Stuck in Place

As employers, you may often find yourselves faced with staff members who are “stuck in place;” those who have been with the organization for awhile and continue to do the same job, in the same way, for years, with no extra effort, and no signs of growth or ambition while those around them are passing them on the organizational ladder.  As consultants we have had this conversation many times with our clients, who ask, “What can orshouldwe do about these people?”

First, make sure you are aware of your organization’s culture in this area.  Are you, as an organization, willing to accept that some people just want to do a good, dependable job, but not excel?  If the answer is yes, and we think it’s OK for that to be the case.  Consider the value of a solid employee who comes to work, is dedicated and gets the job done.  Most organizations need those heavy lifting hands so that others who want to excel in a career can focus attentions on growth and not day-to-day activities.  You can and should continue to put new ideas in front of these employees to try to continually motivate them, but really, the only actual action you may need to take is to ensure that when employees in this category hit the maximum of their pay range that they are not being provided with additional increases to base pay beyond that range maximum.  They may be doing a fine job, but you have defined the worth of that job in your organization by the pay range assigned to it and the employee’s base pay should not go above that maximum.

But what if the answer to the initial question is “No, it’s not OK for people to be stuck in place in our organization?”  Make sure your walk matches your talk.  Many employees say they want promotions and want to advance in an organization, but their actions appear to conflict with those aspirations.  Do you have the right infrastructure in place to support them?  We often assume that everyone understands what it takes to succeed but mentors and on-going education are critical to the development of future leaders.  Do employees have access to these tools?  Do they have the ability to learn and comprehend what they need to do?  If so, do you have the programs in place to teach them?  It is important that this process be consistent and intentional; not as things arise or in crisis mode.

Are employees vested in this process? Do they understand the value of what they do, how it fits in the bigger picture and the impact of their success or failure on the rest of the organization?  Providing them with opportunities to learn what their fellow coworkers do up-stream and down-stream from their part of the process helps them to take responsibility and see the impact of their actions.

Give them opportunities to show leadership even if they are not in a management role yet.  Allow them to cross train others, include them in the new hire process, or create mentor partner programs where they are paired up with others in the organization and they can coach each other.  In the end, the responsibility for the growth of our employees is ours.  We have to provide the environment, tools, and coaching required to grow our next leaders.  For more information on ways to get employees “unstuck,” click through to this helpful article from Crucial Skills (

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