Demoting a recently promoted employee? Take care

You have reservations regarding Joe's ability to qualify, but are pondering whether or not to give him a crack at the promotion from Grade II to Grade I. If he fails to measure up, you can always downgrade him to his former classification.
By Raymond Dreyfack August 1, 1998

You have reservations regarding Joe’s ability to qualify, but are pondering whether or not to give him a crack at the promotion from Grade II to Grade I. If he fails to measure up, you can always downgrade him to his former classification. Right?

Not necessarily. If you find yourself in this spot, the recommended approach is to think twice, then once again. Don’t take our word for it. Have a chat with Maintenance Supervisor Edgar Bronson.

Electrician Grade II Sam Richter was a 5-yr veteran of the maintenance department and a conscientious employee. When his Grade I coworker, Bill Fallon, opted for early retirement, Bronson figured Sam might be the logical guy to step into his job. Or would he?

Bronson wasn’t so sure. Sam was hardworking, loyal, and could use the extra pay that would go with the promotion. But he was no Bill Fallon. Bill worked faster, was smarter, and picked up on instructions more readily. On the other hand, maybe Sam would grow with the job. Bronson decided to give him a chance.

Sam got the good news on the 10th of the month. By the 25th of the following month, despite Bronson’s best efforts to qualify him, Sam didn’t come close to meeting departmental standards. Bronson decided that however hard he tried, Sam would never achieve Grade I caliber. Regretfully, he broke the bad news.

“Sam, I’m going to have to set you back to Grade I.”

“But you never gave me a chance.”

“You got enough time to convince me that you won’t make it no matter how much of a chance you get.”

Richter threatened to file a grievance.

Question : Do you think Sam can successfully fight the demotion?

Walker’s verdict: “Keep him in Grade I for the time being at least,” Plant Engineer George Walker instructed Bronson. “Performance standards in the department are based on the average productivity of all Grade I electricians. They don’t necessarily apply to new or less experienced employees. If this case goes to arbitration, Sam might have a good chance at winning it.”