Promotions are exciting, but when you get promoted ahead of colleagues with longer tenures and now oversee them, it can lead to a tricky situation. For one, how can you ensure you get their support and respect?

Beyond tenure, there are several other factors that employers consider when promoting an employee, which is why high performers may be promoted ahead of their longer-serving peers.

“Those who have worked longer may not necessarily deliver better results than their colleagues,” said Ms Linda Teo, country manager at recruitment firm ManpowerGroup Singapore.

In particular, workers in companies or roles that are results-driven, such as sales and retail, may be promoted despite a shorter tenure if they consistently deliver quality work, she said.

Specialised skills and qualifications, leadership qualities, and fit with company culture are considerations that could come into play as well.

She said it is possible that promoting an employee over longer-serving staff may lead to resentment, and team members may undermine the promoted employee’s authority and abilities.

“However, it is more likely that the same will happen if the individual was promoted due to seniority or any other biased criteria other than competence.”

Employees promoted based on seniority without sufficient competence may not be able to handle the new responsibilities as well, affecting team performance and rapport, she said.

Those promoted to manage longer-serving peers should acknowledge that it takes time to build rapport and for staff to adjust to the power shift, said Ms Josephine Chua, a certified Institute for Human Resource Professionals master professional.

“One of the key steps is to establish the right tone, keep your staff engaged and listen to concerns with curiosity and the intent to understand,” said Ms Chua, who is director of human resources and quality at the Ramada and Days hotels at Zhongshan Park.

Ms Teo said it is important that newly promoted staff stay grounded and respect their colleagues, even as they oversee their colleagues’ work. They also need to communicate openly and clearly with their colleagues and be open to feedback and suggestions from them, as they may know some work processes better.

“To ensure their authority is not undermined, the newly promoted staff should clearly communicate their expectations, and outline their new responsibilities and scope of authority. To avoid any misunderstandings, they also need to set boundaries between their new role as a leader and their previous role as a peer.”

Newly promoted individuals should also lead by example by demonstrating their work ethic, commitment and professionalism, as proof that they can handle their new responsibilities, Ms Teo said.

To enable this, employers should provide training courses, an induction programme and mentorship opportunities with established leaders.

Employers and senior leaders can set up a structured assessment with clear metrics to evaluate all promotion contenders, to stave off resentment, said Ms Chua.

“It is important that companies create an environment for all employees to feel safe to compete in an equitable way.”

Text: Tay Hong Yi/The Straits Times