We’re always trying to push our employees, and for good reason: You want to make the most out of your people not only for their sake but for your business’s as well. But what about those employees who like to be “in the box”? What do you do about them?

I’ve worked with people who don’t really want to “climb the corporate ladder” and I have to admit I couldn’t understand it at the time. I’ve always clawed at every rung, so this put me out of my comfort zone. They want to come in at 9 and leave at 5, and leave their work at work. This is something that was always very foreign to me until I got it. There are some extremely productive workers that love JUST what they do and are very comfortable doing it. So what’s the problem with letting them?

The downside is not recognizing when “in the box” employees should get out of the box. I’m sure you’ve got people who have great potential but are afraid to take it to the next step, but once let out of the box, they flourish.

So how do you recognize both? I say always give both the opportunity. It’s theirs to say no to. So what do you do?

  • If you recognize someone who may have “moving up” potential, have a talk with her. She may not even be thinking that she’s even got an opportunity. Furthermore, she may not think that she can handle it. If you’ve “got her back,” that may be all she needs to take the chance.
  • If he doesn’t want to move up, he needs to know that it’s OK. If he’s already doing a great job, he needs to know that he can keep on keepin’ on. If you don’t make this point, he might think his job is in jeopardy.
  • Give people “trial runs” at managing/moving up, then come together in a few months to see if a) you think they’re doing a good job, and b) they like what they do. I once promoted someone to a manager who ended up hating it. One day he came to me and asked if he could hire his boss. ‘Nuff said. On the extreme opposite, we “gently nudged” another person to be a manager and she’s flourishing.

At my e-mail marketing company VerticalResponse we try to offer a career path to anyone who comes in the door, whether it’s within their own department or in another. We condition managers not to feel “jilted” if someone wants to move to another department. It simply means they’ve done a great job mentoring and growing someone to be successful within the company.

What are you doing to recognize in- and out-of-the box employees?