Employee's perception of career prospects

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How do Macao Employees perceive their career prospects in their organizations? Are these expectations realistic or too optimistic to be real?

Besides money, employees value greatly career prospects offered by their organizations, as it ensures a certain degree of job security and stability. More importantly, is how they perceive these prospects namely in terms of promotion. Thus, the current report examined employees expected promotion and how well it corresponds to the reality. Further analysis was conducted to examine the factors related to these expectations in regards to promotion and its implications for the individual and the organization. For definitions of the concepts used in this special focus report, as well as details of the methodology employed and a profile of the study's respondent characteristics, please visit here.


1.1    Expected promotion time

1.1.1    Overall Expected promotion time
On average, Macao employees expect to receive a promotion within 1.31 years of service. Most respondents (63.8%) believe that they would/should receive a promotion within a years’ time. Of which, 20.2% indicated that they should have been promoted long ago, as indicated in Figure 1. 

Similarly, when asked about the time that they think it would take their peers to receive a promotion, the results were identical (Figure 1).


1.1.2    Expected promotion time by tenure (job level)
A closer look at the predicted promotion times, employees at the lowest level of an organization predicted the highest number of years required for a promotion (1.36 years). As the organizational ladder moves up, the predicted promotion times decreases accordingly (Figure 2). To that extend, employees assuming higher organizational positions have higher expectations regarding their promotion. Nonetheless, the majority of employees expected to be promoted within a years’ time, of which, 40% of managers and 20% of employees at the supervisory or entry level believed that they should have been promoted (Figure 3). Except managers, supervisory and entry level employees, on average, predicted a shorter amount of promotion time for their peers than they would predict for themselves (Figure 4).

1.2(un)Realistic predictions

Despite of the apparent high expectations of promotion, the predicted times for promotion alone do not indicate the extent to which it is (un)realistic. Given that, an employee that stated they should have been promoted may appear to be unrealistic, yet if they have worked long enough in their current position, their prediction could be in fact, be realistic. Thus, to assert whether a predicted promotion time is unrealistic, the number of years served in a given position needs to be taken into account before comparing it to the average time required for a promotion. By adding the number of years served in a given position to the predicted promotion time, it would result in the total number of years that a person estimates to spend in a job position before the next promotion. Then this value is compared to the average time required for an employee to get promoted that is obtained by the difference of average years in company and average years in current job position of all respondents as indicated by the following formula: 

Positive values of the difference would indicate that the average promotion time (first part of the formula) is higher than the total estimated time spent on a given job position (second part of the formula), reflecting an optimistically biased promotion perception. That is, the employee expects to get promoted before what is normally required. On the other hand, negative values of the difference would indicate that the average promotion time is lower than the total estimated time spent on a given job position. In that sense, the employee expects to spend more time on a job position than what is normally required before the next promotion. 


1.2.1    Average Promotion time / rate
To obtain the average promotion time / rate, the average number of years in the current job position was subtracted from the average number of years in the current company. The result of the difference would indicate the average number of years that were spent on a job position before promotion. It is worth noting that first-time job holders were excluded, as well as those who did not work in the same company prior to their current job position. 


On average, the promotion rate of Macao employees is 3.95 years. Specifically, it would take on average, 10.22 for managerial / top level employees to get promoted, 4.41 years at the supervisory level and 2.96 years at the entry level (Figure 5). 


1.2.2    Estimated total number of years in a given job position
Macao employees predicted on average, that they would spend 4.2 years in their current job position before receiving their next promotion. The estimated total number of years in a given job position is fairly similar across different organizational levels (Figure 5).

1.2.3    Optimistic bias in promotion perception
As denoted earlier, the optimistic bias in promotion perception is not a measure that is readily available. To determine whether an employee’s promotion prediction is optimistically biased, his/her estimated total number of years in a given job position (section 1.2.2) needs to be compared to the average promotion rate (section 1.2.1). Overall, 47.1% of the respondents exhibited an optimistically biased promotion perception, whereas 52.9% were pessimistic. As shown in Figure 6 employees at the managerial level and entry level provided the most unrealistic predictions regarding their promotion. However, it is worth noting that 88.9% of the surveyed managers (Figure 7) were rather optimistically biased towards their promotion (predicted time was 4.64 years below the average promotion time). Employees holding supervisory job positions were the most accurate as the estimated total time in a given job prior to promotion was fairly similar to the average time for promotion. Yet, almost half of them were optimistically biased towards their promotion (56.8%). 

Regarding entry level employees, on average, they estimated that they would have to spend 1.16 years than what is needed on average prior to get promoted. Despite of the majority of entry level job holders exhibiting this pessimistic view regarding their promotion (49.4%), there are at least 30% that believes otherwise.    Optimistic Bias promotion perception across different sectors
Most of the individuals that exhibited an optimistic bias in their promotion perception are working in sectors such as retail, gaming, public administration and finance. Conversely sectors such as manufacturing, wholesale and MICE have the lowest percentage of optimistically biased employees Figure 8.

1.3    Factors related to Optimistic predictions


1.3.1    Organizational factors - Performance Appraisal & Feedback
Employees may rely on several cues within the organizational context to determine their chances of being promoted. Though not limited to, employees tend to predict their promotion based on how well they think they have performed within the organization. From the results shown in Figure 9, employees that are rarely evaluated and rarely receive feedback regarding their performance are the most optimistically biased in terms of their promotion. When the frequency at which appraisal is conducted does not correspond to the frequency at which feedback is provided (either frequently conducted appraisal and infrequent feedback, or infrequent appraisal and frequent feedback) employees seem to provide inaccurate predictions of their promotion as well. 


A two-way ANOVA was conducted to examine the effects of performance appraisal and appraisal feedback on.


1.3.2Individual factors – Perceptions of control
In addition to the frequency of performance appraisal and appraisal feedback, participants perceptions of control over the promotion is another factor that is found to be associated with optimistic bias in promotion perception r(507) = .19, p < .01. Employees who are
optimistically biased towards their promotion, also showed higher degree of perceptions of control (M=3.54, SD=0.71 vs M=3.28, SD=0.78).

Naturally, individuals who believe that they are in control of their future outcome, will also believe that they would achieve more desirable results.


1.4    Implications of being Optimistically biased


So what are the implications of being optimistically biased towards promotion perception? The results of the MHRM survey indicated that job satisfaction and general well-being bore no relationship to optimistic bias (Table 1). However, OB employees seem to have less intentions to stay within an organization and lower perceived C&B fairness than non OB employees. Finally, these individuals also perceive their performance to be higher than non OB employees. 


Table 1. Correlations between OB. and organizational variables.

1.5    Other aspects of promotion perception

In addition to the optimistic bias in promotion perception, the surveyed respondents were asked respondents what were the reasons that could possibly be attributed to when they get and fail to get a promotion respectively. In cases where they fail to get a promotion, the most common reason is attributed to external, uncontrollable factors (e.g. luck or favoritism, personal characteristics). Whereas when they receive a promotion, the vast majority indicated that it was due to exceptional and reliable performance (internally controllable factors).

1.6    Conclusion

The present study examined the promotion perception of Macao employees, and to what extend these expectations are (un)realistic. The factors that are associated with the unrealistic expectations and the possible implications were explored. 

  • Nearly half of the respondents exhibited an unrealistically optimistic promotion prediction time. Though, managers provided the most optimistic predictions. 
  • The frequency at which performance appraisal is conducted and feedback is given is related to optimistically biased promotion perception. To that extend, when there is a close correspondence of appraisal and feedback frequency, promotion expectations tend to be more realistic. 
  • Potentially, when promotion expectations are too optimistic, employees are less likely to stay in an organization, tend to perceive C&B as more unfair, and overestimate their work performance