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Contentment Just Might Be the New Promotion

two girls leaping full of joy and contentmentEverywhere we turn—conferences, leadership forums, executive meetings—employee happiness (or the lack thereof) is a hot topic. And it makes sense. Research from BambooHR and others tells us employee happiness is at a historical low. The past few years—with all its upheaval—have inspired many to re-evaluate their relationship with work. And a lot of employees have discovered that relationship is falling short of what they want and need.

The once-standard career trajectory and traditional trappings of success don’t have the same power they once did. Now, people are measuring success differently, more personally. 

For leaders, this means rethinking career development and acknowledging that people are looking beyond promotions for fulfillment. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that today contentment is the new promotion. Your people may want meaningful work even more than that new title. Or the flexibility to attend their kids’ soccer games. Or the greater challenge? Or the ability to develop new skills. And the good news is that cultivating this kind of career contentment is completely within your sphere of influence.

Leading Learning - Training Industry Magazine




For more thoughts on how contentment just might be the new promotion, check out my latest column in Training Industry.

Promotions Are SO Yesterday




And if you want concrete strategies and tools for helping people find greater contentment in their current roles, dig into chapter 7 of Promotions Are SO Yesterday.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.

2 comments on “Contentment Just Might Be the New Promotion

  1. A concerned manager with ear to the ground on

    This article might be the biggest apology for wide-spread corporate mishandling of the people working for a corporation that I have ever seen.

    There used to be a corporate mindset like Henry Ford had, where employees were paid a wage commensurate to afford the products a company could produce. That mindset is no longer used by corporations since at least the 1980s, which has seen worker efficiency increase since that time while earnings stagnate for the average worker versus inflation and corporate C-Suite pay/total compensation packages in the USA.

    So if the C-Suite is economically strip mining the company so that reasonable promotions and increases cannot be awarded to conscionably good workers, why should those workers and middle management lower our standards rather than voicing these concerns on forums where those C-Suite leaders can realize that they need to do something different? Why are thought leaders like you not taking up such a cause rather than foisting what is essentially telling workers to “be thankful for what you got” post like this one?

    A business cannot run without engaged and motivated workers and middle managers. The system will break if the C-Suite and Wall Street does not pivot soon.

    • Julie Winkle Giulioni on

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I can’t disagree with you that there’s a lot that’s broken in business today. According to AFL-CIO data, CEOs were paid 344 times as much as a typical worker in 2022, up from an average pay ratio of just 21 to 1 in 1965. And the differential will likely grow this year. It’s clearly not sustainable. At the same time (and perhaps in part in response to these conditions), employees are looking for a different relationship with work – more meaning, ease, etc. I believe that both can be true – and addressing one doesn’t negate the very real problems of the other. I really appreciate your perspective and lookin forward to continuing the conversation.


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