Everything Matters is the book for supervisors too busy to read a book.

The Devil You Know
The Demon You Grow

Whether a supervisory position is filled from inside the organization or by someone from outside, eventually we will see the person’s dark side.

Whenever a supervisory position opens, the same question is asked, “Do we go outside (the organization) or can we promote from within?” This question is asked by those who will supervise the new person, and by the people whom that person will supervise. During the ensuing discussions among the supervisors, the names of potential “inside” candidates, especially the informal leaders will be bantered around (unofficially, the staff holds its own caucus). The process of reviewing the qualities of the “inside” candidates takes place before the position is advertised, and the results often determine if an outside search is warranted. If the question of succession is

Dr. Hollis Palmer

asked as soon as the opening exists, the answer is already clear. The names of those who should be considered for promotion ought to be well known even before an opening occurs.

In their initial conversations, the supervisors will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each of the potential internal candidates. As with all positives, the strengths will be general in nature and, therefore, limited in number. The candidates’ weaknesses will be specific and, therefore, more numerous. This is the period during which the organization examines the “Devil(s) it knows”.

Established organizations understand that the selected person will have weaknesses. These organizations make the decision to go “outside” when they are sure that the internal candidates’ weaknesses exceed their strengths. And that their weaknesses will lead to their failure, or will change the direction of the organization in a negative way (see Arrows). The general categories that are examined in considering the inside candidates are experience, knowledge and respect of their peers. Some organizations will even consider position levels (see Position Levels) in their considerations of the “Devil(s) it knows.”

An organization that looks outside to fill a supervisory position is searching for an ideal candidate or “savior.” During the screening process, the team will select someone they like, rarely someone they need. During the interviews, the organization will build hopes and expectations based on the responses that were given by the successful candidate.

If the person hired is from “outside” the organization, he will eventually begin to show weaknesses (we are all human). A thorough background check may limit the scope of the Achilles’ heel, but weaknesses will be there. One new factor that could not have been predicted, even by the new supervisor’s former employer, is the effect of the promotion on the new supervisor’s ego. The new person knows, at least subconsciously, that he was the winner, the champion. Naturally, his ego begins to grow. As his ego inflates, he will feel capable of meeting the expectations of his new position; this ego growth can lead to arrogance or to careless mistakes. The alternative is that he is not as capable as anticipated, and he begins to make mistakes; then his ego begins to deflate. In either case, this is the beginning of the “Demon You Grow”.

In advance of a supervisory opening, organizations should know whether they are going to go with the “Devil they know” or “The demon they grow”.