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Repeat after me: There is nothing wrong with not wanting a promotion


by Colette Sexton
04th Mar 2021

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Colette Sexton, news correspondent at the Sunday Business Post, on why it is fine if you don’t want to climb the career ladder.

While much of life revolves around the rat race, career progression does not have to be everyone’s goal. Some people want to push themselves further and further in their careers, but others are perfectly happy to reach a certain point and remain there. There is nothing wrong with you if you do not want to chase a promotion, if the thought of more responsibility makes you break out in hives, or if you just want to turn down an opportunity for progression.

In work, just like in every other part of life, people have different goals, desires and wants. For some, a hobby might be a passion – you might want to log off at 5pm on the dot so you can get to football training or start that online creative writing class. For others, an enhanced salary is not enough to balance additional stress, pressure or working hours.

You do not have to climb the ladder in order to be successful in your career. Similarly, other peoples’ definition of success will vary from yours.

“Why don’t people stop rising when they are happy? Because we are built to think that more is better — more power, authority, money and responsibility. So we incorrectly infer that promotions will equal greater satisfaction,” American social scientist Arthur C. Brooks wrote in The New York Times in 2015.

For decades there was an assumption that improving your job status will improve health through a better sense of self-worth, but in fact, getting promoted might actually be bad for your health. Those promoted reported 10 per cent more mental strain on average, according to research from the University of Warwick in Britain in 2009.

University of Warwick researcher Chris Boyce said of the findings: “Getting a promotion at work is not as great as many people think. Our research finds that the mental health of managers typically deteriorates after a job promotion, and in a way that goes beyond merely a short-term change. There are no indications of any health improvements for promoted people other than reduced attendance at GP surgeries, which may itself be something to worry about rather than celebrate.”

Remember that the next time someone hassles you about pushing yourself forward in work. If you want to reach for the stars in your career, by all means do it. But if you are perfectly happy in your current role then do not let society pressure you into a role you do not want.

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