There is an old saying “that we are all promoted one step beyond our competency”. The saying should be “that we are all promoted one step beyond our current competency” as in some cases people are able to upskill themselves to the new role.
However what do you do when the person cannot close the competency/skill gap?
Let’s start with how the person is feeling, they will be feeling inadequate and that is not a nice feeling, as no one likes living a lie.
So why does a person not step down from the promotion? It usually is a matter of pride or social shame as it becomes public that they have failed. This is so wrong as there should be no shame in making a mistake and correcting it.
The feeling of shame is all in the person’s head as it is the bigger person who puts their hand up and says “No thankyou this is not for me”
Sometimes there are other forces that is not allowing the person to get back to what was working for them and this can be family, friends, their partner, financial or social pressure.
One of the competency gaps can be people skills. This is very common within a technical employment arena. When they are very good at the technical part of their job, management sees them as an ideal manager of people. Whereas the reality is they are good at the technical part of their job but this does not make them a leader of people. When management promotes someone to management in a technical role and the person cannot close the competency gap then they have created the “Sad Peter syndrome”. Where the person is drowning in the new role and just like someone who cannot swim and gets over their depth in a swimming pool they start flaying their arms around until they can grab hold of a person. And a person drowning in their new role behaves exactly the same way.
When someone is drowning in their new role it is up to the person who promoted them to pull them aside and help them correct the situation. And if the senior manager does not do this then the organisation starts to see them as inadequate as a senior manager.
To get someone to right the wrong is not a matter of telling them they have failed in the new role. It is a matter of counselling the person by helping them understand how happy they were before the promotion because of their ability to do the technical part of the job. And the senior manager who made the promotion needs to put their hand up and say that they made the mistake and own/take the blame for the promotional error.
This way the very good technical person returns to what they are good at and the organisation can get on with finding a manager while still retaining their technical guru.