Am I stuck on a career plateau?

One reason I write because that’s how I learn. Here I’m going to examine why people can no longer able to move up to higher positions and also how one gets stuck in one position for too long. I’ve seen many people like this. Recently I begin to feel the same way.

Once we have identified the land mines in the field it will be easier to cross without stepping on one. Likewise, if I’m able to identify what I’m doing wrong, and if I know what I have to avoid in order to succeed, I will be able to avoid landing on a career plateau.

People get stuck on a pleteau for various reasons. Some are personal while others are organizational. Personal reasons can be the age, low educational level, lack of skills, lack of ambition, family size, and family mobility. Organizational factors can be the organizational structure, hierarchy and end of promotions etc.(1)

Once one landed on a plateau, they either become a solid citizen or a deadwood.(2) As time passes solid citizen also become a deadwood.

When a person reaches a plateau there are three steps he can take. He can move to a new role, or transfer laterally or retire.(3)

There are lower chances of getting plateaued in international hotel chains due to their well planned development opportunities. They are well structured with clearly defined hierarchies. In such companies it is easier for a person to identify the path and move forward.

Organizations are structured like a pyramid. So the higher one goes the narrower it becomes. The higher one goes, his opportunities decrease and competition increase, this sometimes keeps a person on a plateau.

Based on my observation from over 10 chain resorts and 10+ locally operated resorts, I found locally operated resorts have more individuals stuck on plateaus. In some cases people stuck on entry level jobs. Eg. I met a guy working as a room boy for 14 years.

When employees get stuck on plateaus, it has negative effects on the organization. From organization side there are things they can do to minimize such impacts. For eg. Making personal development plans, not extending contract for more than two times for the same position etc.

The second choice seems harsh and it’s difficult for managers to make such a choice especially if the employee is good at his/job. But when an employee stays in one organization and doing the same work for five to ten years, their thinking gets closed in. They become rigid, resistant to change, and feel attacked if anyone try to change something they are comfortable doing. As a result such employees hinder innovation and progress. They themselves become stoned. So letting such people go is a good thing an organization is doing for them as well.

Here I have discussed different reasons why someone could land on a plateau, and what are the things one could do and keep in mind so that one could avoid a plateau.


  1. Baoguo, Xie, and Xia Mian. “An empirical research on causes and effects of career plateau.” In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Innovation & Management, 2005.
  2. Ference, Thomas P., James AF Stoner, and E. Kirby Warren. “Managing the career plateau.” Academy of Management review (1977)
  3. Elsass, Priscilla M., and David A. Ralston. “Individual responses to the stress of career plateauing.” Journal of Management (1989)
  4. Inkeles, A. (1969). Making Men Modern- On the Causes and Consequences of Individual Change in Six Developing Countries. American Journal of Sociology

Original 10-03-21,
Edits 13-03-21