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Quiet Ambition

By Dennis Tribble posted 05-31-2024 01:59


I read an interesting article in Beckers today about what some are calling ‘quiet ambition’ entitled “Quiet ambition could spell trouble for succession plans”. To quote the article, quiet ambition “is the idea that workplace achievements should not be chased just for the sake of them, and the acknowledgement that a company's bottom line might not align with one's personal definition of success.” This is not to say that they reject the responsibility to be productive. Rather, it is an indication that an individual may have personal goals with which “climbing the ladder” would interfere.

Some of the statistics were interesting. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. employees who identify themselves as “individual contributors”:

  • ·       38% voiced interest in becoming people managers at their current organization,
  • ·       4% indicated an ambition to becoming a C-Suite executive.

Of the reasons for lack of interest in more advanced roles, individuals cited the increased responsibility conflicting with personal goals such as:

  • ·       Spending time with family and friends (67%)
  • ·       Being physically and mentally fit (64%)
  • ·       Traveling (58%)

I found myself sympathizing with these notions. I have been fortunate that I have spent my last several years in a position in which I have been able to better balance these goals, in some measure because I specifically indicated at hire that I was not seeking traditional advancement. My employer has been kind enough to derive value from letting me be me. I will also indicate that, in my nearly 50 years in this profession, it is the only such opportunity I have ever had. It has enabled me to lead by example and influence rather than by line authority. It has enabled me to teach and to coach and to mentor people that have already made me proud.

But I can also see that it left me occupying a position that could have been filled by someone who was interested in advancement and valuable to the organization as part of its succession planning. What happens when, for example, the Director of Pharmacy position becomes available and there is nobody who wants to step into the job?

We must face the reality that there are some who “work to live” and others who “live to work”. It sounds like the former population may be growing. I can tell you from personal experience that “living to work” can become an addiction for which vacation or retirement can be “cold turkey”. It can rob you of the ability to govern yourself and your time; you learn to rely on work to keep you engaged and busy. So, even for those who have ambitions to grow within an organization, there need to be social and personal engagements outside of work to keep you grounded.

I recently took a vacation to Italy; it was the first such vacation my wife and I had taken in many years. I purposely left my laptop at home. And it was the first vacation I can remember in which I didn’t want to leave; I wanted to stay in Florence for just one more day.

So, let me encourage you to seek professional advancement where it provides you with engagement and joy, but to also seek that engagement and joy outside of work wherever you can.

As always, this blog represents my own thoughts, and not necessarily those of ASHP or my employer.

What do you think?

Dennis A. Tribble, Pharm.D., FASHP

Ormond Beach, FL