It’s good to be king, the saying goes, but many of us don’t feel that way when it comes to the workplace.
According to a new Pew survey, 43% of respondents say they wouldn’t want to be a boss or top manager manager someday. That’s more than the 39% who do want to climb the corporate ladder, despite research showing that supervisors are happier with their family, financial and professional lives.
Why are so many of us content to be worker bees, especially in a culture that holds upward mobility and professional advancement in high regard?
We don’t view our jobs as careers. Some of the discrepancy may come in the way managers versus rank-and-file workers view their jobs. Pew found that more than three-quarters of bosses consider their job as a career, while less than half of workers do. More than a third of lower-level employees characterize their work as “just a job to get them by.”
We can’t handle any more work. “Even if it does look wonderful and inspiring, the work they perceive it would take to not only get a position and become a boss, but to maintain a position as a boss — people are just so overwhelmed with their lives,” says Nicole Williams, a career expert with LinkedIn. “They want to work, but they’ve got a sense of this work-life balance.”
We’re stressed that our skills won’t measure up. Pew found that a little more than half of workers think they’re adequately trained to do their jobs, meaning a large portion of today’s labor pool feels unprepared. “The employer may have created an environment that doesn’t allow [people] to learn new tasks to prepare you for advancement,” says HR expert Margaret Spence. “While they may have the experience, they also see how much knowledge is required to do the other job successfully.”
We don’t want the responsibility. “Some workers may stay in a non-management role because they like that type of work experience. Others may not want to take on added responsibility of managing others and would prefer focusing on their own individual role,” says Jennifer Sullivan Grasz, a spokeswoman at CareerBuilder.com. Some people want the luxury of sailing out the door at 5 p.m. and not thinking about work until they return.
We have no idea where to start. “There hasn’t been a lot of movement in the last couple of years,” Williams points out. A slack labor market means very little hiring and promoting, so many young workers today don’t really have a sense of how to position themselves to move up the corporate ladder. “They just haven’t seen what it looks like to prepare to go after a promotion and become a boss,” she says.