into bad managers

Stop turning high performers into bad managers

Deep Dive

Rewarding high performers with promotions has been the done thing since time immemorial. And those promotions inevitably lead to managerial roles. But what if high performers are bad people managers?

“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

So said Dr Lawrence J. Peter in his book The Peter Principle, a dead-pan Canadian satire on why businesses, governments and even societies which view success in a solely upward direction are doomed to fail.

He continues: “We behave as though up is better and more is better, and yet all around us, we see the tragic victims of this mindless escalation.”

While we only need to take the merest glance at history to see that what moves continually up must eventually come down, it’s hard to know, at a micro level, how to move away from this when it dominates the macro reality.

What can HRDs do to create a culture of reward, instead of promotion? And how do we remunerate without giving people with no managerial skill or experience the chance to be poor line managers?

“Rather than horizontal career paths (think ladder), you can have lateral career paths (think lattice/ crazy paving). So, rather than getting paid more money for managing people, you get paid more for the acquisition of additional skills and experience,” Helen Ablett, PR Manager for CIPD told HR Grapevine.

“This is where it's important for organisations to have specialist or technical progression routes for those that are doing well in their roles, but don't necessarily have the skills to manage others or don't actually want to. Organisations need to take a proactive approach to talent planning and progression routes in all areas of their business,” she concludes.

It’s important to recognise that internal mobility doesn’t have to mean taking on people management – though that doesn’t mean HR leaders can fail to have progression plans in place for every employee.

In a recent poll of 200 employees and talent specialists, Executive Grapevine found that 85% of HR professionals have found that internal mobility is key to retaining top talent. Indeed, the same poll revealed that 77% of employees stated that progression opportunities were a major reason for staying in their current role.

Ergo, without progression plans, people will leave.

“Many ‘managers’ who are seen as toxic did not start out that way.”

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