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6 Main Reasons Most Career Conversations Are Not Effective

Even in organisations where career development conversations do take place, it does not always mean that they are done effectively, consistently or done well. So, what gets in the way of us having good career conversations? These are some of the most common barriers to the career conversation.

The manager isn’t sure if it’s important

The manager does not believe that there is anything to be gained from pursuing a career conversation as there person has been in the organisation for a long time or been doing the same job for many years. The manager might therefore believe the individual does not have plans to move on. Another reason the manager might be hesitant is if the person works in a small organisation, the manager might believe that a career development conversation might be a waste of time as there is nowhere for them to progress within the organisation.


Many managers have a wide range of responsibilities or have a huge team. In both cases, this makes it easy to forget to make long term investments in having a structured career conversation.

It is not rewarded

Although a manager might see the benefits that can be derived from having career conversations with their staff, some of their motivation to do so might be determined by the emphasis and importance the organisation places on such conversations. Some organisations see these types of conversations as a critical part of a line manager’s role and therefore encourage and in some cases, even reward this approach. Other organisations, might however not see this as quite as critical. In the latter, the manager might therefore not be motivated to have career conversations as part of their regular line management responsibility.

Managers don’t know how

It is very common to see managers who have been promoted to their position without people management training. They may fear the conversation because no one ever had it with them. Organisations that see career conversations as part of their development culture, will need to consider ensuring that they provide training for managers to enable them to do so.

Managers may not see it as their job

If a manager perceives that the individual should take responsibility for their own development, it’s easy for them to feel disengaged from the process. In some cases, the manager may also see career conversations as conversations that should be supported by the Human Resources department rather that at line manager level.

Fear of the unknown

When managers are unsure about what opportunities might be available or how to explore career options with their staff, they may prefer to avoid the conversation rather than start one they feel might raise expectations they cannot meet.

In addition to making career conversations part of the organisation’s culture, it is also important that everyone involved in the process understands what is expected of them as well as being clear about the benefits that can be derived from taking part. Organisations need to invest not only in developing their staff in general but also in ensuring that managers are equipped with the tools and skills needed to confidently engage in career conversations in the workplace.

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