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Why promoting people for loyalty is a bad idea

Lydia Smith
·Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Promotions based solely on length of time an employee has been with a company could be detrimental to it. Photo: Getty

You’re doing a great job and you’ve got the results to show for it. Your bosses are impressed and hopefully, if things continue to go well, you will be in line for a raise in the near future.

There’s just one problem – you’ve not been at the company all that long and the management tend to promote those who have been working there longer, even if you’re matching or succeeding their performance.

Lots of businesses cite that you need to be working there for a certain amount of time to expect a promotion. And while loyalty to a company can be a good thing, promoting people solely on the length of time they have spent in a job can be extremely detrimental to a firm.

“Loyalty isn't a bad thing to consider when promoting someone, but you need to take other considerations into account as well such as a person's ability to do their job, their previous job performance, leadership capability, and their performance potential,” says Mary Pharris, director of marketing and communications at Fairygodboss.

“A promotion shouldn't be based on loyalty alone because you want to encourage employees to keep growing and take on new challenges.”

READ MORE: What questions should you ask if you're being interviewed for a job?

One of the main problems with promoting employees based on loyalty is that it means reward is not necessarily linked to performance – and the decision of who is rewarded can be arbitrary.

It can also mean those who perform averagely – or who coast along in a company – get pushed ahead in their careers simply for staying put, even if they are not a good fit for the business any more. Those who work harder and make a big impact in a shorter amount of time may end up missing out on career progression if there is nowhere to promote them to. This can lead to talented and skilled employees leaving to go elsewhere.

Another key issue is that promoting people for being loyal can lead to the wrong people in higher positions, which can have a negative impact on the company. Being a good manager relies on developing certain skills or having character traits that not everybody has.

Research shows that companies frequently choose the wrong people for management roles. According to research by Gallup, only one in 10 people possess the necessary traits – like being able to motivate and engage employees, being assertive enough to overcome problems, being able to create a culture of accountability, or building relationships that create trust and making decisions based on productivity rather than politics.

If someone has coasted their way up the ladder, it can harm both the company as well as employees on lower rungs. According to recent research, a bad boss can have a significant impact on both worker productivity and mental health, which in turn has an effect on worker retention.

That being said, loyalty to a company can be a virtue if employees are more inclined to go above and beyond in their role and perform well. Fostering loyalty among staff is essential for the long-term success of a firm, as it decreases turnover costs, creates a stable work environment and helps boost productivity if workers are happy and fulfilled.

READ MORE: When should you consider changing jobs or your career?

However, there is no reason someone who has been working at a company for five years is more committed than an employee who has been there for a year, but worked far harder.

At the end of the day, firms should be promoting staff for their contribution to the company. Not only should they be doing a great job, they should be reliable, somebody colleagues want to work with and importantly, open to upping their professional skills and continuing to learn and develop.

“Employers should look at an employee's previous job performance and their ability to meet and exceed goals,” Pharris says. “They should also look at personal professional development goals of the employee, leadership skills, and evaluate an employee's potential to take on new responsibilities.”