Friday, August 5, 2011


A growing number of managers and executives who have achieved their occupational and financial goals have turned down promotions in order to spend more time with their families. True, many want to make it to the top, but not everyone wants to get promoted. A recent survey reveals that 71 percent of workers “do not want their manager’s job.” It seems that more workers define themselves in terms of the overall quality of their lives…not just by success and money.

I know a 20-year medical technologist lab worker who turned down a director position offer because he enjoyed his work/life balance and loved his day-to-day job duties so much that he didn‘t want to alter them. It must be a difficult decision on whether to keep pushing up the executive ladder or to downsize one’s life.

Lots of managerial and executive types have climbed the ladder of success only to find out the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. One budding executive was thinking of turning down a promotion, which would require him and his family to move out of state. He wanted my opinion. I couldn’t tell him which direction to go, but suggested he express his feelings with his family and others who have “downsized” their lives. I did tell him he wasn’t alone in desiring to free himself from becoming a prisoner of the workplace.

It’s a cost vs. gain decision: a job promotion involves longer hours spent at work, more material and occupational gains vs. losing a part of family life and never feeling you belong to something greater than yourself.

Climbing the executive career ladder is the sole desire for most in the beginning. But, as they grow older, as their kids fledge the nest and as their elderly parents lose self-reliance, they begin to view their fast-track lives as a narrow set of goals which lacked something. In short, their professional victories led to the defeat of their personal needs and family lives.

This “downsizing” of career goals began in the late 1980’s. Surveys conducted by Robert Half International, Inc. and by the Roper Organization (1990) found 78 percent of men would choose a career path with flexible full-time hours and more family time, but slower career advancement over one with inflexible hours and fast career advancement. They also found 67 percent of both men and women would accept a 13-percent salary cut in order to have more family or personal time. Also, for the first time in fifteen years, more workers said leisure time, not work time, was “the most important” thing in their lives.

People seem to rate themselves on both career and family victories, a sort of work-life equilibrium. In this balanced sense, they’d rather be rated a first-rate bricklayer’s helper and family man…than a fourth-rate executive.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions of School Psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership & Policy Studies at Bowling Green State Univeristy. A portion of Ad sale revenue from this site is donated to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Questions? Comment? Concerns about family, parenting, educational or personal concerns? Contact him on the secure Bpath Mail Form.