The excitement career motivation with our job, even our career, can wane over time for a number of reasons. Those reasons include:

  • Learning the job duties and they become routine.
  • Conquering the challenge of the job duty, and losing the anticipation and excitement of learning something new.
  • Dreading the job tasks we once loved because of the stress our work environment or dealing with our boss causes.
  • Having more duties to complete than we can accomplish in a given work day.

Whatever the reason, there comes a time in our job when we get that itch to try a new job. This is right about the time the “carrot on a stick” is often introduced.

A Loosely-Defined Career Incentive

The “carrot on a stick”, in this case, refers to employee retention – the promise of a salary raise, job promotion, or retention bonus that is offered to an employee to (apparently) help them regain their excitement about the job and the company. Honestly, the offer is really to help retain the employee, regardless of their excitement in the job or company. It is much less expensive for an employer to retain an employee, who has learned the industry and the company, than to spend the money to hire and train a new employee. So much data is lost, as well as future potential, when an employee leaves a company, that it is in the company’s best interest to retain any employee that meets or exceeds expectations.

Sometimes these carrots are legitimate and worth it. They lead to a new job with new responsibilities and new challenges. These new responsibilities may even get us closer to some of our career goals. The skills we will learn in the new job could benefit us not only now but also in the future. When the carrot is a bonus, it might come just at the right time, in order to pay for car repairs or a summer vacation. We see the short-term value in the perk we received and feel satisfaction with our company.

Unfortunately, a salary raise, job promotion or retention bonus doesn’t always live up to their original promise. What can be even worse is if these carrots prevent us from moving forward with our career and achieving our career goals. They may have caused us to continue down one career path instead of the one we want to pursue. Sometimes the new job we receive may come with new responsibilities but without additional pay. In other cases, the raise we were promised didn’t meet expectations or never even materialized. These “carrots on a stick” can increase our stress level and our time spent at work without delivering any real benefit.

What to do?

When you are offered that new job or promotion, just at the time you were thinking of trying a different direction, take some time to think about it. You do not need to give an answer on the spot. Revisit the costs and benefits of accepting this new opportunity. Ask yourself:

  • If you do accept the position, what will this look like in the short-term? What will the long-term impact be?
  • How will this new opportunity benefit you and what will it cost you?
  • Will this new opportunity sway you from pursuing a different course? If so, is that truly what you want?
  • Is this new opportunity masking your true interest and excitement of learning new tasks and taking on more responsibility?

Weigh all of this data carefully before making a decision.

Sometimes the carrot shows up at the right time and keeps us at our company doing a job we really wanted to do. Sometimes the carrot just delays our journey to pursue another career. What’s important, is to know the potential impact the carrot will have on you and on accomplishing your long-term and short-term career goals.


, Is the Carrot Helping Your Career?

Amy Wolfgang

Amy Wolfgang is a career coach who founded Wolfgang Career Coaching and co-founded Coaching 4 Good. She brings over 15 years of corporate and coaching experience to help organizations boost employee engagement while simultaneously helping her clients excel in their careers. She is a certified PCM (Professional Career Manager) and has a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.

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