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Q. I don’t know how to tell an employee that she won’t be receiving an expected promotion. “Greta” will willingly take on any task but pays no attention to details. We’ve had many discussions about the errors she makes, yet her work still hasn’t improved.

Greta worked here before, and she had the same problem then. I hired her back only because she understands our policies and her recent references were good. I specifically stated that this time she had to be more detail-oriented.

Greta took this job with the understanding that eventually she could become a manager. Unfortunately, I have now concluded that she’s much too careless to be given more responsibility. How can I break the news to her without sounding harsh?

A. This dilemma contains two valuable lessons. First, interviewers should never make predictions about promotions, salary increases or any benefit that might be affected by changing circumstances. When these possibilities don’t materialize, applicants inevitably view them as broken promises.

Second, when considering familiar candidates, managers must remember that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. Hiring someone with a problematic history usually means those problems will reappear.

Given Greta’s track record, explaining why she won’t be promoted should not be difficult. And simply reviewing the facts hardly qualifies as “harsh.”

For example: “Greta, when you were hired, we discussed the possibility of your becoming a manager. At that time, I stressed that attention to detail would be very important. As you know, you’ve been making a lot of errors, so I’m afraid that you can’t be considered for a management position.”

Greta will undoubtedly be disappointed. But if she truly wanted that promotion, she would have put more effort into correcting her work.

Q. One of my co-workers recently married our boss. Now everyone wonders what information they may be sharing about the rest of us. We try to avoid talking to them, but that’s hard to do because we work in a small medical clinic.

Our CEO apparently has no problem with their relationship, because he was the best man at their wedding. This clinic is partly owned by a large hospital, but we’ve been told they have no policy against employees marrying each other. What should we do?

A. While there may be nothing wrong with co-workers getting married, there is everything wrong with a manager marrying an employee. When making decisions about compensation, assignments or appraisals, managers need to remain unbiased and objective. There’s no way to be impartial about your spouse.

For that reason, professionally run organizations never give managers authority over family members. If a manager and employee marry, then one of them must change jobs. So even if your hospital allows employee marriages, supervising relatives may still be prohibited.

The hospital’s human resources department should know whether such a prohibition exists and whether the ownership agreement allows it to be applied to your clinic. But if not, perhaps the HR manager would agree to have a helpful chat with your CEO about the problems posed by this arrangement.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.”

www.yourofficecoach.com

Twitter: @officecoach

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