does anyone actually like being a manager?

A reader writes:

On a big picture level, do you think most managers actually enjoy supervising other people? I manage a small team of people who are really pretty good performers overall, but I find the routine stressors and difficult aspects of management to be so draining and anxiety-inducing.

Despite this, due to my conscientiousness and general common sense, I think I do a pretty good job being a boss, which is backed up by feedback from my own boss, peers, and direct reports over the past several years. I’m just wondering whether most managers everywhere are just sucking it up for the bigger paycheck … or if I’m the dysfunctional one who should move back into an individual contributor role, for the greater good of employees everywhere.

Yeah, managing people is a real pain in the ass. There’s lots about it to dislike — like dealing with performance issues, delivering bad news, knowing people are scrutinizing you, having to represent your employer’s viewpoint even when you disagree with it, having to balance lots of competing interests (and never being able to please everyone), taking the blame when things go wrong, and plenty more.

But I do think many managers enjoy it overall, even while finding particular elements of it frustrating or difficult.

I liked it for a long time, and what I liked was having the ability to make things run the way I thought they should. There’s real satisfaction in being able to say “no, we’re not going to do crappy thing X,” or finding a way to reward a great employee or make someone’s work life easier, or putting together a group of people that accomplishes cool things, or being able to say “that’s not right; let me fix it.” And when it comes to the actual work that you’re overseeing, managing is a pretty incredible tool that lets you get way more done than you could ever get done on your own.

But there are also loads of people who really don’t like managing, and that’s pretty understandable. If you find it more draining than rewarding — over a long period of time, not just during a particular week or a particular month, because even the most fulfilled managers have terribly draining weeks and months — that might be a sign that you don’t want to do it long-term.

Are you regularly coming home exhausted and anxious? How often does your job make you feel satisfied versus frustrated? Look, too, at whether you feel like you have the skills to do what you’re trying to accomplish in the management realm and, if not, whether more support and coaching from your own manager or formal training might help.

If you decide that it’s just not a thing that works well for your quality of life, there’s no shame in that. But those are the factors I’d look at first.

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. Permanent project manager?*

    Great question and good advice, Allison. I’m eagerly awaiting comments on this. I’m in a role where I’m technically a manager, but mostly on projects, and have steered clear of people-management roles because of exactly what the OP describes. I did it in an interim capacity for four months this year and I was so glad to be done with it. Same situation as the OP — I work with great people, and I’m told I did really well in the role, but I was anxious and exhausted the whole time. Not sure what that means for my future career prospects, though. :(

    1. Anna*

      This is my situation, too. I’m technically a manager, but I don’t have staff. I also want to move up and am not sure how to do that without managing people, which is not something I’m really that interested in.

    2. xetrupha*

      Agreed, excellent question! Any suggestions on what do to if you’re working for someone who seems to hate being a manager? Mine is a nice enough guy, but doesn’t seem engaged, is unsuccessful at advocating on behalf of his team, doesn’t seem to be aware of what the team members are working on. Frankly, he might as well not even be here which is usually OK since I don’t need much from my manager, but I think this hurts some of the more junior folks on my team. I wish I could say “Please go find a job you’re passionate about.”, but I know I can’t.

      1. kcat*

        This sounds familiar. What I ended up doing was asking for, and getting, a management job because I was tired of no one doing the job of making schedules, asking the hard questions, and protecting team members’ time. But now, I’m the one doing that stuff, and like the letter writer I question if this is really what I want to be doing. :/

      2. Permanent project manager?*

        That’s a tough position. When you’re working for someone like that, I think you have to manage up and be very (explicitly) clear about what you’re working on. Force them to make a decision by identifying potential solutions and saying, “I’d recommend Approach B — how does that sound to you?” It can be really tough to do this as a junior person, but you may be able to mentor them without being the Big Boss, if that’s something you want to do.

        Unfortunately, I don’t think you can force someone to be a good team advocate. :(

        1. Anonamoose*

          I can vouch with this advice! Sometimes it takes a village to create a good manager, and sometimes it starts with staff leading up by (very politely) setting up expectations for their leader, in a way that is productive but also face-saving. Asking good questions and directing the leader toward them making decisions will really help in the long run.

      3. Layla*

        I had a manager like that and I was fine for awhile. But it sucks not to be promoted after a long time so I asked for a transfer.

    3. Zona the Great*

      Yep, I’m with you there. I was agonizing earlier in the year as I too had a four or five month stint of really managing people and operations. I was good at it, got praise, my direct reports liked me and respected me but I hardly slept and often felt burned out. I, for some reason, was under the impression that in order to grow as a professional and expand my career, I would have to go back to managing people. But I don’t have interest in growing as a personnel manager. I have interest in growing as a project and program manager (yes, with some obvious people managing) and so I began to follow the track of Best Practice Expert and the like. Maybe your career has a similar track?

        1. Zona the Great*

          Sure! I work in a state government agency so there are more tracks to follow than in other smaller orgs. However, we have folks who have become experts in the intricate process of starting a major statewide tea cup project. The business process in such an agency is convoluted and confusing. It requires folks who have no budgeting experience to budget huge amounts of money. Doing it incorrectly leads to statutory violations–essentially breaking state laws. It’s a scary concept so we have people who have navigated the process enough, and haave enough skill and interpersonal skills to work with various departments on such projects.

  2. HoVertical*

    I definitely agree with Alison. There is also an additional facet in some cases, and that is that you have been given all the responsibility and all the accountability, but no title and no compensation in accord with the new responsibilities and accountabilites. That will burn anyone out quickly, speaking from my own experience.

  3. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

    After six years managing, I left it behind and took a step back in my career. My decision was based on a seriously dysfunctional workplace not my team or because I didn’t like being a manager.

    My favorite part of being a manager was being able to provide the employees that reported to me opportunities. Opportunities to learn, to challenge themselves, to see themselves in new ways, to fix problems, and so on. And by being able to direct and push my team I was ultimately able to help our customers as well as the business achieve their overall goals

    There were of course the stupid, petty employee issues that I got dragged into and times that I had to give employees tough news that was difficult – but I still really enjoyed it overall. I hope to return to a management position again down the road.

    1. Jaguar*

      Yeah, when I was in a management position, I got real satisfaction out of it because I was able to organize how things were happening, provide opportunities for people to grow (including mentoring), and generally make the workplace a better and more rewarding place for the people that were under my responsibility. I was a ruthlessly downward-focused manager, though – I let all the stress collect at my level and refused to pass that down to those below me, would not enforce decision from management above me that I disagreed with, and made concessions for people’s personal lives that I probably shouldn’t have, so maybe I wasn’t great from a company-perspective (although, I had zero turnover and no complaints about the quality of work produced in three years). There was a lot of frustration which is natural coming from organizing humans, but it’s something I enjoyed and got to see the benefit I had in people’s working lives, and I didn’t have any trouble at any point keeping that perspective, so I legitimately enjoyed it.

      1. KR*

        I’m having similar difficulties. I’m also trying really hard to advocate for employees that I feel should receive higher wages and more credit for the work they do when my boss views the team differently because he’s not on the front lines training them and directing them, and it’s frustratingly hard.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is by far my favorite part of managing. It’s so rewarding to offer mentorship and support, and to watch your reports develop as leaders/professionals. It’s really satisfying to see your employees succeed and ultimately become your peers.

  4. Is it Friday Yet?*

    My Dad has always told me that he found middle management to be one of the most difficult positions of his career. I can see how people in those positions really have to take a lot of crap from both sides.

    1. Beer Thirty*

      Based on my 5+ years of middle management experience, I completely agree with your father. I’m not sure how much longer I can do this type of work.

  5. AnotherAlison*

    I’m not even a manager, just a project manager, but I think I land on the OP’s side wondering if anyone really likes managing.

    I like my job and the people who work on my teams, and my managers. What I hate is that I’m so far down the ladder that I can have four different bosses second guess me, all the way up to our division president. I think if I was running a small business and was the ultimate decision maker, I’d be fine with managing. (I know there would be different problems in that scenario, esp. as the spouse of a small biz owner, but I think I would be less infuriated by those.)

    1. Regina 2*

      This is how I feel too; maybe if I ran a small business and was totally invested in the results, I’d be okay with managing. In every workplace I’ve been in thus far in a 10 year career though, I see nothing appealing about it.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I loved being a project/program manager, but it’s because I’m one of those people who really enjoys implementation (not to be confused with operations) and generally figuring out how to put ideas into action (but I’m also obsessed with planning tools and office supplies, so I readily admit I’m not a normal person).

      How many people you report to, however, can really destroy the experience. When I had 1.5 bosses (my boss, and the big boss), it was so much fun, and work was dynamic and creative. When my boss left, I ended up with 5 bosses, none of whom would actually respond to time-sensitive questions or review items that required approval before being sent to clients. It was miserable, and I quit pretty quickly when it became clear that that management approach wasn’t going to change for at least 2 years, if ever.

      So I guess what I’m saying is: would you like the work of you had a functional oversight/management team above you? I find organizations often promote excellent program people to management without considering whether that person (1) has management skills (or could develop the,), or (2) enjoys managing. If you wouldn’t enjoy your work even with better oversight, though, then it might not be a great fit for your talents and interests.

  6. Roscoe*

    Its funny that this comes up today. I actually just got passed over for a promotion. It wasn’t an “open” position, just some shuffling around. While on one hand I’m a bit upset over it, on the other, I know that I have no desire to be in middle management in my company. I think this letter helped express why.

    1. Anonamoose*

      Was it a management position? If so, I can say with all honesty that while I got paid more in my mgt role, I also got incredibly sick due to the stress and anxiety. It’s been a few years and I am still fighting my illness today. So…priorities.

      Know to trust your gut!

      1. Roscoe*

        Yeah, it was management. If it was an open, posted position, I wouldn’t have even applied. But I feel kind of slighted for not being considered

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Maybe it wasn’t a good fit for your skills/experience? Depending on the culture of your office and how long you e been in your current position. you could always bring this up with your manager during your performance review (Alison has much better scripts for this scenario, but something like “I’m really interested in growing with [employer] and would ultimately like to contribute as [open position]. What could I do in the coming year(s) to demonstrate excellence in [current job] and to develop the skills necessary to advance?” could work).

  7. Wandering Anon*

    I’ve been a manager now for almost 3 years. This blog (thank you Alison and the many regular thoughtful commenters!) has made me a better manager.

    Do I enjoy this job? Hell yes. I enjoy setting direction, giving people a framework and a goal, coaching employees to further their careers and forging relationships with clients.

    It ain’t all been pretty –
    – I have also had years where I’ve been so stressed out that I couldn’t sleep and broke down in front of my manager. – I’ve been put in charge of giant projects with few resources and no project management.
    – Had an employee succumb to panic attacks and show up, disoriented, at my office door with no wallet and in his stocking feet (more than once).
    – Had a co-manager do absolutely nothing for the 5 months she was on the job and then quit with 3 days notice, leaving me to manage 10 tech people (did I mention I was six months into my first management job?) while my boss was on family leave and out of touch for six weeks.
    – Managed someone who was constantly on the edge of a PIP due to attitude issues for 3 years.

    But I made it through. And the breadth of work and opportunity offered by this job is awesome.

  8. Beth02*

    Today I start my new role as an individual contributor after being in management for more than 10 years. I took a large pay cut, which I have been planning for, but I feel so relieved. It is too bad that the way most good performers are recognized is with a promotion to manager others.

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      I was a manager for more than 10 years, and when I took a job with my current organization – a job that has changed over the years but that still involves managing projects, not people – I thought I’d miss being a manager of people.

      I was *wrong* – so wrong. I don’t miss it at all. I like getting/helping people to succeed at a particular project or task, and I think I do fairly well at it, but all that other stuff? Employee reviews…”How come he gets to take that day off and I don’t?”…People sobbing at their desks because they’re boy/girlfriend broke up with them…”If you’re not hear she always leaves early”…employees who need counseling and/or psychiatric drugs…dress code violations…and on and on and on – all the alarums and excursions of humanity, in other words…No. I don’t miss it at all. Thanks to all of you who do enjoy it and do it well!

      1. Michaela T*

        Ha! I took a promotion to management with some initial enthusiasm about helping to develop people and improve processes. The first day one of my new team members emailed me to tell me that the person in the adjoining cubicle talked to herself sometimes and it was distracting and could I talk to this person’s manager about it? Many illusions died that day.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          LOL. I know, I know. There you are, thinking that adults mostly act like adults, and then when you end up managing some of those adults, you find out how goofy/silly/petty/temporarily neurotic/etc. people can be.

          Just thinking about some of my adventures as a manager got me so het up that I made at least two stupid errors in my post above (at least I can’t think of any other credible reason why I used “hear” in place of “here” and “there’re in place of “their”).

    2. Holly*

      Yes! I was just coming here to say that it’s a shame that in most roles, the only way to progress in seniority and pay is to stop doing the job and start managing others. Managing people is a separate skill.

  9. Mark in Cali*

    My manager says she loves being a manager, but her actions suggest otherwise. Always a fire, always something to worry about, always has to find a problem to solve, always has to have an answer. Never a moment of systems in place so let’s enjoy the ride. I know after observing this behavior after 4 years that I want nothing to do with that world even if it does mean a bigger paycheck.

    That said, I think she could do better to delegate and let certain things go and be less stressed but then she wouldn’t come across as a manager to her peers (not busy enough, not stressed enough) but that’s a comment on the culture here at my work.

    1. Permanent project manager?*

      Whoa, that is a perfect description of what I’ve seen play out time and time again. And then people wondered why *I* didn’t want to step into her position.

    2. Hallway Feline*

      That sounds like life over here! But it does make the day go faster when everything’s on fire, even if I go home too exhausted to work out like I want to.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Maybe she thrives on crisis or on feeling like she’s “saving” everyone? I had a manager who was really into being a martyr and not doing very obvious and little things that would have saved all of us a ton of stress and redundancy. It quickly went from frustrating to infuriating.

  10. Babs*

    I somehow found myself in the role of VP and I often sit and think – How the hell did I get here?
    Imposter Syndrome maybe?
    All I know is I don’t enjoy being “the boss”. I have great ideas and I understand more about how this company operates than my co-workers, but I definitely do not enjoy managing. It’s more anxiety inducing than I realized. I know I can’t do this long term, I just don’t know where to go from here.

    1. Jessica*

      I am also a relatively new, unexpected VP and my husband is a middle manager at a different company – and we constantly wonder why our respective employers have entrusted us with this much responsibility.

      I am totally in your shoes. I’ve been here for years, create great things, share good ideas and understand our company and the methods behind its madness, but I have been managing people for almost a year, and I don’t think I’m good at it. Because I was on their level before this (I’d worked there longer, but we all had the same boss), I already had more of a friend relationship with most of them, and that is kind of difficult to know when lines are being crossed or special treatment is given. I worry that some have taken advantage of me and that I am not good at delegating because it’s faster/easier for me to do things myself. Anxiety inducing is so right.

      For now I’m just going with the flow, and I’m still in a position where I can still create things, but all of the managing other people’s schedules and workloads takes time away from what I really love doing – being creative. If all I were doing was managing people, I wouldn’t stick around.

  11. AtomicCowgirl*

    I *love* managing – even with difficult people, I find it very energizing to find ways to support my team and give them opportunities to develop and grow in the company. It is hard when you have a difficult employee who can’t seem to make a change, but when have someone whose career trajectory improves because you found a way to coach them that was meaningful it is incredibly satisfying. My company has been developing a new system of coaching (as opposed to managing) and the training and tools provided have made a big improvement in my estimation of how we do our jobs. For instance, we retired our old annual performance review process (that ended with a single checkmark in a rating box that very often completely dismantled every good thing you just told someone) with an ongoing documented coaching program. The individual coaching begins with a survey taken by both the coachee and the coach evaluating both importance and effectiveness of the coach in 20 different coaching actions. A report is generated to show where there are gaps and agreements in the manager’s understanding of how important certain actions are to the coachee and how effective the manager actually is at doing those things, with further recommendations of actions to continue and actions that need to be undertaken by the manager to most effectively meet the employee’s coaching needs. It is the first time ever as a manager that I feel the company’s structure matches what I always felt my role as a manager was supposed to be — someone who supports and guides an effective team, not a “boss.”

    My staff who have been managed in both the old system and the new system far prefer the new system, as they feel heard by their leadership, and our in-depth conversations give me enough of a take on what leadership style works best for them that I think I can help them be more successful.

    It might also be that I have an extraordinarily great group of direct reports – but I do have a couple of difficult people I continue to work with, giving them as much support as I can, being as clear as possible about expectations, and giving them every opportunity to change or to choose by their behavior to make a change in their employment status. Separating people is not fun, but the end result can be very good for the team.

    TLDR version: I love to help my team grow and learn.

    1. Hallway Feline*

      Is this coaching method readily available somewhere? I would really like to implement that here, especially with the Directors. Did your company create the surveys used? Did the surveys come from an outside source? Sorry, I have so many questions and I think this could help increase company retention here.

    2. anonderella*

      wow, I’m with Hallway Feline – please share more details, if possible! your comment about the checkmark really hit on the head how I feel about that process.

  12. Beancounter Eric*

    I would rather have hot coals dumped down my trousers than manage a team again. Did it once upon a time – will strongly resist ever doing so again.

    Too many excuses from people why work wasn’t done, why they could not be at work, too much “I don’t know X which I claimed to know when I interviewed” and “I’m not doing Y – that’s not my job”. Couple with “you are the team manager so you are responsible for the work, but we are going to tie your hands regarding team discipline”, and never again will I willingly take a team management role.

      1. Mark in Cali*

        Oh but so many of them accept the job anyway.

        There’s a joke at my company: What’s the difference between and employee at Teapots Inc. and a gun?

        You can fire a gun.


        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Corollary to the rule: If you accept a management job knowing you won’t have that authority, you are knowingly walking into an untenable and frustrating situation and forfeit 65% of the right to complain about it.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ooo, what happens if you accept the job and are expressly told you have that authority, only to have higher-ups rescind it six months later? I saw this happen to a mentor, once, and found it mind-boggling.

      2. KR*

        I’m having a lot of difficulty with this. My boss and I have a lot of conversations like this.
        Him: “I saw X was doing [problem]. They shouldn’t be doing that. They can’t do that. It looks bad for our department and annoys me and distracts everyone.”
        Me: “I’ve talked to X about this before and had little to no change or improvement in [problem]. We tend to have this conversation a lot and X has had a lot of last chances. We should fire them.”
        Him: “No I think they have potential. They would be great if they didn’t do [problem].”
        Me: “………..”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “………..” might be the problem. You’ve got to follow it up by talking him through the case to fire the person. Don’t let that first resistance make you back off.

          1. KR*

            Thank you! The other day after we interviewed a really promising and qualified addition to the team he was like, “I guess we really do give X a lot of chances.” and I just about started singing.

      3. Girasol*

        You need upward negotiability and communication too. If a senior manager wants to set unreasonable goals and micromanage his team without actually having to talk to them or hear anyone question his “make it so,” he can make an insulating position in between that he calls “manager.” If the job is just being a one-way message carrier without any latitude for looking at alternative approaches, it’s not a manager’s job no matter what the title.

      4. Coco*

        What about if your manager nudges/pushes you into a “supervisory” role? My only peer coworker has been directed to “supervise” me, but I know he does not have the authority to fire me. I’m not even sure if our manager has the authority to fire me; I think the ED would have to be involved in that decision. Should one or both of them have not accepted those roles?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Coco, what’s your industry? I only ask because my field commonly uses “supervisors” (i.e., a peer with greater seniority/experience). But we also distinguish between supervising and managing, so my work-view may be skewed.

      5. Smiling Everday*

        I never accepted the role, just grew into it. I generally love what I do. Love seeing projects completed successfully and my team making great strides.

        I hate the mixed signals from upper management…”If he’s under-performing yell at him.” then “You’re being too harsh!” or “How could you not demand the right paperwork every time someone takes a day off?” then “Stop being so rigid about wanting the paperwork.”

        I know life isn’t black and white but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the rule changes that were never discussed or written down in the first place.

        It’s also tough in a small place, when there’s no one else on your level in your department, then you have to watch becoming too chummy with anyone because in the end, you’re the manager.

    1. Michaela T*

      Same here. A few years back I took a promotion that was basically “we’re splitting the team up into two smaller teams and need you to manage the second one”. I agreed to do it, and after 6 months of long hours and stress and a doubled workload I left the company to start over in a non-management role somewhere else. I know some people love the challenge of managing but I just want to do my own work and excel at it.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        Since my boss was let go a few months ago, I’ve been asked, oh, I don’t know, maybe a thousand times “Are you going to apply?” What I say aloud is, “No, I really like the job I have” (which is true, but….) What I think is “Not just no, but *hell* no.”

  13. LCL*

    Most of the time I enjoy my work. I work for a group that responds to serious problems in real time, i.e. operations work. If I had to manage a workload planning type group I would go out of my mind with boredom. I greatly value people who can do workload planning, but that ain’t me!

  14. Jennifer*

    Most of my managers have indicated that being a manager stinks and it’s perfectly okay of me to not want to. And one of them says she only makes “the big pennies” for it anyway. She in particular is VERY middle management stuck and having nobody above her listening to her.

  15. Hallway Feline*

    I got moved into a manager position because they were short-staffed and needed someone who at least understood the terminology ASAP. I was originally a temp data entry-type person, and I guess I did my work so well and so fast that they scrambled to find things I could do while under contract because, as the Director of Business Development said, “you are bright and our company wants to keep you.” I gradually took on the assistant duties for the Ops department here (there was no assistant position), and they brought me on a little over one year ago in the newly-created Ops Asst. position. I excelled at that, and one of the Ops Mgrs was going on long-term medical leave, so they threw me feet-first into the pool. Minimal training, but they trusted I could do it. I had to learn a lot, but I was able to make it work and just recently (as I posted in the Open Thread on Friday) I was the only Ops team member to receive a full Q3 bonus!

    I still don’t know how I feel about this middle management position. Some days I love it and I feel great! When things start not going well (usually due to factors outside of my sphere of control), it doesn’t feel so amazing and I think about how much I really need this job. Upon reflecting on it (have been for a while as I’m constantly trying to polish my resume), I think I’d be better suited to an analyst position where I don’t have to manage a whole team. Not that I don’t adore my current team, but some days it would just be easier to do strictly analytics than management. I will be looking to transfer to an Analyst role with another company in the future, but for now I’m going to learn everything I can here.

    All in all, OP, I’d say, like Alison mentioned, there are good and bad times. But if you’re unhappy more often than not at the end of the day, I’d say find a position with less managerial emphasis in a similar field.

    Tl;dr: I got promoted to manager, still not sure how I feel about it, looking to move to Analyst position in same field instead.

  16. NW Mossy*

    I’m definitely one of those managers who’s energized by removing the roadblocks my team faces – nothing makes me happier than to hear, “Task X is so much easier now!” Being able to turn the vision of a smooth, straightforward, and simple process into reality is my favorite thing about work generally, and it’s a huge part of why I’m enjoying managing more than I thought I would.

    Dealing with the interpersonal stuff can be harder because you can’t “fix” people in the same way. I try very hard to be fair, reasonable, and calm in all my dealings with my team, but there are certain behaviors that I have a hard time relating to and are harder for me to coach on because of that. I tend to have a striver mentality at work by my nature, and it’s tough for me to come up with ways to elicit more effort from my reports who don’t have any particular desire to be more than average. I know I need to get better at “coaching away meh,” and by extension not letting an employee’s “meh” lead me to having hard feelings towards him or her.

  17. Old Grumpy Guy*

    I see a big split between managing roles that allow you the opportunity to run projects, create and oversee systems, and supervise mostly competent people versus managing that means spending the vast majority of your time trouble-shooting problems, dealing with headaches, putting out fires (because the stuff that works doesn’t need your attention).

    The former can be great. I have no idea if anyone actually likes the latter and can’t imagine why they would.

    1. Beer Thirty*

      The latter – “trouble-shooting problems, dealing with headaches, putting out fires (because the stuff that works doesn’t need your attention” – royally sucks, in my opinion. When you wake up in the morning, you never know what’s going to break that day that will create a company-wide crisis. And it’s not just limited to weekdays, either. The stuff that we’re responsible for has to work 24 x 7 x 365. We don’t get any attention unless something breaks, and when something breaks we’ve seemingly got the whole company breathing down our necks.

      And then there’s your regular middle-management suckitude of issues to deal with. I feel like I almost never have an idea that will make both upper management and the front line employees happy, and you can guess which side is going to win that battle. And I love it when HR or upper management come up with a new policy that I have to explain and enforce.

  18. Seal*

    In close to 30 years of full-time work, I can count the number of truly good managers I’ve had on one hand, with a couple of fingers left over. Having had to compensate and/or cover for far too many bad managers, I’d much rather be a manager myself. I would much rather be giving direction and calling the shots than vice versa. Also, I make a point of taking care of everyone who works for me (running interference when I have to, encouraging them to take advantage of professional development opportunities that come their way or creating them myself, etc) because very, very few managers ever did that for me. As a result, the people who work for me are happy, productive, and work well as a team. Because they’re so good, they make me look good – that’s pretty much all a manager can ask for.

  19. Trout 'Waver*

    I enjoy managing a team because I like being the guy who takes everyone’s contributions, figures out how they fit together and what the data is telling us. I love being the guy who uses that to put together a strategic plan and deliver on huge projects that would be insurmountable for any individual person. I really like to see my team come together to solve problems.

  20. Chris*

    I think the answer to this depends on your situation, what it offers you for responsibility, authority, and scope, as well as what culture your company has and how this affects the management team.

    Personally, I find it extremely rewarding and enjoyable.

    If I were in a situation where I had a lot of responsibility but very little authority, or where my scope of decision-making was locked into a rule-set that did not enable a good chance of success, or forced inefficiencies… I’d probably have a different answer.

    1. Chris*

      For those curious, I manage 100 or so people in a number of different technical disciplines (or so because the team size varies based on workload). I answer to one person. The company is privately owned, and although hirings and firings are reviewed by the company owner, as well as committments to long-term leasing agreements and purchases above X authority limit, every other aspect of team management is within my control, as is defining strategic and short-term goals. Everyone else within my team is expected to be functional project-based people, not administrative people. I’ve been here for 22 years and I still look forward to coming in.

  21. Tammy*

    I really enjoy managing a team.

    Yes, there are lots of stresses, and I work long (sometimes crazy) hours. Yes, there’s a lot more riding on my decisions than when I was an individual contributor. Yes, that means stress.

    But being a manager really plays to my strengths: I love helping people be successful, I love helping lead people to accomplish bigger goals, and I love helping people learn. My personality handles “big picture” well, and I get a lot of satisfaction from making big picture plans come to fruition. Also, I’m good at building relationships with people all over my organization at all levels and across multiple teams, and I take a lot of satisfaction from being able to leverage those relationships to create cross-team “win-win” outcomes.

    Management definitely isn’t for everyone, but I’m definitely happier, more satisfied and more engaged as a leader than I felt as an individual contributor.

    1. MillersSpring*

      +1 Echoing this. The weight of being responsible for your team’s output and its people is heavy. Stress and sometimes long hours are part of the responsibility.

      However, I get to exercise my own judgment and make more decisions and more recommendations–100 times more than I did as an individual contributor. I like having that influence on my team, my function and my company.

      The ability to guide and direct my team is usually wonderful; I enjoy being a mentor and coach. Holding them accountable isn’t fun but seeing them stretch and succeed is gratifying. Seeing them praised by others outside of our team brings me great pride.

  22. MWKate*

    I wonder if I would enjoy being a manager more if I’d had more support at the beginning. I kind of fell into a management role, and the sum of the training/support/etc was “watch this 60 minute webinar about management” and my boss gave me a book she had about having difficult conversations, e.g. “How to tell someone they have body odor.”

    I’ve kind of just taken the route of, treat my team as I want to be treated by a manager. I think it’s worked all right so far – I haven’t had any negative feedback anyway. This blog has been helping a lot though, with definitive concrete examples and statements on what a manager should do and how to respond to situations.

    1. Hallway Feline*

      Similar situation here! I prefer the treat others as you’d like to be treated route above the “I’m your manager, do what I say without explanation” route.

      1. AtomicCowgirl*

        I think one of the reasons I decided to push the path to manager was that I was watching other people do that and knowing that the people I worked with would do so much better with a different style.

  23. Pari*

    The best thing about managing is that you can make a big difference in the business, but more importantly in the careers and growth of people. It’s similar to raising kids. You teach them and watch them grow, realize their goals, or at minimum give them real down to earth advice that can set them on a path to success. It’s very rewarding to see someone succeed in part because of what you did to help them develop.

    1. Beer Thirty*

      How would you feel if you were managing a group of older employees who were nearing the end of their careers? I’m in an industry that’s going through some major changes, and there just aren’t many new people getting into the particular type of work that my group has to do (because a lot of these jobs will be going away soon). I’m 37, and I’m the youngest person in the group…which creates it’s own interesting dynamic.

      1. Pari*

        there are multiple ways to look at that. I can think of a bunch of positives to working with people who are nearing the end of their careers.

        1. Beer Thirty*

          I can (and have) definitely learned some things from them, so that part is nice. I also don’t have to worry about any of them trying to position themselves for my own job. What concerns me the most is what’s going to happen when they all start to retire. We had an employee leave about a year ago, and I was told that we couldn’t hire anyone to fill his spot because it wasn’t an area of growth. That’s true enough, but we still need people to keep things up and running. If that’s going to be their stance, then eventually one person will be left to do everything by himself.

          1. Dan*

            I had a job for a very large company that was more or less customer service. Everybody was considered overhead, and every time someone quit, we had to ask corporate if we could fill the position. My understanding was that weren’t allocated a headcount of X that we always had to meet or anything like that.

            Every so often there would be a “hiring freeze” and we couldn’t replace a departing employee. I’d always laugh at this “freeze” and say, “If everybody quit today, do you think there would still be a hiring freeze tomorrow?”

      2. Not So NewReader*

        If you think of them as co-conspirators for a better workplace you might be able to get them to play along with this theme. They may give you great ideas for free and tell you to take credit for those ideas.

        If you think of yourself as a manager-server, you can immerse yourself in the set of concerns that are uniquely theirs. You can make sure they don’t get screwed out of their retirement benefits and KNOW that karma will take care of you.

        Beef up your institutional knowledge. They have stories and not everyone wants to listen. Be the one who listens, it will only work to your advantage in the long run. Problems tend to repeat themselves over time, the costume changes a little but it’s similar problems. Listen to what worked ten years ago, use that as a spring board to get an idea of what might work now.

        Try, try to keep at the forefront of your thinking that they do not care about your age. They care about your fairness. Not everything has to go their way, but it should be fair/transparent.

  24. emvic*

    I loved managing people. Mostly, I loved supporting their growth, both professionally and as human beings. I loved turning into a resource, pushing them out of their comfort zone and seeing them blossom. I loved calculating the exact amount of stress that I let trickle down from above so as to energize them without breaking them. Yes, it was stressful and sometimes it felt like dealing with a cross between a kindergarten and a zoo, and it took its toll, but it was all part of the price and I was glad to pay it. The reward was immense for me. Now I get to do all that, but as a trainer, and I don’t think I could be happier in any other capacity.

  25. Gene*

    I’m bookmarking this post to look at later.

    I’m in the position of when my manager retires in the next 6-12 months (depending on medical stuff), I will likely become the new manger of our small group. I discovered I didn’t much like managing people back when I was part-owner of a tavern, but I was much younger then, and this is a completely different environment. That, and I have a definite end point, the day I become eligible for full SS (2133 days). We are going through the hiring process (again!) to replace the inspector who died almost 2 years ago and I have a huge amount of input on whom we hire, even though it’s a Civil Service position.

    1. Crazy Canuck*

      I was once a manager at a pizza place when I was around 21 or so. I sucked at it, so, so badly that I was relieved to get demoted. The end result was me hating that job so much, I didn’t even think of management as a career option for almost 20 years.

      Now, in my early 40’s, I’m managing a team for the first time in a different industry, and amazingly, I’m enjoying it. This time though, I have 15+ years industry experience, as well as a lot more life experience. I also no longer expect work to fill my social needs, and I’m far more comfortable drawing firm boundaries. It’s not all great, but I find I’m enjoying the challenge far more than I expected.

  26. JM in England*

    I took stock of my employment related strengths & weaknesses a long time ago and decided that management would never be for me. Struggle enough with my own workload let alone looking after that of a team! Also, it may be a salary bump however the extra hassles involved would not be worth it.

    To this day, still get interviewers giving me the side-eye when I mention that where I want to develop in my role does not involve going into management. Besides, if everybody was a manager who would they manage and who would do the core work of the business?

  27. Nolan*

    After around a decade of providing volunteer staffing for an org that puts on a big annual event, I worked my way up to management of my department. I was very resistant to promotions for a while, but after some smaller ones thought maybe I was actually up to it. So I started accepting more and more responsibility over time, and now I’m the boss of my department.

    Man do I regret that! This past event was SO stressful, and I had a co-manager splitting the work with me. This year I’m on my own at the helm, just me and my boss, the president of the org. Thankfully I’ve got AMs who are all great, but there are some things that can’t be delegated, and just thinking about emailing people to set things up gives me anxiety. Once the next event is done I’m handing over the reins and demoting myself, just wish I could do it now instead of in a few months!

    Some people just aren’t meant to be managers. If important parts of the job cause you serious discomfort, you might be better off in a different role.

  28. drpuma*

    I recently transitioned out of a management role, and I miss it! Here’s why:
    – I get easily frustrated when other people won’t make decisions
    – It feels really good to resolve problems for people
    – With difficult HR issues, I always felt a sense of relief at getting it taken care of and being able to move forward
    – Yes, even with firings – my team knew when someone else was performing poorly, and high performers like seeing that shenanigans won’t be tolerated

    You may have guessed that I had a lot of autonomy, supported by the company’s leadership.

    1. Mabel*

      I feel the same way – on all of your points. I really enjoyed managing a small (2-3 other people) team of technical trainers. I don’t do it any more, and I miss it. For example, I decided that we were going to offer Lunch & Learns every week and that we were going to do them in a conference room and also over WebEx. This was after waiting and waiting for a training room we’d been promised. I was able to just decide we were going to move forward regardless. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed having potentially uncomfortable conversations with my staff, but it wasn’t excruciating. I came to love it when my team had ideas and suggestions for what we could add to our service offerings. At first, this was challenging because they were really excited and wanted me to OK everything they suggested. But after they had worked with me a while, they realized that – while we wouldn’t be able to implement everything they wanted – I did actually listen and consider all of their ideas and try to make them happen. I enjoyed mentoring them and teaching the new trainers how to teach.

  29. lionelrichiesclayhead*

    I ended up quitting my last job with nothing lined up because I hated being a manager so much. I needed to leave anyways but the manager position was just really awful for me and was the difference between hanging on until I found something new and needing to quit for my mental stability.

    To be fair, looking back I was really put in an awful position as my very first management role. I was put in charge of a group whose previous manager was moved to manage another group and neither that manager nor the people she was managing felt like they had any real choice in the matter. So I come in to a group who doesn’t want a new manager and being trained by a manager who didn’t want to move groups. You can imagine how amazing that was and that they took all of their frustrations out on me. I was incredibly unprepared for that experience and it was completely demoralizing. Not to mention, it really felt like I was given the title of manager but wasn’t able to actually act as a manager which meant the group basically went with their attitude unchecked. My manager felt that we shouldn’t rock the boat too much with all the other changes going on so I basically had to sit back and just take all of the nastiness.

    Since then I’ve learned so much from this blog in terms of conversations I should have had with my manager about not being allowed to actually lead and how I should have handled the animosity. Fortunately for me, it ended up being exactly what I needed to get out and move on to much better things. I didn’t really want to be a manager before that but felt like I needed to go that route to climb the ladder. Since then, I’ve recognized that I’m much happier managing projects (which does also involve managing people, though in a different way) and my own manager is helping me develop a roadmap for me that doesn’t involve direct reports if I don’t want to go back down that route. I recognize that not all management positions will be awful but it’s nice to know that I have a choice and can still grow and be promoted without it. Wow this was cathartic.

    TLDR: My first management experience was traumatizing and I’m so happy to have found a new company and position that will allow me to move up by managing projects, not people, if that’s what I prefer.

    1. plip*

      I just quit my job after a near-identical experience! I have interviews lined up but nothing concrete as yet but I just had to go. It’s heartening to hear things worked out for you :)

      1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

        I wish you the best of luck! I’m not saying that quitting without anything lined up is advice I would give to anyone but it turned out to be a wonderful choice for me this time. I ended up at a new job that I love and enjoyed a huge raise on top of it. I hate that things had to get so bad before I got my rear in gear to make the change but I was so happy when I finally made that decision. Work hard at the job search but also enjoy this free time and use it to relax and recoop from such a bad experience. Hope to hear an update from you soon!

  30. Catabodua*

    My role is changing from individual contributor to managing folks … and I’m dreading it.

    I’ve managed before, but I have enjoyed these few years of not having anyone to manage so much more.

  31. katamia*

    I’ve actually found myself wondering this before. I’ve never managed anyone (although I’ve taught, so I’ve been in authority positions), and so much about it just seems so unpleasant. It’s great to see other people here talk about how they like managing people because they like helping their teams. Although I’ve never had any managers like that in my own working life, it’s nice to know they’re out there.

  32. Erin*

    Good discussion topic.

    My one managerial role I’ve had I did not think was a great fit for me. I’m a very, heads down, do my own work, follow my own schedule and plan, kind of person. I work much better when someone tells me what to do and then I do it. Having to deal with unexpected problems and manage other people’s schedules would be a challenge for me.

    1. Whippers.*

      Oh god, as an administrator it stresses me out when people don’t use the petty cash properly. I can’t imagine what it would be like to try to manage their schedules and make them all go in the same direction.

  33. Dust Bunny*

    I think this depends a lot on personality. The stressors are the same no matter who does the job, but some people tolerate certain forms of stress better than others. I was a supervisor (as close as this place got to managers) once, briefly, and *hated* it, but I actively dislike dealing with people and, while I always get along with everyone, I’m useless at networking (I literally have no innate idea how networking even happens). It felt like an exhausting death march of petty complaints and futile attempts to get the upper level to engage. I was better at it than anyone else they had on staff, but I was not good at it–they would have done better to hire someone new.

  34. K Bird*

    I feel like management is what I’m meant to do. While I do sometimes miss my days of being an individual contributor, it pales in comparison to the immense satisfaction I get mentoring and coaching my team and watching them flourish. I’m fortunate enough to work in a very positive work culture, and I feel fully supported by my executive management, and that definitely helps a lot.

    Someone described it as a bit like parenting and I totally agree. Not that I act like a “Mom”, but it’s the idea of watching your ‘chicks’ leave the ‘nest’ that so appeals to me.

  35. LBK*

    I enjoyed managing people for the brief time that I did it and for many years it was my ambition to move back up the chain, but recently I’ve found myself reconsidering and actually had a discussion with my manager to that effect since a lot of my career development goals have been centered around getting management experience.

    I’ve found that as I’ve built tenure and visibility in my current individual contributor role, I’m able to do most of the things I enjoyed about managing: solving complex problems; working with senior leadership; getting interesting, high-visibility projects; being included as a decision-maker for the department; serving as a point of contact for our department with the rest of the organization, etc.

    Frankly, at this point the only thing I really miss about managing that I don’t get to do now is collecting a bigger paycheck, and I’m comfortable enough that if I have to choose between the next step up in salary and remaining an individual contributor, I’d stick where I am.

  36. UTManager*

    Holy cow do I feel like OP…. but I also agree with Alison!

    I very much enjoy that my job is to facilitate other people’s work, removing obstacles and such, but anytime my role veers off into needing to babysit or manage (IMHO, always needless) interpersonal conflict, I dislike it very much. I also don’t like that being the fall guy is a necessary part, but I understand why it must be so. I don’t think I’ll manage people forever, but while I do, it helps to frame my work in a way that suits what I need to be fulfilled – to see myself as a facilitator of work and group accomplishments, and that authority is just one of the tools I have to do it, and to generally encourage (and sometimes enforce!) that my employees be responsible for themselves and their actions/reactions rather than taking that on myself.

  37. fishy*

    Is there any way to advance in your career if you know that managing really isn’t for you?

    I am terrible at managing people, I have less than zero interest in it, and I’m pretty sure that if I was ever put into such a role, I would have a mental breakdown within months. Even the parts of managing that Alison listed as satisfying don’t sound like things I’m remotely interested in. So I feel like I can never move “up”, because “up” always seems to mean doing less of the things I love and am good at and more of the things that I hate and am terrible at.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it depends on what industry you’re in and what size org you work in. Most of the time, though, “up” means doing less of your actual work and managing other people to do what you used to do.

    2. CM*

      I agree that it’s very industry-specific. Becoming a subject matter expert or having a niche that is hard to fill are two ways to advance without going into management. I would also be candid in talking to whoever is in a position to influence your career, and say you’re interested in advancing but don’t want to manage. See what options they can give you.

  38. De Minimis*

    My spouse is in her first managerial role, and she’s decided it’s not for her. Part of it is due to lack of support and an organizational culture that makes it impossible to manage people or hold them accountable.

    1. De Minimis*

      And as for me, I don’t even like supervising student employees….but again, the issue is lack of support from above me.

    2. Bonky*

      Support’s absolutely key. I’ve had two “big” management roles in my career, and the first was several orders of magnitude more difficult and less enjoyable, simply because my CEO was the sort of guy who said no to everything he was brought (and who encouraged a culture of “you can ignore your manager and do your own thing”). My current role is a dream, largely because of the way the people I report to work with me: they’re wonderfully supportive, although they still make sure I’m accountable.

  39. Not So NewReader*

    I enjoyed supervising people. The biggest/longest time I supervised I was pushed into a position that I really did not want and the people did not want me. That whole situation turned around and they turned out to be the best group of people. The whole thing was a lot of work, I came home exhausted every night. Once the crew was on track, productivity levels went through the roof. And that gave me a whole new group of challenges.

    A few take aways:
    1) Trust yourself. Trust yourself to be fair, to ask questions, to think first and act second.
    2) Listen to your people. If they are wrong show them why, if you are wrong, apologize and correct yourself.
    3) Develop a standard and expect everyone to follow it, ie, don’t be late, help your cohort, etc whatever makes sense for your setting. Make sure you are following your own standards.
    4) Not every issue is the hill to die on. Confusingly, not every issue can be resolved today. Know which ones are not hills and which ones you will work on in the future.
    5) Make sure your people know what is expected from them in their work day and what the company expects from them as employees. Be consistent about this. If you must make a change let them know you realize you are making a change. It’s such a simple thing to say and it makes everything so much less ambiguous.

    In short, if you manage people, part of the job is keeping the determination to be a good boss. I think the decision to be a good employee is easier. It seems to be a bigger step to decide to be a good boss.

  40. Jane D'oh!*

    In the past, I’ve worked at several companies that are very unclear about their hierarchy, with job names that seem to hide the amount of authority the position actually entails (like “team leader” with an adjacent “project manager” and sideways reporting to a “department supervisor”). Sometimes I wonder if the nomenclature is designed to make people confused about their path and about what they should ask for as a raise if they get promoted.

  41. Connie-Lynne*

    I love managing people. There’s a real joy to being able to help make people’s worklives better, and get projects accomplished more efficiently, and coaching them to improve their skills, and all of the rest of it.

    In my last role, I went back to being an IC for a year, and while I was really good at it, I find being a manager more rewarding and awesome. My next role (I got laid off in August) will be back to managing.

    1. Bonky*

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: for me, the satisfaction that I get out of making someone’s working life enjoyable and helping them to develop is an absolute joy. Sure, parts of the job are less rewarding (and some are pretty awful), but they’re drowned out by the enormous enjoyment I get from building a team full of happy, well-functioning people.

  42. AcademiaNut*

    What I see happening a lot is that you get someone who was trained in Teapot Design. They like it, they’re good at it, they spend years developing their Teapot skills. Then they reach a certain job level, and find out that in order to progress, career wise, they have to stop doing Teapot Design, and will now be managing other people who do Teapot Design.

    They have no previous training in management, and are not given any now. Some of them have a personality and talents that are suited to management, and don’t mind the transition, or actually enjoy it. Others, though, *aren’t* suited to management. They find it frustrated and draining because they actively dislike the tasks they now have to do or aren’t good at dealing with difficult people problems, and can see the effects.

    And they don’t necessarily have much choice. If their field doesn’t have a good technical track path, it can be a choice between being a manager, or accepting that their career has stalled, and they might be able to stay in the work they like, but without any increase in earning power, and be willing to leave jobs to avoid promotion, or they can change fields and start at the bottom in something else (generally with a significant pay cut).

    I think part of the problem is that management is seen as something you automatically move into at a certain level, when it’s actually a combination of natural talent and learned skill.

    1. David St. Hubbins*

      Absolutely. I have made it clear to my bosses that I don’t have the desire or ability to be a manager, and suddenly they don’t know what to do with me anymore. To them you either have to be a manager or you’re nothing.

      Also, thanks for mentioning training. Being good at teapot design, doesn’t mean you automatically know how to manager other teapot designers. Because you’re not a teapot designer anymore. Management is a whole different job. I don’t think our managers get any training.

    2. Bonky*

      That’s interesting: we have a number of people at my organisation who are wonderful in specific technical roles, and who have made it clear that they do not want to manage (some of whom have been managers in other organisations, but have come to us to focus on the technical work they enjoy). We work hard to make sure that those people are rewarded properly, given a proper technical track to work on that is paid as well as a manager at a similar level, and that their skills are used to the full. They’re fantastic at what they do; it wouldn’t be a smart move from the organisation’s point of view to move them into management.

      Training’s so important. I’m an executive and a founder of my company, and I’ve been doing this for years. All the same, this year I’ve been doing a day’s exec ed every two months; the people on my team all have to take training at least once a year as well in whatever it is they do. I wouldn’t dream of moving someone into management with no training; it’s a recipe for dissatisfaction from the manager and the people they manage.

  43. Whippers.*

    I think management, when done well, is a very difficult job. However, so many managers have no idea what to do and just end up doing nothing, making it quite an easy job!

  44. Cap Hiller*

    I’m sick of managing people I can’t fire, demote, take work away from, etc. People who want to abuse the system know there’s ultimately no accountability

    1. Bonky*

      I think one of the reasons I am able to enjoy my own job so much is that I have great support from my Chairman and my board, so those decisions are mine to take; I’ve been in jobs before where I did not have supportive people above me, and it makes the job very difficult.

  45. David St. Hubbins*

    I think most people end up in management positions because that’s the “next logical step” or something. You’re a junior, then something in the middle and the next step is Manager. In the company where I work I can clearly see that most of the managers don’t really want to manage people. They want to be involved in the nitty-gritty technical stuff, so they tend to micro-manage everything. I also get the feeling that they think there is just one kind of management. So if they make you a project manager, you automatically become a people manager. A manager is a manager, right? It’s the same word after all? No. HUGE difference.

  46. NicoleK*

    For the longest time, I did not want to be a manager because I didn’t want to deal with people’s crap. Several years ago, I finally gave managing a try. And I actually enjoyed it (most of the time) and was good at it. I left that job because I didn’t have enough support and resources to make effective changes. If the right opportunity presents itself, I may give it another try.

  47. AFB*

    When I first became a manager I liked it. I was an expert in my field and I inherited three junior staff to train up. My boss confided in me that 2 of them definitely needed replacing and the 3rd wasn’t doing too well. But they were great people, eager to learn and do a good Job. I told him they were new to me and I wanted to give them a proper chance. He was always supportive to me and gave me room to develop my management style. And with some hands on mentoring they all turned things around and are doing great now. My boss loved all of them!

    However since moving to a new role I HATE managing. None of my team are interested in career progression and just want to do the same thing everyday and hate all change, even though they work in a fast paced industry. My new boss micromanages me so I don’t get to use my management style. If I make a decision such as telling an employee they can split their lunch break into two smaller breaks and my boss disagrees, she will make me go back to the employee and change it. Most conversations I have with my employees I feel like I’m speaking her words not mine. I got to the point now where I just ask her before I do most things because if I don’t make the decision she would I have to go back and change it. Even someone small like telling someone they can leave 10 minutes early one day. And to be clear this is meant to be my responsibility. Sadly it may have put me off managing forever. I’m about to start a job with no direct reports and I cannot wait!!

  48. Bonky*

    I love being a manager! I’m an executive at our organisation (I’m a co-founder), and I run the creative and communications teams. It is the most intellectually, professionally and personally satisfying thing I have ever done. I’m aware that there’s a Maslow thing going on here: I have a great degree of self-determination in my role, which is terrific. But much as I love the strategy, the planning and the parts of my job that have to do with the fundamental running of the business, personnel management is one of my favourite parts.

    I do a lot of executive education to make sure that my skills are current and that I am dealing with the team in the most productive way, and I have a couple of great mentors. I have one very strong belief about my role: my job is to enable the folks on my team to have an enjoyable work life which helps them to produce the best work they can; they should be put in a position to achieve the very best they can, and that means mentoring, training, consistent and constant feedback and flexibility. I hope that they’ll stay with my organisation, but my job is to enable them to do the best, to grow and to develop for themselves, as well as my company; I’d be a rotten boss if I wanted to handcuff them to our organisation. A side effect of this approach is that people very, very seldom tend to leave; and when they’re treated well they invariably do great work.

    Some parts of the job are hard; each person has to be managed differently because they have different strengths and sensitivities, and my particular bugbear is that there will always be some who take negative feedback very poorly (Ask a Manager has been a wonderful resource on how to manage that). I do a lot of recruitment, and I find it pretty frustrating – every hiring manager sees a lot of time-wasters. There are holes in my skill-set/preferred working style: in particular, I’m not a metrics person, but I have to work hard to produce good metrics to satisfy and aid those of my colleagues who are. I work long hours, and I am worried about how this is all going to work out when our first baby arrives next April.

    But for the most part it’s a wonderful job and I feel very blessed. For me, the best way to get the most out of my own job and out of our team has been all about business psychology. I know it’s not for everybody, but I’ve found courses and books on Myers Briggs in management to be a very helpful way to get myself thinking creatively about the role and the people I work with.

  49. AnonymousB*

    I was basically forced into a management position this year (“we offered your job to someone else and now you’re going to manage that someone else”) and I hate it. I had never given any indication that I was interested in management, and have always declined needing help (I really didn’t need a second staff member, pretty sure she’s bored out of her mind!) but it’s become clear to me recently that my boss basically assumes that everyone has management aspirations. Which became clear when she said “I want you to take my job and then work yourself all the way up to executive management!” No no no, never in a million years.

    I have read this blog and know what I *should* be doing, and whenever Alison writes about a bad manager who doesn’t do anything, I think, “Ugh, that’s me.” My employee and I work pretty self-sufficiently — I basically gave her a section of my job and told her to run with it — but even the “minor” things that require feedback, I just hate doing it.

    Clearly, I’m not a good fit, and in the past three months I’ve applied to a dozen jobs, with two phone interviews and one in person interview. My employee is significantly more assertive than me, and even though there are times when I want to tamp it down — I think the issue is that she has much more management experience than I do — I also don’t, because I want her to take over my job, hopefully very soon!

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