Book Review — Promotions Are So Yesterday by Julie Winkle Giulioni
Updated: Aug 24
“The time-honored tradition of defining career development in terms of promotions, moves, or title changes is dead.” -Julie Winkle Giulioni (Promotions Are So Yesterday)
“The stakes associated with perpetuating the old definition of career and career development are too high. The need for skillful, engaged, contributing employees becomes greater by the day. And continuing to confuse career development with attaining specific positions will only limit the growth that both employees and organizations need.” -Julie Winkle Giulioni (Promotions Are So Yesterday)
“When climbing and moving are positioned as the only way to really develop, the message that employees get is “step up or stagnate.” The result is we’ve inadvertently funneled people toward a ladder that can never accommodate them all—never mind that some of them don’t want to climb anyway.” -Julie Winkle Giulioni (Promotions Are So Yesterday)
In Promotions Are So Yesterday, Julie Winkle Giulioni argues that career development is so much more than just getting promoted. She contends that promotions are not and should not be the only option for career advancement. Through her multidimensional career framework, Giulioni shares a different perspective on career development, one that is not dependent or reliant on solely attaining a promotion. The multidimensional career framework features eight dimensions of development—contribution, competence, connection, confidence, challenge, contentment, choice, climb. However, her main focus and argument is that employees are more interested in developing through seven alternative dimensions of development—contribution, competence, connection, confidence, challenge, contentment, choice—beyond promotions and positions (i.e., the climb dimension).
“Beyond, between, and besides the upward climb toward promotions and positions, there are many other ways that employees want to grow.” -Julie Winkle Giulioni (Promotions Are So Yesterday)
“Too frequently, managers take an employee’s request for a promotion at face value. And when it’s not possible to comply (which, let’s face it, is most of the time), they try to gently close the door on the conversation. But in the process, they miss the opportunity to explore what’s motivating the interest and identify other potential ways forward” (Giulioni, 2022, p. 126).
Giulioni (2022) contends that managers can use conversations about promotions as a chance to learn more about their employees, and ask questions that get at the heart of what employees truly want—and find alternative ways to meet their needs. For example, managers can ask questions like these (p. 126):
What exactly is it about that role that interests you most?
What part of it do you look forward to doing most?
Which responsibilities do you believe will be the most interesting?
Which responsibilities might be the most challenging?
What will you need to be able to do to be highly effective in the role?
Where might there be gaps between where you are today and what would be expected of you in that role?
“These questions tease out the nature of the work and skills required from the role itself. They slow people down and inspire reflection, in order to think beneath the surface and beyond their habitual desires to keep moving up. And they offer you, as the manager, opportunities to meet an employee’s deeper needs even in the absence of the promotion they may be seeking” (Giulioni, 2022, p. 126).
In 2020, Giulioni conducted a research study of 750 working professionals to evaluate the importance of, interest in, and access to alternative dimensions of development. “When respondents were made aware of alternative ways to grow beyond advancing through promotions and new positions (the climb), they expressed greater interest in every single other dimension overall” (Giulioni, 2022, p. 6).
Here’s how professionals ranked the dimensions of development:
Contribution: making a difference and aligning with your purpose
Competence: building critical capabilities, skills, and expertise
Confidence: trusting and appreciating your talents and abilities
Connection: cultivating relationships and deepening your network
Challenge: stretching beyond what’s known and comfortable
Contentment: experiencing satisfaction, ease, and joy in your work
Choice: enhancing the control and autonomy you can exercise
Climb: advancing through promotions or new positions
“With just one exception, regardless of age, gender, level in the organization, or location (the United States or elsewhere), employees expressed greater interest in all the alternative development dimensions. (Except for employees in their 20s, every other group [Giulioni] studied ranked the climb dead last. The 20-somethings ranked the climb second to last.)” (Giulioni, 2022, p. 6).
“The climb is only a small part of the career development elephant. In fact, there are seven other dimensions that can be developed throughout one’s career. And when employees take off their blinders and become aware of the other viable and valuable ways they can grow, my research suggests that the climb suddenly becomes a lot less interesting.” -Julie Winkle Giulioni (Promotions Are So Yesterday)
For all the talk about career development and defining and redefining career development, I found it disappointing that Giulioni didn’t offer a definition of what exactly she meant by “career development.” However, in another book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni did provide a definition: “Career development is nothing more than helping others grow. And nothing less” (2019, p. 12). Giulioni alluded to this definition several times in her Promotions Are So Yesterday book, but unfortunately she never clearly defined it.
What I Like
1. The Multidimensional Career Self-Assessment — According to Giulioni, “Your self-assessment results will reveal a landscape of dimensions in addition to and beyond the traditional focus on moving up or around the corporate ladder (which will be referred to as “climb”). These other seven dimensions are not only available for development but, according to my research, also deeply important and of genuine interest to your employees too.”
“Employees are more interested in developing through contribution, competence, connection, confidence, challenge, contentment, and choice than the climb. The possibilities associated with these alternative dimensions resonate and give them hope. Tapping into that hope is how you will effect change.” -Julie Winkle Giulioni (Promotions Are So Yesterday)
2. Real-world examples of employee needs and how to meet them — For example, in the “Contribution” dimension (Ch. 2), Giulioni shared about Heather (a financial advisor who was ready to focus on her development and position herself for additional challenges down the line) and her manager, Amina, who helped Heather have a greater impact at work by having Heather author a regular newsletter and establish a social media presence to create a more proactive communication cadence with customers. In the “Connection” dimension (Ch. 4), we heard about Marcus (who’s focused on social media on the marketing team but who was feeling isolated and worried about being overlooked due to him working remotely) and how his boss, Diedre (leader of the pharmaceuticals marketing team), helped Marcus to enhance his connections by representing the team at the monthly product marketing council meeting. In the “Challenge” dimension (Ch. 6), we learn about Randy (an analyst in a hospital system) and his desire to challenge himself more in his current role [he’d seen some redundancies and inefficiencies in a particular process and felt that he could write, test, and implement a level 1 alert in five weeks as opposed to the usual six or seven], and how his manager, Eli (the software services manager), worked with him to explore this opportunity for growth.
3. Checklists, discussion questions, tools, and templates to use with employees — These make it easier for managers and their employees to take action.
4. The “Tool” and “Pro Tip” sections — These provide actionable how-tos for supporting others’ growth in new and different ways.
What I Didn’t Like – Using Job Crafting Incorrectly
I wish Giulioni would have investigated the meaning of the word “job crafting” before using it, because what she meant was not job crafting, but rather “job enlargement” and “job enrichment.”
Job crafting is not new. It’s been around for over 20 years (Dutton & Wrzesniewski, 2020; Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001). Job crafting is “actions that employees take to shape, mold, and redefine their jobs” (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001, p. 180). Job crafting is what workers do to redefine and reimagine their job to make it more personally meaningful to them (Berg, Dutton, & Wrzesniewski, 2013).
In her book, however, Giulioni suggested that managers do the “job crafting” for their employees. I want to emphasize that this is NOT the proper use and definition of “job crafting.” Job crafting is what the employee does, NOT what the manager does.
“In most organizations, the one thing that managers have the greatest control over is the jobs that their people do. You [the manager] can take full advantage of this as a way to introduce greater contentment into individual roles as you facilitate meaningful growth and career development. And you [the manager] can do this through job crafting” (Giulioni, 2022, p. 100).
“As a manager, it’s likely well within your purview to help make this happen by customizing the role, tasks, and responsibilities to be more appealing and aligned with what will result in greater contentment—as long as you meet your team or departmental objectives” (Giulioni, 2022, pp. 100-101).
“When you [the manager] job craft, you can slice and dice job descriptions, reconfiguring them in ways that offer employees a better fit, more desirable activities, and greater opportunities for growth and development. It’s a matter of shifting tasks among employees to introduce the variety, interest, or meaning they crave” (Giulioni, 2022, p. 101).
It’s important to note that job crafting is initiated by the employee, from the bottom up, and not by the manager from the top down. “Job crafting is a way to think about job design that puts employees in the driver’s seat in cultivating meaningfulness in their work” (Berg, Dutton, & Wrzesniewski, 2013, p. 82).
Thus, when Giulioni suggests that managers can job craft their employees’ jobs, the correct terms she’s looking for are job enlargement and job enrichment — not job crafting.
Job enlargement is where managers give employees more tasks to perform at the same time. With job enlargement, employees are allowed to make more complex decisions (i.e., knowledge enlargement) and/or they are given more tasks of the same difficulty level to perform (i.e., task enlargement)(Aamodt, 2023).
Job enrichment is where managers give employees more responsibility over the tasks and decisions related to their job. And even when increased decision-making responsibilities are not possible, job enrichment ideas can still be implemented. For example, managers can arrange for employees to take part in various committees or boards, or managers can show their employees that their jobs have meaning and that they are meeting some worthwhile goal through their work (Aamodt, 2023).
Overall, Promotions Are So Yesterday by Julie Winkle Giulioni is a short, good, and useful book. There are many practical tools and pro tips with actionable how-tos for supporting others’ growth in new and different ways. There are so many different ways employees can grow (beyond just getting promoted) and Giulioni’s book does a nice job of discussing these seven alternative dimensions of development—contribution, competence, connection, confidence, challenge, contentment, choice—beyond promotions and positions (i.e., the climb dimension).
My biggest concern and issue with the book, however, is Giulioni’s incorrect suggestion that managers do the “job crafting” for their employees. Again, I want to reiterate that this is not the proper use and definition of “job crafting.” Job crafting is what the employee does, not what the manager does. If there’s a second edition of the book, my hope is that Giulioni will use the terms job enlargement and job enrichment instead of incorrectly using job crafting.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D. Organizational & Leadership Development Leader
Aamodt, M. G. (2023). Industrial/organizational psychology: An applied approach (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.
Berg, J. M., Dutton, J. E., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2013). Job Crafting and Meaningful Work. In B. J. Dik, Z. S. Byrne & M. F. Steger (Eds.), Purpose and meaning in the workplace (pp. 81-104). American Psychological Association.
Dutton, J. E., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2020, March 12). What Job Crafting Looks Like. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/03/what-job-crafting-looks-like
Giulioni, J. W. (2022). Promotions Are So Yesterday: Redefine Career Development. Help Employees Thrive. ATD Press.
Kaye, B., & Giulioni, J. W. (2019). Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go (2nd ed.). Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 179-201.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Promotions Are So Yesterday: Redefine Career Development as a complimentary gift in exchange for an honest review.