Managing the employees who 'plateau'

Many middle managers are not striving to go up the career ladder in the same numbers as in the past.

by Knowledge@Wharton

They are still ambitious and they want to contribute to their organisations. But they are not as prepared as they were to put up with the stress that goes with high-pressured work. The addition of more working women with family responsibilities has added to the pressure. This has led to a trend in which middle-ranking staff 'plateau'.

They are looking outside the organisation to define their success as much as they look to the traditional job. On the other hand, employees need to stay focused and on top of their game if they want to keep their job. So it is not a simple case of one or the other. They also need to be passionate about their work to do well.

However, employers are trying to respond to the new needs of many of their staff. One way is to 'design' work around them - but this can sometimes go wrong. If a person is doing a good job for a company but does not want to do anything more, the idea of being encouraged to move into new work areas would not appeal.

Deloitte & Touche USA have developed an interesting career development programme involving four areas: role, pace, location and schedule, and work load. By focusing on what the employee wants in terms of lifestyle and work they may have found an answer to the problem.

The trend probably affects all age ranges and not just the middle-aged employees. People may be affected by two issues. First, in the flatter organisation there is less upward mobility and second, there are new definitions of success outside the workplace. Or it could be a combination of both.

At any rate, employers may have to look at other means to motivate staff, aside from pay and promotion, such as flex time, job sharing, job sabbaticals or the sponsorship of charity events.

Plateauing: redefining success at work
4 October 2006
Review by Morice Mendoza

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