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By Roy van den Brink-Budgen, the ASM Plus world renowned expert on Critical Thinking

The Situation:

We see this so often: a loyal and talented member of staff is not only efficient and accurate in her work but she also goes that extra mile helping others to get their work done yet she gets ever more frustrated as she watches others who don’t go that extra mile get promoted ahead of her whilst her efforts are either overlooked or not obviously appreciated.


With the application of Critical Thinking, Brigitte was awarded the well-deserved promotion that she had sought for years.  In her new position she is able to contribute even more to the success of her organisation and is extremely happy and motivated.  This avoided a potentially divisive and costly dispute and helped the organisation save the time and cost of future disputes.

How Critical Thinking Changed the Outcome:

In a meeting with the HR Director and Brigitte, our Critical Thinking consultant, through a combination of coaching and analysis, was able to help them focus identify, develop, understand and apply clear statement criteria for employee promotions and guidance on how these should be applied.  This sustained focus on clear reasoning resulted in a more coherent policy for staff development, which avoided situations in which staff saw only a demotivating arbitrary procedure.

Read more to learn exactly what happened and how ASM Plus helped:


Brigitte had worked in a media consultancy firm for many years. For much of the time, her formal role was that of secretary/administrator, but because of the nature of her work, she carried out a wide range of tasks that didn’t necessarily fit with this role, indeed often going way beyond it. These included doing some early development of material for clients, discussing with potential clients who made preliminary enquiries about what services the company could offer, and checking on contracts and other agreements. Following this, some years ago, she enquired about her role being formalised into a higher grade. However, the enquiry (which was only an informal one) was not taken seriously, being jokingly dismissed by one partner with reference to her age (such that ‘it wouldn’t be worth their while paying for training’). This was before age-discrimination was taken entirely seriously.

Recently, a young secretary (Martha) was offered the chance to move into a higher grade, despite having little experience in the area of media consultancy. Not surprisingly, Martha was happy to accept this promotion.

Brigitte was concerned (indeed angry) about the lack of transparency in this process, especially as there had been no indication that this new post was available.  Brigitte asked HR for clarification of the process by which promotions are made and, when the relevant person in HR (Kelly) agreed to have a meeting, it became clear at this meeting that the process was unclear and, at times, arbitrary.

Brigitte asked what criteria were used for promotion. Kelly had to retreat into statements like ‘Martha came to us and asked about the possibility of promotion’ and ‘Martha wanted to do things other than just be a secretary’. Brigitte explained that she had said the very same things some years ago, and had not been taken seriously. Kelly apologised for this (saying that ‘things are different now’) and, after hearing more from Brigitte, offered to look again at her request.


Following the meeting, Brigitte asked if she could have a further one and, as part of this, have someone in the meeting who could provide a critical thinking (CT) perspective. With clarification of what would be involved, the HR Director agreed to this, and offered to attend the meeting herself.

At the meeting the CT consultant introduced himself and explained how he saw his role. In essence, this was to focus on the need for a clear statement of the criteria for promotion at this level of the company, and how the criteria were, if necessary, to be interpreted (and thus applied).

This clarity was then developed to produce a draft set of criteria and guidance on how these should be applied (and when there might be justifiable exceptions). It was agreed that this sustained focus on clear reasoning would, if developed further, produce a much more coherent policy for staff development, so avoiding situations in which staff saw only an arbitrary procedure.

Happily, Brigitte was offered and accepted a higher role in the company.

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