Why promotions are like drugs

Why promotions are like drugs

Short term fixes to long term issues

Users, pushers, dealers, and addicts. Hierarchy, and the promotions that go with it, can be a dangerous way to recognise the efforts of those around you. And be recognised yourself. Are you a user?

Peer pressure

Your peers become probably your first introduction. You see them all doing it – so why not you? Doesn’t seem hard, or dangerous. Just let out some steam about what you’re upset about or threaten to leave, and boom. You’ve got your first fix: more cred and more money. In fact, the person who gave it to you probably has a little more of your time now.  Why not even switch agencies and get that shiny title you’ve always wanted?


They think they have heaps of friends. You know why you’re nice to them. Suddenly, you don’t see your friend, or acquaintance. You just see the gate-keeper. You need to keep them onside, so probably invite them to a few parties: but ultimately you’re not yourself around them.

It’s a necessary now

And finally, like all drugs: suddenly you need them just to function. To be normal.  Remember before you were introduced to a long ladder, you were happier. People recognised you for who you were – and you got on with what you were doing.

And now think about it: is it really fixing what ever was wrong? Are people treating you any different? How has this changed your relationship with those who knew you best? What are you going to tell your own staff about their promotions? Why not promote everyone?

You’ve lost sight of what really matters. You’re relying on everyone else’s validation.


Now I know this seems dramatic: but I think we all go through a period where we know job titles can be important, but rarely mean anything to anyone outside of your context.  Whether you’re a creative director, vice president, executive vice president, or chief listening officer – people still remember the things you do, and come out of your mouth: and not your shiny American-Psycho-esque business card approach to those around you.

The sooner you stop worrying about the pseudo-hiercharchy of your current job – which I can assure you will change with your next one – the more you’ll start valuing those around you who actually recognise you for the great things you do. It might be monetary, it might be an email to your boss, it might even be a hand-written card with a bottle of wine.

When I look around the office, it is still most often those little hand written cards that people treasure.  So if you’re running a team, a company or the CEO of a board – try something a little more meaningful.  I’m sure it’ll get your team clean in no time.

Photo credit: HTB

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Carrie at 9:49 am

    I LOVE this post, for so many reasons. I often think – please don’t give me a change in title unless you’re going to give me a change in responsibility. But then, titles don’t really do it for me. Does money? – absolutely. Do bigger and better opportunities? – definitely. Could I take or leave the title? – for sure.

    Most of us will be working for more than 30 years (!!!). Whether or not you got promoted within three months or six won’t matter in the long run. What WILL matter is the experience you’ve gained and the opportunities you’ve been exposed to. I can almost guarantee that if you’re consistently the person in the office asking for more/better work and putting your hand up for projects that you’ll get promoted incidentally. Managers like rewarding people who are easy to manage – not the people who are constantly complaining and making demands. Things come easier for people who seem happy and fulfilled. TRUE STORY.

    Chase experience, not promotions.

  2. Danni at 2:03 pm

    Great post Jye and just as brilliant comment by Carrie. Promotions shouldn’t be the aim for either recognition or team management, unfortunately a generation of expectation and easy wins has perpetuated a generation of employees who have ‘jumped’ through expectation and tight employment markets – they now rewarding their teams in the same way!

    You are wise beyond your years!!