Career Plateau - Meaning & Example

Published by MBA Skool Team, Last Updated: September 17, 2021

What is Career Plateau?

Career plateau is defined as a point in the career path of a professional where the possibility of a vertical promotion is low and work type and quality become monotonous in nature. The position of the employee becomes stagnant with same and repetitive work and responsibilities. Because of the way organizations are shaped, the hierarchy of organizations reduce the possibility of employees to grow vertically after a point in time until there is a position opening up at the top and the skill level and feedback of the person matches for the same.

At every higher level of organizational hierarchy, the number of positions decrease. Hence upwards mobility becomes difficult with the positions not being open or with more people vying for the same position.

When the employees feel trapped and stuck in such situations, the Human Resource function of the organization is responsible to provide opportunities for lateral mobility to avoid a feeling of stagnation among employees. The current job has to be made more meaningful and engaging, and the employees have to be rewarded by alternate means in the absence of promotions.

Plateauing is an issue faced by individuals wherein they feel that their present is not progressive and their future is ambiguous. When their lives stabilize individuals can become very dissatisfied. Dissatisfied employees are a drawback to organizations and hence it is important to ensure employees do not plateau. This can be done by providing a variety of training and developing opportunities in specialized technical skills or general skills such as foreign language. Organizations also take up career planning initiatives where individual employees are given a personalized career growth plan. One major challenge with plateauing is that people may not be aware of the problem they are facing; hence it makes it difficult for the HR to address the issue.

Ways to move out the Career Plateau

Once an employee gets stuck in the career plateau, the following ways can help move out of it:

1. Reskill/Upskill

This is one of the best ways to break the monotonous work and move to a different and more relevant stream of work inside the organization or outside the organization as well. Learning about new fields and trends in the market in same or different job role can help in getting reskilled and get better roles which may help in long run.

2. Job Enlargement

An employee can discuss with the manager and the HR and can volunteer to take up additional responsibilities to not only help but also learn and become more relevant and critical in the organization.

This actually helps the person grow and also prepare for the future roles as well. The experience and skills acquired through this are more industry relevant and role specific.

3. Job Rotation

Sometimes moving from one department to another can open up new avenues and help a person come out the plateau. Also changing geography or role within same organization can do the same thing.

4. Job Switch

Sometimes if vertical growth and better work is not possible in the current organization, a person can move to a different organization which may provide a better role and structure than the current role

Example of Career Plateau

Let us say an employee John Smith is working in sales department of a heavy engineering company since 14 years. Since the time he joined, he was promoted well and performed at a good level for first 8-9 years. Since last 5 years, John has not been able to get promotion and is working in the same role and has the same responsibilities and KPIs. John is feeling stagnant in the career because of this. As per the understanding of the concept, John is at the point which can be defined as career plateau.

To correct this, John started training in the marketing field and upskilled himself with industry relevant certifications in marketing and heavy engineering field. Once he got upskilled, he tried taking more tasks from the marketing team and eventually moved into the marketing department at a better role because of his 14 years experience and relevant skillset.

Hence, this concludes the definition of Career Plateau along with its overview.

This article has been researched & authored by the Business Concepts Team. It has been reviewed & published by the MBA Skool Team. The content on MBA Skool has been created for educational & academic purpose only.

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