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career plateau

Nigel Nicholson


The phenomenon of career plateauing in organizations presents an important and perplexing challenge to human resource management (HRM) and an array of conceptual and empirical problems to organizational behavior scholars. The first problem is definitional. How do we decide when an employee is plateaued? Three types of criteria can be found applied in the literature. First, many researchers have taken time in current position as a measurable and objective benchmark. Employees in post for more than five years would typically be counted as immobile or “plateaued” by this standard, though this or alternative cutoffs have the drawback of looking worryingly arbitrary, and, at the same time, liable to mischaracterize the experience and career positions of many groups, such as professionals. A second alternative is to use a subjective criterion – individuals' expectations of future advancement – defining as plateaued those who expect no or minimal further status increase. The problem with this approach is the questionable accuracy of people's reading of future opportunities and their own capabilities. A less common third alternative, of increasing interest, is the concept of implicit age–grade timetables. These may be assessed subjectively – whether employees believe themselves to be on track relative to peers, or ahead of or behind schedule. Individuals' positions relative to company norms ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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