Why Career Complacency Is a Career Killer

If your organization allows career complacency it will kill your career

Career complacency can be a default setting for many. But it’s risky in today’s volatile workplace

Two stories

Genevieve has been in a new job for 18 months. She secured this new role after a period of intensive coaching following her unexpected redundancy 3 years ago. Despite solid service with a well-known household brand, she was out of the job market for 18 months during which she depleted her savings and became clinically depressed.  Initially, she thought she would easily get a job on her return and was relaxed. She took a month off to travel, spending a chunk of her redundancy money, but struggled to find her job when she got back. She sought a coach only when she was desperate. Since she has been in her new role she has not maintained the impetus and energy she tapped into with her coach. Her network has barely moved and her LinkedIn profile has not been updated, except to note her new role with only a job title.

She has flipped back to her default setting –  career complacency.

McKenna works in Procurement. She has been in her job for 8 years. The hours suit her, she is located near her children’s school, has flex time and is hooked up to a home office. Her boss likes her, they get on well and she is relatively low-cost for her level of qualifications. She has just learned from corporate HQ that her function is being centralized at an Eastern European location. She is desperate. So is her boss.

McKenna was viewing her career through the lens of career complacency. So was her boss.

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The impact of career complacency



Complacency is accepting the status quo and not having any intention of growth or development. Merriman Webster identifies the dangers of complacency

Career complacency is very damaging to productivity, career management and crisis readiness. Career complacency is rooted in a number of factors which form not so much a storm, but a perfect swamp of mediocrity, where everyone gets sucked under. These can be any combination of:

  • Lack of stretch challenges
  • Inadequate feedback
  • Comfortable environment
  • Predictable performance expectations
  • Not being in touch with what is going on in the market or even within a current company

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Bad for organizations and individuals

Career complacency is bad for both individuals and organizations. For organizations it means that employees are working on auto pilot, their new skill development is static, they are operating below top or even optimal performance. Energy levels are diminished, innovation has dropped and ambitions are stifled.  Career complacency kills performance and motivation which ultimately hits employee engagement and the bottom line.

If an organization facilitates career complacency, if they are happy with the status quo it can kill  individual careers. It means employees have no updated goals and vision, no plan or strategy and few up to date skills. When the next crisis comes (and it will) it is highly likely that women like Genevieve and McKenna may still be unprepared.


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Staff Writer: Career
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