Career ladder

A visualization of anti-growth mindset

Alex Ewerlöf (moved to substack)
3 min readSep 24, 2020

Career ladder is a great tool for cultivating growth mindset in an organization:

  • It clarifies the promotion criteria transparently and advocates meritocracy
  • It aligns personal growth with organizational growth
  • It reduces churn by challenging long term employees
  • It sets examples of good behavior and inspires leadership

Unfortunately many companies fail to take full advantage of this tool. Let’s visualize some of the common mistakes.


The tool is there but it fails to serve most employees

Vague criteria

Frustrating to navigate: people are often misplaced (or so it seems)

Too few steps

Does not support gradual growth, employees get stuck on the same step (often the step they started at)

Too short

Puts a hard cap on the growth and demotivates employees

Not connected to compensation

Acknowledges going above and beyond but fails to compensate the extra effort

Glass ceiling

Has non-obvious (often unfair) rules for how far one can go up

Biased promotion

Lifts some with minimum effort (particularly those who resembles the promoters)

Favors shouters

Promotes shouting. Fails to set an example of those who just do their job.

Forces lane change

Forces the employees to change teams or type of responsibilities to climb up

Constant reorg

Some end up holding tight. Others keep jumping between irrelevant positions.

Bureaucratic promotion

There is so much process around promotion that hardly anyone climbs


Set up to intentionally make it harder and more cumbersome to grow. Therefore the majority of the employees are at the lower levels and the culture they build eats the strategy for breakfast!

Low bar

When the business itself doesn’t have the capacity of growth, any effort put into growth may lead the employees to become “too good” and leave


Not part of evaluation process or development talk


Screams “growth is not supported here”! (lack of growth mindset at the leadership level)

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