Approaches to career success: An exploration of surreptitious career-success strategies

Lloyd C. Harris, Emmanuel Ogbonna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theorists have forwarded a vast range of career-success determinants, including sociodemographic, social capital, personality, and other behavioral factors. We suggest that existing studies have overconcentrated on the oven behavioral determinants of career success to the detriment of the covert, clandestine, and concealed. Our analysis of two detailed qualitative case studies involving 112 in-depth interviews with executives, managers, supervisors, and front-line staff in a large financial services organization and a medium-sized fashionable restaurant group uncovered five main strategies of surreptitious career success. These strategies are obligation creation and exploitation, personal-status enhancement, information acquisition and control, similarity exploitation, and proactive vertical alignment. Our findings indicate that just over 79% of those interviewed (88 of 112) referred to, at some point in their careers, premeditated strategies to enhance their careers that they concealed from coworkers. Consequently, we argue that surreptitious actions are central to employee career-focused activities and fundamental to a more complete understanding of the complexities of career-oriented employee behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-65
Number of pages23
JournalHuman Resource Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2006


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