How to Motivate a Top Performer When They Can’t Be Promoted

Alexander James Raymond
3 min readApr 26, 2023

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It can be complicated managing high-performers. They need additional consideration and care. These high achievers frequently desire additional responsibilities and have a desire to solve challenging problems. However, they may become disengaged or seek new employment if you fail to provide them with what they require. This necessitates determining how to maintain their motivation.

If you have an exceptional performer on your team, keeping them challenged and motivated is essential. Otherwise, they will become bored with their task and lose interest. Focusing on their strengths is one method to keep your top performers motivated. This may consist of their ability to work independently, communication skills, and leadership qualities.

When managers focus on team members’ strengths, they are more likely to feel valued and supported. They will also be more willing to go above and beyond for you and the organization. You should also ensure that their growth path is mapped out and that they face the appropriate challenges. This will keep them motivated and ensure they continue learning to attain their goals.

When you cannot promote your best performers, you can still motivate them in other ways. The key is to focus on their strengths and goals and discover ways to assist their development. Giving them more responsibility is one method to achieve this. Research demonstrates that autonomy is one of the most influential motivators at work.

Not only will top performers accept additional responsibilities, but they will also be willing to extend their capabilities to complete the tasks. They will go to great lengths to acquire new skills for a particular mission or project.

If you decide to give your top performers a larger role on the team, consult with them and make them feel as though the decision is theirs. This will increase their sense of ownership over the organization’s future. Additionally, it may offer them the confidence to take a significant step forward.

There are methods to give top performers a voice in decisions that affect their work, even if you cannot promote them. They will be more satisfied with their jobs if they believe they have a say in the company’s direction and can implement the necessary changes. You can also allow your top performers to take on new duties and challenges to expand their skills. This will help them maintain their motivation and continue to develop.

Before promoting an employee, you may occasionally need to assess their aptitude for the new position. To achieve this, create a short-term assignment that mimics the tasks and challenges of their new position, and be explicit about what constitutes success.

It may be tempting to soften the blow of not promoting someone by saying, “You’re great!” or “Next time, you’ll get it.” These statements, however, will erode the individual’s trust and cause them to doubt your leadership.

The freedom to execute their duties is one of the most effective ways to motivate a high performer. This could entail granting them the authority to determine when and how they will devote their time to initiatives. It also enables them to collaborate with other departments and teams throughout the organization to advance their careers. This will allow them to undertake greater challenges and learn more about your company and industry.

There is no singular solution to the question of how to demonstrate to your top performers that you care. It would help if you discovered the combination of strategies most advantageous to your team and organization over the long term. The essential aspect is to balance work that builds confidence and more challenging assignments that raise their batting averages to the next level. The key is to be straightforward and concise in your communication and to provide ample feedback throughout the process.

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Alexander James Raymond

Alexander James Raymond lives in Catonsville, MD, and is very involved in his community.