How getting promoted can kill your career aka how bad managers are created

Often in the pursuit of getting ahead, we accept promotions that are hugely damaging to our careers.  As a HR Practitioner I see this more often than not, people who are great at what they do, who are promptly promoted out of their area of excellence into something they never wanted to do.

A friend of my is an academic, great researcher, great teacher, but a terrible administrator.  Recently he was given an acting role as Head of School, in academia this is kind of a big deal.  He accepted the role, and pretty much hated everything about it.  His administrative duties killed any time he had for research, his classes took a turn for the worse as he his new role wasn’t designed to accommodate teaching, and the team he had inherited where on the verge of mutiny – all pretty much within the first month.  My friend and I spend quite a bit of time together, and he was telling me what was going on, how the new role took him away from the area’s that he liked, and removed him from his team exposing him to a new team that didn’t really like the way he did things.  It was just another example of the disaster that Human Resources with all good intentions, and in partnership with the individuals concerned, creates all the time.  Individuals promoted out of their areas into leadership roles etc, the best thing to do is to reflect on your career goals and determine if the promotion or new role is going to contribute to your goals, or merely take you away from what you really love doing.

After a couple of months of listening to my friend I asked him point blank what he liked about his new role, actually there was nothing he liked about it.  A couple of weeks later he had a discussion with his Pro Vice Chancellor (PVC)and stepped down from the acting role.  Now, much happier he gets to spend his time doing what he really enjoys – and rather than career suicide he has regained the respect of his peers (including the PVC), because he identified what he was great at, rather than trying to be adequate in an area he hated.

The truth is while we might all look to the top jobs and the remuneration packages and perks that senior managers and executives receive, your career is a long time to be miserable, the money often isn’t that much better than what you’re currently on.  So before accepting that promotion, take a step back and make sure that you can envisage yourself not just doing the job, but actually enjoying it.

As always, keen to hear your takes on this post, and your experiences.


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