Quiet promotions, as the term suggests, refers to employees being promoted without any formal or official announcement or recognition. When and how does this happen? Well, it usually happens when some employees are asked to leave, say during a mass layoff, and others — from amongst the remaining ones — are expected to take on their responsibilities without being formally recognised for doing so. Quiet promotions can have a negative impact on the individuals and the organisation as a whole.
Pankaj Lochan, ex-CHRO, Jindal Steel & Power, says that the reason for the recent layoffs in many organisations is the pressure on the bottom line or top line and the need to be more efficient in the event of a recession.
However, this often leads to the remaining employees having to take on additional responsibilities without any official announcement of a promotion or any change in compensation.
Lochan explains, “In some cases, employees try to show their value by taking on extra responsibilities to avoid layoffs. This has led to a situation where employees are essentially incentivising the employer by doing more work, at the cost of their own work-life balance.”
Rajesh Rai, VP and head – HR, Global Logics, explains that in any organisation, there may come a time when an employee may be asked to take on additional responsibilities. It could be to fill in for an absent team member working on a special project, or to cover for an employee who is away on maternity or paternity leave or on vacation.
“To ensure a positive experience, it’s important to establish clear expectations and objectives with the employee’s manager. The first step is to determine whether the added responsibilities are temporary or a formal promotion. In case of the latter, the benefits the employee will receive need to be clarified,” suggests Rai.
“Quiet promotion in any form is unfair. Giving more work to people without compensating and appreciating them in the form of a role enhancement or raise or both can significantly affect the culture and morale of the workplace.”
Rajesh Rai, VP and head – HR, Global Logics
Having an open and honest conversation with the manager can help the employees manage the extra work effectively. However, employees may feel hesitant to initiate this discussion, or worry about appearing uncooperative. In such situations, it is the manager’s responsibility to facilitate the conversation and help these employees understand their roles and responsibilities.
Adverse effects of quiet promotion
Quiet promotions can lead to a dip in the morale of the employees. When an employee is promoted without recognition, it can feel like their hard work and achievements have gone unnoticed. This can lead to feelings of disappointment, frustration, and low morale.
Lack of motivation
Quiet promotions also mean that employees do not receive the motivation that comes from being recognised for their hard work. Recognition is a powerful motivator, and employees who do not receive recognition for their contributions or promotions are less likely to be motivated to continue working hard.
“In some cases, employees try to show their value by taking on extra responsibilities to avoid layoffs. This has led to a situation where employees are essentially incentivising the employer by doing more work, at the cost of their own work-life balance.”
Pankaj Lochan, ex-CHRO, Jindal Steel & Power
Low employee engagement
When employees feel that their hard work and achievements are not being recognised, they are less likely to be fully engaged in their work and are definitely not going to contribute their full potential to the organisation.
Lack of growth
Being promoted quietly also means that employees miss out on opportunities to develop in their careers. When employees are recognised for their good work and their promotions are formally announced, they are more likely to be inspired to pursue further career-development opportunities.
Lack of transparency
Employees who do not understand how promotions are awarded may feel that the process is unfair or biased thanks to quiet promotions. This can lead to a lack of trust in the company and its management.
Unfair & unscientific
In recent times, there have also been concerns that layoffs are unscientific, and indulged in without proper time and motion studies or industrial engineering studies of the job roles, according to Lochan. This has resulted in employees being asked to take on the workloads of those who have been laid off, leading to increased pressure and stress.
Lochan concludes, that on the whole, “layoffs without proper scientific reasoning or communication are unfair to the employees and can lead to a negative impact on morale and motivation”. Companies should consider attrition and the cost of turnover while making layoff-related decisions and taking into account the impact on the remaining employees.
Rai says, “Quiet promotion in any form is unfair. Giving more work to people without compensating and appreciating them in the form of a role enhancement or raise or both can significantly affect the culture and morale of the workplace.”
Rai points out that, quiet promotions eventually lead to burnout, which should be avoided as they have a deep impact on the engagement, happiness and productivity of employees. “Practising an open and transparent culture encourages dialogues between employees and managers to enable them to manage situations, delegate responsibilities, and achieve shared success together.”
Clearly, quiet promotions among employees can be harmful to the individual and the organisation. It can adversely affect morale, motivation and engagement of employees. It can also deprive employees of precious opportunities for career growth. Therefore, it is important for organisations to recognise and reward employees for their hard work and achievements in order to maintain high levels of morale, motivation and engagement.