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Stepping Up THe Ladder of Hierarchy

By Prof. (Dr.) Dewakar Goel

What is promotion? If you ask this question from a common man the answer will be giving the meaning of enhancement, up gradation, up liftmen and elevation in the status or the position, the person is already having. Going back to the history, the promotion became relevant for the defence personnel more than anybody else because the promotion used to link with the change in role, responsibility and authority. Coming to the Govt. sector, it represents power, position and authority. Basically, promotions are identified as various ladders in the triangle of hierarchy where the bottom is broad with narrow apex. Everybody wants promotion in life, whether he is a professional or not. Even a housewife requires change in status. She becomes mother to get authority for commanding children and with a span of time as mother-in-law she gets greater command over the daughter-in-law and it goes on to the stage of becoming a grandmother. The idea of giving these examples in the context of self-promotion methodology is to generalise the issue for easy acceptability.

Now let us talk in terms of today’s industrial scenario where the changes have occurred in leaps and bounds with the objective performance appraisal and compensation management, especially when financial incentives are losing its charm. There are large numbers of professionals who are having monotonous job throughout their life in spite of stepping up in the ladder of hierarchy like Air Traffic Controllers, Pilots and the women working in the nursing profession and the same is true with scientists from Grade A to E undertaking research. Now the question comes whether everybody wants promotion and if the channels are not available, what should be the alternative to have self promotion?

I have analysed this issue from different dimensions, especially when the roles are changing and human resource management is becoming pre-dominant. The idea is to have optimum utilisation of available human resource in order to achieve organisational objectives and to pay in correlation with performance. Your boss becomes the most important person for giving the real meanings of promotion; rather he becomes a catalyst and sole inspirer for motivating the subordinates by generating the feeling of self-promotion.

Now let me talk about the methodology which was adopted by me while dealing with Human relations at all metros of the country as head of HR discipline dealing with thousands of employees. I may recall that as a manager I had a stenographer with me. Now, crossing the ladders of hierarchy as General Manager today I find the same stenographer with me as my secretary with no change in her job profile. She says, Sir, you have enjoyed at least 7-8 promotions with power, position and change in responsibility & authority, but look at my level, I was coming to you for a dictation 25 years back with a short-hand book to type the same on typewriter. Now, today as your secretary, nothing has changed except that you are speaking and I am typing on computer directly though today, my designation is Manager (PS) which was there earlier as Stenographer. Is it a promotion for me? What meaning I should give?

The above experience made me think about the self promotion methodology. Now, can we achieve that? Yes, the answer is affirmative. It is not possible to have the hierarchy like bureaucrats, police and defence personnel everywhere to have proper ranks and with every promotion a great amount of change in the job profile. Moreover, the place, commands and people are different. It all generates excitement to enjoy the promotion. But here my endeavour is to think about self promotion as to how one can achieve. The majority of evocations are giving opportunity by offering visible promotions. Even a Priest becomes Head Priest. The sister in the church acquires the status of sister superior and sister major. A salesman working in the departmental store also becomes senior salesman, supervisor & a manager. A clerk working in Govt. retires as an officer; however, the nurse may not have the scope for promotion because, if there are a hundred nurses in a hospital, only five can acquire the status of Head Nurse on promotion with higher responsibility and authority. Similarly, in teaching profession all teachers cannot become Principals or Head mistresses.

Now, how one can feel self-promotion and what can be the methodology for achieving this line of action. I feel that the Boss can play an important role in making the self-promotion concept a reality. When you have full faith, trust and confidence in your subordinate than why can you not delegate the authority? The head of the institution delegates authority to his immediate subordinate without giving promotion in a formal manner. But by giving some freedom of decision making and exercise of financial powers on your behalf can really make him to experience promotion within himself. Self-confidence, self-esteem and self-respect are the key words for enjoying self-promotion. This can only work, if there is constant and willing support.

Now again, I come back to the core issue of “Are you ready for promotion? Well, while undertaking my research for management of Stress by different professionals, I observed from the responses to my detailed questionnaire that it is not non promotion which comes as stressor for most professionals but it is job dissatisfaction which is the cause of stress. Look at the self employed persons in different jobs. They have no aspiration to acquire any position but work for own satisfaction; they are self motivated and look for not only more money, but perfection as well.

It is in the hands of the boss to generate the feeling of self promotion in his subordinate. Again the core issue comes to my mind as to “What is promotion? Much away from the general concept of designation. Yes, promotion is having the meanings which are relative and naturally differ from person to person depending upon priorities, value, upbringing, interests, working atmosphere and also influences emotional and psychological bent of mind.

I experienced that not everybody is ready for promotion; it all depends on “At what cost? Am I ready for promotion at the cost of my ethical values? Certainly the answer will be “NO”; yes the answer is a BIG NO. There are people whose hobby is profession – the lucky persons but “very few now”. Can you lure them with any kind of promotion? They have their own definition of promotion; yes they want promotion of their skills in the form of enhancement to acquire expertise.

Let me touch on the most important aspect of this article where I am going to talk about the people who are not interested in promotion though they are eligible to rise in the ladder of hierarchy. Let me take the example of a senior clerk, who is qualified and experienced; the management conducts the departmental examination and he successfully qualifies in the written examination, group discussion and interview. Finally, based on his merit, he is offered promotional transfer but he declines the promotion and prefers to remain at the same place as senior clerk. Over a period of time a situation comes when his colleague who accepted promotion come back with power, authority as a leader to the station as his boss. It is quite surprising that the concerned employee is not feeling de-motivated or frustrated because it was his own decision to decline the promotion and he was well aware about the pros and cons. According to him, the family commitments and stability at a particular place was more important rather than promotion. He is comfortable because financially there is hardly any difference in his salary as compared to his boss. How do we justify this position?

I have seen while working at the International Airports of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai that a large number of subordinates are there who have refused promotion. They are qualified, hard working, and sincere, with required job knowledge and have a great amount of potential to grow up the ladder of hierarchy. They have all the qualities of the leaders, but still they refuse and decline promotion and prefer to remain at subordinate position because the life after duty hours is more important for them. It was a great surprise seeing their batch mates as their bosses who have accepted promotion, but it is not generating any inferiority complex in them. They do not lose self-esteem; they do not compromise with their work. I could not observe any frustration in their mind reflected in the work for not getting the promotion. Rather with pride they say “I refused promotion because of personal circumstances”.

Now let me talk about the people who have not accepted promotion mainly because they feel lack of confidence in shouldering the higher responsibilities. They also weigh the difference of salary which will be almost equal for them in case they accept the promotion, because they consider transfer on promotion as a big impediment in the smooth running life; basically, they are averse to change.

Lastly, I would like to summarise that promotion should be given the meaning not as a word but as a meaning which differs out of sensibility of a person. I say words have no meanings but we give meanings to the words. I write here the alphabets “GODISNOWHERE” Now, take the meaning GOD IS NOW HERE or GOD IS NO WHERE. It is all individual perception. Similarly, promotion or non-promotion, the meanings are in your hand as you take it.


The writer is General Manager (HR), Airports Authority of India; HR Consultant, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Montreal, Canada; Human Performance Technologist, International Air Transport Association (IATA), Geneva, Switzerland.

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