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Why “no thanks” is an unacceptable response to development

If you're not growing, you're falling behind. So how can you help employees keep learning?

4 min read


Why "no thanks" is an unacceptable response to development

Brad Barmore/Unsplash

In any group or department, you have them — the employees who are comfortable where they are. They’re reluctant to step up to new challenges and dismiss the need for growth. And as a leader, it’s easy to ignore these people because you likely have your hands full attending to those on the other end of the continuum – those who desperately want to grow, develop, and progress.

Yet, in the current hyper-competitive environment, growth is no longer optional; it’s an essential survival strategy. Today it’s actually dangerous to adopt a “thanks but no thanks” mentality when it comes to development. Because, let’s face it:

  • Stagnation in any form is unhealthy.
  • The world is moving so fast, with technology and methodologies changing daily.
  • Organizations that wish to be at the top of their games require employees who at are at the top of theirs, as well.

Anyone who is not developing is going to lag behind. As a leader, you can’t afford to have anyone stand still.  What helped your employees get to where they are today will fall miserably short of keeping them there, and that has significant implications.

As a result, leaders must re-educate employees and help anyone who thinks they’re ‘just fine’ to understand that, in the absence of ongoing development, they are anything but fine.  So, if you encounter others who are reluctant to grow, try these five strategies.

  1. Make sure employees understand that career development doesn’t mean going anywhere. Many people resist growth because they equate it with promotions and moves. But someone who enjoys his or her current role doesn’t have to decline development for fear of changing jobs. Development in place is always available. Employees can and should develop right where they are.
  2. Educate others about the need for continual growth. Offer information about what’s changing, the pace of change and how staying ahead of the curve helps customers and themselves. Well-informed employees will understand the urgency behind development when they appreciate the tremendous pressures facing the organization and the implications associated with not evolving and keeping pace. But, beyond sharing your perspective, you have to understand theirs, which brings us to the third strategy.
  3. Uncover the sources of reluctance.  Understand what might be keeping people stuck or unwilling to grow. Peel back the layers of confusion, discomfort, lack of confidence or simple inertia with curious questions. Listen with the intention to fully understand the inner landscape that — if unaddressed — will compromise success in the outer landscape.
  4. Identify what career success means to each individual. Clarify what’s most important to the employees who report to you, what they want to achieve, what kinds of juicy challenges they might be interested in pursuing, and what might offer the greatest sense of motivation and satisfaction in the workplace.
  5. Highlight what’s in it for others to continue growing. Like you, they find themselves on the hamster wheel of day-to-day activity. It’s hard to see the tree – much less the forest – when you’re rolling around in the pine needles. So, make sure to connect the dots between an employee’s sources of reluctance or resistance to development, their motivations, and need to grow in a way that’s personal and compelling.

We can’t forget that development — or lack thereof — doesn’t just affect the individual. It profoundly influences the quality of the products and services an organization can offer. Raising the bar across the board on development means raising the bar on a range of business and human outcomes. And that’s a powerful reason to keep growing throughout our careers.


Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations worldwide to improve performance through leadership and learning.  Named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers, Giulioni is the co-author of the Amazon and Washington Post bestseller “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want,” You can learn more about her speaking, training and blog at

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