The Ladder Climber

A Development Manager with ambitions to advance their career, and sees their development team only as a means to do so.

  • Can mutate into: “The Aspiring Manager” Developer
  • Dangerous when coupled with: “The Tyrant” Project Manager
  • Likelihood of fixing: None
  • Danger to project: Extremely High


Practically everyone would like to increase their compensation over time, and additional compensation is generally tied to getting a better title. In organizations with clearly articulated career advancement criteria, employees can rest assured that compensation and promotion will come with time and hard work. However, in companies where additional compensation is subjectively decided upon by upper management, political maneuvering is seen by some as the only way to move up the corporate ladder. The Ladder Climber Development Manager has committed to the strategy of political maneuvering, and sees their direct reports solely as a means to advance their career.

It is important to create a distinction between The Ladder Climber Development Manager and someone who simply wishes to do the best job they can in hopes of a promotion: Their focus is only on being promoted, not what is in the best interest of the project or the company. It is entirely possible that they hate the company they work for, and have no interest in the project succeeding. Instead, they are singularly focused on the goal of their own advancement.

To be effective, The Ladder Climber cannot be honest with others about their goals, and sometimes not even honest with themselves. This makes them particularly difficult to pick out, but they can reveal themselves in subtle and nuanced ways:

  • They make questionable decisions that upon close analysis could only be justified by that fact that the decisions are in their best interest.
  • Their opinions and attitude will change to match that of the people able to decide upon their promotion.
  • They work aggressively to have private audience with upper management, excluding those who could question the accuracy or sincerity of their statements.
  • Their involvement with their direct reports are limited to only that which has upward visibility, e.g. pushing for more aggressive estimates, or deciding on a technology favored by upper management.

Development Managers, unlike Product Managers and Project Managers, can deny all responsibility if the project fails as they have no project-specific assignments. If they see that the project is failing, they often will position themselves to emerge into a position of authority. Once in that position, they are incentivized to hasten the project’s failure.


Fire them.

One thought on “The Ladder Climber

  1. I’ve seen this in some middle management roles too; Toxic environment is where these persons thrive in. Short term solution is to utilize effective means of communication with higher management & see how they understand the situation.

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