Edgar Schein is considered as one of the forefathers of modern organizational psychology. He was the mind behind the “Career Anchors” framework. This framework hypothesizes that an individual’s workplace inclinations adhere to eight specific categories. The attributes of these proverbial anchors dictate how they perform at work.
If your people end up in positions that don’t fit their core values, they’ll generate poor results. They will also suffer anxiety and experience an ongoing lack of job satisfaction. It’s a recipe for degraded employee performance and workplace culture.
Thus, it is important to separate cases of misfits vs poor performers. And the ‘Career anchors’ framework is meant to help employers find out misfits. Not only that, it can also help you find more befitting positions for individuals.
Career Anchors Framework
Your team has its own perceived areas of competence, motives, and values in choices of work. By following the “Career Anchors” model, you’ll harmoniously blend those factors together.
Schein’s work in its purest form acts as a motivator and guide to find career worth. Our anchor is the vision any professional should follow, no matter the adversity that lies ahead.
Let us examine the various categories or anchors below. You’ll then gain valuable insights on how to approach team building.
People with a strong interpersonal skill set tend to fit this category. Additionally, a hunger for responsibility and a knack toward task delegation is a strong need here.
Awareness and control of our emotions – or emotional competence – is a must as a manager. In any given employment environment, there are pressures that can mount and get the better of your team. Managerial competence often requires an unflappable “poker face” in scenarios where deadlines are tight, clients are on the verge of leaving, or employees are under-performing.
The best managers keep an even keel in even the most difficult of atmospheres in the name of a positive workplace culture.
Workers with a zest for proverbial elbow grease, calloused hands and difficult challenges fit the technical/functional anchor category.
If one of your team members possesses these traits, it’s often coupled with the desire to be perceived as an expert in a given function or field. They wish to be invaluable to the organization and contribute to innovative breakthroughs and superior productivity.
Some of the preferred avenues for team members with these traits are in business development, data analysis, financial accountability and equipment operations.
To a few members of your team, feeling safe and secure in their position is of utmost importance. In fact, lack of workplace stability can contribute to their poor performance. They rely on the status quo while displaying a particular risk averseness to new challenges.
While such employees aren’t going to be the next CEO of your organization, they possess a rare form of loyalty that can be invaluable—even maintaining a position for their entire career.
Although not synonymous with ambition, these team members are good at their job as long as the work isn’t veering away from their comfort zone. Their primary motivation is to lead a quieter and stress-free life.
Autonomous/independent workers are characterized by a particular distaste towards micromanagement. They aren’t ideal in a team environment but tend to thrive when placed in the right circumstances.
Your organization can actually benefit tremendously from the services of an independent thinker – you just need to place them in a job that fits with their quirks.
The lone wolves in various workplaces shine as recruiters, cybersecurity analysts, graphic designers, and inventory specialists to name a few.
There are still the rare few driven by the notion of serving others and working for a specific cause. While these individuals commonly land in not-for-profit settings, they aren’t mutually exclusive to charitable organizations. Your team members who seem fulfilled just by assisting co-workers in a for-profit work environment fit the service/dedication mold.
If you notice this subset of traits in one of your team members, they’re well-suited to human resource positions.
The “pure challenge” employee has the eye of the tiger and seeks the thrill of the fight—and by that we mean they need to be constantly stimulated and challenged. Unfortunately, you’ll be faced double-edged sword-like paradox with such a thrill-seeker on your squad: on one hand, they’ll commit 100% to the most difficult tasks, but once the challenge evaporates, they’ll be on the hunt for the next tough job.
We suggest always keeping such driven individuals guessing with increasingly difficult tasks.
The lifestyle anchor is growing rapidly in today’s world, as people attempt to align their career seamlessly with the way they choose to live.
To put it lightly, this employee has differentiating tastes when it comes to specific jobs but once they’ve landed in their niche, they are quite content.
Your team members who are focused on lifestyle will commonly take extended sabbaticals to explore personal interests; be it sailing, traveling, or starting their punk rock band.
If one of your employees is a sharp-minded trailblazer with strong-minded independent ideas and focus on personal success, they fit under the entrepreneurial creativity career anchor.
Given their propensity to color outside the company lines, these enterprising free-thinkers are a poor fit in traditional work environments where they’d feel bored being merely one cog in your organizational machine.
If you have such a mind in your employ, they’ll display productivity for a period—that is until they’re overtaken by the desire to forge their own path.
Such team members are inventors and creators. Similar to autonomous workers the entrepreneurially creative are individualists, but the similarities end there. These types actually share the workload, but find ownership very important and view wealth as a sign of success.
It’s a sad truth that even when organizations say the right things about watching out for employee’s best interests, worker’s career paths are instead directed in accordance with a company’s best interest.
We hope that as an employer, manager, or decision-maker, there are important insights you’ve garnered from Schein’s Career Anchors.