10 reasons it’s hard to be the boss

People who have never managed before often don’t think about the downsides of the boss’s job – and people who do manage are often surprised by how hard the role can be. Some of the reasons it’s tough:

1. You have to make decisions people don’t like. Whether it’s ending a popular incentive program, not hiring an employee’s friend, or telling your team that they need to work late, managers have to make decisions that their teams aren’t always happy about.

2. You have to tell people when they’re not doing a good job. Sometimes these are people you like and people who are genuinely trying hard. These conversations are difficult and many managers hate them, but they’re also unavoidable.

3. When things go wrong, you’re the person who gets blamed. When things go right, you give your team the credit. But when they go wrong, you’re the one who shoulders the blame. And even if the problem was due to an employee’s mistake, you’re ultimately the person accountable.

4. Your decisions have high stakes. If you hire the wrong person, release the wrong product, or make the wrong budget trade-offs, your decisions could cause serious problems for the company, even leading to people losing their jobs. Every decision you make, even the smallest ones, could have unforeseen price tags.

5. You have to enforce rules you might not always agree with. If your company has a policy you don’t agree with, it’s still going to be your job to enforce it. And if you don’t, or if you mention your disagreement to your employees, you’ll have undermined your own boss.

6. People bring you ridiculous or awkward complaints. Managers get asked to intervene in personal squabbles, talk to the guy with body odor issues, and tell the receptionist that she’s coughing too much.

7. You need to give up some workplace friendships. Since managers need to have professional boundaries between them and the people they manage, you can’t have the same types of office friendships that you had before you became a manager. You might really click with someone on your staff, but you can’t become close in the same way you could before.

8. You’re being watched and scrutinized. As the boss, everything you say or do carries more weight. If you express enthusiasm for one person’s idea, people will assume that’s the idea they should back. And if you’re in a grumpy mood, people may spend days wondering what they did wrong and agonizing over their relationship with you.

9. You might need to let people go. Easily the worst part about being a manager is telling someone that they no longer have a job. It’s not as hard as being on the employee’s side of the conversation, of course, but for most managers it’s agonizing.

10. Some people just won’t like you. If you’re doing your job, not everyone is going to like you. You are going to tell some people their work isn’t good enough …  hold accountable people who may not want to be held accountable … enforce policies that may irritate the heck out of some people … and yes, fire people. It’s unnerving to know that some people will dislike you simply because you’re doing your job, but it’s unavoidable.

Of course, there are plenty of upsides to being the boss – probably more than the downsides. But it’s harder than it looks from the outside.

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase.

{ 71 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I started reading this blog when I became a manager about 1 year ago. I appreciate all the articles, but this one really hit home. I’ve had to adjust my perception of myself and my relationships at work in my new role and while I love the challenges I face every day, the points you make are recognizable. Thanks again for the well written insight!

  2. Andrea_C*

    These are excellent points! I gained a great deal of respect for my previous supervisors once I was in charge of a staff myself, and I actually tracked down one of my previous bosses to let her know how much I appreciated the supervision she had provided for my first professional job. Being a supervisor also taught me about the importance of “managing up”so that I can try to make my supervisor’s job easier rather than more difficult.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! I think people who have managed are often (not always, but often) better (or at least easier) employees in some ways, because they’re more likely/able to understand their manager’s perspective.

  3. The Other Dawn*

    3. When things go wrong, you’re the person who gets blamed.

    This is probably the one that has been the biggest struggle trying to get people to understand. Everyone assumes that if they do a poor job, they are the ones who will be told about it and it only affects them. They may do a poor job and never hear about from a higher-up, but I’m sure hearing about it. A lot. Then I have to explain to my employee why she did a poor job, what has to change, etc. I’ve tried to explain many times that whatever my employee does, whether it’s good or bad, reflects on me and I’m the one who has to explain why we lost money or why someone just can’t get her act together. If I can’t solve a performance issue, that reflects badly on me.

  4. Kelly O*

    #6 is at the top of my mind right now. As an employee, I feel for the bosses having to deal with people complaining about who is talking to who, how long someone is talking to someone else, or my personal favorite this morning – people who laughed. Seriously, someone complained to a manager about people who were laughing this morning. (Now, I actually heard the original complaint on this one. I believe it was “I ain’t listening to all that cackling all day long from both sides.” Which got others called into offices, over not that much.

    So yeah, I would really be sorely tempted to say “grow the eff up” but I realize that’s not appropriate. Good thing I’m not a manager.

  5. Esra*

    I feel like the title to the article could be 10 reasons it’s hard to be a good boss. I’ve had managers who seem to pretty successfully sidestep a lot of items on the list.

    1. B*

      Seriously! My boss avoids most of these things… such as holding people accountable, making tough decisions, etc.

  6. BCW*

    Boo hoo. I do enjoy the articles, and I like reading about both sides. I have been in a management position before, now I’m at a new company where I don’t manage people, but am fairly high up. This is almost like those “Woe is me, I’m rich” things. I’m not disagreeing with any of those things, but I’ve had so many managers who were just bad people who I’m pretty sure just enjoyed making certain peoples lives miserable.

    I’m not disagreeing with anything, but the only one I kind of feel bad for the managers about is if they have to lose friendships because of it. Otherwise, I’m not going to feel bad for a manager who has to fire someone because they may feel bad about that. Most of the time its their decision, and if they feel bad about having to fire them, they probably could’ve changed it. A manager wouldn’t feel bad about firing someone who stole or cheated. Now if its someone who is trying, well maybe the manager isn’t good at getting what they need out of that person.

    Again, I’ve been on both sides, so I speak from experience, but I tend to not feel bad for managers

    1. Ellen M.*

      “I’ve had so many managers who were just bad people who I’m pretty sure just enjoyed making certain peoples lives miserable.”

      So true. Not everyone is even interested in being good at his/her job. Some people just want to abuse whatever power they’ve got.

    2. Tamara*

      I don’t think the point was that we need to feel bad for managers, just that the job is often misunderstood and thought to be easy. Alison even ended with “Of course, there are plenty of upsides to being the boss – probably more than the downsides.” Management has a lot of positive aspects and sometimes perks, but it does have its downsides that a lot of employees tend to ignore. I read this article as something to inform others and perhaps for current managers to relate to, rather than trying to elicit sympathy for higher-ups.

      That being said, there are certain bad managers out there who are on power trips, and that should elicit plenty of sympathy for their poor employees!

    3. Another Emily*

      An alternative title to the article could be “10 Good Managers do that Earns Them a Higher Salary”.

      Bad managers that avoid some of those items aren’t really earning their higher wage. On the flip side, managers in cheap companies who aren’t compensated fairly probably burn out and stop bothering to do some of those items.

    4. A Bug!*

      One thing I am getting from your post is a feeling that a manager should never feel bad about a firing, and if she does, then it means the manager’s failed somehow. That the only reason a manager should be firing someone is for especially egregious conduct, and that simple performance issues are 100% in the manager’s control if only she was just a better manager.

      This is absolutely not true and it places far too much responsibility on the manager when there is a duty on both sides to perform.

      1. DM Andy*

        I might be wrong but there’s only three reasons that you should fire someone.

        1. They never have been capable of doing the job – if that’s due to having hired the wrong person then it is your fault (or whoever hired them and left you to pick up the pieces).

        2. That despite all your effort they have made it clear they don’t care enough to do the job. The firing shouldn’t come out of the blue, they were told what standard they needed to reach and they have chosen not to achieve it. As a manager you shouldn’t feel bad about that, there’s someone else who does care about the job who could be earning a wage instead.

        3. The egregious act that you mentioned. The worker who punches another, or is found with fingers in the till. Again, it’s not something you should feel bad about, just part of your job.

        So it’s only if you hired the wrong person that you should feel bad about a firing, and even then if the employee is able to work in any other position in the company you should try and make that work for them.

        1. Jamie*

          You aren’t accounting for downsizing.

          There are times when a company has to let good people go when the work isn’t there – or there is a restructure which fundamentally changes the positions.

          Sure, that’s a layoff and not firing – but you’re still telling people they no longer have a job – and that sucks.

          And even for justified firings, it’s may be the best thing to do for all involved, but unless the person is evil incarnate it’s hard not to feel sympathy for someone who will be going through a rough time until they find a better fit.

        2. SCW*

          This argument is specious, because emotions and empathy do not correlate to blame and responsibility. I can know I’m doing the absolute right thing in letting someone go and still feel bad for that person’s family and sad that they made the choices that led them to this point. Sometimes people are capable of doing a job when they are hired, but are not capable of keeping up with it over time, and are unable to meet evolving standards. Regardless of who is at fault for a firing, emotions will enter into it–when I started in my current job my boss had just fired someone for an egregious act and she felt terrible. It was an enormously traumatic occurrence and even though she was frightened of the employee, she still felt bad that his mental health problems were ruining his life.

        3. BCW*

          Thats exactly my point. I do mean to draw a distinction (as was pointed out recently) between firing and laying off and downsizing. That is a time that I can understand feeling bad.

          But as DM Andy said, if you are doing your job, the person being fired either did something so horrible that there should be no question that they need to be fired, or has known for a while that their performance was bad and that this was an option and should know that it was coming. Another instance where you shouldn’t feel all that bad if you have given them every chance to change and given notice.

          1. Jamie*

            In those instances I don’t think anyone should feel all that bad either – but it’s still a very uncomfortable thing to do.

            You don’t have to feel bad for the employee who deserved to lose his job, but it’s hard not to feel bad for the person you’ve worked with every day who is now going through a traumatic event.

            I’ve always found it’s analogous to taking your babies or pets in for their vaccines. You know you have to do it, it’s the right thing to do, but it breaks your heart when it’s happening and they look at you with their eyes filling with tears and betrayal.

            It’s not a perfect analogy – as I’ve yet to work with anyone I love as much as my kids or pets – but it’s how I see it.

            I don’t know that I would want to be the person who could fire someone, no matter how justified, and feel nothing. And I wouldn’t want to work for a boss like that.

            1. Anonymous*

              I’m not really replying TO you, Jamie, but this sub-thread made a thought pop into my head, and I want to share it.

              It seems that in most instances, an employee announcing they’re leaving for greener pastures is not incredibly emotionally fraught. Sure, there is the occasional psycho manager who goes ballistic, and often there will be genuine well-wishes tinged with sadness that a great employee is leaving. Even when an employee is leaving due to bad management, they will often mask their feelings enough for the departure to be relatively benign.

              However, when an employee is “asked to leave,” it’s MUCH more emotionally fraught. Even if the employee sees it coming, even if the employee was unhappy.

              As was mentioned in the terminated vs. fired discussion, either way it’s the end of a working relationship, but how come it’s socially acceptable for an employee to say “this just isn’t the best environment for me, and I’ve decided to find/take another job,” but it’s not okay for a manager to say “this just isn’t the best employee we could have, and we’ve decided to find another one who fits the role better”?

              I’ll continue to ponder, but figured it might be interesting to discuss.

              1. Spreadsheet Monkey*

                Because in the case of an employee leaving for greener pastures, it’s the employee’s choice. In a firing/layoff, it’s not.

                I generally don’t voluntarily leave a job until I have another one lined up. So yeah, I’m leaving, I’m a little sad sometimes, my manager is a little sad sometimes, but I’m still going to work, paying my bills, being a productive member of society.

                I’ve also been laid off a few times. I don’t know where I’m going. What happens if I can’t find a job? Sure, there’s unemployment, but it doesn’t make up my entire salary (and I’m single, so there’s no other source of income). There’s a lot more going on emotionally in those cases.

                There’s generally a hit to your self-esteem when you’re fired or laid off. Objectively, when I’ve been laid off, I understand that it’s a business decision, and I have even agreed that it made more sense to let me go than someone else. Doesn’t mean that it didn’t feel a bit personal for a while.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Hmm…but employee and manager are both humans, so how come it’s “not personal” when the employee leaves the manager, but it is when the manager dumps the employee? Obviously, the financial factor is HUGE. What if it were a very specialized field/job that the employee was quitting, and it was going to take the manager MONTHS, if not longer to fill the position, and in the meantime, he/she, personally, would have to put in way more hours and such? When I picture that scenario, there are still not as many hurt feelings as when an employee is let go, even if they know they can find something quickly, or saw it coming due to performance plans or whatever. It just FEELS different, somehow, which is odd. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, just trying to explore why. I guess I’m bored on a Friday afternoon. :-)

                2. Jamie*

                  @ Anonymous – That’s a really good point, and I would imagine a lot of managers do take it personally.

                  I just think financial trauma trumps hurt feelings. If I were fired today I would feel hurt, betrayed, angry…all of that. However, after the initial shock those would fester in the background as I panicked about money.

                  Isn’t there something about this is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Once you lose the income to meet your basic needs that’s going to trump the higher level needs of ego, etc.

              2. Jamie*

                It’s not as emotionally charged when an employee resigns, because the stakes aren’t as high.

                Sure, losing a good employee sucks – and it can be a huge pita for the managers/company to deal with the transition. But that’s workplace stress, and at the end of the day an employee leaving doesn’t have any impact on anyone in the company being able to pay their mortgage.

                An employee leaving a company will never have the same impact. It’s just business…however an employee losing his/her source of income is personal.

                Personal is always going to be more emotionally complicated.

                That’s why, imo, too many employers are afraid to have that conversation and sub-par employees stay on the books for years. They are more concerned with avoiding the awkwardness than with doing the right thing.

                The side effect of keeping sub-par performers on indefinitely is you will lose people…but you’ll lose your top performers who will leave for a better work environment.

                1. class factotum*

                  it’s “not personal” when the employee leaves the manager, but it is when the manager dumps the employee?

                  But it is personal. Isn’t the main reason people quit a job because of a bad manager?

                2. jmkenrick*

                  @class factotum – I’ve heard that quoted a lot, but I don’t often witness it in real life. (I’ve only done that once, for example, and most of my friends/family/boyfriends have moved on for better opportunities, more money or another un-management related issues.)

                  I’m not disagreeing, I’m just wondering where this information comes from.

        4. KellyK*

          You might also have to fire someone who used to be capable of doing the job, but something changed, either the job requirements or their ability to do it. This could be totally their fault, totally not their fault, or somewhere in between.

          1. DM Andy*

            Good point – I almost added that as a fourth point. Luckily in a large company it can be easier to manage that circumstance and if a person’s talents were in a job that’s no longer needed that’s more of a lay off situation. I would fight for ample retraining for the employee though. Getting good employees is tough and if someone’s got the right attitude you can most of the time teach the skills.

        5. Anonymous*

          What about the job changing and the employee now not being a perfect fit for the position? What about the employee, him/herself changing? For example, dementia or personality changes that render them unable to do the job properly. It’s not their FAULT per se, but the manager must transition them to another position that’s a better fit or out of the company entirely if it’s jeopardizing the company.

          I do agree with the commenter who contrasted emotions and empathy with blame and responsibility, though–there can be things that are no one’s fault, but you still feel bad about (the difference between I’m sorry I stepped on your foot and I’m sorry your cat died). There are also differences among people. Some managers are able to remove the emotion from the situation in their mind, and it sounds like you’re one of them. Some managers will always “feel bad” about having to fire someone, no matter how well-deserved. I think as long as both ACT appropriately to the situation, neither one is bad or good, just different.

          1. Tax Nerd*

            Sometimes employees get promoted because they are good at their current level, and they aren’t capable of performing at the new expected level. You can throw training and coaching at them, but sometimes it just doesn’t help. The alternatives are demoting them, and probably giving them a pay cut, or letting them fumble through a job it turns out they’re not cut out for.

            Sure, you could do the thing where you make them do the job you want to promote them into before you officially promote them, but that means they’re doing work above their level without the authority they need or pay they deserve, and that usually leads to them exiting (at least in good labor markets).

        6. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Is anyone seriously arguing that you shouldn’t feel bad about firing someone? I’ve fired plenty of people, and I’ve felt bad about every single one. Firing is taking away someone’s livelihood. It’s a serious thing. While it’s certainly less hard if the person brought it upon themselves, it’s still always a big deal and it still always sucks. I would be very concerned about working with someone who didn’t feel the full weight of what you’re doing when you fire someone.

          1. ChristineH*

            Absolutely. My sister heads a small but growing non-profit, and I remember her telling me how emotionally difficult it was for her when she was considering letting someone go. I don’t remember the circumstances, but she was pretty agonized about it.

          2. DM Andy*

            “Feeling bad” is an ill-defined term, but I equate it to feeling guilty, feeling that there’s more I should have done, feeling that I’m doing something wrong. You can be very sympathetic, very conscious about the impact of your decision without “feeling bad” about it. If I “felt bad” about a firing someone (not that I can, in my employer that’s done by an impartial panel) than in my view I shouldn’t be taking that step.

            Isn’t “feeling bad” a rather selfish emotion, sort of “woe is me, I’m having to fire someone” rather than “I really feel sorry for that person, but now the rest of the team won’t have to work late to pick up the slack and someone who wants this job can get one.”

            For me, I would feel a lot worse if I was downsizing and letting go of something without cause. I imagine that would be a horrible feeling.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not at all about “feeling guilty, feeling that there’s more I should have done, feeling that I’m doing something wrong.” It’s about feeling sorry for the person who is having something terrible happen to them. I’ve never doubted a decision I made to fire someone, but it’s never been pleasant to deliver the news. If you aren’t callous, you feel for them (and, if relevant, their family). It’s a big deal.

          3. Anonymouse*

            Amen. What you are doing is an enormous thing. A huge, life-changing moment. If it didn’t weigh on you a bit, then you’re just not human.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Talking about what’s difficult about a management job isn’t at all like “woe is me, I’m rich.” It’s a job. It has difficult parts, ones that people often don’t see until/unless they experience it themselves. Plenty of us find those pieces interesting to discuss. If you don’t find that interesting, fine, but it’s not something you should be mocking.

      And guess what — because these things are hard, lots of managers don’t do them, which then turns them into bad managers, thus affecting everyone else.

      1. Kathryn T.*

        IOW, management is a hard, hard job. It is SO hard that a lot of the people who are doing that job are terrible at it.

        Not snark, genuine empathy. I’d be a horrible manager — I can barely manage to parent two children.

      2. fposte*

        And, coming in late to the conversation, I’ll add that most of us who are managers are also still managed/supervised ourselves, so it’s not like it’s a way out of having things done to you.

  7. Kathryn T.*

    My husband just started a new job, and on his orientation, his new manager said “My job isn’t to make people do the work. My job is to hire people who are excited about the work, and then to get rid of the roadblocks that would stop them from doing it.” My husband nearly wept with happiness, he’s been in some incredibly dysfunctional workplaces.

    1. mh_76*

      I am green with envy and would love to work for a boss like that. Your husband is very lucky and I hope that he savors every moment of it to the fullest extent possible!

    2. Anonymous*

      I have told my manager directly I don’t want his job! He is stuck between the higher management whose demands rarely run in line with reality and the people he supervises who need help and distract him from his non-managerial tasks on a daily basis.

      It would drive me mad and yet he remains a good, respectful and supportive manager whilst keeping in the good books of higher management. How he does it I don’t know.

  8. DM Andy*

    2. You have to tell people when they’re not doing a good job.

    That doesn’t belong on the list, some employees are more difficult to manage than others but I would put that as a plus point of being a manager, rephrased as “2. You get to help people get better at their job.” That’s an awesome part of being someone’s line manager.

    1. Tamara*

      This is a great attitude to have! Sometimes rephrasing something, even when it essentially means the same thing, is how to avoid feeling bad when it’s unnecessary.

    2. Jamie*

      I agree with the sentiment – but in practice there are a lot of people who take negative feed back very personally. So even when it’s necessary to give it, it’s still uncomfortable to have a conversation about something which will hurt their feelings.

      1. Phideaux*

        I’ve found this to be especially true, usually because the ones who need to be given the critical feedback often think they’re doing an awesome job.

  9. Ry*

    I like this article. I’m not a manager, and I don’t have any trouble with my director (the person I report to); I don’t always agree with her, but I respect her.

    Because of the specific nature of our work (in healthcare), my director faces a whole lot of these issues, mostly 1, 3, 5, 7, and 10. One of my coworker-friends and I were talking recently about how hard it must be for the director to deal with the issue of workplace friendships – we both suspect we would like our director very much as a friend, but she is so buttoned-down, guarded, and businesslike at work that we don’t get to see much of her personality. Now, I understand that “professional” does not have to mean “buttoned-down and guarded,” but that’s the management style our director has chosen.

    Some people we work with tend to blame her for problems she can’t control, and definitely people above her tend to blame her for problems as well. She’s the director of our unit, but in such a huge institution, there’s always somebody above you. In this case, a lot of somebodies, often ones who don’t understand the reasons for her decisions.

    This article helps me feel empathy and patience for a person I respect who’s living in a really, really hard spot. Yes, she chose to take the job; yes, she gets paid plenty; but she’s still a human being and it’s still rough to have everybody hating on you all the time. I appreciate the different perspective.

  10. Jamie*

    I’d add one thing to the list and that’s not being able to reward people the way you would like to.

    Sometimes budget or politicy constraints get in the way of the increases or other rewards you want to get for your people – and often times reports think the boss has more power than they do so where they might have doubt that you fought the good fight…even when you did.

    The flip side of this, and this happens in a lot of companies, is not having the authority to fire people who are detrimental to your team, but you still have to find a way to manage the unmanageable.

    This list reminds me how glad I am that I manage people only as they relate to my projects (and IT). I can fire someone from a project and they just go back to their department – it doesn’t impact their ability to buy groceries.

    I stick my nose into situations where people are really awesome and make sure the people who should know about that do – I have input for the things that affect me, but can bow out of most of the dark stuff by hiding behind my bank of monitors.

  11. Anonymous*

    I am not a manager or have ever been in a position of authority, but my husband is. Alison’s list is great. I have seen the extra time and effort it takes to be a manager that cares not only for the company but those he supervises. There is a lot of stress most employees don’t realize. The point of being held responsible for your employees mistakes is there and having to give performance reviews, overtime, having your pager go off and being called in on your time off etc. the list could go on.

  12. Anonymous*

    It’s hard to be rich too. And it’s really hard to be famous. And don’t get me started on being rich AND famous – those guys really have it hard.

    1. Rana*

      You’re assuming that being a manager = being well-off and powerful. Imagine being a manager at a fast-food restaurant, or in a retail setting. “Manager” is a position that covers an incredibly wide range of salaries and settings, from the VP of an international corporation to the local deli guy with two part-time employees.

      1. BCW*

        I don’t think this is about managers being rich. Its more about the sentiment that “oh, I have it better than you (as a rich person or manager) but we have it hard to” nonsense. No one’s life is perfect we can all agree, however complaining about how hard it is to be a manager or rich or famous or beautiful or whatever is usually annoying to people who aren’t those things.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, please. You’re equating being a manager to being rich and famous? It’s a job. It’s often a hard job. Your comment is silly.

      Besides, ALL the problems discussed on this blog are non-problems when you consider that we’re all better off than a huge swath of the rest of the world. That doesn’t make them not worthy of discussion.

      1. BCW*

        I don’t know if its fair to say someone’s comment is silly just because he doesn’t agree with you. Thats taking it a bit far I think. As you can probably see, I’m more on the other persons side in this, but for the people making comments, I wouldn’t call it silly, and I think while his wording may not be as good as it could have been, his point is valid.

        As I said, I don’t necessarily think the person is equating being a manager to being rich and famous, just comparing it to how people who have it better want you to feel empathy for them because you don’t know how hard their life is. I’m sure the CEO of my company (who I know and respect) has his share of headaches, but he can also go to his multi-million dollar house to relax after. So if he were to say how hard his job is, and then get in his expensive car, I don’t necessarily want to hear it.

        Maybe a better analogy would be me talking to my unemployed friend who hasn’t been able to find a job for a year about how hard my job is . My points may be very valid, but for him, he just wants a job, so I’m sure he isn’t going to feel very sorry for my work problems. I think thats similar to this. You have a position where you make more money, get more perks, but have problems that go along with it. Your difficulties sound genuine, but your subordinates don’t necessarily want to hear about it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not calling the comment silly because it didn’t agree with me. I take seriously comments here all the time that don’t agree with me. I called this one silly because I think it’s silly.

          Again, all the problems discussed on this site are non-issues when compared to people with more serious problems. That doesn’t mean that people discussing them should be mocked. (And anyone who thinks it does is reading the wrong blog.)

    3. Anonymous*

      Yes, you are usually paid very well. But, a good manager does have a lot of stress and responsibility. They earn their salary.

      1. Anonymous*

        And sometimes not even paid that well… I manage at a small company and while I make (very slightly) more than our non-managers, I also make significantly less than my father’s secretary.

  13. Annie*

    Being married to someone who has managed people for 25+ years, I know managing people requires dealing with a lot of people’s gripes and personal s**t… which is why I’ve never wanted to manage anyone. I’m perfectly fine being an individual contributor!

  14. K Too*

    @Classfactum Isn’t the main reason people quit a job because of a bad manager?

    Sometimes but not always. It could also be a monetary issue. A lot of employees, good and bad, will leave a job for another one if an increased salary is involved.

  15. Anonymous*

    As a non-boss, I think bosses need to realize that they need a backbone. That is already implied in some of the items Alison mentions here. However, if you don’t have a backbone, then you are the cause of a slippery slope. For instances, in my job, we have been allowed to push the envelope very far, and from what I can tell, the line still hasn’t been crossed. People are late, leave early, take days off left and right, don’t pay attention to detail, etc. And I truthfully blame management for it. I have towed the line but recently I have been testing the waters. So far it has worked, but it’s not in my DNA to do that, but if I absolutely needed to be late or take a day off, then I know I can get away with it without so much as a word spoken to me. But it’s very demoralizing to me when I try to be a good employee and the others can get away with everything.

    So I’ll add another #11: Bosses need to be tough, but fair.

  16. ChristineH*

    Non-boss here: All of these are exactly why I DON’T want to be a people-manager. No, I know it probably won’t get me very far since that seems to be an expectation of Masters-level employees, but my sanity is just as important as my career.

  17. Charles*

    I cannot add any more to a specific item in the article. But, I can say that I USED to be the boss and left that decades ago as it was far more of a headache than anything else that I have ever done.

    Enjoyable at times? Yes, it was. But, I prefer to be a trainer instead of the one responsible for everything and everyone!

    Besides, as a trainer, I love to say: “that’s not a training issue; that’s a management issue – let them handle it!”

  18. Adam*

    My mom owned and ran her own business for most of my life, so I gained a good appreciation for what good bosses are like and could also see just how much the gig could wear on you sometimes. It’s helped me relate to all my own bosses very well and stay on they’re good side which is invaluable in a work setting.

  19. Hugo*

    I am going on my 12th year of supervising / managing and I would do anything to get away from it! I love this post since all other “job rant” sites focus on employees unhappy with their managers / supervisors. Well, we have complaints, too. I’m sick and tired of the corporate “coddling” that emphasizes the feelings of the common employee yet disregards the stresses and headaches of management. Anytime one of your people screws something up, it’s your fault. There’s an investigation, fact-finding, training, etc. But when they do something “good” (usually meaning they did their job correctly) you must go out of your way to give them a pat on the back. Meanwhile, here are us mid-managers, getting pulled from both sides like a rope in a brutal tug-of-war.

    Now, I don’t need to be patted on the back or honored for everything I do. Or anything I do, for that matter. What I would like (and think we all deserve) is simple acknowledgement from OUR bosses that dealing with / managing / ordering people around on a day-to-day basis takes it’s toll on people. We are not superheroes, and we can’t change people’s attitudes overnight. In an ideal world, we’d be able to successfully implement all of these “top-down” policies flawlessly, but when you’re dealing with a bunch of whiners and blockheads it’s easier said than done.

    The average worker bee has no concern for anything aside from his / her own schedule. They are not the ones who have to worry about keeping production going when someone calls in sick or decides to leave in the middle of the day. They are not the ones who have to explain to irate customers why their orders were incorrect.

    I am always amazed that these people can’t remember the steps to their simple daily tasks, yet they all have magical internal clocks that alarm them when it’s time to ask for their break.

    I think we can all acknowledge that, yes, we as managers / supervisors get paid more, supposedly to deal with these headaches, but the question we all ask ourselves is: “Is it worth it?” It’s even more a slap in the face when we’re making a hair over what our workers do.

    The more I am in this line of work, the more my answer becomes a resounding “No.” Rarely do I ever experience any sense of accomplishment as a manager anymore. Rather, I’m just mentally exhausted and dreading the next headache I’ll have to deal with.

    The biggest misconception that these people have is that management is easy, that they are doing the “real work,” etc. I’m sick of hearing them say, “the company makes money because of what we do.” Well listen up, dummy – you wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for the company! Ha! What I wouldn’t do just to be a cog in the wheel or responsible for my work and my work only! You are so right – these people don’t know how good they have it sometimes. Punch the clock, do your job, go home. That’s it. All they have to do is show up, do their job correctly, and go home. No dealing with conflict, schedules, sick people, people with sick kids, people who can’t get along with one another, angry customers, high demand customers, after hours calls, incorrect work, and overall incompetency.

    As a manager, your day is rarely, if ever, easy. Employees on the other hand deal with basically the same things day after day after day. If you have a day when your employees are behaving, the customers are on your case. When the customers are quiet, the employees are doing stupid things. When both of them are quiet, then you’re dealing with some corporate time-filler bs.

    I can’t wait to find something where I am responsible for my own personal work. Maybe managing wouldn’t be so bad with a group of self-sufficient, intelligent people. But, I really don’t have any desire to find out. My next line of work will not include supervising people.

    1. Anonymous*

      I know a number of people who have stepped into management and immediately stepped back, never to return, because of the reasons you listed. And, I will readily admit to thinking a number of them myself! I’m lucky enough to have really great people working with me, and it makes the hard work worth it in the end because they’re so great. There is still some type of “drama” every day though, and once I leave it’s hard to turn off my brain and NOT think about if the person with problem X is ok with how it was resolved or if the person with issue Y will still be upset with their coworker tomorrow.

    2. Kelly O*

      I would be interested to know in what field you work, because many of the things you’ve named are truly not applicable in many of the offices in which I’ve worked. While the management is ultimately responsible for the overall success or failure of the department, the employees are also concerned with those same things.

      The best teams I’ve ever been a part of were those in which everyone truly felt we were “all in this together” and working toward the same goals. Not just on paper in some mission statement, but actually putting it into practice. It does happen, and it’s a wonderful environment to find yourself in; the proverbial purple squirrel of workplaces.

  20. Diane*

    One of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with is the prospect of losing an excellent employee because he’s so frustrated with our organization’s culture and leadership. He’s said he knows I’ve done all I can to help him and shield him from the worst, and he’s stayed as long as he can stand it just to make my life easier. I do not want to lose him.

    There are real, deep, systemic problems at our workplace. The turnover at the top has been chaotic, there’s no clear direction, priorities change, morale is low, and departments are become even more siloed to protect themselves. I’ve tried for years to advocate for more challenging work, for ways we can support other departments when we have time, for ways to leverage our experience. I’ve tried to look for the positive and keep my own attitude from poisoning his experience. I can’t protect him from the problems in our culture. Of course, I’d leave too if I had a job lined up. He’s just quitting.

  21. devans00*

    I would add one topic that new mangers seem to miss. Your direct reports’ success is your success. You’ll have a more successful boss-ship by being supportive and encouraging.

    Being competitive and domineering encourages people to flee for the nearest exit.

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