Q: After I encouraged a talented member of staff to apply for an internal post, an external candidate was appointed to the job instead. How can I placate my angry and upset employee?
A: Dealing with an upset member of staff is always difficult, but when it comes to areas such as promotions, then immediate feedback on why they did not succeed is paramount.
You obviously feel slightly responsible for her present low morale as you recommended that she went for the promotion, but at that moment in time you strongly believed she was the right candidate. In order to implement a fair and equal recruitment process, the role was advertised outside the organisation. Consequently, from this stage onwards, you could not predict the quality of applications you received eventually.
Her skills obviously matched the job specification, and from what you describe above, both candidates were strong on paper. So was it down to your colleague's performance on the day? If so, have you discussed this?
Job interviews are nerve-racking occasions. Some candidates, when faced with rejection, often find it difficult to ask about how they did because they tend to take rejection personally. Therefore I hope you gave her some immediate and constructive feedback.
It's not an easy task informing a member of staff that they have lost out on promotion, especially when they may have felt that it was already in the bag.
Start off the discussion by talking about her strengths - you want to start the session on a positive note. Also ask how she felt it went. Feedback is a two-way process. It may be that she felt she under-performed on the day, but unless you give her the opportunity to have her say, then this could build up into resentment.
You do need to close the discussion with the reason why she was finally not chosen - and it needs to be solid. If it was down to the fact that the external candidate had more experience, then make her realise that this does not reflect badly on her.
You have not said whether your colleague will be working with the person you finally selected. If so, it is important that any possible ill-feeling your colleague may have towards this person is nipped in the bud. The last thing you want is a new person joining a team and not being made fully welcome.
Finally, do let your new member of the team know that your current colleague also applied for the role, so he or she is fully aware of the situation. If everything is out in the open, you shouldn't find yourself going down the recruitment path again in the near future.
- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo).
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