You could be unpromotable at work if you’re one of these 5 types of employees

Stop to assess if what you’re doing at work is impeding your career advancement.

It’s that time of the year when performance appraisals and salary letters surface once again to either bring joy or dread to our lives at the workplace in the year ahead.

But when bosses don’t provide sufficient feedback on how you’re doing, you may not be aware of a performance issue that’s impeding your progress – and when you do find out, it’s often too late.

Writing about his own experience, a business professor at the Northwestern’s Kellog School of Management Carter Cast, honed in on one bad performance review which to him, turned out to be the most valuable of all.

In a post on LinkedIn, Cast, who is also a former CEO of, an author and a venture capital partner at Pritzker Group, wrote about the incident when he was a marketing manager within PepsiCo’s Frito Lay division.

He said that during a performance review, a boss had told him right out that he was considered “unpromotable” because his was “uncooperative”, “resistant” and “unmanageable”.

He was given two weeks off to consider if he really still wanted to stay in the job and if he wanted to stay, he would have to look for another marketing position within the company.


Cast eventually decided to return to the company to “redeem myself and as well as avoid a black mark on my resume” and joined another team under a new boss in the company.

“I needed to understand the circumstances that triggered my bad behaviour and to develop practical methods to better self-regulate and curb my tendency toward insubordination,” he wrote.

Cast eventually moved up the career ladder but the event at Frito-Lay was what he termed an “aha moment” for him.

He conducted his own research into discovering what really impedes the career progress of talented people and why some careers stall, while others flourish.

He found five common reasons and categorised them into archetypes.

They are:

  1. Captain Fantastic

These are people who step on others to get to where they want to in their careers. They have poor working relationships with both their co-workers and superiors – who are in positions to promote them – because they suffer from interpersonal issues like poor listening skills and an unbridled ego.

2. The Solo Flier

These are people who are great at working on their own but are just poor managers. They end up resorting to micromanaging or taking on all the work themselves.

3. Version 1.0

These are people who are resistant to change. They don’t want to learn new skills and instead call themselves “traditionalists”.

4. The One-Trick Pony

These are people who have a signature skill and throw all their bets at it. It narrows their career growth and are viewed as “non-strategic”.

5. The Whirling Dervish

These are people who “run around the office like their hair is afire, late for the next meeting and muttering to themselves about their workload”. They are bad planners and they tend to overcommit and under-deliver. Everyone tries to avoid working with them.

Do any of these five archetypes sound familiar? Do something about it. It’s never too late.