The HR Dictionary

Career Plateau

Career plateau occurs when an employee has reached the highest position or level they can possibly obtain within an organization and have no future prospect of being promoted due to a lack of skills, corporate restructuring, reaching the highest point of the corporate ladder, or other factors.

Reasons for a Career Plateau

  1. Internal causes - Internal factors for career plateaus can include overconfidence in one's skills or abilities or a loss of confidence brought on by a traumatic life event. A career plateau may cause an employee to lose interest in or feel unchallenged by their work, which managers may interpret as a symptom of demotivation.

  2. External causes - Achieving a higher level of seniority within a corporation is one example of an external cause for a career plateau. Fewer positions become available for someone as they move up the job ladder. Senior management may have been in place in tiny businesses for a long time with little prospect of turnover.

The main causes, such as the ones identified above, will determine how a career plateau is managed. An employee only needs to look for a new position in a larger market or a new firm with more career chances if they have outgrown their current position or have reached a higher degree of seniority at their current employer but have nowhere else to grow. Otherwise, necessary actions can be taken to overcome the internal factors causing the career plateau.