Promoting the Right Employee

You've promoted your best employee--and now your business is in turmoil. What went wrong?

Q: I own a small auto-body repair business. I recently promoted my best repairman to shop foreman. Now the rest of the shop is in turmoil. Production and quality are slipping, and arguments are a daily occurrence. He is one of the most knowledgeable people in the business, and if I put him back on repair, he will probably quit. He can find a new job in a day. He's that good. But since the promotion, all the other employees resent him. What should I do?

A: A common mistake business owners make is to promote the best performer, not realizing that the skills and behaviors that make a performer successful are not always the ones that make a successful manager. For example, you do not need to have any social skills to be a mechanic. As a matter of fact, the mechanic who does not like to socialize with others may be more focused on the work and, as a result, produce more than someone who is equally skilled, but may be more likely to interrupt others to tell them a joke, gossip or otherwise waste productive time. In addition, it is not unusual that the best performer is also highly competitive, a trait that can be detrimental as a supervisor or manager, since the person may end up competing with the people he supervises. The best manager is one who is able to give credit rather than seek it and, more important, is one who is well-liked.

Next Step
Not getting the performance you want out of your employees? Read Why Employees Don't Do What They're Supposed to Do and What to Do About Itby Ferdinand F. Fournies.

Many executives still don't understand how important it is that managers have good social skills. When you define social skills as being well-liked, you will still hear the occasional athletic coach who says something like, "It is not my job to be liked; it is to produce a winner." Ask yourself whether Joe Torre, manager of the New York Yankees, or Bobby Cox, manager of the Atlanta Braves, are liked by their players. While some will point out the occasional exception, the rule is that in order to get people to do their best, they must like you. Don't misunderstand-there are many managers who are well-liked who are poor managers; however, there are no truly effective managers who are not also well-liked.

There was an article in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail last year titled, "When Good Workers Make Bad Managers." Walter Johnson, CEO of H.J. Heinz, is quoted as saying, "Don't fall into the trap of promoting people into management jobs they aren't equipped for or adept in in order to get them more compensation or a different title. Rather, pay them well for the work they do best."

One thing you might consider is to put your supervisor/manager in a position of Senior Advisor to the mechanics where he helps them with difficult problems. You might make the position a status position and one that pays more than the top mechanic. Make him a teacher rather than a manager. Given what you have said, he will get a lot more satisfaction from that position than he is from his present job. In addition, I'm betting that he will thank you for the change. The negativity that surrounds him every day is no more fun for him than it is for you.

Aubrey C. Daniels, Ph.D., founder and CEO of management consulting firm Aubrey Daniels & Associates (ADA), is an internationally recognized author, speaker and expert on management and human performance issues. For more about ADA's seminars and consulting services or to order Aubrey's bookBringing Out the Best in People: How To Apply The Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement, visit, or contact Laura Lee Glass at (800) 223-6191 or

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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