What Is the Corporate Ladder?

The term "corporate ladder" is a conceptualized view of a company's employment hierarchy in which career advancement is considered to follow higher rungs on a ladder, with entry-level positions on the bottom rungs and executive level, upper management, positions at the top. "Climbing the corporate ladder" is an expression used to describe one's advancement within a company through promotions.

How the Corporate Ladder Works

The higher an employee's position on the corporate ladder, the more difficult advancing becomes. An organization typically has many more lower, or entry-level, positions than it does management or executive positions.

Certain roles, such clerical ones, may have their own limits to scaling the corporate ladder, where the skillsets don't easily translate into executive positions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Corporate Ladder

The action of advancing up the hierarchy within a company can follow numerous paths depending on the business’s structure. Some companies have a narrow path to promotion, making it a challenge for junior staffers to pursue moving upward within the organization. This can also contribute to interpersonal conflicts in an office as each employee seeks a way to move up the ladder.

For example, if there is no opportunity for middle management to rise to a higher position, it is plausible that those managers might be reluctant to assist workers in their own advancement. It may be more feasible to move higher within a company by switching to another department or section where there is more opportunity to take on leadership duties and responsibilities.

The pace at which one gets promoted in and of itself may be used by others to assess their talent and capability. Under such a perspective, the faster one climbs the corporate ladder is seen as a measure of the effort the individual is expected to put into their next position.

The role a person fills at a company can limit or increase the potential to rise higher on the corporate ladder. For instance, a worker who primarily handles administrative and clerical duties may not have an opportunity to take on the type of work that would merit consideration for an executive position. Furthermore, companies may be structured in such a way that only certain elements of the business even offer the possibility of advancement.

Special Considerations

The corporate culture at a company may play a significant influence over who has elevated up the corporate ladder and what criteria is used to offer promotions. For example, some companies are more likely to promote workers who got their start at the business and have committed to the company for the breadth of their careers.

Meanwhile, other companies may look to professionals who have proven themselves at other companies and may offer them higher-tier positions and salaries compared with their present employment.

Key Takeaways

  • The corporate ladder is the proverbial climb up a company's employment hierarchy, where career advancement is likened to climbing rungs on a ladder.
  • Entry-level positions are considered the bottom of the ladder, while upper management and executives are at the top.
  • Different companies have different corporate ladders, some having narrower paths to promotions, based on company culture or turnover.
  • One downside to corporate ladders is that they can lead to interpersonal conflicts as employees can have self-serving interests to move up the ladder.