Promoting someone before they are prepared is a mistake many
managers make. It happens even more often in aquatics because of
the youthful seasonal staffs, which make up the majority of our
work force. I learned the hard way what can develop when this
During my first six months as manager, I was starting to breathe
some life into the aging building and programming. I came from a
facility that had a well-established leadership structure of senior
and lead guards. I thought that was what we needed here.
I chose two of the most senior staff members and interviewed them
for positions as lead guards. My superiors and I knew that they
weren’t quite ready for the position, but upon my insistence
that I could make it work, we promoted them anyway.
Not long after that, things took a turn for the worse. The new lead
guards were taking advantage of their supervisory abilities and
destroying the other staff members’ already low morale. They
were using the lifeguards they supervised to do the work they were
assigned to complete.
On top of that, they treated these guards with a lack of respect
and general dismissal of all their comments and concerns. In one
case, they had all the guards scrub the pool deck without direction
to do so, or my OK. I later learned that these same supervisors
then threatened the underling guards, saying that if they
complained to me, they would be fired.
After these behaviors were discovered, the truth came to light:
These guards weren’t ready for supervisory responsibility. To
make matters worse, they had lost the trust of other staff
Their demotions led to one being terminated for multiple verbal
altercations with patrons and staff. One of those included an
argument with a patron in which the guard told the patron,
“You are stupid, and stupid people shouldn't
The other guard was listed as a non-rehire after he went off to
college. I learned quite a few lessons in my first years as a
professional, but none have hit as hard as what happens when young
staff members get promoted too soon.