Career Coaching Tips for Managers: Employees who don’t want Career Development

In our career coaching programs for managers in Singapore and the Asia Pacific region, most support the career development of their employees. But as they have career planning conversations, to their surprise, some employees are actually not interested in career development. Do any of the following remarks sound familiar?

“Please do not give me more work.”
“I am happy doing what I am doing.”
“Please don’t stress me out.”

These employees fall into the ‘reluctant’ category. They tend to be comfortable in their field of work and dislike change and uncertainty. They are not ambitious and do not see the need to progress in their career. This may be due to lack of skills, or perhaps their interests simply lie outside of work. They are satisfied doing their current job well.

But you need them to do more and take on more challenges. You also know if they don’t, then perhaps their job could be at risk in the future. What’s more, the retirement age keeps extending. So how do you nudge them to take their career development more seriously? Here are some tips based on real case examples:

1. Educate them on the fast pace of change.

  • Technology and changing customer requirements demand us to change the way we work.
  • Give specific examples, e.g., notice how automated payment stations have led to fewer cashiers in the supermarket. Grab and Uber disrupted the taxi industry and drivers need to either embrace technology or retire early.

2. Gently tell them the risks of not learning.

  • They could be vulnerable if there is a sudden change.
  • Their career relevance comes from their skills, not from trying to keep to the same job in the organization.
  • They will be anxious hearing this, but it is better to be anxious now and learn than to find themselves in stressful situations later.

3. Give positive examples of how others have learned throughout their careers.

  • For example, a client of mine, Jane started work as a secretary with secondary-school education. She kept upgrading herself and taking on new challenges and is now a regional director.
  • Another receptionist took the challenge to expand her job scope and is now an HR administer. Notice many organizations do not have receptionists in these days.

4. Find out their strengths and interests and expand the areas where these can be applied.

  • Using our strengths give us more confidence. Taking small steps in the right direction makes what seem impossible possible.
  • Finally, discoveries on brain neuroplasticity tell us we have the capability to learn at all ages. The trick is to use different strategies to make up for different learning capacity, e.g., taking notes, hands-on practice or learning in bite size.
  • With relevant skills, they can be re-deployed into other roles.


Hope this is helpful. Love to hear your experience or questions on this issue, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

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