You could hear the pure joy in Sarah’s words in the email. She was announcing the promotions of three of her managers to higher level manager positions within the organization. Sarah extolled their virtues, recounted their successes, and gave each one of them her heartiest congratulations, and encouraged the staff to do the same.
If you looked at the numbers, as much of the non-managerial staff did, you began to notice a recurring pattern in the department. In the past eight years, there had been about twelve promotions of existing managers into higher level managerial positions. In the same eight years, the number of non-managers in the department who had been promoted into the management ranks? One.
It wasn’t that the opportunities weren’t there. In that same time period, there had been five openings for a manager within the department. All save for one was filled by an outside candidate. It wasn’t that employees in the department hadn’t applied. In at least two of those instances, staff from the department applied for the positions. What were they told? “We’re not even going to consider you for the job”. Great recruiting tool, huh? In the one time when they did hire internally, an extensive search was conducted externally before management was forced to realized that no one had the skills that the person right in front of them had.
What Sarah and her predecessors in the department had done was to make management in the department an exclusive club. The velvet ropes had been put up and a ‘No Staff Allowed’ sign had been hung on them. On the other side of the ropes there were promotions and self-congratulations, all in view of those who knew, no matter how hard they strived, how far they advanced in knowledge or skill, they would not get the chance to pass beyond those velvet ropes. Their colleagues within the company, those colleagues with progressive managers, were moving up the ladder. Sarah’s people knew they could not even step on the first rung. The only chance they would have is to move on to another company. When that day came, Sarah and the group behind the velvet ropes would wonder why they were leaving.
They would not worry long. They would console themselves with another round of internal promotions.