Golden Handcuffs

Do you know what handcuffs feel like?

Your body’s constricted, uncomfortable, and it’s difficult to move.

They are like the Halloween costume you could barely breathe in as a kid, but the difference is that you can’t easily take this off.

Handcuffs are created to make you powerless and easily led.

The corporate version of this is called the…

Golden Handcuffs

They’re what keeps you shackled to a job.

These cuffs are golden because they usually show-up as attractive, beneficial, and potentially lucrative.

But these cuffs are designed to take away your freedom and they’re so common that every corporate employee wears them.

The good news that I share with you today though is that you can actually experience freedom while wearing the golden handcuffs.

And once you realize how you’re locked in you can start making choices along the way that are aligned with the career and life you want most.

You can show-up at the office to work on your own terms.

You can avoid the destructive toll the handcuffs take on yourself, your family, and your own dreams.

The Consequence of Wearing the Golden Handcuffs

Looking back, I understand how serious the consequences were for me.

I wore the golden handcuffs long before I realized it.

There was something holding me back from being courageous at work and discovering how I could be at my best.

I was fearful of doing anything that could “upset the apple cart” and result in humiliation, never getting promoted, or losing my job.

The golden handcuffs were effective at keeping me from leaving, but they also kept me locked into a weaker mindset of…

Survive vs Thrive

Ironically, I was showing up at work to keep from losing, but never to win.

I was playing the safest game possible versus pressing to find where I could make a bigger contribution.

So for me and likely for you too, the golden handcuffs often generate behaviors that cause you to makes less (not more) of an impact like when:

  • You say “Yes” when you really “No”
  • You don’t speak your mined or offer a radical idea that could improve things
  • You keep your head down in staff meetings.
  • You don’t take your vacation because you’re afraid you’ll miss something important
  • You don’t lead
  • You don’t take a risk
  • You sacrifice time with your family and friends for work
  • You put your own career dream on the back burner

What are the Golden Handcuffs

The golden handcuffs were originally created in response to a problem.

The most highly compensated employees would frequently job hop before the company felt like they’d earned back their investment.

The company needed to protect company ROI.

For years the golden handcuffs would appear as an incentive given to an employee which must be repaid if the employee left within a specified period of time.

The hope was the the highly compensated employees would stick around and contribute in a big way.

But this narrow definition of the golden handcuffs is a conspiracy.

The golden handcuffs don’t just affect highly compensated employees.   They now impact all employees. 

It only emphasizes bonuses and stock options and then leaves about at least 16 other ways you can be cuffed to Corp.

Maybe I’m just paranoid but it seems like someone doesn’t want you thinking about all of the other ways you’re locked into your job.

The reality is that the golden handcuffs get stronger and tighter:

  • The longer you’ve worked for an organization
  • The better you’ve performed
  • The higher you go

And these apply to everyone.

By broadening your definition and putting everything else under the microscope you start to gain awareness and control of how you’re working.

18 Ways You Wear the Golden HandcuffsGolden Cuffs

Use this list below to help you identify your own golden handcuffs.

I’ve used my own personal experience to rank them from the weakest form (like a nice perk) to the strongest form of golden handcuffs that keep you trapped.

I realize that the golden handcuffs show up differently for everyone, and I hope you’ll consider that in going through the list.

Add up how many of these apply to you:

  1. Free coffee
  2. Free snacks
  3. Discounted corporate cafeteria
  4. Company funded margarita bar
  5. Free wardrobe including more than 3 company picnic t-shirts
  6. You use your company issued for personal phone call
  7. You use your company issued email address for personal emails
  8. Company paid car and gas
  9. Your best friends are in your office
  10. A business card from a company with a superb reputation you love showing off at cocktail parties
  11. A non-compete clause that prevents you from doing what you love at another company
  12. A huge annual bonus that keeps you hanging on for just 1 more year
  13. MBA tuition plan reimbursement plan that you’re contractually obligated to pay back if you leave in the next 5-years
  14. A great medical insurance plan
  15. Stock options with a long vesting date
  16. Dependable monthly pay check automatically deposited into your bank account.  Knowing the exact amount of money that will be flowing into your bank account every month is a huge comfort.
  17. 401k contribution matching with a long vesting period
  18. You’ve almost made retirement and need to stick it out for a pension

9 Things that Tighten the Golden Handcuffs

While Corporate has multiple ways to apply the golden handcuffs, there are aspects of your personal life that can make them even tighter.

If any of these below apply to you, add 5 extra points to your total score:

  1. Single parent income
  2. Kids in braces
  3. Kids in college
  4. House poor
  5. 2 car payments
  6. Constructing your lifestyle around an income and your barely scraping by
  7. Your own parents worked for corporate too and that’s all you know
  8. Having no back-up income strategy
  9. Not realizing that you always have a choice

How to Break Free from the Golden Handcuffs

So tally up the number of items from above and take your next step based upon the Golden Handcuff Scale below:

1-5 points – FREEDOM FIGHTER – Freedom never tasted so good.  You’re probably sitting on a beach somewhere having a Mai-Tai. Have another one me!

5-10 points – PAROLED – You’re not shackled, and you’re making a conscious choice to work in Corp.  Get a boost from reading Powerful Evidence that Working in Corporate doesn’t Suck by clicking here.

10-20 points – WORK RELEASE – You’re out on a temporary work release hoping to keep working on your own terms, but you know deep inside that you’re returning to the big house.  You’re at the crossroads of whether to stay or make a jail break.  Click here to get a 30-minute call to clarify your next best step.

20+ points points – LIFER – You’re in for the long haul but don’t give up hope!  Start experiencing more freedom and aliveness right where you are. Sign-up for 30-min quick fire session with me to help you get your best next move and a 3-step action plan by clicking here.

So where do you fall on the Golden Handcuff Scale?

What has it meant for your career?


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