Most British managers fail to create a climate where workers feel happy to talk about their career ambitions, with more than half of workers admitting to keeping their career plans secret from their bosses.
A survey of nearly 500 UK workers by HR consultancy BlessingWhite found women (49 per cent) were slightly more prepared to be open with their managers than men (39 per cent).
But generally an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust still pervaded workplaces when it came to career planning, it found.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the younger the worker the more likely they were to play their cards close to their chest.
Almost two-thirds of 16-24 year olds were not completely forthcoming about their career goals, against nearly half of workers aged 35-44 who did disclose their full career plans to their boss.
Yet by encouraging workers to discuss their career plans, managers could help them make better career choices, which might even mean them not moving on at a future date, said Tom Barry, UK managing director of BlessingWhite.
"Instead of simply drifting along in a job, employees of all ages need to take an active role in determining their future career path. Only then can employers help them to achieve their goals," he said.
"Managers need a framework for structured, open communication with employees about their careers - something more than the annual reprisal (or appraisal). Hopes, dreams and values can be daunting for many managers to talk through and even harder to connect with the values and goals of the organisation.
"But if employees are to remain engaged Ė and delivering results Ė as their careers progress, managers need to get to grips with the issue," he added.
The reluctance of younger workers to speak about this area could be attributed to a natural desire to gain experience in a first or second job before moving on, he pointed out, plus they could feel more uncertain of their position or how they were perceived by their boss.
Conversely, older workers' openness about career plans often reflected the fact they knew more what they wanted and were more focused on achieving these goals.