More to life than promotion: Self-initiated and self-resigned career plateaus


Being on a career plateau is widely regarded as an undesirable career experience characterised by a lack of individual proactivity, ability, or opportunity for promotion. In this paper, we present an alternative view arguing that some employees may choose to plateau their careers and deliberately forego opportunities for hierarchical progression. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 75 law enforce-ment officers in the US and Australia, we explore why they declined a promotion opportunity or elected not to apply for promotion. Drawing on social cognitive career theory, we develop a provisional taxonomy characterised by individual proactivity: self-initiated and self-resigned career plateaus. Specifically, we report how the decision to remain on either of these career plateaus is informed by either the low valence accorded to a promoted position or, paradoxically, the reduced self-efficacy in navigating what is viewed as a flawed promotion system.


career plateau, career progression, promotion, work-life conflict, workplace politics

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