In order to understand the deep and sometimes latent causes which affect contemporary Russian economy it is especially important to investigate the social factors that influence the functioning and development of Russian business organizations. Careers as a social phenomenon act as a certain reflection of social organization of Russian business, since this is where the social nature of an employee (including his or her social status) and his or her functional goals in the production system intersect. In our empirical research we rely on an approach, which regards careers as a mass social process and a certain social institute related to it rather than a set of individual paths of promotion. The data comes from standardized interviews with 509 line- and middle level managers from 80 enterprises representing 8 Russian regions and 14 industries. The authors conduct a complex analysis to determine the major parameters, which affect business-careers in Russia. The results of the research are presented and discussed in the following order: 1) career motivation of the managers; 2) the respondents’ opinions regarding the social conditions of successful managerial career in business-organizations; 3) an analysis of these conditions in the context of social and professional characteristics of ‘successful’ managers. According to the results of the survey the materialistic drivers in career motivation are dominant among the majority of the managers, although, in general, the structure of motivations appears to differ significantly across the sample of respondents. Precisely 4 types of career motivations have been distinguished: ‘materialistic’, ‘socially prestigious’, ‘corporate-professional’, ‘individually professional’. The authors introduce the term ‘business-organization career culture’, by which they imply a set of principles, factors and mechanisms that affect career growth and are typical of particular organizations. The empirical analysis allows for distinguishing 3 such cultures: ‘based on personal achievement’ – emphasizes good education, personal qualities and talents of an individual; ‘based on corporate adaptation’ – emphasizes personal activity of an individual and his or her ability of fitting into organizational environment and loyalty to the management; ‘based on clan-like ascription’ – depreciates professional qualities and qualification and emphasizes extreme importance of personal ties and being a ‘yes-man’ to the company. It is further statistically proven that organizations with career cultures based on personal achievement are economically more efficient than those based on clannish and ascriptive principles. It is also concluded that the important pre-conditions which affect the successfulness of careers in Russian business-organizations are: a young age, activism, an ability to act initiatively and handle a lot of work. It is also quite important to develop specific professional skills related to a certain work-place. Another important observation is that ‘successful careerists’ usually demonstrate a high level of personal loyalty to their bosses in the form of tolerant views on the violation of legal and moral norms by the manager. However, the typical model of promotion in middle-management includes the use of ‘social capital’ even among the younger generation managers (i.e. acquiring jobs through favoritism, gaining the ‘yes-man’ reputation, etc.). Thus, the role of clannish and ascriptive based principles in personal promotion tends to rise with the higher levels of organizational hierarchy.