The Artificial Scarcity Of Promotion

Posted by on Feb 13, 2012 in Leadership | One Comment

In our organizations, we have built a model of hierarchy which creates an edifice of scarcity — the scarcity of being promoted.

Because of the way most of our companies are organized, there are only a limited number of spots to be filled via promotions. For a person to advance in their career, they must “beat out” their peers for a singular spot further “up” the career ladder. This competition is a zero-sum game, where having winners always means there are losers sulking just behind the champions.

I’m fully aware that this is totally “normal,” and that we’re all pretty used to it. But what if it didn’t have to be this way?

Why do we insist on propagating structures where losers have to exist?

Now, before you think I am channeling the fictional ghost of Pollyanna or that I am a mid-90’s helicopter parent who believes “everyone’s a winner,” consider this: people no smarter than you designed the company you worked in. From the org charts to the job titles to the compensation plans to the promotions, people just like you and me crafted those rules. Despite how we often feel, they were not carved into stones by God and brought down from Mount Sinai. If we don’t like them, we can do something different.

The inherent scarcity that exists in our current models of promotion are completely artificial. We built them, and we can update them. (I don’t make this stuff up, by the way — read a real-life example of something new here.)

The bigger question is: will you change them?

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1 Comment

  1. Mike Wichman
    February 14, 2012

    Couldn’t agree more. If it is artificial, it is hipicritical and we need to find a new way for all of us to succeed. The Peter Principlal should be irrelevant.

    Reply

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