Honoring Justly: Pay Raise or Promotion?

November 30, 2000 · by James P. Cramer

Many feel compelled to acknowledge outstanding performance through increasing not only an employee’s financial compensation but his/her management role and breadth of responsibility as well. Before you do that, consider these things:

With year-end upon us, many firm principals feel compelled to acknowledge outstanding performance through increasing not only an employee’s financial compensation but his/her management role and breadth of responsibility as well. Before you do that, consider these things.

Management requires different skill sets. The qualities that make someone a good designer or a good project manager aren’t necessarily the same as those that make a good administrator. Extremely creative types are often frustrated and bored by tedious paperwork and planning meetings.

Not everyone’s career objectives lead to the boardroom. Many principals are bewildered by a lack of genuine enthusiasm when a good designer or project manager is promoted to a team or studio leader without advance discussion on whether or not such a move is wanted. There are many senior designers who have absolutely no interest in the headaches or politics of being a management “insider.”

Every advancement in a firm requires additional training. When people go from technical professional to manager, that’s where they fail most frequently. Why? Because most design schools never taught them how to manage or lead people, let alone how to interview and hire, give performance reviews or understand firm financial statements.

Don’t try to disguise a problem in pretty packaging. If a team or studio continues to be a source of problems and its leader is replaced at year end, the perception might be that it’s a punishment, not a reward. How the move is communicated and why that specific person was selected is essential to a positive beginning.

Pay special attention to your staffing mix. Many firm sub-groups fail simply because the chemistry or style between leaders and subordinates isn’t the right one. Savvy firm leaders understand the nuances of various personality types and take the time to make appropriate matches, knowing that increased productivity and morale will be the by-product. The firm leader’s chief objective is, in business terms, to “maximize output.” Ensuring people’s advancement matches their objectives goes a long way toward that end.

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