Management: Help Employees Thrive, Even When Career Goals Are Uncertain

These uncertain times filled with racial unrest, a global pandemic, massive unemployment, and economic anxiety have caused some people to reevaluate their lives and their priorities. Within that introspection, there are a few potential outcomes, whether it’s reassessing career goals, losing sight of them, or coming to the realization that some workers are happy in their job and do not aspire to a higher position.

Whether a worker likes the road they are on or sees a fork in it approaching, company leaders who want to keep valued people should empower them to achieve the career paths of their choosing, says Ed Mitzen (, founder of a health and wellness marketing agency and ForbesBook author of More Than a Number: The Power of Empathy and Philanthropy in Driving Ad Agency Performance.

“Don’t steer them down a path that you envision,” Mitzen says. “Some companies have rigid career progressions, and if someone does not want to follow that path, eventually they are shown the door. We’ve had great employees whom we wanted to promote but who wanted to stay in the jobs they had. Maybe they aren’t motivated by money, or it’s more important for them to spend time with their families than to get a promotion that may require more travel. At our company, that is not just accepted, but encouraged, because we know the value of a good employee no matter what their career trajectory looks like and want to support them in that journey.

“Especially now, it’s important for companies to understand that and respect having valued performers who are happy and productive in their roles as opposed to saying, ‘These people don’t have what it takes to grow within the company; let’s cut them loose.’”

Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash.

Mitzen offers the following ways to help employees who might be wobbly on their career paths or struggling in some ways and let them know they’re worth keeping:

Approach performance with guidance and caring. Even the best employees sometimes fall short of performance goals and expectations. Mitzen says it’s incumbent on the company’s leaders—who have invested time in the person and often seen good results—to look for ways to help. “Asking employees how you can help when they are struggling is extremely powerful,” Mitzen says. “By looking for ways to help employees when they need it, you build a stronger relationship with them. Not only will this build loyalty to the company and a culture of caring for each other that positively affects everyone, but a stronger, supportive culture will benefit your clients as well.”

Strive to make people’s lives better. “Life is hard, so try to remember that work serves life, not the other way around,” Mitzen says. “Employers should do everything they can to help their people, including outside of work, and especially now, with change and anxiety fairly constant in our lives. If employees have a lot going on at home, understanding those stresses and accommodating for those situations goes a long way. Whatever you can do to ease concerns outside of work is the right thing to do and will drive focus to your employees’ projects in the workplace.”

Celebrate successes. “Most companies don’t celebrate enough,” Mitzen says. “Those that do find they will keep most of their best employees, who feel appreciated and assured that they’re at the right place in their career. Find reasons to acknowledge the great things your team does. It makes a big impact on your staff and incentivizes them further.”

Mitzen says that there are things that can change—goals, people, and circumstances, for instance. “But when you’ve taken time to know your people, you as a leader can help them through almost anything that’s throwing them off course,” he says. “And in the process, you keep your company on track to meet its goals. You end up with great performers at all levels of the company who are happy to be in their roles, and your culture benefits greatly.”

About Ed Mitzen

Ed Mitzen ( is the ForbesBook author of More Than a Number: The Power of Empathy and Philanthropy in Driving Ad Agency Performance and the founder of Fingerpaint, an independent advertising agency grossing $60 million in revenue. A health and wellness marketing entrepreneur for 25 years, Mitzen also built successful firms CHS and Palio Communications. Fingerpaint has been included on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for seven straight years and garnered agency of the year nominations and wins from MM&M, Med Ad News, and PM360. Mitzen was named Industry Person of the Year by Med Ad News in 2016 and a top boss by Digiday in 2017. A graduate of Syracuse University with an MBA from the University of Rochester, Mitzen has written for Fortune, Forbes, HuffPost, and the Wall Street Journal.