Thursday, February 11, 2010

Promotion Commotion

If you have not heard the clamor or uproar about the promotions list released today, you are either deaf or out of touch. The fermentation of those competing for the prized golden ring of promotion conjures up a whole list of feelings; agitation, annoyance, ballyhoo, bedlam, big stink, brouhaha, bustle, clatter, convulsion, disquiet, dither, excitement, uprising, rumpus, lather, furor, perturbation, hurly-burly. Yes, I took these descriptors from the dictionary and chose ones that most fit the goings on today around the Department. The final scores are out and now the fun starts for those hoping against all hope of grabbing hold of that prized “gold plated ring.” The categories are all set and the games begin for those who find themselves in the top categories. Candidates are creating lists, trying to determine who they are competing against all as the stomachs begin to growl and the teeth grind.

I am sitting on the sidelines this time, having gotten the message from my last experience and have to laugh, but at the same time cry for those in the center of this rumpus (I love this word). It is painful to watch those who have worked so hard to do their job, prove themselves and put themselves into a position to be considered for promotion, only to realize being number one or two or three or even seven on the list really means nothing. They studied for weeks on end in hopes they would miss the fewest questions on the written test. They waited for the results and when they realized they were “in the running” they paid for seminars to prepare for the oral interview in hopes of improving their position. They then practiced their delivery and participated in mock interviews and sought guidance and advice from those in positions of authority and leadership on how best to interview and project their abilities to win over the interview panels.

The promotion list for Sergeant and Lieutenant candidates are set and those in contention know where they stand on the list. Candidates are crunching numbers, hoping they are high enough to be “Certified” when that time comes for promotion. The requirements developed by Civil Service and City Personnel for candidates have been completed and by all rights that should be the end. The decision should be made from the list of certified candidates using the background information provided during the process; each candidate providing equal data during a specific time period and verified by personnel. The Command Staff of Captains and Chiefs should then meet to discuss the candidates using ONLY this information and selections then made. But, that is not how it is done and the candidates are not finished with the process.

The next step in the “process” is what has contributed to the agitation, annoyance, ballyhoo, bedlam, big stink, brouhaha, bustle, clatter, convulsion, disquiet, dither, excitement, uprising, rumpus, lather, furor, perturbation, hurly-burly. Some refer to the process as “Kissing the ring of the Chiefs.” Some candidates get the opportunity to meet with all of the chiefs; others meet with several; and some with none at all. Candidates are asked various questions; seldom the same questions; some candidates spend ten minutes with a particular chief while another may spend an hour with the same chief; some candidates will provide a resume and others will not. There is no set guideline or definition for how or what will take place, nor is there a guarantee every candidate will be given the “opportunity” to participate. Up to this point, all candidates were on equal footing. That all goes out the window as this next step in the process begins. I am not going to debate the benefits or flaws in this venture but will say in my opinion this “informal” process is patently unfair and clearly not vetted by Civil Service or City Personnel to ensure all candidates are afforded the same opportunity and treatment. Maybe it’s just me but for an organization that demands its employees practice fairness and equal treatment in everything they do, it fails them by not providing fair and equal treatment in this promotional process.

The golden ring for promotion is a carrot dangled on a long pole attached to a short string. Dangled in front and slightly out of reach for most, the carrot is there to provide hope. That hope translates into desire and the desire translates into abuse. The number of hoops hung in the halls of substation after substation that candidates must jump through has become ridiculous. Those vying for the small number of promotions start out with the best of intentions as they work a few extra minutes on their own. They “volunteer” for this and that and take on tasks and responsibilities of others to show prowess and dedication. Candidates don’t see their actions as wrong or out of line and do not feel used. They have hope, desire and a willingness to do “whatever” they are told so they can stand out and rise above their competitor. They jump through hoop after hoop in hopes of standing out. They grab for that carrot and hope, all while doing whatever is asked and never complaining or refusing for fear of being passed over.

The climate created around promotions has grown to something hard to describe in a way that makes any sense. Watching good people struggle daily to focus on their responsibilities because of the internal strife the process has created is troubling. Who will put a stop to the madness? At a time when we all need to trust one another and pay attention to detail; we find our most talented, distracted by a process they have no control over. The rumors are beginning as to who is where on what list and who is best placed to get promoted first. Human nature allows those involved in the process to be nervously irresolute, taking away from their ability to excel and perform to their potential. Can anyone say counter-productive? It is the process, official or not, but at some point we all need to re-focus and ignore the brouhaha created by the puppet masters and do our job.

Good luck to all the candidates who put themselves out there; studied for the written test and put forth your best in the oral interview.