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Beware of career conversation myths

August 7, 2013

By Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni

The following is the final in a series of guest blog posts by Women in Leadership Institute faculty member Beverly Kaye and her co-author Julie Winkle Giulioni. Click here to start reading at the beginning.—Ed

One of the essential research questions we asked managers for our book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want was simple: What stops you from having career conversations with your employees? We received a wide variety of answers and several stood out. We’ll talk about two, which surfaced at the top of the list, in this post. Each answer is easily understood, and each is a myth that needs to be debunked.

1. Lack of time

Lack of time got the highest vote by far. It’s certainly clear that time is a scarce resource. And it’s also clear that managers in today’s organizations have been asked to do more than ever with this scarce resource. When there’s only so much of it, and a task has to be completed, it is easier to put any conversation that is not task related on hold. The problem is that the hold button is never quite released. This is absolutely understandable. There are never enough hours in the day. That’s a fact.

However, this myth is perpetuated because managers assume that the development conversation has to take place in a particular environment, follow a particular set of questions, and then get documented in a particular way. Only organizations that question their own processes and offer alternative approaches have a chance of changing this myth. Organizations that take the time to show managers how the conversations can be embedded in the workday, and require their own senior leaders to demonstrate this with their own direct reports, can shift this belief.

2. Everyone wants to move up!

Much of the literature on Gen Y suggests that they want to move up….and fast. Surprise! However, that is only one of the viewpoints of this generation’s career desires. Another is that they prefer flexibility over promotions and titles and yes, even dollars. Recent research in retention and engagement suggests that all generations want challenge and continued learning. They want to remain on the cutting edge of whatever profession they are in. This demand does not come with a change of title or a movement up the career ladder. It can be met on the current job if the manager and employee take time to have the conversation.

This myth is perpetuated partly because most organizations have never tested the assumption that the vertical move is still the most coveted. It also is perpetuated by compensation systems that do not reward for growth on the present job, or lateral moves. Organizations can break away from this assumption by celebrating those who grow their careers in other ways, and compensating for these achievements.

More about Beverly and Julie

BeverlyKaye_JulieGiulioni (2)Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute faculty member Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni are co-authors of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want. Follow them on Twitter @BeverlyLKaye and @Julie_wg.


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Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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