Why your boss doesn’t want to talk about your career development

Why your boss doesn’t want to talk about your career development

It’s really weird. You’ve set your career goals for the year. You have also agreed on targets with your boss. But what you really want to talk about is where all this leading – as in – what’s my next step in this company?

What do I need to learn to get ahead with my career development?

How can I get myself some relevant experience to put me in a good position for a lateral move?

And yet your boss is gathering up her papers as though the meeting is over.

Is this an experience you have had recently?

It’s not surprising.

Want to know why your boss is dodging the career conversation about your career development?

In my work on talent and career development with companies of all sizes, I find that managers and even HR are a bit shy when it comes to talking about your career goals.

Let me share what I have discovered.

Here are the top 3 reasons why your boss isn’t talking to you about your career development.

Fundamentally, it’s because they are running scared. Apart from their fear of you taking their job, they are also worrying that….

1. You do a great job of something specific and they don’t want to lose you.

If you think about this, you can see why the fear might creep in. If you had a high performing team, with everyone up to speed and expert, would you want to seed the idea that they might want to move on – thereby causing you major hassle in replacing them? You see the logic. So they say nothing and hope that you will forget there is another world out there…

2. They know the structure is quite flat and the chances of promotion opportunities are low.

This is one of the challenges of working in a relatively democratic company. There just may not be that many layers, chances for promotion might be limited.

Why bring up the conversation if you know you don’t have an immediate opportunity for the person you are speaking to…. So they keep mum, and ostrich it, even though you might actually be looking for a lateral move, or a chance to travel or a stretch project, or even just a bit more flexible working. All of which could be in their power to grant you.

3. There’s something that hasn’t been said that’s getting in the way of you having the role you want

Sometimes, managers, like all other human beings, can dodge the difficult stuff. They know that you might be hurt if they point out a blind spot or area for your career development. They don’t want to rock the boat. What this means for your career development is that they won’t tell you what you need to do to get ahead.

And might actively shy away from a conversation about your career goals because they would then have to fess up to some feedback that maybe they ought to have given you months ago – thus making them look bad.

Career isn’t a dirty word. 

All in all then, for the most part, the missing conversation isn’t because ‘career’ is a dirty word. It’s because your manager wants to avoid:




They’re human, just like you.

But the funny thing is, that we just want to talk. You are an adult, you know not everything can fall into your lap immediately. You don’t expect that just by saying the word ‘future’ a magic wand will immediately be waved over you and a shining steed will whisk you off to your exciting new role…Yet by avoiding talking to you about your next move, your company creates a big, fat risk.

You Have A Right To Be Heard. 

We all want to talk about our careers and our career goals.

We talk to our girlfriends and our partners and our parents about them. Sooner or later we want a more formal conversation.

And if that doesn’t happen at work, it might mean you end up speaking to the competition, a career coach or a recruiter. And eventually, you might take your talent somewhere else.

If you’d like to have a career conversation and feel your boss is dodging it, try a gentle nudge to the effect of…

“I’d like to have a chance to explore my future at (your company). When would be a good time for an informal discussion?”

If you would prefer to have this discussion with someone other than your manager, see if the company offers a mentoring scheme. Another solution will be to find a more senior peer who might be able to offer some insight and career guidance on next steps.

Career doesn’t need to be a dirty word.

So, now you know what’s holding your manager back from an open dialogue. What action will you take to get this conversation started?

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