The Stress Of Trying To Move Up

Larry Price
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Wednesday - February 24, 2010
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With all of the headlines bemoaning our spectacular budget deficits, it’s no wonder a lot of younger workers are experiencing feelings of anxiety about their careers in terms of the level they have reached. Believe it or not, a lack of career mobility in leadership-oriented careers is a chronic stressor and, if not managed, can produce long-term negative effects on individuals and organizations. It even has a name - promotion stress.

As you would expect in these tough economic times, employment stress is probably more important to most than promotion stress. For that reason, promotion stress hasn’t received much attention in corporate training. This may be because it doesn’t seem like an important area where a manager or subordinate should focus attention. While employees may focus on moving up in the organization, managers may instead focus their attention on production and/or sales.

But let’s face it, there is a lot of stress associated with advancing your career. Ask yourself these questions: Can I see my next job in this organization? Am I studying for it? Have I received any training to prepare me for that next step?

All these questions create stress for young employees. There’s the initial stress of being hired, then can come the stress of attempting to move up the corporate ladder. There can be additional stress in vying for a promotion and not getting it.

For employees who have been with a company a long time, there is the stress of trying for a higher position against employees who are much younger and fresh out of college. What this means is there is a relationship between promotion stress and career stages, as viewed from the internal and external perspectives.

So what? Promotion stress can be derived from career development, which was traditionally viewed as an activity that belonged to the organizational hierarchy. But with recent downsizing and economic changes in organizational structures around the business world, this view has changed - the responsibility for career development is now considered the employee’s responsibility. It suggests that employees’ ability to push themselves to become successful is critical to their career success, as is the ability to adjust to changes as they rise in the work environment.

The reason for considering these ramifications is that employee stress has been linked to countless negative and costly organizational outcomes, including workplace violence.

Career development is focused on how one’s career evolves over time. The evolution does not necessarily mean hierarchical movement through promotion. For most employees, there is the need to learn new skills and be given new opportunities and challenges, and these have been inherent in promotions.

A career is a work-related competency growth that prepares one for mobility. So in these tough economic times, use the time to improve your skills, and you will see new opportunities more clearly.

Remember, it’s the employee’s responsibility in today’s marketplace.

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