Why Promotion Does Not Make You Happy
Don't fall for the promotion trap.
Promotion. A shiny reward for success.
It is standing on a pedestal and inviting employees to bow in front of it. It is desirable because teams celebrate promotions not well-done jobs or progress in projects.
Promotion is your ticket to happiness. There is a new status, more money, and of course a new email signature for you.
You want it! You want to hop on the bandwagon.
You work days and nights. You are unstoppable. You want to prove to everyone that you are the next. Then, they finally notice and tell you ‘not yet’.
But you know you can do it. You decide to change their opinions. You take on more stress, cancel weekends, and shorten sleep. You keep running the race, as the competition is fierce. In the end, you get it.
There is always the next promotion race
If you are promoted for the first time, it is new and sexy. You feel significant. However, you have now entered the realm of promotion. In the corporate environment, there is no other way than to be promoted.
As a former corporate snake, I was promoted several times. Yet, I was only excited for the first time. When your resume starts being full of fancy titles, you may realize how ridiculous the promotion system is.
Does promotion make you happier?
In the short term, probably yes. After all, you get a new title and a higher salary. How about the long term? The updated email signature does not replace the feeling of being stuck.
Some companies like creating new positions so they can give people more money. But without an agenda, responsibility, and options for future development, it is a poor motivational plaster.
“You’re trained to think, ‘Get a promotion, and you’ll be happier and have more money.’ It’s just not true.”
The corporate ladder is deceiving. It gives you the impression that the higher you are, the happier you are. From my experience, it is not the case.
The reason is that the agenda and responsibilities don’t change much. If you are a project manager and get a senior project manager role, the scope of work might not change at all. You do what you are already good at.
But you keep working hard to see if the next role will finally make you happier. Good luck with that!
Let’s become a manager
I always have to laugh when I hear people wishing to be a manager. When you ask them why they usually say something like:
“I want more money.”
“They don’t do anything. It is an easy job.”
“Because there is no other position for me to grow.”
This also explains why there are so many incompetent leaders in organizations. There aren't many options in the structure. It is inflexible. If you want more salary, you need to be in this position.
So, talented analysts, IT tech staff, project managers, etc., go into the management field. Oh well. Some will manage and will fall in love with the job. Others will struggle and repel their team members.
Promotion is appealing. But you need to manage your expectations. Every promotion comes with a catch.
If you think that promotion will grow your skills, you will be disappointed. The title does not magically change you. The promotion itself won’t influence your skills and motivation.
It is you who is in charge of your mindset and leadership skills. The grass is not greener when you are promoted. If you want to grow your skills, any position is suitable for them. It does not matter if you work there for one year or five years. There is always the potential to learn more.
Before you fall for the promotion trap…
Avoid the disappointment that promotion can bring you. Ask yourself these questions:
Are you considering the promotion because it's an offer you can't refuse?
What can promotion give you that you don’t have now?
Do you want a promotion because you feel stuck?
Do you want to move to a different department?
Do you want more money? More perks?
Do you want more responsibilities?
Do you want to become an expert?
Do you want to grow your skills?
When you understand what you want, it is time to think about how you can achieve it. Promotion can be an option, but perhaps not your ultimate goal.
I have seen many cases of people who burned out to get promotions. When they did, they had no energy left to function and collapsed.
What really makes you happy? Why do you go to work every day?
It might be a sense of purpose. It feels incredibly rewarding to be part of a company that makes a difference in the world. You may love your job and your colleagues. You enjoy free coffee and cheap lunches in the cafeteria. You might see the potential to learn new things and understand business.
Whatever it is, it is likely not to be related to the promotion itself but more to your values and priorities.
Start with that before you chase your next promotion. In the long run, the promotion won't make you happy. The only thing you need to do is grow, not climb.
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You don’t have to climb the ladder to grow your skills
Every job is tiring after some time. You reach the level at which you feel you have nothing else to learn.
That is not true.
There are so many things you can learn every day. I like to say that every day is a special day.
Your motivation fluctuates with time. That is OK! I don’t know anyone who is motivated 100% of the time. As in life, you experience peaks and drops.
The whole point is to be aware of what you enjoy and dislike about your job. If you don’t like it and hope that promotion helps you to like it, it won’t work.
Money makes you happy for a while, but it doesn't motivate you. You need to ask yourself what you want and whether the company can give it to you. In some cases, there are some possibilities. In others, though, you have to consider other possibilities.
Get your hands dirty. Help with different initiatives. Speak with the team. Fostering your flexibility and trying new things is worth more than a paper promotion.
It is your mindset that will be your best friend.
Don’t wait for opportunities. Create them. That’s what will grow your skills and make you happy at work. Eyes and ears are open.
The promotion is great. It is a confirmation of your professional experience. But like with other things, your active participation is needed. A redesigned email signature won't do much for you. It is your mindset that gets you further.
Don’t wait for a promotion to make you happy. Focus on small steps every day. Allow yourself to be curious. Help others with their projects and have fun!
➡️ Listen to the TedTalk: Beware of the promotion trap | Glenn Weissinger
➡️Are you stuck? Join a 1h session and get your questions answered:
28th of March at 5 pm (CET). Share your questions and participation
See you next week! Ivona