negative mental effects of a promotion are predominantly driven by reduced feelings of calm and peacefulness, and increased feelings of nervousness
A promotion often brings along new pressures that an employee finds hard to cope with
Yuvi is a young executive working in the business development department of an MNC. Yuvi did some stellar work across the year and it looks from his latest performance appraisal report that he is well on his track to receive the much-coveted promotion he was seeking. Yuvi, however, has started developing cold feet. He is aware that the new role will bring with it a set of ambiguities that he has never encountered before. Suddenly he is unsure if he needs the promotion at all!
While Yuvi still has time to reflect and think through his dilemma, many discover the perils of promotion after taking it up. Two eminent behavioral scientists, David Johnston and Wang-Sheng Lee released a paper in June 2012 highlighting that individuals experience greater levels of stress after getting promoted to a new job. Though a direct correlation between promotions and an actual physiological condition is yet to be established, the paper argues that a promotion affects the mental wellbeing of a person both in the short and the long term.
The study reveals that, negative mental effects of a promotion are predominantly driven by reduced feelings of calm and peacefulness, and increased feelings of nervousness. A breakdown of the demographic profile of the sample set reveals that the effects are particularly severe among young male workers without university degrees.
While many factors contribute to the heightened stress through post-promotion anxiety, five stand out.
Greater responsibility and accountability
The realization that a promotion brings with it greater set of responsibilities and accountability oftentimes, becomes difficult to deal with. An individual is often tempted to compare the pre-promotion experience with the new role, thereby inciting feelings of low confidence and fear.
Longer working hours
Almost immediately after a promotion, a person is introduced to a new set of responsibilities to deal with. This translates into longer working hours before the individual gains aptitude for execution. Stress levels induced through longer working hours are highest in the 12 months following a promotion.
New set of ambiguities
A new job role brings along with it a new set of ambiguities that many find difficult to deal with. Though stress levels reduce considerably after 2+ years of a promotion, short-term stress stemming from job ambiguity is particularly high.
Lower control over personal time
With greater set of responsibilities, a promotion often leads an individual to relinquish some amount of personal and leisure time. This lack of control over personal time causes greater stress and anxiety levels for newly promoted employees.
Greater complexity and lower objectivity
Lastly, a promotion is essentially an opportunity to gain exposure to higher skills and greater complexity. As job descriptions increasingly blur and more intangible management responsibilities get introduced through every promotion, individuals find it stressful to counter complexity.
Though the cost of a promotion may sound like an occupational hazard, it is no surprise that a promotion continues to be the most sought-after professional goal for all employees across age groups, industries, and geographies. Johnston and Lee have aptly titled their research paper as “Extra Status and Extra Stress: Are Promotions Good for Us?”