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Why do people you don’t rate keep getting promoted?!

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There is little more frustrating at work than to see someone you don’t rate very highly getting a promotion. This can have a positive effect of course as it can spur you on to apply next time yourself. But if your hat was in the ring and your competitor got the job it can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Why do people who, at best, you think are fairly ineffectual, and worst, those you think are a complete waste of space, get a job they don’t deserve?

We look at some myths and explanations.

1. It’s just that their ‘face fits’

It can be hard to move on if you feel like someone has friends in the right places and that has boosted their career. On the plus side, assessment processes which are now often used in place of a single, subjective interview, has made it much more difficult for individuals to get ahead based on anything other than their own merit.

They are put through a range of assessment activities, assessed by a number of different assessors and evaluated where every score they gain has to be justified and evidenced. This may have been an issue in the past, but fortunately its much less likely to be the case now.

2. They know how to cheat an assessment process

This is unlikely, because, as mentioned in the point above, they will be assessed by several assessors (some of whom they won’t know); they will undertake unfamiliar exercises; they will have their performance evaluated against set criteria; and their scores will need to be justified, based entirely on their performance. They may well have prepared for an ADC or interview but this isn’t cheating, its just being smart.

3. They can talk a good game

Some people can be confident communicators, saying all the right things in meetings or one to one discussions but rarely following it up with action. If someone like this gains promotion it will soon become apparent. Then its for a line manager to address it. In an assessment, a ‘smooth talker’ will score well on certain aspects, perhaps team working, communicating, or even problem solving. But if they aren’t good at actioning things in real life, they won’t be good at doing so in an assessment either, and their performance will have some holes. But if they are still given a promotion despite this, it might be that they have enough other positive skills to outweigh their deficits.

4. They’re too young

Young or less experienced firefighters can have as much to offer as more ‘seasoned’ firefighters, perhaps just in different areas. They may not have the breadth of knowledge or experience as some ‘older hands’ but to gain early promotion they will have a range of highly effective skills and attributes. It can be hard to see beyond their number of years in the Service but it’s worth keeping an open-mind as to what an individual can bring to the role.

5. They’re not good operationally

Some FRS are moving from purely competency/ PQA based assessment to further reflect the importance of strong operational capability. This is then backed up with excellent leadership, problem, solving and situational awareness skills which can also be evidenced in non-operational assessment contexts.

Of course, just because you do or don’t rate someone as manager potential doesn’t make it true. We all have our own beliefs, preferences and, whether we like it or not, prejudices. Where we value one set of behaviours in a manager, others may disagree. The best approach is to positively focus on our own career hopes, plans and strategies and how we are going to achieve our personal potential.

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