I read an article on the NYTimes, questioning whether people should take a promotion. You can read it for yourself here: Should You Take That Promotion?
American culture makes getting promoted the greatest accomplishment in the workforce. I mean it is pretty important. Most people want to get promoted because it means more pay and a more lucrative position. While there’s hardly a good reason to turn down more money, having more responsibilities may not be the best position for you.
I’m a Human Resources Sergeant (E5) in the U.S. Army. I have no desire to get promoted in my current field. Although, I can use the extra $300, I know that I do not have the motivation to take on the responsibilities of a Staff Sergeant. Being a Staff Sergeant means that I will be the manager of the whole S1 (Human Resources) office. Meaning that I am responsible for the accuracy and efficiency of all the HR sections managed by the Soldiers. When sections are not being managed properly then it is a reflection of my leadership and discipline of my Soldiers. I ain’t got time for all of that.
Being a Staff Sergeant also means that I may get orders to go to Drill Sergeant school or become a Recruiter, which I have absolutely no interest in either of those.
I’m happy with my current position. I’m in a manager position which means I am responsible for Soldiers and I have to counsel them, but I’m not responsible for the entire operations of the office. I feel like I am in a manager position that I can handle and it will look good on my resume. For my goals I have no need to get promoted. I also feel like I’m not knowledgeable enough to move on to the next level. There are many things that I feel like I should know at my current level that I’m not proficient at and I will only be doing myself and the Army a disservice if I choose to get promoted.
When I imagine myself getting promoted all I see is more anxiety and more stress. A promotion should come with more challenges since it comes with more money, I mean you can’t really call it a promotion if you’re doing the same things, but the thought of those challenges should also ignite excitement, it shouldn’t bring endless thoughts of fear.
The problem with the Army is this organization is designed to promote Soldiers at a fast pace. It isn’t about filling positions with personnel who have the best leadership potential. To get promoted to Sergeant (E5), all a Soldier has to do is pass a promotion board, which is merely a test of confidence and a “closed book test.” It doesn’t prove your knowledge in your job or how capable you are of leading Soldiers. The rest of the promotion process comprises of completing Basic Leaders Course, which is a month long class of ensuring you have the bare minimum skills of leadership, and lastly having enough promotion points for your MOS.
This is the same process for getting promoted to Staff Sergeant (E6) except you go to a school called ALC (Advance Leaders Course) which is pretty much a more detailed AIT that you completed to earn your MOS.
The Army’s promotion system is flawed but at the same time you can’t teach a Soldier everything they need to know about being a Sergeant before you promote them. For the most part Soldiers have to live and learn on how to be a leader and they’ll either sink or swim.
But still there are so many problems in the Army because so many people are chasing rank instead of competence and knowledge. I’ve seen many Soldiers move up the ranks but their knowledge of their job remained stagnant.
Another issue with the Army’s promotion system is that the Army can force people to get promoted. I have seen Soldiers fail multiple promotion boards simply because they didn’t have a desire to get promoted, but because they’re eligible for promotion, their leaders force them to go to the promotion board for reasons like they see potential in the Soldier that the Soldier doesn’t even want, they want to delegate more responsibility to the Soldier to share the workload, or that they believe a promotion will encourage the Soldier to reenlist in the Army.
A lot of Soldiers go to promotion boards against their will, and then have to deal with the embarrassment if they fail the promotion board and scolded by their leaders. One of the most suckiest things in the Army is failing a promotion board that you didn’t even want to attend, and then your leaders just make you go right back to the promotion board the following months until you pass, and now you have the responsibilities of a rank that you didn’t really want. It’s like being a child all over again because your leaders think they know whats best for you.
My NCOIC (boss) keeps talking about me getting promoted to Staff Sergeant. He talked about that when I first arrived to the unit. He assumed I wanted that for my life instead of asking me what are my goals in my military career. Most Soldiers are reluctant to tell their NCOs that they have no desire to get promoted or to reenlist because most Soldiers fear that they’ll be indirectly treated differently because all they really want to do is to show up, do their job, and get a paycheck. No promotions, no extra duties, they just want to meet the standard.
Most Soldiers entertain the idea of promotion and reenlistment until they’re in their reenlistment window and hit their NCO with a hard no. Even I’m reluctant to tell my boss that I don’t want to get promoted and I plan to ETS in 2020 because what if he thinks of me as lazy or scared. But, at the end of the day I am an adult and I know that I can’t be happy in my life trying to please everyone. I can be wrong and my NCO will support me no matter what I choose to do, and if not who gives a shit. I know that getting promoted isn’t for me and I will be happy for anyone else who is more enthusiastic to take that position.