From Lilly P. Seattle, WA
Dear Dr. Rosie
I’m conflicted with my career. I really enjoy my work as a project manager – so much so that I think of it as a hobby rather than my job. I’m thinking that I should be like other people though and try to get a promotion to a senior director or vice-president position, but I really don’t want to work that hard. I like going home and having time with my daughter and husband. What should I do?
From Dr. Rosie
I’m so glad to hear that you enjoy your work. So many people are doing what they do well, regardless of the fact that it’s not fulfilling for them. That you can take pleasure in your work to the degree that you consider it a hobby, that’s very cool!
I’m biased in that I think everyone should enjoy their work. I believe that if this was the norm, so businesses and corporations wouldn’t have the problems they have in motivating employees to do their jobs more effectively and bring more innovation into their work. There wouldn’t be such a need for stress-management either. I suspect that you are a dream come true to your managers.
In the context of career advancement there is something called the Peter Principle, which is that every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence. Pretty interesting, I think. I raise this because I’m not sure everyone is cut out for management or leadership. This can create incompetence not only for the individual but for the corporation as well. There are a lot of businesses and corporations who have incompetent individuals running the show. Why can’t they see that?
Within the context of success, at least for many people, there is a truth that we are supposed to want advancement and the financial rewards and prestige that comes along with that. But with advancement comes more complexity – decision making, problem solving, relationship challenges, as well as all good stuff there’s more responsibility, stress and usually more time one has to give to their work and less time available for their family, friends and for themselves. I totally support my clients who are committed to and feel called to advancement for the sake of personal and professional growth. But, when it’s a should I question where this should is coming from.
A client of mine, Grant, who was a manager for a fortune 500 company in Silicon Valley, was promoted to a Senior Management Position. There were aspects of the work that he excelled at and really enjoyed however, there were many aspects that challenged him greatly. Managing some of the personnel who weren’t doing their jobs was a very demanding and stressful. A good deal of our coaching sessions focused on how to work with these difficult people.
Grant learned a great deal in this role, but after a year he realized he just didn’t want to work that hard. His heart wasn’t in the product he was developing and he had a sense that he could be fulfilled in a different environment.
I really respected his decision. And interestingly enough, as he was considering his options, his boss demoted him back to his original position.
Though his ego took a bit of a bruising, Grant was relieved, less stressed and able to bring greater competence to his work. He also had more time to spend with his music as well as with his wife and two daughters. He is clearer than ever before that he wants a career that fulfills something in him that he is missing in the corporate world, but for now he is where he wants to be.
Getting clear about what it is that has you want to move up the corporate ladder is an important process. If you are considering it because that’s what others are doing, I’d like to suggest you look at the degree of fulfillment, happiness or contentment these individuals are experiencing in their jobs. I’d suggest asking them what it is that is encouraging them to make the move. I also encourage you to explore what success means to you. In my book Self-Empowerment 101 I devote a whole chapter to the topic of Success. I want people to explore what success means to them personally and then choose what will bring them this success.
For me, success means that I’m making a difference in the world by making a difference in my clients’ lives; it means having freedom, fun and flexibility in my workday. It means choosing the degree of stress I’m willing to endure on a day to day basis; and it means that I can make decisions based on my values and priorities, not someone else’s.
Lilly, I encourage you to ask yourself those really tough questions and to also really listen to your answers. See what shows up now and perhaps you’ll want something different in the future as you grow and mature as a professional and as a human being.
I trust you have the wisdom to make the choice that serves your highest self and your highest good.