Personal Growth

Happiness at Work: Stop Climbing the Ladder

What if climbing the proverbial corporate ladder will only lead you to misery?

Would you like to have a work life marked by satisfaction and well-being? If you answer, “Yes,” then consider this: never seek to climb the ladder at work for the sake of climbing. A career path marked by seeking one promotion after another for the promotion’s sake will lead you to dissatisfaction and misery.

At one time I believed that gaining positions of responsibility showed that I was valuable to an organization, and indeed, valuable as a person. But now I see that this is an overly simplified view of value and worth.

I now see that true satisfaction and enjoyment of work comes from a totally different and deeper place. Think about your own work for a moment. What do you enjoy most in what you do? What are you actually really good at? What types of things bring you satisfaction at the end of a work day?

If you want satisfaction and well-being at work, these are the things you should pursue to advance your career. If you were able to do more of what you liked doing and what you were good at, and less of the other things, would you be more satisfied? If your leaders challenged and supported you to become sharper and more skilled, wouldn’t you feel valued?

Now imagine yourself in the role of the owner or top leader in your place of work. What do they want from employees? It may sound facetious, but ask yourself for a moment, “Do they want employees to climb the ladder of responsibility for the sake of climbing?” My hunch is you answered, “No.” Most top leaders want their employees to help the organization live out its mission and mandate, to succeed in what it does, and to meet its goals. This means they want their employees to do more and more of what they are best at doing. In times of financial pressure, leaders will hang onto the people who excel in their field, rather than the mediocre middle manager who has been climbing for the sake of climbing.

Perhaps what you are best at includes managing the complexities of team relationships and wrestling with the challenges of achieving organizational goals. If so, you may find yourself being asked to take on positions of management or leadership. And if that brings you satisfaction and enjoyment, go ahead and take on those positions. However, if you find more satisfaction in the direct work you are doing, if you enjoy your tasks, ask your leader how you can do more of those things. Or if you need a career move, focus on positions with tasks and responsibilities that you know you would enjoy and that would bring you satisfaction.

True satisfaction and well-being at work come from doing what we enjoy and mastering what we are naturally good at. That is the way I see it.

And you? Do you agree or disagree? Tell us about satisfying job moves you have made, and why they were effective.

This blog is a sample from an upcoming book ACHIEVE is publishing. The book will be released January 2019. 

This book will draw heavily on “A Great Place to Work” Survey.  We would love to hear your input.


Eric Stutzman

Chief Executive Officer

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