Climbing Down the Corporate Ladder

I first heard the term “lattice” replacing “corporate ladder” through The Center for a New American Dream.

Here is what many people experience when they think they want to climb up the corporate ladder: fierce competition, working ungodly hours, office politics, soul sucking cubicles, creativity crushing rules and loss of interest in their work.

Here is what working on the lattice can bring: purpose, value to others, collaboration, working on one’s own terms and exploring talents, skills and creativity to the fullest.

Let me first say that the corporate rat race isn’t like that all the time to all people. And corporate jobs can provide a nice financial backing, but for many people, they want out sooner rather than later.

So, with a small amount of investing, a healthy emergency fund and simple living, people are learning to jump off the corporate ladder to pursue more meaningful work. You can call it early retirement, semi-retirement or financial independence, but the lattice has become my word of choice.

The beauty of the lattice is that it can help those in the corporate rat race jump off sooner, rather than waiting for complete financial independence… or a complete health breakdown.

The lattice can be working part time, freelancing, creative pursuits, working for a non-profit, investing, landlording, tutoring, working overseas, working seasonally, homesteading, fixing or building, coaching … or maybe it is just taking time off between jobs such as sabbaticals or mini-retirements.

The lattice can help us slow down, live more mindfully and reduce our collective environmental footprint.

Living simply can get us off the ladder and over to the lattice much sooner, while enjoying life more.

I do admit though that we have a challenge on our hands with our modern corporate workforce. Many companies want ‘loyal’ full time employees instead of freelancers or part time workers. Employers question gaps on resumes. They seem to want to hire competitive people who want to move up the ladder. I’m hoping the Millennial generation will change this!

What are your thoughts? Do you think the corporations will start to change to offer more flexible working terms?

Where are you at in life? Are you on the corporate ladder, the lattice or FIRE’d?

16 thoughts on “Climbing Down the Corporate Ladder

  1. I haven’t had a job since 1987. I primarily worked on an Air Force base. Some jobs were fun, others were like slogging through cement. I never missed working after my son was born. The hubby hasn’t worked since December and is only now looking for employment. We’d rather hop in an RV and go adventuring, and s soon as we figure out how to fund it, we’re on our way! :)


    • Good for you! From your blog it sounds like your husband is in the trades business. You guys could probably easily go RV’ing at anytime and he can pick up work for a week or a month or longer. That is the beauty about being able to actually build/repair things.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We are fully on the ladder right now, but have worked to bring in a few aspects of the lattice. At work, we’ve made clear to our employers that we care about working on good projects and with good clients, even if that means not always taking the most lucrative opportunities. In short, we don’t want to hate our lives because we’re working on miserable projects! Outside of work, we’re both on the boards of local non-profits, and we have some side creative pursuits that we hope to devote more time to in a few years when we retire.

    Thanks for this great post, helping remind us all to think of our lives and trajectories differently. Love the Center for the New American Dream, btw. We use their So Kind Registry with our families, and have successfully trained everyone to give gifts of experience or secondhand items rather than buying a bunch of newly produced junk. :-)

    Have a great weekend!


    • Oh wow… good for you for successfully ‘training’ everyone to use So Kind Registry. My family would laugh at me if I ever suggested it. :) I just ask for no gifts.

      I agree about choosing your clients and projects for reasons other than money. I’m the same way!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was originally on the ladder I guess working as a doctor at a University Health Center. I reached my goals too fast, I suppose. I never was materialistic so money was never the object, but the working environment was and when that went south, I told them what they could do with my job. Living well has been the best revenge, lol It didn’t come without some loss, but the gains were better.


    • I’m with you. When you live well and below your means, it is easy to walk away. I know when I did, my co-workers were so envious. I keep hearing how unhappy they are and I tell them that there are other options!


  4. Simpleisthenewgreen,

    My job is weird in that it’s a government agency, with the usual red tape and fixed structures, but with very flexible working terms. Even though the environment I work in can be quite brutal sometimes, there’s a lot of support systems in place. Not only do my colleagues perform great, they can shoot to the top of the corporate ladder if they wanted to easily. And when the working environment provides you all the flexibility you need, staying there is a piece of cake!

    Best wishes,


  5. My household is on the lattice and it is working really well for us. Neither my husband nor I found ourselves able to live the life that we wanted under the corporate ladder model. The structure of the ladder was too restrictive and the climbing just wasn’t for us. Right now, my husband does the majority of the paid work as a freelancer. I assist him on a project by project basis, have a few unpaid community roles and the bulk of the childcare. It’s only in the last year that we have both been full time over the ladder, its been an evolution over the 7 or 8 years. I can’t really imagine going back now – although I wouldn’t rule it out, I think I would have quite a different perspective.
    I really like the Center for a New American Dream’s stuff – very inspiring and relatable.


  6. I suppose that I am still on the corporate ladder, but I feel like the company is physically picking up my feet and moving them up each step, not me. My personal work ethic requires me to do the very best job that I can at work, and as a result, I tend to move up, but not necessarily because I want to. In my last job I went from a web developer to a Director virtually overnight, and that was the last time that I will ever accept a management-type position. It’s totally and completely not worth it to me, so I left.

    But just yesterday, I received notice that I inadvertently took yet another step up the corporate ladder, and after this step, I probably won’t be able to avoid management-related duties yet again.

    I hope to retire before I have to confront this particular situation and actively refuse another ladder step. Less than 2 years is the goal. It can’t get here soon enough! :)


    • Wow! That is so funny that you said that, the same thing happened to me! A few years ago, I picked up a part time job at an energy management and green building company. I just wanted to do my work and go home. The head of the department left and they asked me if I wanted to take the lead. I suggested a few other employees who had been there longer, but they thought I was the hardest worker. I have a hard time saying ‘no’, so I took and regretted it right away. Like you, I stopped enjoying my work and I had to quit. I now know that I wouldn’t take any more roles managing people. Since I don’t need to work, but want to, I can take a lesser pay rate and just do the work that I want to. I just need to learn to say ‘no’ more often. :)


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