Turning down promotions – new phenomena?

Great new post from Dubs over at systematicHR about career pathing.

Plateauing, Multiple Career Ladders, Engaging Employees

The basic premise is that managers are declining promotions due to quality of life considerations – and that this is something new.

I just don’t think it’s new!   Two stories to illustrate.

1.  About 30 years ago my father turned down a promotion to a global leadership position with Kodak.  When we talked about it and I asked him why, he explained that if he took that promotion – then the company would “own” him and he would no longer have control over his life.  That is the extreme at one end.

2.  When I first started working, I was a line supervisor in manufacturing.  As an ambitious recent college grad, I felt certain that everyone wanted to get ahead.  Then we tried to promote one of the hourly workers to a supervisory position.  He was a natural leader, highly respected, very competent.  His answer?  No way.  He already had what he wanted out of work.  He had his home, a little place to go fishing on the weekends and the ability to send his kids to college.  He didn’t want anything else from work.
Work/Life balance has always been an issue – perhaps we do more navel gazing now, but this is not new.

Tom O’B


2 Responses to Turning down promotions – new phenomena?

  1. Tom:

    I commented as well on the post at systematicHR. I too believe that this “new trend” has been present, to varying degrees, since the demise of Whyte’s “Organization Man.” I’d peg the onset of this occurring with some frequency to probably the late 60’s, which I do remember.

    I suspect that there might be a few more affluent boomers who have this opportunity than in generations past, but I tend to agree with your premise.

    I continue to be fascinated by the amount of press and attention being given to fictional differences between generations. See my earlier post at the Cenek Report.

    You have a nice weblog, with many fine posts offering substantive thought.

    robert edward cenek, RODP
    Uncommon Commentary on the World of Work

  2. tomob says:

    Robert – perhaps this is just one more aspect of the MASSIVE navel gazing done by the boomers – of which I am one.

    Thanks for the kind words –


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