It’s Not Fair! What to Do When the Preposterous are Promoted

Last week I received a letter asking for advice about how to rally a young and energetic staff who were pissed off that a deeply mediocre colleague had been promoted. The question my inquirer posed was: “How can I boost morale within my team?”

On the off chance some of you have had similar experiences, I thought I would send along my answer:

“To me, there are few things more upsetting than watching others get perks/benefits/attention for sloppy work. I long to yell, “That’s not fair!” or “Can’t you SEE how ridiculous X is!!!”

In these moments, the hardest part is keeping the outrage from creeping into every conversation— because then you never get a break from it… and it takes on a life of its own.

In order to keep this in check, I would ask your colleagues to try to separate “complaint conversations” from other conversations: everyone needs to blow off steam, but putting boundaries around the commentary can be helpful.

When making this suggestion, it helps to present it with a bit of humor. So you might say, “In order to keep X and Y from continuing to suck all the air– and fun– out of the office can we decree 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. ‘b*tch-about-our-under-qualified-colleague time?”

Alternatively, I have had everyone pick a ‘gossip buddy’: one person in the office with whom they will complain– but no one else.

As noted, this keeps the anger from tainting every aspect of office life. More importantly, however, it gives you back a sense of control in a situation that is feeling out of control.

What you are likely to notice is that your under-performing colleague will feel a shift in the air….Not only is there something going on that doesn’t involve them; there is something going on that is HAPPY.

Thankfully, in my experience, time takes care of situations like this if you have the patience to wait them out— giving you a reason to be truly happy. “

Frances Cole Jones