Two weeks ago I started a series of posts about 4 types of employees and their career goals. So far, we’ve talked about the SES-Hopeful and The Drifter.

This week’s focus is on those who are satisfied with where they are. When asked, “What are your career goals?” this person is likely to answer something like “I don’t have any”. This is different from The Drifter who might respond as unsure. This employee is very sure. They are satisfied with where they are and have no interest in moving up or changing jobs. I think of this type of employee as The Satisfied.

This type of employee often gets a bad rap. Admittedly, I initially named this employee type as “The Settler” when I drafted this series. The truth is, this type of employee can be a team’s best secret weapon of success.

You may have come to this page as an employee wondering whether you really need any more training. Or you may be a supervisor unsure how to develop employees who don’t want training.

We offer you some thoughts on how to develop when someone is happy right where they are.

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Let’s be clear up front. We all know employees who are retired-in-place. The retired-in-place employee can be any age. This person is best known as someone who does the bare minimum to keep their job. They watch the clock for when they can go home and may be counting the days (or years) until they can retire. From a supervisor’s perspective, this employee can be the most frustrating in all ways – not just in terms of development. This type of employee is NOT who I’m calling The Satisfied.

Career Goals of The Satisfied

You might be wondering why I call this person a secret weapon on a team. This person is not motivated by promotions or accolades. Thanks, yes, but not accolades. This person is likely not an overachiever nor will they seek out the highest ratings on their performance appraisal. They are the most solid and consistent worker on the team. In fact, they may have been on the team the longest – likely far longer than the current supervisor. Some say this person ‘knows where the bodies are buried’ – which means they are exceptional at navigating the politics of an agency. They probably know just about everyone in the building.

The strength of this type of employee is they know their job. They are solid workers – no more, no less.

Here’s an example in case you are still having a hard time picturing this employee. Let’s say they are a scientist. They enjoy working in the lab and like attending conferences and writing articles. They also know that promotions will likely be into a management position. As a manager, they will no longer have the freedom to do the work they enjoy most. Instead, they will have to attend meetings, do paperwork, and oversee others who are doing the work that they love.

If you are this person, you might wonder if you really need more development. In fact, you may fear that if you get any better that you will be promoted anyway. And, since you are where you want to be in your career, do you really need to have any professional development goals?

The answer is yes, I believe you do.

Here are three suggestions for how to stay current – even if you (or your employee) doesn’t want to move up.

Just because you don’t want to move up doesn’t mean you don’t need to stay sharp. The industry will continue to change and to stay where you are, you will still need to keep up. The person who understands the need to keep current is the difference between being retired-in-place and being the secret weapon.

1. Maintain awareness.

Depending on your area of specialty, this can mean different things. Likely there are trade magazines or blogs that discuss whatever industry you are in. If nothing else, I like to read NextGov and Government Executive to know broadly what’s going on. If you’re here as a supervisor, remember you can help your employee with this by sending them to local conferences or sharing articles that you’ve been reading.

2.  Focus on interpersonal skills

There’s just no such thing as too much interpersonal skills. We all like to believe we’re natural communicators and work well in teams. The truth is these things don’t come naturally. It is worth actively developing these important job skills. And, if you really are good at these skills then taking classes on the topics will serve as good reminders of things you may not be doing frequently.

3. Mentor others

Just because you’ve reached the place you want to be in the organization doesn’t mean that you don’t have something to offer to others that do want to move up. Mentoring is a great way to share what you know (sometimes that includes where the bodies are buried). Plus, it will help you maintain awareness and interpersonal skills. Again, if you’re here as a supervisor, this is a great opportunity for you to ask The Satisfied to mentor others on the team. Or, even to participate in a formal mentoring program if one exists within the agency.


Soon, I’ll finish up this career goals series of posts with how to develop The Climber. In case you missed it, check out the posts on The SES-Hopeful and The Drifter.