Article: Quiet Promotion : All you need to know about this double-edged sword!

Employee Engagement

Quiet Promotion : All you need to know about this double-edged sword!

A quiet promotion can be beneficial for employee growth and as a path to the top, but it can also lead to feelings of stress and burnout.
Quiet Promotion : All you need to know about this double-edged sword!

Terms like ‘quiet quitting,’ and ‘quiet firing’ have already become a part of workplace discourse for some time now, but now another related concept - ‘quiet promotion’ - has cropped up. What does it entail?

A ‘quiet promotion’ is when an employee is given additional responsibilities or work without a formal promotion. It can be gradual as the employee takes on increased tasks outside of his/her job description, or it can be the result of restructuring, layoffs, or a coworker leaving without an immediate replacement.

The tight labour market and fears of a recession has resulted in more companies ‘quietly promoting’ employees as a way to avoid layoffs and meet budget constraints.

Corey Berkey, SHRM-SCP, SVP, People & Talent at HR service provider Employ Inc, says a quiet promotion can be beneficial for employee growth and as a path to promotion, but if not communicated efficiently, it can greatly impact feelings of stress and burnout.

Though this phenomenon of silent or hushed shifts in workplace dynamics has existed for a long time, the new term for it has led to more conversations on it, including on social media, as well as evidence of how these shifts are impacting employees and their decision-making concerning job experiences.

In fact, 40% of workers report that high employee turnover at their organisation results in an increase in their workloads, which has led to an increase in stress levels and feelings of burnout in 78% of workers.

While learning new skills and taking on additional responsibilities is often an integral part of developing in a career, and shifts in responsibilities a natural part of the business cycle, Berkey says it’s important to be aware of how your role is evolving and being open to change, but also consistently evaluating if your priorities are aligned with the work you are doing.

Quiet promotion a double-edged sword?

Quiet promotion can certainly have both negative and positive consequences.

An employee taking on additional responsibilities can have a great opportunity for growth, and this can be seen as a stepping stone to a larger promotion. Berkey says it can also be an avenue for an employee to gain experience in a new skill or experiment with duties that may fall under another department or role to potentially pursue a career switch.

“Taking on additional tasks isn’t inherently a bad thing, and with proper training and communication from leadership, organisations can invest in their workforce’s continued learning and development,” he says.

While 26% of job seekers report that what they want most from employers today are promotions, employees also desire flexibility and autonomy (49%), praise and respect (39%), and compensation (38%) at higher rates.

Berkey adds that when workers are given perks such as remote work opportunities and receive regular recognition, they are more willing to take on added responsibilities for the good of the company.

However, quiet promotion take an unfavorable turn when changes in responsibilities are not communicated properly to employees and results in increased feelings of stress and burnout.

“With many companies scaling back on necessary hiring or unable to hire qualified talent in today’s tight labour market, stress levels among those being 'quietly promoted' are expected to continue to rise. To make matters worse, the number of employers offering mental health benefits and resources is at the lowest level in the past three years,” Berkey adds.

65% of HR decision makers say their job is more stressful today than it was a year ago, and these sentiments can ultimately result in bitterness, more turnover, and disengaged employees.

Berkey also notes that expecting employees to consistently take on added responsibility outside of their established job description without clear communication, a promotion or pay compensation can be detrimental to any company.

Are you being 'quietly promoted'?

In an ideal world, any changes or increases in responsibilities would be clearly communicated, but, then, our world is far from ideal.

Berkey suggests employees be on the lookout if they are consistently being asked to complete tasks outside of their scope of work, and how this is impacting their current workload.

Being ‘quietly promoted’ can take place slowly over time as they get adjusted into a job, but it can also be the result of a vacancy in another role that has yet to be filled.

“If you feel you are being ‘quietly promoted,’ now is the time to approach the subject of a formal promotion or pay raise with your manager. Showcasing that you can successfully fulfill additional responsibilities is often a great way to make the case for a promotion. If your employer has made it clear that a promotion isn’t on the table, consider exploring other perks offered by your employer, such as greater workplace flexibility. Otherwise, it might be time to begin your job search for a position that better matches your skills and desire for growth,” he adds.

Why do employers quietly promote workers?

Often employers ‘quietly promote’ workers during times of economic downturn or periods when the company is experiencing high turnover.

Berkey says when businesses go through hard times, it can be easy to assign additional responsibilities to current employees without properly considering how it may affect their day-to-day workload.

“Sometimes employers are unaware that certain tasks might be out of your scope, so it’s important to remind your manager of the additional tasks you take on and how you can address them going forward.”

Do ‘quiet promotions’ hurt businesses?

Yes, ‘quiet promotions’ hurt business greatly when they are communicated poorly and no promotion or pay raise is in sight, notes Berkey.

“Completing increased work results in productivity issues and burnout, resulting in increased turnover. Turnover and high stress levels can greatly impact an organisation’s culture and employer brands, making it more difficult to hire new staff in the future. “

Only 37% of workers feel like they are paid fairly, and employers who fall short on compensation expectations may see an increase in turnover as it was the most significant factor among workers who left a job in the past year.

Berkey says high organisational turnover is hard to overcome for any business, especially during a tight labor market and looming recession.

How to undo the damage from 'quiet promotion' to employees?

Creating and communicating a clear path for internal mobility opportunities and growth is a great way to set the standards for promotions moving forward.

Berkey suggests that having internal rubrics and frequent employee reviews to provide feedback can provide touchbases for employees to be clear on what they need to achieve in order to reach the next level.

“If offering a promotion isn’t in the cards, organisations can consider other options to retain employees. While sought-after benefits, such as workplace flexibility and work-from-home options don’t replace fair compensation and earned promotions, they can be a great way to show employees the organisation cares about what employees want. “

48% of recruiters say, in the past year, they have had candidates turn down an interview or job offer due to a lack of flexibility or remote work options.

While some damage may be irreversible, Berkey says it’s never too late to implement practices surrounding how promotions will be handled within your organisation.

How do you turn a quiet promotion into a pay raise?

Having a transparent conversation with your manager about areas you have gone ‘above and beyond’ is a great idea when looking to secure a pay raise, as per Berkey.  

“It’s no secret that money is on the mind of job seekers and continues to play a major role in worker happiness. In fact, 67% of job seekers want higher compensation from their employer today, and only 37% of workers feel like they’re paid fairly by their employer. Doing research into industry standards for your role, and communicating clearly what you are asking for is a great way to pursue a salary increase,” he adds.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations

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