Are unambitious workers a problem?

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Not every worker will eventually be CEO, but are employees who are content to remain in their jobs, completing the required tasks but no more, holding a company back? That was the argument from staffing director R. J. Morris, but some Canadian HR pros disagree, saying these workers are often the backbone of an organization.
 
" ‘Competent squatter’ – what a nasty and contemptuous phrase for the majority of employees who are content at what they do, pleasant, competent, reliable and good team players,” Ann wrote. “Not every employee needs to be ambitious.”
 
She added that if an employee was disinterested or not performing then HR should address the problem, but they also needed to recognize the importance of having “good solid and reliable performers who may not have the potential or desire to perform up.”
 
However, some HR leaders suggested these workers could be less adaptable and effective in the long term.
 
“I think that the fear for organizations in the ‘competent squatter’ is that while they are good at the job they currently hold, their adaptability to change as the technology, and business changes may be limited,” Zakeana wrote. “A company of such workers would quickly fall behind one that values learning, growth, change and innovation - in my opinion.”
 
 
 
  • Lisetta Chalupiak on 2014-06-14 9:44:56 PM

    This article is deeply disturbing to me. Life happens and sometime people are not free to pursue the next step up. Widowed with five young children, I have had to balance work and home....passionate about my job and my kids, and have grown and contributed more than my peers at work..this article dismisses and devalues the work of people who are content, or have had to accpet being in their level

  • Jaen Watson on 2014-06-16 9:45:46 AM

    My thoughts on the concept of 'the competent squatter': http://talentvanguard.com/2014/06/12/everyone-must-be-exceptional/

  • Sonnya on 2014-06-16 10:04:00 AM

    The problem I have with this article and the previous one on "competent squatters, is the lack of evidence or references to support offhanded comments that are basically the equivalent of watercooler chats. These articles simply cannot stand scrutiny. Do make an effort to be a bit more credible.

  • Sonnya on 2014-06-16 10:06:40 AM

    The problem I have with this article and the previous one on "competent squatters, is the lack of evidence or references to support offhanded comments that are basically the equivalent of watercooler chats. These articles simply cannot stand scrutiny. Do make an effort to be a bit more credible.

  • Caitlin Nobes on 2014-06-16 10:25:18 AM

    Thanks for the feedback, Sonnya. This article is based on reader comments, so it is essentially digital watercooler discussion. We write a lot of research-based articles, but our readers have a lot of insight and opinions on a range of issues and I like to highlight some of that discussion each week.

  • Ella on 2014-06-16 10:52:00 AM

    There is definitely a time and a place for those who enjoy their roles and want to remain there. Look to the people that crave change(HR doesn't seem to like those either) to be the moves and shakers, those types can get the ball rolling and your so call 'competent squatters' keep that ball moving right along. We need all types to make greatness so lets embrace them all!

  • Steve on 2014-06-16 12:33:33 PM

    I think there's nothing wrong with a person who comes in and gives a full days work for a full days pay, with no thought or intention of moving up the corporate ladder. We bemoan the effects of the Peter Principal, yet we complain that not everyone is trying to climb the ladder. I think it's an important piece of self-awareness to know that you may not be cut out to become the next leader of your team.

    Another point that was brought up by another poster, is the person who may have other challenges at home, and can't commit to the challenges of the next step. That person may be a strong performer when at work, but doesn't have the ability to sacrifice that extra hour each day to the company, because they have family commitments.

    As an HR professional we constantly work to help our business leaders understand that not all their workers are the same as their manager. Yet, this article appears to paint these folks with the same brush -- "If you don't work to climb the corporate ladder, you must be lazy". When did it become "wrong" to be content with the life and job you currently have? Why is being content "not okay?".

  • Laura on 2014-06-17 10:17:21 AM

    The argument, (by Zakeanna, in response to to Ann's comments), that "the fear for organizations in the ‘competent squatter’ is that while they are good at the job they currently hold, their adaptability to change as the technology, and business changes may be limited,” is weak and unsubstantiated. Just because someone has no interest in "moving up," must it also mean that they have no interest or ability to adapt to changes, take the required courses as necessary, and grow with their job. I think change, large or small, is a known inevitability, in any job, for any company/organization.
    Adaptability is not the same as initiative. There is nothing to be concerned of if you have competent, hard working, reliable employees that enjoy their jobs.

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