Help! I'm being promoted!
Employees understand that the organization is luring them with money and seniority only to make them slog harder
A few years ago, a Vice President at a Fortune 500 Company applied for an internal posting. He’d been in his role for two very successful years and was being considered for some very high-impact projects. But, soon confusion followed as the position he had applied for was one level lower than his current one! Some thought it was a practical joke, while others shook their heads in disbelief. In some places, there was outright alarm. He’s creating a bottleneck in the overall career progression process! It’s a bad precedent. Can high-performers now also aspire for demotions? The sarcasm flowed.
Promotion is presumed to be one of the biggest reasons why people enter and stay in the workforce. The lure of more money, better benefits, bigger ego…that irresistible list goes on! On the other hand, leaders too believe that promoting an employee is the natural and logical recognition for good work, professional growth and career aspirations. And they’re not entirely wrong!
Opportunities to move up the hierarchy are usually looked forward to quite eagerly by everyone. When will that incumbent move on? When will the company expand its footprint so that we can pitch for positions that become available? The process of filling these positions varies from organization to organization. But the underlying belief–not unfounded–is that promotions are coveted and demotions are punishments, shameful and akin to flunking a year in school.
Interestingly enough, refusing a promotion, or indeed seeking a lower position, and compensation, is not uncommon. And there are many reasons for it:
Not everyone, honestly, feels ready for a bigger job. In the glare of all the goodies– social and financial–only a few enlightened ones can see their own reality. Pushed by eager mentors and patrons, they stretch, reach and eventually scramble into their bigger role. Circumstances too push leaders to make hurried hiring decisions by taking shortcuts in the selection process.
More responsibility = more stress: And that’s a trade off. For some, it is just not worth it. They’d rather spend their money on holidays, gadgets, hobbies, instead of stress medications – or sorbitrates. The additional stress is never in proportion to the additional money – it’s always significantly more!
Linked with relocation: When organizations open up new positions as they grow, there’s a good chance these are located in new geographies, which can now justify a senior leader. Except, that the eligible people may have kids in school, a spouse in a non-transferable job, aging parents they cannot be too far away from… Nah!
Family time is sacrosanct: When asked, the VP provided this as his single reason. In his role, he was travelling so extensively that he was not spending enough time with his wife and daughter. His exact words were, “My daughter will never be 6-years old again!” In our corporate busyness, we tend to forget these tender little things.
Not fitting in with their ‘larger life’: It is a life they are not willing to sacrifice for anything. The social communities they inhabit provide them with more than enough engagement. Money – already a priority lower down the pecking order – just got lower. They understand that the very organization that is luring them with money and seniority is only doing so to make them slog harder. Only to reengineer them as soon as the next recession hits! It’s simply not worth it.
Whatever the reasons, there is a population that makes the choice to stay put. There’s no shame in it – certainly not to these individuals. Is it a good thing? For those who make the choice, yes; for their leaders maybe, maybe not. Possibly an underlying trend waiting to emerge.