Beware of “Likely Successor Risk”


Danger Ahead:
Beware the Danger of “Likely Successor Risk” —

In new employment, all employees face the risk of being a “new kid on the block.” That is, ?there is always the chance that you just won’t “fit in” with the “in crowd.” That is just a fact of life.

Executives and managers who are viewed to be potential or even likely successors to higher-placed persons are advised to beware of what I call “Likely Successor Risk.”

“Likely Successor Risk” is the risk that others, who themselves seek promotion may see you more as a rival, than a colleague. They may be less than enthusiastic, disruptive, or even sabotaging to your efforts, plans and strategies. It is just a fact of life.

In extreme cases, others – and their friends – might just decide to make life miserable for you in a passive, or even aggressive, way.

You can’t change human nature, but you can and should bear “Likely Successor Risk” in mind when you negotiate basic elements of your potential new employment. As “Likely Successor Risk” elevates all other risks, wherever you see possible risk, seek degrees of “risk limitation.”

  • So, if you are given a formula for incentive compensation based on specified metrics, bear in mind that you may be swimming “against the tide,” and so seek more reasonable metrics, or a minimum guarantee, at least during the first year or two.


  • So, if you are promised compensation or equity that vests over years, request accelerated vesting if you are terminated without cause, or if you are denied the promotion you were led to expect.


  • So, if you are granted severance if terminated without cause, ask, too, for that same severance if you resign for a “good reason“ such as diminished responsibility, relocation to a different city, or had your compensation lowered.


  • So, consider asking for a robust severance package if you are later denied the promotion that attracted you to take the job in the first place.


There is risk in every employment relation. “Likely Successor Risk,” however, adds to the level and intensity of every risk to your achievements, your compensation, your job security, and even your industry reputation.


Job offers often dangle substantial rewards. It is always important to focus, perhaps more so, on risks. That is doubly so if you are being brought in to be a likely or potential successor to your manager or other position. Simply put, others may have “different plans” which will likely affect you.

Caution: There may be Danger Ahead.

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