I had a high performer contact me for a career advice concerning pursuing a promotion. She’s early in her career so she’s not required to commit her career to that organization. I asked if that organization only recognizes and rewards high performers like her with greater responsibilities. She said no. There are low and mediocre performers in key positions. I said, “Time to look elsewhere.”

As Jack Welch teaches, the CEO who does not differentiate between high and low performers on promotions is a failure. Mixed messages are fatal. At best, it means mixed performance. It’s a bad work culture.

People promote themselves.  Low or non-performers don’t promote high achievers.  High performers do.

If somehow you are promoted in the wrong organization, you get to do the work of the low performers who don’t do theirs. As I like to joke, it’s not a promotion if it’s the exact same work you’ve already been doing for someone else. In time, high performers figure it out and leave so the organization excels at retention of low performers and turnover of high performers.

Successful organizations have one single, clear, and consistent culture. They differentiate in recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotions. People who join and stay with the organization understand what will be rewarded and what will not.

Organizations will never be better than their promotions.  Promoting those who fit the mission, culture, and team and help optimize performance and productivity is a formula for long term success.

Jack Welch says, “One promotion speaks a thousand words.” If you are the high performer and you see a single low performer in any leadership position, then consider your career options because that CEO and organization has now told you that your hard work and integrity do not really matter. Only join teams where they will.