ask the readers: how do you know you want to be a manager?

I’m on vacation this week, so I’m throwing this letter out to readers to weigh on in. A reader writes:

I am an attorney working in a non-attorney role in a relatively large organization. I am the high performer in this role and have kind of assumed an informal “ring leader” status among the few people in this position. I’m relatively early in my career and very happy where I’m at … for now … but I’m also thinking about what I want to do long-term. I think I have two paths that are relatively open to me. The first is taking a job as an “actual” attorney for our organization. This would be a 1-grade increase and involve a pay bump, greater authority and responsibility, and a more diverse workload. I like the people in the legal department, and I would still get to work closely with many of the same people. There is currently an open position in the legal department, and they will probably hire again within the next 2-3 years.

In my current department, I think I am also well-positioned to ask for a promotion. I have a general sense of how our current director would like our department to grow over the next several years, and I see a couple different opportunities for myself in the long run, but the most immediate would be to ask to become a lead or supervisor of the current team I’m on. This would also be a 1-grade increase with a (likely) equivalent pay bump and additional responsibilities. But I keep asking myself: do I really want to manage? Do managers always know that they want to be a manager, or is it more about taking a logical step if you want to move up? What should I be thinking about as I wrestle with this decision? I don’t want to push myself into a management position only to find that I’m (a) terrible (b) terribly unhappy (c) both.

Readers, what’s your advice? And what do you wish you’d thought about before you became a manager?

{ 180 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago

    I think the #1 trait a good manager needs is patience.

    You have to be able to deal with different personalities, different needs, and knowing that your direct reports may not have the same goals and ambitions that you have.

    I know that I’m not patient enough to be a manager.

    1. GM

      +1
      One of the best managers I had, who I can say I learned everything from, answered every query from every team member calmly and patiently no matter how insignificant or seemingly ‘stupid’ the question.

      Regarding how you know if you want to be a manager, I think you don’t really know it but it’s a good idea to ask yourself a few questions – are you ready to handle conflict, work with people who have different ideas of work ethics as compared to yours, identify potential in your team, groom them, think beyond the day-to-day and generally encourage and inspire people to do more.

  2. EA

    I am not a manager, but I have noticed many things about all of mine.

    Most of my previous managers became managers to move up in their careers, they didn’t have much of an interest in actual managing. They didn’t really care about their direct reports careers, or providing any growth opportunities. They also were really, really bad at giving feedback, and either didn’t do it, or do it poorly. Mostly I would think about if you can be rational, objective, and have difficult conversations. If you tend to ignore things and hope they go away, I wouldn’t manage. If you care more about being nice and having people like you than giving feedback so (hopefully) people improve, I wouldn’t manage.

    I think most managers are bad, so if you have an interest and try and learn and improve, you will be much better than most managers (even if you make mistakes)

    1. AnonMinion

      I agree 100%. I think MANY people become managers because they like the IDEA of having direct reports and a nicer title. Few seem to actually be interested in actually managing people. The best managers are ones who sincerely enjoy watching people thrive, succeed, and advance. Kudos to the LW for asking themselves this. Many managers seem to forget to check in with themselves about whether or not managing people is actually something they will enjoy doing and be good at.

      1. SarahKay

        Agree with both of EA and AnonMinion above. OP, I became a manager in a past company for many of the same reasons you can see yourself doing it. I was very good at my job and good at explaining processes to co-workers, plus as a supervisor, then manager, I got paid more.

        I wasn’t a *bad* manager, because I did genuinely look out for my direct reports, support them where needed, and I had some good examples around me to emulate. However, I wasn’t an especially good manger, either, because I’m bad at conflict and having the hard conversations that a manager sometimes has to have. I had those conversations because that’s what you have to do, but I found them incredibly stressful and (especially having read AAM) I could have done so much better. When the company went bust three years later I decided never again – and I’ve stuck to it. I know that for me, managing people is just not where my strength lies.

        One thing to watch out for – it’s all too common for your manager to think Good at Job = Should be a Manager, and it’s so not true. I had a hilarious annual evaluation about five years ago where my then-manager had expressed in about five different ways that ‘Sadly SarahKay has no interest in managing a team’, primarily because I was very good at my actual job. If I hadn’t had previous experience, and known that I didn’t want to manage, he would have pushed me into it, and I would have been miserable.

        1. Jadelyn

          I wish more people understood that being good at the immediate skills of a job does not qualify someone to manage other people who do that job. Heck, it doesn’t even necessarily mean they’ll be any good at training someone else to do the job. It just means they’re good at the job itself.

          1. JessaB

            And it would be really, really nice if management would realise that not every single employee wants to get another job. Some people like what they’re doing and just want to be left alone to do it. Some people don’t want to be team lead, or manage, or become the super employee that works for more people than they do now. It’s become so ubiquitous that people want to go and get ahead that the career-whatever person is looked down upon. There was a time when you could get a decent job, and just stay there. Now there’s a tendency to look at those people as somehow damaged or something. Some people want to be workers. And honestly if they didn’t exist there’d be problems. There are not enough jobs at the top of the pyramid for EVERYONE.

            1. Hey Nonnie

              Yes. And in considering the question of whether to move into management or not, think very carefully about what you want to DO at work on a day-to-day basis. Do you want to do the work, or do you want to watch over other people who do? For me it was an obvious choice — administration is the least interesting part of my job. If you take away all the interesting stuff from me, I’d be bored and miserable. (And yes, I’ve gotten “you’re crazy” looks from people when I explained that the work itself was what I was interested in, not being only work-adjacent.)

      2. Fiennes

        I had only 2 quasi-managerial roles in my career. The first one went wonderfully, so I thought, “I’m great at managing people!”

        The second one made me realize, “I’m great at managing really smart people who are self-motivated to do work they love in a highly efficient & functional workplace! Otherwise…not so much.”

        1. Guacamole Bob

          This is my fear about becoming a manager. I’d do great with a good team, or one I could build from scratch. My current workplace is probably not where that will ever happen.

      3. state government jane

        Amen to both of these comments! The best managers/leaders make great leaders because they enjoy the practice of leadership (or at least, enjoy it for the most part). It’s really obvious when people are promoted/seek promotion for the status (or $$$) rather than because they think they’d like the work of managing.

      4. Candace

        The people who see management as the way to get more prestige or pay or rank are usually bad because it’s all about them. I’ve been nominated for leadership awards at 3 different jobs. I became a manager because I adored my career and wanted to help others enjoy theirs, while also helping our students, faculty, and other clients. Libraries and education meant more to me than anything, and still do. I’m an academic library director.

    2. Pickles

      EA, great point about growth opportunities. IMO, the best managers have provided the best opportunities to their reports – largely, in fact, preparing them to leave for better things after a few years. People leaving is another aspect to get comfortable with, plus figuring out retention while still providing growth opportunities when possible.

      That doesn’t mean neglecting oneself entirely, since career growth and development should never cease, but the “shiny” opportunities should go elsewhere. And encouraged, because not everyone thinks they’re ready or sees the need for XYZ development.

    3. Ego Chamber

      “I think most managers are bad …”

      And most supervisors/shift leaders are worse, because they usually don’t have any managerial authority to back up whatever difficult conversations they need to have, so then they don’t bother having the conversations at all.

      OP needs to take a look at what the job is, how much they’d be responsible for, and how much control they’d be given to achieve those responsibilities. If it’s all “employee development” and/or “meet corporate goals” with no ability to, say, put someone on a PIP (and potentially fire at the end) and/or no influence on pay increases, go with the lawyer option instead.

      1. Dust Bunny

        This was my catch-22 in a former job: I was a supervisor and was held responsible for a list of things, but when actually following through on those things inconvenienced my superiors, they brushed them off. A lot of the things they wanted me to do were dependent on their notifying me ahead of time of their schedules and visits by certain support vendors or representatives for organizations that had missions related to ours, but they couldn’t be bothered to loop me in on any of this so I could never schedule the activities they wanted me to schedule. I didn’t get punished for it, but it was annoying because our staff never made any real progress, and our employers sort of used this as an excuse to not invest in better pay or training.

        1. Dust Bunny

          I was still a pretty good supervisor, mostly because I was slightly less immature than the rest of staff and wasn’t related to or particularly friends with anyone else (this place had a tendency to hire employees’ sisters/cousins/brothers’ girlfriends, etc., so almost literally everyone was related to somebody else, except for me and another woman. Their hiring practices were awful). But I hated it. I’m not a people person and I lose patience with petty stuff pretty quickly.

      2. Letter Writer

        The management position doesn’t currently exist, so the nice thing is, I would have the opportunity to define what the job would be (although obviously not how much authority I would have). In general, my organization is big on encouraging employee development and addressing performance issues. The current division director we report to is more or less ambivalent about these things but will retire in the near future, so I’m less worried about this person’s specific tendencies… maybe less worried than I should be?

        1. Zahra

          If your reports’ grandboss is not great at giving feedback, it’s all the more important that you do. I have a grandboss who only cares about part of his team and it shows. When I was between direct bosses, I reported directly to him and he couldn’t be bothered to give me some direction. It directly contributed to one of my colleagues leaving.

    4. Samiratou

      Another problem is most companies don’t have any upward mobility after a certain point except for management. There are no high-level individual contributor roles so if you want to move up, to management you go. So, yeah, there are going to be first-time managers and people who don’t necessarily relish the people-management aspects of managing (vs. the strategy or cross-functional or big-picture stuff, etc.) but that doesn’t mean they can’t be decent people-managers. But that usually requires businesses to put some sort of effort into training new managers on the people management side of things, which is another rarity. Or for the new managers to be particularly proactive about it, which they may or may not be able to do, depending on the expectations put on them and what sort of support they might get from the organization.

      1. ainomiaka

        This is a big issue I’m having. I enjoy the technical side of my work and don’t really want to give it over for people managing. But that’s about the only way to move up.

        1. JessaB

          There needs to be a path for people who don’t want to or can’t move up if they do want to due to lack of space on the org chart.

  3. Cassandra

    I don’t have any wisdom here; I just wanted to say that this is an amazing question and I’m grateful to the OP for asking it. Looking forward to the answers.

    1. Stranger than fiction

      Me too. I’m in a similar situation. I want a promotion to run certain programs here, but it would come with a side of managing a group and that’s the part I’m not so sure about. I think I’d be the mean tyrant type Alison talks about new managers sometimes doing versus the too leniant friend type manager.

  4. Meg

    I was a manager in my last role, and I have been with a new company for about a year now in a non-manager role. This transition was a pay increase and a change in industry for me. Transitioning from manager to non-manager made me realize that it is somewhat refreshing to let someone else take the reins. I might be open to moving into a management role in the future at this company, but right now I am enjoying worrying only about my workload and responsibilities.

    Before becoming a manager in my last role, I wish I knew:
    – Managers are often expected to pick up the slack when unexpected events occur. This could mean later nights and/or weekends depending on your line of work.
    – Managers are problem solvers. This was a positive for me because I realized that I enjoy–and maybe even love–problem solving.
    – Managers are watched closely by their reports. You have to set an example. I have worked with several managers who have not done this and they have lost rapport with their reports, which has drastically altered their work.

    1. Perse's Mom

      Sadly, none of those things are true for the managers at my org. I think those you list *should* be true – but often enough, they’re not. It’s vital to know your org on this. How managers are supposed to function on paper, but also being honest about you see existing managers function on a day to day basis.

  5. bikes

    General: Do you thrive on worrying about outcomes (in a fun way, like work is a game). Can you ‘let go’ at the end of the day if you’ve had a mild disagreement with someone or will you carry it with you and not sleep well? Will you be able to diplomatically disagree with people if they want to approach a particular project in a particular way? Are you kind and able to not hold grudges and treat your reports relatively equally?

    Specific to your workplace: What types of personalities are present at your current workplace? Are they difficult types or relatively straightforward and comfortable with constructive criticism? Is there a lot of passive aggressive stuff going on? If so, it might be a tough place to cut your teeth.

    Try to make sure your first managerial position is one where you are supported and where there is a good HR department.

    1. Former Retail Manager

      Couldn’t agree more! All great questions to ask yourself before stepping into a management role.

    2. FormerBankManager

      The ability to “let go” is very important!! In my prior experience as a manager, I couldn’t let things go at the end of the day, and it really started to impact my personal life. I was coming home worried about the happiness of my direct reports, how to solve various problems at work, how things were going, etc., which eventually burnt me out. As a manager, compartmentalizing is important.

    3. KitKat

      I would add: can believe your ideas and strategy enough to lead your team toward a goal, even when some may doubt you? And on the flip side, are you willing to listen deeply to your team’s concerns, and recognize when you may have made the wrong call?

      I really struggled with balancing these two, and in the end prefer to be an individual contributor because I agonized so much over ever decision and could not, as bikes says above, let go at the end of the day.

  6. Rick

    There are many traits that contribute to good management, but I think the most important is:
    Do you enjoy helping others succeed?

    > Do managers always know that they want to be a manager, or is it more about taking a logical step if you want to move up?

    I can’t imagine all good managers knowing that it’s what they want to do. Like all things, trying a new experience may go well or poorly. If you’re concerned that you won’t be a good fit, I recommend asking what the path would be if managing turns out not to be a fit for you. If there’s a way for you to transition back to a non-managerial role, that may make you more comfortable to try it.

    1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

      “There are many traits that contribute to good management, but I think the most important is:
      Do you enjoy helping others succeed?”

      THIS. So much this.

      I recently got a new grand-boss who scheduled 1:1’s with everyone in my department, and one of the questions I was asked to come prepared to answer was how I pictured my career path in the company. I did a fair amount of soul-searching because there are a LOT of changes happening at my company that could offer an opportunity for me to move over the next 1-2 years. What I came to understand about myself is that I don’t want to manage people, I want to manage processes and/or projects. I don’t want to lift people up so they can be the best employees that they can be; I’m just not capable of the emotional labor involved with that and am very focused on getting things done.

      I’m lucky to have a wonderful manager who is absolutely amazing at managing people, and with her as an example I don’t think I could ever accept a position with that responsibility unless I believed I could do as good of a job as her. I know I can’t come close to her patience, kindness and passion for helping her reports with professional development, so I’m officially taking myself out of the running for any position that involves managing people.

      1. AnonforThis

        It also hurts when you care and you can’t help someone enough. I had a direct report who was struggling. I did everything I could to help him, including going to other people in the organization for tips and help. Ultimately, I could not make the job be a good fit for him, however. It was so hard to have to let someone go.

        1. Rick

          Yes.

          Step 1: Care about the people who report to you.

          Step 2: Understand that the best things for your employees and the business may involve hardship for your employees in the short term.

          Step 2 can be really difficult, precisely because you want everyone to succeed.

          But for the OP, I think caring is what matters at this stage. I think it’s nearly impossible for a fresh manager to be good at both of these. You’ll have to learn some as you go.

        2. Former Retail Manager

          Yep, this was me. It was very hard for me to be “the bad guy” when the employee was giving it 110% but it was never going to happen for them and coaxing them to consider other paths didn’t work. They just hung on until they were let go. I found it utterly heartbreaking even though I knew it was the right thing to do. Crappy employees, different story. But the ones who were good people, but a bad fit, were sooooo difficult for me.

    2. bikes

      “Do you enjoy helping others succeed?”

      Rick, totally agree that this is key.

      My favorite manager always began feedback with “You’ve probably already thought of this or attempted some iteration of this…” She was so good at not lecturing me on the obvious as much as taking me through basic steps to further enable me to problem solve and think aloud. It really did help me succeed on numerous occasions.

      In terms of the initial question of “How do you know that you want to be a manager…?” It’s not really about the wanting, it’s about the skill set. Are you an abstract thinker and a strategist while also being somewhat warm and straightforward? Can you admit that everyone has good ideas and that you are not in a competition with your coworkers and reports? Can you also view all ideas put forth through a detached lens? You might really dislike a direct report, but they may have a great idea to improve your team and your company’s work overall.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius

    The thing you have to remember about being a manager is that you’ll do less of what you do now and more managing people. If that’s your bag, cool, but for a lot of people who truly enjoy their jobs, not so much.

    The other ugly side to being a manager is that plenty of employers want people to do the day-to-day management of people, including orientation, training, taking care of problems, etc. Good, right? But rarely have I ever had the authority to do anything with the people who report to me. The most I’ve ever done is deny a vacation request once about ten years ago. Seriously. When it came to performance issues that required disciplinary measures? I was on my own, which made me an impotent manager. Oh and my direct report knew it too.

    In my experience, my employer got to have it both ways. They had me doing all the day-to-day stuff while any bad stuff that happened was solely my problem as well. Easy peasy!

    The mistake I made was not clarifying my role in the beginning. Oh sure, my employer wanted me to do all these wonderful manage-y things, but what was always left out was my ability to take disciplinary action when needed. (They know how to make it sound real good too!)

    Since then, I’ve shied away from managing people, although I’ve got a person about to report to me next month. The only thing I’ve heard is, “This person reports to you,” so I’ll be having a follow up conversation about what that means.

    1. K.

      I’ve known a number of people who rejected management opportunities because they liked the work they did and wanted to keep doing it, as opposed to managing people who did it. I think it’s smart to be that self-aware.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        And just because you’re good at doing a certain type of work doesn’t mean you would be good at leading others to do that work. I saw that so many times at OldToxicJob. Top performers would be promoted to manager positions and their teams would utterly fail because top performer didn’t know how to coach others to be successful.

        1. Letter Writer

          “And just because you’re good at doing a certain type of work doesn’t mean you would be good at leading others to do that work.”

          This is EXACTLY what I’m worried about. I’ve gotten feedback from my mentor and other managers (outside of my department) that suggest I would be a decent leader (and I’m interested in learning the people-management side of things, and investing time and effort in it, which probably… or hopefully… distinguishes between people who just take the role as the next pay bump or etc.).

      2. Perse's Mom

        I’m one of those people. The next rung on the ladder here would be a Lead position… which, based on how Leads work here, is not something to which I want to subject myself. I’m generally happy where I am, doing what I’m doing. It’s taken a couple of years to convince my boss that no really, I don’t want to stop doing everything I LIKE about my job to do things that I know would make me miserable.

    2. DB

      A manager must have authority equal to their responsibility.

      I will not work as a manager for a company that won’t give me hire-and-fire authority for my reports.

      And budget. Budget for training and business tools that help remove roadblocks to employee excellence. Budget for bodies to keep workloads manageable.

      Simple. Easy. Empowering.

  8. crochetaway

    I became a manager last year. I liked it, it was very challenging, but I left that job because of the commute. Now I’m not a manager, and much happier, haha. I thought I’d really like being a manager, and I did, but I prefer not being a manager.

  9. Elizabeth

    I was a manager in the past and now I’m not because I’ve moved into a different type of role. Becoming a manager was a natural progression for me because as I moved up in the organization, management was the next logical step. I didn’t hate managing my team while doing it, but I wouldn’t jump on taking another management role without thinking long and hard about it. These were the things I’d probably have to consider in the future if an opportunity came up.

    1) I am a “doer”, i.e. I like having my own stuff to work on. As a manager, I had far less of that stuff because I was spending more time managing my staff and delegating work as I worked on larger strategic initiatives for my team. As a manager, I missed the “doing” even though I also liked the authority I was given to change/manage our processes around that work.

    2a) Knowing exactly how much of my time would be spent managing. I had a team of full-timers and seasonal staff and I spent at least 50% of my time managing things related to the team (whether that was performance-related stuff or just managing workload, timelines, training, mentoring, etc.). Managing people properly can be time consuming if you have a lot of reports, and that leaves less time for everything else.

    2b) I’m someone who just gets work done and is — to use one of my most hated phrases — a self-starter. I have a strong sense of obligation in the work that I do, and that’s not something everyone else has, which was really exasperating to me as a manager. I’m not sure I’m necessarily great at motivating my staff because I have the (probably irrational) expectation that people will just do their jobs without having to be constantly motivated to do so, and so I’d have to think about how much work I’d have to do myself re: motivating staff if I ever took another management job. People’s personalities are diverse and so are their work ethics and it can be exhausting trying to manage other people’s emotions all the time simply to get results.

    3) Whether or not I’d be a middle manager. Middle management sucked, in my experience. I had a very different managerial style than my boss (she was therapy-inducing bad) and I often felt powerless over my ability to manage my team when she wanted me to manage them in her own style. You have to be willing to be overruled even if you’ve stated your case about things, and you have to be willing to live with decisions your boss might make, even if they’re bad. That’s true in any middle-management job, but it’s one thing to live with a decision you disagree with but respect, and another to live with a decision you think is actively harmful.

    That’s off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s lots more to consider, but honestly the “doer” rather than “strategizer” stuff is the biggest one for me. My current role is highly autonomous and comes with a lot of satisfaction because of how project-driven my work is, and it would take a lot for me to give that up and go back to managing.

    1. Susan K

      2b – So true! Early in my career, I thought being a manager would be easy, because I assumed that most people are self-starters who are motivated to do their jobs, since that’s how I am. Now that I’ve been around the block, I’ve seen how many people seem to have a goal of doing as little as possible without getting fired. I’m not a manager, but I’m considering it, and I’m kind of stumped as to how I would manage people like that, because threatening to fire people is not an effective long-term motivational strategy.

      3 is such a good point, too. I have seen a lot of new managers struggle with having to go along with decisions they disagreed with, and I think I would have a hard time with that.

      1. K.

        Re: 2B: My friend and I were just having this conversation. She’s passionate about her job and supervises people who are not, and it really hurts her. To top it off, she’s a supervisor, not a manager, so has no firing authority. Many people keep telling her to let it go – “accept what she can’t change,” etc. – and she’s struggling with it. It’s really hard for her to accept that for some people, her passion is just a job. She’s thinking of going back to a different area of work because of it.

        1. designbot

          For a lot of people that is what motivates them into management actually–feeling like their company would be great if they could only change certain things, and trying to get to the level where they can affect the change they envision. For example, trying to go from supervisor to manager so that she could hire her own team and build one that is really motivated.

          1. Letter Writer

            This! My current position is something that kind of started as a ball of clay and I’ve been very involved in shaping it into something that works for our org. I have a lot of thoughts about how this position could really grow (and, ahem, how some of my current coworkers could grow), so this decision is partially… do I want to try to take on this new challenge to try to flesh out this vision, or do I want to move on to something else entirely?

          2. Rick

            I find this mentality strange.

            There are many ways to influence the organization without being a manager. In many ways it’s actually easier, since you are the one doing the execution.

            Being a manager is not a magical panacea to do everything your way. Frankly, you should be practicing these influencing/motivating skills _before_ becoming a manager. Relying on your title to create change is one of the least effective tactics, since it can breed resentment.

            I recommend reading The 360 Degree Leader as a starting point for how to influence positive change in an organization without necessarily being a manager.

      2. Mr. Johnson

        Even as a supervisor, you have the authority to send people home…. Pull up their progress report, and set a clear example of what their goal should be. I.E. If they don’t hit this deadline by the end of the week, then follow through. Or tell your D.R. that and you are showing them their lack of improvement. If you have a good boss, they will follow your lead!

        It sounds cold, but it’s one of the hard realities of doing this kind of work. Some people can’t or won’t be able to make it your goal. For your company and your team (you may have to jump in to cover the lack of a person) but eventually you’ll find someone who will fit.

    2. Letter Writer

      I am so grateful for this entire comment, but particularly 2b, 3, and your very last sentence. Re 2b: I am highly motivated in my job because I am just “that” kind of person, and I’m currently working with peers who are very much not. I’m aware of that now, and I currently wonder if part of the problem is that our current manager is EXTREMELY hands-off, and isn’t doing any of the overseeing/encouraging/motivating that I think would be helpful and appropriate for people in this role. Because I enjoy the project work I’m doing, I’ve also strongly considered proposing a “hybrid” or “working manager” role, meaning I would continue to do some of my same work, but at about 50% of the workload, to make room for taking on the tasks needed to manage other people as well)

      1. Safetykats

        From your original post, it sounds like you would be managing the team of folks you currently work with – and from your reply, it sounds like they are not the most motivated bunch of people, and you think that has a lot to do with your current manager. There are two important things about these points, if they are true.

        First, it can be really difficult to manage people who have been coworkers. You have more inherent authority coming in to manage a group of people who don’t already know you as a peer. If you’ve been friendly with these people, eaten lunch with them, had a drink with them after work, the transition can be fraught. As a manager, you really can’t hang with your reports. More of them than you expect will think that gives them some advantage, and that will eventually go badly. Even the good relationships can get weird – if you were ever the teacher’s kid or the Girl Scout leader’s daughter you know this. Expecting more from people because you have a personal relationship is equally unfair or uncomfortable in either direction – and the people who are your friends will disappoint you sometimea as direct reports – there’s no avoiding that. Be prepared to deal with it.

        The second thing is that, as a highly motivated employee, you might expect that given the right circumstances everyone would be like you. In fact your staff, no matter how good, probably always lies on a classic bell curve. Some of those folks are going to be less motivated. Some are always going to be poor performers (or at least not nearly as good as the top performers). And you are going to be responsible for all their work, even though you can’t change that. As a high performer, this can be really frustrating.

        And then there is what you probably don’t see right now, if your manager is any good at all. People have problems. They bring them to work with them. Even the good employees have ugly divorces, deaths in the family and resulting depression, debilitating illnesses, kids who wreck their cars, you name it. With a small staff (8 or so) you have a good chance if only seeing some minor issues. By the time you get up to 20 or 30, you’re going to be spending some quality time in HR. By the time you have close to 100, you’ll be lucky if you don’t have staff in jail, staff with restraining orders against other staff, staff with serious substance abuse problems…

        The fun side of being a manager is getting to make improvements, and getting to help people. The people you do really help will remember you the rest of their lives, and that is really rewarding. The ones you can’t help will exhaust you, and sometimes hate you. They will cry in your office and file complaints against you. You have to deal equally and fairly with all of them.

        I’ve been a manager, and if my current manager has his way I will be again. I will probably do it, because I’m good at it and overall I enjoy it. But it is hella nice for the meantime to be responsible only for my own projects, ignore the crazy, and have lunch with anyone I want.

        1. AcademiaNut

          The bell curve comment is a good one. Even you’re a full-out manager with hiring and firing power, you’re still generally not going to be able to staff a department full of super-employees. You’ll have a few top performers – competent, self-motivated, hard-working, no personal stuff that gets in the way of their job. You’ll also have a few few low performers who will likely end up being let go – not very good at their job, lazy, difficult personalities. But the bulk of people are going to be middling performers – reasonably good at their job, need good management to keep them on target, but not exceptional, and with personal lives that sometimes get in the way of their work.

          And you have to be able to work with those middling people and get the best out of them, because firing them all in the hopes of hiring a whole bunch of exceptional people tends not to work. First, because exceptional people are, by definition, rare. Second, because top people tend to have more job opportunities than average people, and you aren’t going to be able to give your whole department top salaries and all the best opportunities – someone has to do the boring work at market rate. And third, because if you get rid of all the average people, your workplace will collapse before you get them replaced with superstars.

        2. Letter Writer

          You’re first point would, by far, be my biggest concern about stepping up from my current role. One of my colleagues is someone I’m close with at work, and also know socially. It feels ridiculous to say this, but one of my personal goals for 2018 is to start parring back that relationship (more visits to the gym over lunch, building closer relationships with people outside our department, etc.) I’ll never be able to fully erase the relationship (nor would I want to, he’s a nice person), but I don’t want to make a potential transition more far-fetched or more difficult than it has to be.

          Unfortunately, this person would also like to be a manager of our group, and feels entitled to the position (having been with the org longer). I think he would start actively looking for other jobs the second I took on a management role – and vice versa, since this is a role to which only one person could be promoted. We have a good but complicated relationship which could probably be its own AAM post, so loosening the ties is a good idea for me anyway.

    3. Froggy

      This! +100

      While I will likely never go back to a supervisor/manager role, I appreciate all this discussion and questions to ask about the role. It’ll be great to have this thread in the AAM archives for future reference.

  10. edj3

    It’s easy to think that if you are good at the individual contributor work then you’ll be a good manager of those who do those same tasks. But managing takes very different skills, and sometimes being good at the task only gets in the way of managing the team.

    I’ll also say that being a people manager is very rewarding and also exhausting. You’ve got a finite amount of mental, physical and emotional energy and if you happen to have a high emotional touch team or some of the team ends up needing more time and attention, then don’t be surprised if you end up flat exhausted.

    AAM has said this many times and I’ll chime in: being the manager of former peers, especially if you were friends, can be a really hard transition. I have an associate manager here who is not making that transition well. It’s painfully clear to all her direct reports that the former peers who were also friends are in the favored group.

    1. AnonforThis

      Seconding this. I am a
      managing a friend right now and it is really not good. It is part of why I am moving out of management again. I lost my support system moving into management. It can be very isolating in some ways.

      1. edj3

        Or better, be really sure that the person who’s promoted understands and has the skills to make that transition. It’s hard, sure, but not at all impossible.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        That’s not always feasible though.

        My friend is dealing with a situation right now where they brought in an outside person to manage a coffee shop and the person has no experience as a barista which makes it difficult for her to manage the work flow/order sufficient supplies/etc.

        1. doreen

          I’m sure that’s a problem, but “bringing in a person from outside” doesn’t have to mean bringing in someone with no experience as a barista. It could mean bringing someone in who has experience either as a barista or managing at a different coffee shop.

          But about “promoting from within” – there are a lot of places that promote from within the organization, but not within some smaller unit. One example would be stores where a promotion includes a transfer to a different store. It’s not possible for every job or at every company , but it does have the advantages of promoting from within without the issue of ” I’m now managing the people who were my peers last week”

      3. LBK

        Eh, I think it depends on the person – sometimes the transition isn’t weird because the person has always been kind of de facto leader, so it’s more just making the reporting structure official than completely changing the person’s role from peer to boss.

  11. Weekday Warrior

    Very early in my career I had an excellent manager who encouraged us all to “want her job.” LOL I thought at first, who’d want to be a manager? Then I noticed that leading a team, unit, department was how to get meaningful things done in our profession as in many circumstances. I also noticed this manager make mistakes and have failures as well as successes and realized that I didn’t have to be perfect to be a manager. It was OK to screw up, learn, improve and keep going.

    A bit later, when I had not so good managers, I also realized that in my field it was manage or be managed and I knew I could do as good a job if not better than my managers. I had the goal of furthering the organization’s goals AND creating the best possible work environment. Not always possible but when the two things mesh, it is very, very satisfying.

    1. Graciosa

      I love your comment about it being okay to screw up as a manager (and learn, improve, and keep going). I was a terrible manager the first few months (now a number of jobs ago, but I haven’t forgotten those lessons!). I worked hard to get better.

      Now I’m pretty good at it – not perfect and not done improving, but pretty good. Relaxing enough to admit and accept my imperfections was essential to doing better.

    2. Lana Kane

      “A bit later, when I had not so good managers, I also realized that in my field it was manage or be managed and I knew I could do as good a job if not better than my managers. I had the goal of furthering the organization’s goals AND creating the best possible work environment. Not always possible but when the two things mesh, it is very, very satisfying.”

      As someone in a position to make this transition soon, I had this realization pretty early on when I started wondering if I should pursue a management role. Especially the manage or be managed aspect – I have been managed for so long, that the idea of being on the other side and perhaps having an opportunity to create a better environment for the management is incredibly appealing.

  12. nnn

    Another thing to think about, in addition to what everyone else mentions: what don’t managers do, and how would you feel about not doing that any more?

    In my own job, I make teapots. My team lead makes teapots, but also coordinates everyone’s work on larger or more complex teapot project. My manager doesn’t make any teapots at all, their job is entirely people work.

    So, OP, what is the equivalent of teapots in your organization, and how would you feel about the possibility of not making teapots any more?

    1. k.k

      This is so important. I’ve had managers that don’t seem to get this concept. You end up with a manager that’s overworked because they’re trying to do everything, and employees who are frustrated and bored because they are micromanaged and don’t have enough to do. It’s not a good situation for anyone.

      1. Birch

        Yep, and managers who try to force the employees to do things their way even though they’re too far removed from the actual task to realize their way is inefficient!

        1. Graciosa

          This is so important!

          You can’t unleash the power of your team if you impose your own (probably outdated) view of the best way to do things.

          Asking my team “What’s the best way to improve / accomplish X?” gets much better results than any direction I could provide.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        YES. All of my worst managers have fallen into this bucket. They thought they’d get to work 80% on making teapots and 20% on managing. When it turned out to be the other way around, they became irritated, frustrated and micro-managey (and also stole professional development opportunities from their direct reports). Managing isn’t just being in charge of other people—it requires a lot of thought and bandwidth that is completely separate from the teapot-making.

    2. Pickles

      Yes, this, +1000!

      In some cases, you can adapt. For instance, I no longer analyze teapots directly, but instead need to ensure all teapots are synchronized across the organization and work harmoniously together. To satisfy my brain’s need to analyze, I treat the entire organization as an analytic problem. Probably lets me be more successful in the role, and definitely makes me happier.

      Not entirely sure how that might work on the legal side, other than the legal background coming in handy. It sounds like there are opportunities on both sides, which is awesome, so you’re not necessarily stuck choosing only one. However, you may also want to consider whether you’ll get pigeonholed into either respective career path based upon what you’ve seen from others in your organization.

    3. Tuxedo Cat

      This. My partner is struggling with this right now. He enjoys the teapot making of his job and has trouble handing over that to others.

      1. Chris V

        I completely agree with this string: when you move into a managerial role, you have to shift your priorities and focus away from “teapot making” to administrative duties. This can be a very difficult transition if teapot-making is what you’re truly passionate about and you don’t get that same job satisfaction from managing people. I had a stint in my career as a manager and ultimately moved back into my former role as a teapot maker at a new company because I missed that type of work. One thing I did enjoy about being a manager was having a proverbial seat at the table — being able to make decisions and chart a vision for the organization. But this was outweighed by the loss of doing teapot work — something I prefer (and excelled at) over managing people and performing administrative work. I also got burned out on spending the majority of my time in meetings. I’m generally pretty strict with meeting limits (only when necessary, keeping them efficient), but as a manager / member of the leadership team at my organization, I had to be in meetings all of the time with my staff, other managers, etc. Ultimately, I recommend some serious thinking — do a clear-eyed assessment both of yourself (your own personality, preferences, goals, etc.) and your organization (its culture, how it supports / enables its managers, your team, etc.) Good luck!

    4. Marthooh

      Definitely watch for signs that your company is using the Peter principle:

      The Peter principle is a concept in management theory formulated by educator Laurence J. Peter and published in 1969. It states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence”.

  13. OtterB

    My brother and I had a discussion about this issue once when one of us had just moved out of a management role and one had just moved in. Which of these sounds most like you: (a) I don’t have to try to persuade other people to do something, I can just do it, or (b) I point people at a problem and things get done and I don’t have to do them.

    Obviously this is an oversimplification – in particular, the manager has to do more than just point people at a problem, as others have pointed out. But I think it captures the heart of what is most satisfying about each role.

    Another way to look at it – individual contributors are responsible for a task, and managers are responsible for a team, which includes both the team’s tasks and its members.

  14. Danger: Gumption Ahead

    I can think of a couple of questions someone thinking of becoming a manager should ask themselves:

    Do you find providing feedback and guidance to be fulfilling?
    Have you had to confront and correct poor performance in the past? How comfortable were you doing that?
    How comfortable are you asking for things from your higher ups, including things you know they might not support?
    Would you be happy directing technical experts rather than doing the technical tasks?
    Do you want to hone your skills as a technical expert, something you might not be able to do as a manager?

  15. J.B.

    I think this is a great question. I think a lot of it depends on your organization. I would not consider making the jump at my current organization because there is no time given for the tasks of management. Instead there’s management expectations on top of individual contributor work, without the support to make changes.

    I think for you it would be a great time to talk to your own manager, the one you would approach about the increase. Also, is there a path that would lock you in for the future? If you move into legal would you only be in that role for your tenure at the company? If you moved into management would you be closing off the avenue of legal work?

    1. Letter Writer

      In some ways, I do think taking a particular path would lock in that greater trajectory… my biggest thought here is that, because I am not in an attorney role (though I do legal-ish work), the longer I stay out of attorney work, the fewer attorney skills I will develop (i.e. drafting briefs, arguing motions in court, etc.). I can correct some of this, i.e. through volunteer work in my personal time but I am approaching the point where I likely need to make a decision soon…

      This is true of my current position as well, whether I become a manager or not. My thought process has been… I feel pretty confident that I will feel bored in my current role someday in the near-ish future. I like to be challenged and I like learning new things, and I have some capacity for this in my current role, but its limited. There is a lot that I find intriguing about people management (in part, thanks to reading AAM), and I think I could find that really fulfilling and challenging in a positive way. I’m sure these won’t be the only 2 career paths ever open to me (whether internally or externally), but they are the two most immediate and best aligned with my interests, other than going back to school for Master’s (but law school wasn’t that long ago, and I’m still recovering, ha!)

  16. drpuma

    I have a law degree, but transitioned to the business side and did become a manager. Two questions to ask yourself:

    1, Am I comfortable making decisions and being held accountable for my decisions? Especially relative to the thoroughness of the legal process, you will often have to make decisions based on what feels like incomplete information and assumptions. There will likely be a different comfort level with risk, and different ideas about which risks are worth taking.

    2, Am I or can I get comfortable with delegating? Being very detail-oriented, sometimes it’s really hard to see someone else working “less efficiently” or otherwise differently from me. As a manager not every battle is worth fighting, and you need to be able to prioritize the end result and learn from the folks you manage.

    1. LeaveLaw

      “I have a law degree, but transitioned to the business side and did become a manager”

      drpuma, would you give some tips on how you did this? I am a lawyer, but I really want to move to the business side. The problem is that I never see anyone open to considering a lawyer for a non-legal role.

      1. drpuma

        Hi LeaveLaw, here are some of the things that I did to transition away from law:
        * Described my experience by skillsets rather than tasks
        * Job hunted based on where my skills were most comparable rather than by title or department, until I had a strong sense of which jobs would be the closest match
        * Drew clear lines between comparable skillsets
        * Discretely assured (usually internal) recruiters that having a JD did not mean I expected lawyer money
        * Explicitly assured interviewers that I am not interested in going back to the law for job-function-related reasons

        Moving into management roles happened in the more conventional way as I gained experience.

        Depending on your firm and what you think you’d like to transition to, you may be able to get transferable experience on projects. For example an attorney friend of mine is helping to implement robot doc review at his firm, which could be applicable to tech, operations, and/or project management.

        Good luck!

        1. Bitcoin Zealot

          “Discretely assured (usually internal) recruiters that having a JD did not mean I expected lawyer money”

          I’m a (corporate) lawyer, and my impression has been that business-side clients almost always make more money than I do. Is that not usually the case?

          1. drpuma

            It may be true where you work but it was not true of the jobs I was applying for, none of which involved legal work. I also got the impression that the folks I spoke with assumed that the high end of “lawyer money” is the norm across the legal industry.

    2. Emmie

      I have a law degree and promoted into the manager side. I’d ask OP this: Do you ever want to be a working lawyer? In my current legal market, there are limited jobs in house and that sounds like what you’re looking at. It may be one of the few chances a person gets to use those legal skills. You know your location, industry, and skill set best.
      Management roles vary across organizations. Mine involves strategy, problem solving, many meetings, project planning, performance evaluations, staff development (that’s a very big responsibility for me and I like it). It’s not a job I can phone in. In general, the higher positions (Manager, Director, VP) require progressively more strategy, resource planning, budgeting, meetings and you have less individual contributions. The hours are as intense as law at the highest levels. I suppose you know by practicing those skills in a lower position and finding out if you like them!

    3. Letter Writer

      Thanks for this! I think I can guess the answer to this but – any regrets to transitioning? Were you motivated by the opportunity you saw on the business side, or was there something about practicing that you wanted to move away from? Appreciate any insight you’re willing to share!

      1. drpuma

        I wanted a more varied day-to-day, as well as opportunities for learning and growth that I didn’t see in the legal field. No regrets; I don’t see myself going back to the law.

        To me, it was very obvious how my legal background and the legal approach to problem-solving would be an asset in business. This is not obvious to many other people! I have to remind myself that the legal field is very opaque to people outside of it. I underestimated how many times I would have to (and still do) explain what I have to offer. I also underestimated how many times I would have to answer the question of whether I’m law or business. Folks want my answer to be all one or all the other.

  17. Anonymeuse

    As an attorney who’s grappled with a similar decision (but I work in government, so there are opportunities to manage as an attorney), I think you also need to consider how much you want to be an attorney. For me, it came down to the amount of time I had spent earning this professional qualification, and whether I was willing to commit to a non-practicing management role when I had never tried legal work in my organization. I wasn’t willing to shut that door without at least trying out a legal position (and the way we hire here, there’s almost always a firm requirement that you have legal experience from the last 2 years, so it would really have been shutting that door forever). Once I tried working in legal, it was an easy decision because I had a better idea what both options were, rather than only having experience in the non-attorney role.

  18. MK

    OP, you didn’t ask about this, but, do you want to be a lawyer? As in, having a big part of your work life concerned with actual matters of law? The common perception seems to be that people go to law school either to make lots of money or to change the world. And it’s true that significant portion of my fellow law students decided to go because the degree would get them their preferred career (be it working for a conglomerate or non-profits). But for some, myself included, the law was a passion just like art or writing (or any other of the creative fields that it is socially acceptable to be passionate about). So, factor that into your thinking: Are you ok with never practicing law? Does your work now means being a lawyer, even a non-practicing one? How will that play out if you become a manager?

    1. Letter Writer

      If you had asked me this during high school, college, or law school, the answer would have been an emphatic yes.

      I don’t know anymore.

      I dreamed of being a criminal defense attorney, and my resume and course lists show it… I ended up in a firm with some municipal contracts doing prosecution (among other things) and hated my job. The substantive work was part of it, but the boss, office environment, and pay were factors too, so I jumped at the chance to take a completely different role.

      My current role is not exactly non-legal (contracting to purchase highly regulated teapots), and uses a similar skill-set (lots of writing, explaining complex subject matter to others, persuasive communication) and has been satisfying from that perspective. If I never visit a courtroom again, would I miss it? I’m still trying to figure that out. I recently told my mentor that I feel like I’m facing the “What do I want to do with my life” mini-crisis that most people have when they’re 18 and starting college. My focus was so narrow through law school, and now I’m in a place where there are a lot of enticing doors to choose from!

  19. LBK

    I think the main thing is that you really have to be interested in building a good team and running it. That’s the most unique aspect of being a manager; other roles can do things like deal with escalations, work on high-level projects, contribute to long-term goals, serve as a bridge between departments, etc. I get to do a lot of the “directional” elements of managing in my non-manager senior analyst role.

    It’s my interest in those elements that made me want to be a manager for a long time, but once I got to a point that I was able to do all of that without being a manager, my interest in the one missing element (actually managing people) fell away. So don’t become a manager because you want to do manage work – do it because you want to manage people.

  20. DMLT

    As you read through the posts here, what do you tell yourself? Do you like thinking of potential solutions? Do you think the interpersonal challenges and sticky situations are a puzzle to be solved? Do you have ideas on solving them amicably? Or do you think to yourself “SO glad I don’t have to deal with stuff like that!” or “I don’t have a clue what I would do there, glad it someone else’s problem!” That might give you a clue.

  21. AnonforThis

    This is pretty timely for me, because I am an attorney on a temporary management detail and I am totally unhappy. Fortunately this is temporary and I will be going back to my old job in a couple months. Everyone is different, but these are the traits about me that make me an unhappy manager.

    1. I am an introvert. I didn’t fully realize this until I was managing, but not being left alone or being unable to control being alone is very tough for an introvert. There are some days I really wish people would just not come talk to me, but it isn’t an option. On days where I talk to people all day, I find myself totally exhausted.

    2. I don’t feel like I am practicing law anymore. I became an attorney because I genuinely enjoy research and writing. As a manager, I barely write anymore. I review and edit other people’s work, but do not do much of my own. My day is spent keeping track of other people’s work or putting out small fires.

    3. It is hard for me to cede control. The irony of being a manager is that you are far less in control than you ever were as an employee. I am rated based on the performance of others, my day is dictated by other people, and so on. You can assert a certain amount of control, but being super controlling is bad. You never know what is going to come up. I didn’t have complete control over life before, but it is much less now.

    4. You have to deal with pushback from all directions. Whether it is pressure from above or below, people want you to reflect their agenda. I have stood up for my reports but also had to enforce policy from above. Everyone wants you to be “on their side”. Learning to say no firmly but politely is hard. That Rachel Bloom song “Ladyboss” covers this. You want people to do what you say, be nice, but you also can’t always care if people think you are nice because stuff has to get done.

    It wasn’t a good fit for me. I don’t regret trying, because I always would have wondered, but I am so happy I did this a a temporary assignment. I had a lot of pressure to take the full job and it was hard to feel like I let the org down, but my own happiness and mental health had to come first in the decision

  22. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    I think there are three things to consider when becoming a manager:
    1. Do you enjoy mentoring people and helping them grow? (And do you have the patience to do that with people who may annoy you?) Are you willing to take the time to think about and invest in their development?
    2. What type of work do you prefer? If you love the substantive work you’re doing, you’ll likely be doing less of it, or at least doing it in a very different way, if you manage.
    3. Do you like organizing and driving complex projects? Do you enjoy, or can you at least tolerate, the administrative/operations side?

    When I think about my best managers, they were excellent at all thre of those things. When I think of my worst managers, they were usually bad at one or more of those things. Now that I’m a manager, I figured out 1 and 2, but I’m not great at 3 (admin—I love thinking about operations and programs and strategic planning). But I like 1 and 2 enough that I’m willing to put up with admin.

    I come from the community nonprofit and legal services sector, and unfortunately people are often promoted into management for being amazing project or team leads, but not for being good managers. Some excel, anyway, because they have the traits required to be effective. But many of them don’t enjoy managing and took the promotion for better pay and because they though that’s what they were supposed to do. I turned down management “promotions” for a long time because I knew I wasn’t ready. I think it’s really worth reflecting on what makes you feel happy and fulfilled in your work.

  23. GreenOne

    For this particular situation, I’d also consider what kind of career track is available in each position. Are there similar advancement opportunities in both positions? What might your career look like in 5, 10, or 15 years in each track?

    It may be that the only way to know for sure if you would like managing is to try it. Since the legal department will likely be hiring again in 2-3 years, you could try the managing position for 2-3 years. Then if you discover managing is not something you want long term, you could switch to the legal department when they’re hiring again. (But first verify that a move like that would be possible and that your employer wouldn’t consider you “overqualified” or something to move into a non-managing role after being in a managing role.)

  24. Millennial Lawyer

    It might be worth asking also if you’re very happy where you are… is there a reason you want to switch to legal? Is it just for the pay bump? You could be way more unhappy doing more traditional attorney work and not the work you’re doing now, which it seems you really like. If you could get that pay bump doing work you like but with the extra role of managing, why not take the plunge!

  25. Graciosa

    Managing well is a separate skill, different from doing the actual work of whatever function you happen to be managing. Doing it well requires juggling between trying to do the best for your team (collectively and individually), your company, and your own management chain. This is rarely easy.

    For example, your team is assigned a critical project. Who gets the opportunity to lead in a role that may be very visible to senior management? Do you pick the extremely experienced person who knows the work inside and out but who still needs to develop soft skills to work effectively with senior executives, or a more junior person who is more diplomatic but who currently lacks the depth of knowledge needed to make the most effective system decisions? Which element is more important for this project (and who is more coachable)?

    Add another twist to this – your manager has informed you confidentially that there will be a significant personnel impact (could be restructuring for job changes or even layoffs) when the project is complete. You cannot reveal this information, although you still want to put your team in the best possible position before it is finalized.

    Now consider the fact that the project will impact other functions. Some of them are led by peers who would be supportive, some are not. Some have higher ups who would be supportive, and some don’t – not always the same alignment as occurs on the peer level. Your manager told you that some of your peers are aware of the potential impact of your project and some are not.

    Your own role may be impacted. If you’re a good manager, you try to ignore this (being human, your success will vary).

    You get this information in your boss’ office, and walk out to tell your team about the new project, which has to start immediately. Who do you pick to lead, and what do you say? What do you say to which of your peers? If the project has a budgetary impact, how do you adjust your budget?

    This happens to managers ALL THE TIME. This is one example of a thousand decisions I have to make routinely. People focus on admittedly hard stuff (PIPs and firing, for example) and the rewards of the good stuff (developing members of your team and seeing them thrive and succeed), but those extremes are less common than the day-to-day juggling of a manager in a largish company.

    Every day I make decision after decision of the type I described above. Sometimes I have only the time until the person asking finishes speaking to consider the best choice. I make my choice, live with it, and move on to the next one.

    In the midst of this, I am trying to make sure I’m always available to and supportive of my team. I want to be the manager who always has time for them – even when my great-grand-boss has an emergency and needs a response that requires a miraculous shortcut to two hours of research in the next fifteen minutes.

    All these factors are like puzzle pieces, and I have to know everything well enough to put them together in the best possible way again and again – all day, every day. I have to look at everything through multiple lenses.

    Trying to do this well is endlessly challenging. Is this what you want to do?

    1. AnonMurphy

      I am not a people manager yet but this is an amazing way to look at it. I see this happening to my peers (who are mostly people managers) ALL THE TIME.

  26. Birch

    I had a couple of supervisors who taught me a ton about managing people by setting examples, and the most important thing was the communication. They made me comfortable coming to them with questions, making mistakes without fear, and they weren’t overbearing and would give me space if I needed to just put my head down and crunch through work, but they were also available if I needed them. Managers should realize that their communication style isn’t the only way or the best way and that different people may need slightly different things. In my field there’s also an emphasis on professional development, networking, and collaborating, so it’s important that the higher-ups give their reports the space and opportunities to develop and support them in that–in any field, I think it’s important that managers pay attention to the goals of their reports. On the other hand, I had one terrible supervisor who was never available to me, kept me waiting for hours past our scheduled meetings, never returned emails, foisted me off on other overworked underlings, gave me way too much work, and then complained that I had done everything wrong. The common thread between both of those scenarios is really just communication.

  27. Dovahkiin

    I know I don’t want to manage because I don’t want people-managing to be more than 15% of my job. Managing 1 intern and a low-key assistant is plenty to me as an independent contributor. I love the puzzle of digital strategy and tinkering with growth formulas and that’s what I love to spend my time on at work. I’m lucky that I’m in a company with an independent contributor track and a management track with different growth paths for each. If I was in a company where moving up meant moving into management, I’d probably be looking elsewhere for jobs!

    Like Detective Amy Santiago’s comment above, I’ve seen really good managers in action (also seen some bad ones), and the good ones all had a high degree of social/people intelligence, knew what made people tick, and how to get the best results out of all different sorts of people. While I am always interested in improving my social intelligence, I’d rather set my eyelids on fire than spend a huge chunk of my work day on that kind of work.

    1. Cedrus Libani

      I’m the same way. I respect soft skills, but they don’t come naturally to me. If I let myself get herded into management, I’d be thoroughly mediocre (and working hard for even that). I’m much more useful doing the nerd stuff.

    2. Letter Writer

      I wish we had more opportunities for individual contributors… there is an odd position here and there up the ladder, but they are the exception to the rule. We have managers on top of managers on top of managers, ad infinity, and a ton of HR support for managers. We do have some resources for people interested in improving where they’re at, but I think there’s an organizational expectation that everyone is working toward the next level of management.

  28. Ramona Flowers

    I know I don’t want to be a manager. I go to work, do my own work, worry about my own performance and that’s it.

  29. Trout 'Waver

    For me, I enjoy tackling projects and problems that are way too big for any one person and require a team. I like to be the leader in those situations: the person who takes all the data together and figures out what it means and how to implement it. I’m surrounded by a strong team that has more technical skill and knowledge than I do. I’ve been fortunate to find good people who are eager to grow, learn, and adapt.

    My personal answer is that I am a manager because leading a team lets me solve bigger and more challenging problems. I know that sounds kinda selfish, but growing and developing team members is an integral part of it.

    1. Trout 'Waver

      I want to add one thing: If you tend to jump in and do things for other people instead of helping them figure it out, you should think about changing your mindset before becoming a manager.

      1. Letter Writer

        I do think about this and have been working on it! It’s really hard to watch other people struggle and/or fail but honestly, for my own mental health I could not and cannot keep jumping in to save the day.

    2. Tuxedo Cat

      I was going to write something along these lines. I’ve managed projects that are like this.

      There’s another aspect I’d include: being okay that your team might do things differently than you do. I’m not saying that managers should be okay with bad work, but sometimes, I’ve had managers who aren’t open to other ways of approaching a project and insist on having everything done as they would have done things.

      1. Trout 'Waver

        Totally agree. If you’re going to make your team think and act like you, why have a team? It would be incredibly limiting to only have your own ideas bounced back at you.

  30. Tammy

    I was in a variety of individual contributor roles for the first 10 years or so of my career, was a self-employed consultant for the next 10 or so, and have been in management roles (team lead, manager, and now senior manager) roles for the past 3. I’m interested in continuing to progress in leadership roles (I’d like to be an executive someday).

    So, what attracted me to leadership roles?

    1. I’m passionate about people. I sometimes say that my job as a leader is to create an environment that enables all the people who I lead to show up every day as their most authentic selves and do the best work they’re capable of. When I became a manager for the first time, my conscious hope/wish/intention wasn’t “let me show everyone what a superstar I am”; it was “help me take care of the people I’m responsible for.”

    2. I’m not driven by ego investment about my personal ability to do the work. In fact, my team does highly technical data-related work, and at this point I probably couldn’t do most of their work myself even if I needed to. (I do have the technical background to understand the work, though, which is important to my credibility as a leader.) But being a manager means you’re judged on your ability to lead the people who are doing the work more than on your ability to actually do the work yourself, and that can be a hard mindset shift to make.

    3. I’m good at big picture thinking, and find that fulfilling. In fact, I told my boss recently that part of what I like about management is the chance to “play with a bigger piece of the machine”. I’m good at looking at a sea of data points and finding patterns, and I’m good at thinking through how the work my team does fits in with, supports, and interacts with what other teams are doing and with the goals of the organization as a whole. If you don’t have those skills, or don’t enjoy that kind of thinking and planning, you might not be happy as a manager.

    4. I have good emotional intelligence and “soft skills”. This is really important for people in leadership, I think. The best leaders I know embody what a friend calls “confident humility”, and I’d like to think I do as well. You have to be confident enough that people will trust and follow your lead, but the arrogant jackass who thinks she knows everything is someone nobody wants to work for (or with). Being able to strike that balance can be hard, but it’s important. Having good “HR instincts” – the ability to anticipate what might create legal/HR issues for the company and nip those things in the bud proactively – helps too. Honestly, if I’d known 20 years ago what I know now, I think I’d have pursued a career in Human Resources.

    I could probably think of others, but those are my top 4.

    1. Misquoted

      This is a great comment. I have had to think about this as I move forward in my career. I am waiting to hear about approval for a promotion, and I needed to think about whether I wanted to move up toward management or stay within my craft and move forward on that path. I chose the latter.

      I want to add, though, that it is possible to have leadership positions without being a manager. I have been in several leadership positions within projects, initiatives, or simply during decision-making processes. I want to continue to do that, though I am not interesting in managing a team (yet?) — I have no experience, training, etc. and though I might be good at it, I am not sure I would be, nor am I sure I would enjoy it.

      In any case, there’s a difference between management and leadership, and sometimes you see one without the other. Management without leadership, not so good. But being in a leadership role without being a manager is very possible and can be very fulfilling.

    2. Letter Writer

      I can strongly relate to #1, 3, and 4. Re #2, I need to do some more research on how managers in my department in particular are evaluated on their performance… I’m very clear on what things impact my performance goals and review, but not sure how that would translate to a manager overseeing this position. Thanks for the inspiration!

  31. Another GenX Dev Manager

    I took a promotion from member of a dev team to manager of the dev team just under two years ago. I had to be convinced to do it – while I had management aspirations, I didn’t think I was ready for it.

    Truth is, it’s a lot like parenting – you’re never fully ready to do it, but you learn along the way, including making mistakes.

    These are the things I learned:
    1) I do miss doing full-time coding. I make room in my schedule to take on one user story or defect per iteration because I want to understand the software and what the team is doing.
    2) My job is to a) get the roadblocks out of the teams’ way, b) be the umbrella that shields them from the politics above me as much as possible, and c) give them all the tools they need to take on the challenges that face them.
    3) The management above you matters. I’ve had two bosses in my two years as a manager due to a re-org. The first was amazing and a great boss to have as I got my feet wet. The second is a fantastic project manager, but not technical at all and not really a people manager. You’ll have to learn to manage up as well as down.
    4) You need a fallback plan. Had I turned out to be truly terrible managing, there was a plan to give me a soft landing (probably on another team).
    5) You might inherit a mess. Every0ne might acknowledge that it is a mess. The onus is still on you to figure out how to fix it or remove it. It’s not going to be fair, and you might hate doing it, but it’s part of the job. (I have a direct report who is most likely going to be on a PIP this year. I took last year to try and bring him along to the new expectations, but he’s been set in his ways for so long (and allowed to be so by his prior managers) that I’m failing at that.)
    6) Communicate, communicate, communicate. I have bi-weekly staff meetings, bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with everyone on the team, and do a lot of skype chat with remote members of the team. If you’re not good at building rapport with people, even if they are reluctant to talk to you, to begin with, you’re probably not going to be as successful a manager as you would like to be.
    7) Know your own strengths and weaknesses – if you can, talk to someone who already has the position you’re considering and ask what they think makes them effective. Rate yourself honestly against those criteria.
    8) You don’t have to be infallible. Your team is likely to respect you more if you eff up and admit you did it than if you try to come across as perfect.

  32. fposte

    I wanted to be a manager after seeing several bad managers in my area and wanting very much to frag them and take over. That is not the best motivation.

    However, I really like problem solving, and the people I manage are young and enthusiastic and starting their careers, so they’re generally a delight to know and to help season. If I had known how fun that part is I would have pushed for management earlier.

    I would say that at least in academics you gotta let go of perfectionism–you have to be able to cope with making mistakes a lot, and with being where the buck stops whether the mistake was yours or not.

  33. Julia the Survivor

    I’ve always been a staff person and never tried to be a manager mainly because I don’t want to work all the time.
    Most of the managers I’ve worked with/around worked all the time. They were sending emails on weeknights, working longer hours than 40/week (sometimes much longer), and had no life other than work and home.
    I have a great life outside of work and don’t want to give that up. Also my stress tolerance is only fair. The higher level you work at, the more stress. I’ve even seen that with growth in my current position – I have a lot more responsibility now and have had to work up to dealing with the stress. Luckily I have a supportive boss who is usually available and when he’s not, gave me guidelines on how to handle requests from corporate, etc.
    Which raises one of the important things about a manager – support! A manager who supports his/her employees and helps them with stress is much better than one who doesn’t! :)
    So one thing to consider is whether you want to work longer hours and deal with the stress – though you’d probably have more of that in the attorney position also.
    If you decide you want to move up, my cautious nature inclines toward staying where you are established and liked in your current group, rather than switching to another where there might be more to go wrong.

    1. Another GenX Dev Manager

      I don’t think you’re necessarily tied to working significantly longer hours than your team. It’s dependent upon your company culture.

      In my chain, from the top down, work-life balance is emphasized. So the vast majority of the team works 40-45 hours tops, with the occasional outlier for QA deployments, releases, customer issues, etc (there are one or two people who just do 50 hours because they can/want to/get into what they’re working on). I averaged roughly 43 hours/week over the past year.

      There are outlier 10-12 hour days where I end up working from home after the kids go to bed because enough stuff came up during the day that was urgent that I couldn’t do other tasks with deadlines, or there’s an emergent client issue and I’m babysitting a process so that someone else on the team doesn’t have to. However, I do get those hours back in informal comp time, and it’s not every week, or sometimes even not every month.

    2. doreen

      Sometimes managers aren’t working that many hours because they have to to. I’m a manager and most of my peers and I usually work our required 37.5 hours a week. We very rarely go over 40 ( like maybe 2-3 times a year) . But there are a few who work 60 hours almost every week – and the rest of us can’t figure out why. We assume they are micromanaging everything that goes on in their office.

    3. Julia the Survivor

      It might be because I live in a big city. Big business and business glamour are prevalent here. Also rich lifestyles with a big house in the suburbs, expensive suits and accessories, etc. Many of the managers I’ve known were living this lifestyle with the business dinners, events, travel, etc.
      Now you mention it I can think of two managers, both in insurance back-office, who were working 40 hours/week.
      From what I’ve seen of attorneys, they’re usually expected to work overtime (sometimes their staff is too!). OP might be expected to work longer hours in either of the positions they’re considering. Is it worth it?

      1. doreen

        More likely your industry than the fact that you are in a big city. I live and work in NYC and few of the managers I know fit your description – but they mostly work in retail/wholesale , at distributors, in government agencies, restaurants , non-profit organizations, hospitals, branch level banking, that sort of thing. Same thing for the attorneys I know- few of them work over 40 hours regularly, but none of them work for the sort of big law firms where the starting salary is over $150K. “Manager” and “attorney” can each cover a lot of different jobs with different pay scales and working conditions and then each employer has its own culture on top of that.

  34. knitcrazybooknut

    One thing about managing that I’m not sure has been mentioned already: COVERAGE COVERAGE COVERAGE. This may not apply to you. But I walked into my current role thinking, Great! I’ll build up my team and it’ll be awesome!

    Unfortunately, the powers that be have overloaded my team so much that the turnover has been atrocious. I just finished my fifth hire in 3.5 years, and each person who left said, unprompted, that I was the best manager they ever had.

    In the meantime, I am not only going through the hiring process, but also doing my work and my departed team member’s work at the same time. So be aware — if your boss or grandboss is unsympathetic or unresponsive, you can end up in a situation that isn’t sustainable. (And yes, I’ve rationally and professionally presented statistics and data and arguments with no results, and yes, I am looking for another job.) All this to say, know what you’re stepping into, and know that it can change if your management changes. I still love managing people; I love developing skills and helping them figure out how to do things, and working as a team. I’m still working out how to extricate myself from this situation, and I hope to bring at least one of my team with me eventually.

  35. Guacamole Bob

    I’m not a manager, but from what I’ve observed, the question is not just “do I want to be a manager?” but “do I want to be a manager in this organization?” How much are you able to control who’s on your team? How does the organization support its managers? Are the goals and expectations reasonable? etc. Who’s on the team already and are they motivated, well-qualified people?

    My current government agency is largely unionized even in the white-collar highly skilled departments and has a bunch of terrible HR policies that make it a very hard place to build a good team. It’s very hard to fire someone terrible and nearly impossible to fire or significantly change the duties of someone mediocre. Hiring is based off official job descriptions that are far removed from our day to day work. Lots of people have been in their jobs for 10-30 years and are slow to adapt to new ways of doing things. Raises are entirely based on step and cost of living increases, with no wiggle room for merit increases.

    I think I could be a good manager – I’ve managed volunteers and interns a few times in other contexts and enjoyed it. But I’d be reluctant to be a manager here, instead of at a place where it would be more likely that I could develop a team of really great, motivated people. Managing people who just want to do the minimum to avoid trouble does not sound like fun to me, so I’ll stay in an individual role for quite a bit longer.

    1. Melamoo

      Yes, this. I just demoted myself because the ability of management to make changes was severely constrained. There were too many tiers of management to actually make positive changes as well and it became about babysitting adults. No, thanks.

    2. Former Retail Manager

      You are describing my workplace. I’m a current Federal employee at an agency with a growing manager shortage. Very few current managers will be left 10 years from now….which I find terrifying! But you couldn’t be more right about the environment being a huge factor in your success, or lack thereof, as a manager. At my organization, my manager is held responsible for results that he has virtually no ability to impact for all of the reasons that you mentioned. I’m sure he finds it maddening. It’s definitely not a job that I ever want.

    3. Trout 'Waver

      You hit on a really important issue. I would never want to be a manager without two key things:

      1. The ability to hire and fire.
      2. An office.

  36. NicoleK

    I managed briefly several jobs ago. Things I knew before becoming a manager:
    1. As a manager, you set the tone for your direct reports
    2. You have to give your direct reports a good foundation to start from. And that usually starts with good training
    3. You need a lot of patience to deal with the interpersonal conflicts among your direct reports
    4. Regular supervision or one on one with your direct reports are important
    5. You need to be able to have the “tough” conversations with your direct reports
    6. It’s tough to hold people accountable
    7. Not all your direct reports will like you. And you won’t like all your direct reports
    8. It’s important to communicate to your direct reports why you want them to do X
    9. If your boss doesn’t give you alot of support, it’s okay to seek support outside your company

    Things I wish I knew before becoming a manager:
    1. Don’t assume your employees know how to do X or know about X. I was surprised a few times when I learned an employee didn’t know something very basic to their position.
    2. As a middle manager, you’re often asked to manage people or situation but you don’t have the authority to make actual changes
    3. As a middle manager, your relationship with your boss is crucial
    4. Sometimes the hardest part of your job is navigating and working with your peers (other managers)

    1. Another GenX Dev Manager

      This Not all your direct reports will like you. And you won’t like all your direct reports is so very true.

      You don’t have to like someone to manage them. You have to be able to treat them with respect and vice versa, but you don’t have to like them as a person. As someone who wants to be liked by everyone this was a hard lesson to learn.

    2. Argh!

      “As a middle manager, your relationship with your boss is crucial”

      Yes! You have to know that they will have your back, that you can trust their advice, that you can trust them in general, and they want the same from you.

      They can be crazy-making, for example telling you that you have to enforce a rule and then not letting you escalate to a written warning or use the word “insubordination” when the rule is ignored. It’s very demoralizing to have a cowardly or wishy-washy boss in any circumstance but especially when you are in charge of ensuring the productivity of others.

  37. Management Memories

    I LOVED being a manager. However, the career I was in at the time (military) made sure I was well trained and prepared before I was in a supervisory role, and started me out gradually, with just one person to begin with. By the time I retired, I was managing a department of five offices; about 20 people, and I had two lower-level supervisors working under me. The military also had a structured, progressive discipline system and lots and lots of rules and regulations. Everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to do and the consequences they would face if they didn’t. I had several people tell me I was the best boss they ever had and still keep in touch with a few.

    That said, I have worked for three different civilian companies since I retired 22 years ago. Things are different here. People aren’t born knowing how to manage, companies don’t provide training, people you would think are adults don’t always do the things they know they are supposed to do, and companies enforce their discipline system inconsistently (if at all), providing they even have one.

    I see the responsibilities of a manager to be protecting and nurturing their employees and helping them grow in a supportive environment so that some day they will be good managers to their people.

    One disadvantage of managing people is that they are people, not robots. Mistakes will be made–managers must be able to address these situations in a constructive way. Managers must also be able to deal with people without showing any favoritism or personal feelings (some people are not as easy to like as others). Managers must be able to put aside any personal biases in dealing with diverse populations. Managers must learn to be friendly without being friends (it can be lonely at the top), yet still be able to apply discipline when needed. Managers need to be able to communicate in an effective way to so they are understood and MOST IMPORTANTLY, to be a good listener. Managers need to be able to motivate everyone to work together. Teamwork is critical.

    And for those of you not military, the word discipline does not equal punishment. It is the whole system of establishing goals and standards, ensuring everyone understands their part and making sure everyone works together effectively to achieve those goals.

    If your company does not provide training, I would recommend taking some classes.

    I found managing to be very rewarding, and would not trade my experiences (good and bad) for anything.

    1. Julia the Survivor

      “I see the responsibilities of a manager to be protecting and nurturing their employees and helping them grow in a supportive environment so that some day they will be good managers to their people.”
      This is SO true, and yet few of the managers I’ve known do this. My current boss makes every effort to do this. He doesn’t do all the things you mention – he especially has trouble with not trying to be friends – but doing only this goes a long way toward being an excellent manager.

      1. Management Memories

        I had difficulties with the friend thing too. Especially when you are younger, it can be very difficult to get it right. The key is to make friends outside of the workplace, but who has time for that?

        I had one supervisor for about 5 years while I was in the military that really taught me a lot. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was mentoring me. I am forever grateful for his guidance.

        In a way, I am also glad for some of the dysfunctional freaks that I have had as managers since leaving the military as I have learned a lot (of what not to do) from them as well. I could have done without all the stress, though. I think it is horrible how one bad manager can can affect the lives of so many people who report to them and the whole time upper management just turns a blind eye! But that’s another story for another day.

  38. CAT

    The question I think you should ask yourself is what gives you a sense of professional vitality? Do you enjoy primarily doing your own work, or do you enjoy primarily supporting, coaching, and challenging other people to do their own work?

  39. CN

    My advice is to see if you’d rather be a leader than a manager. They are actually different, which is something I never thought about before taking on my current role. You mentioned you’re a ring-leader of sorts, so maybe you’ll find your strengths and what you want to do are more aligned with leading. Not all leaders have to be managers, but the best managers are leaders (which can be a difficult balance). I’m not sure if the “actual” attorney position allows for that, but it’s something to think about.

    Personally I’ve been a manager for a little over 1 year & I’m still not sure if it’s something I want (still struggling with the ‘impostor experience’ but I can’t afford to downgrade my salary). I myself am wondering if I would excel more in a leadership role that doesn’t have supervising responsibilities. I’m doing a good job as a manager, but I could be better (balancing the day-to-day & big picture has been difficult).

    I think after reading over everyone’s advice, seeing if you’re capable & wanting to do the things required of a good manager, I’m hoping it will make your decision easier. Good luck!

  40. Hapless Bureaucrat

    I think managing, like any other part of finding yourself at work, is about identifying the right set of challenges FOR YOU. The ones that make you feel good to work through, not drain you. Think about what parts of being “ring leader” appeal to you, and what parts are tough. And if some of the tough parts are things like addressing unprofessional behavior or bad work products, are they areas you’d feel more comfortable in if you had status to address it? Or would it remain uncomfortable? If you’ve ever been lead on a project or captain on a team, or led a non-work activity, how did that go over? Are you comfortable “working through” people to get tasks done, or do you get nervous about their ability to do the job?

    I know a lot of people who became managers because it was a step up; some like it, some endure it. I actively wanted to become one; I’m the kind of person who ended up de facto leading teams or managing up anyway and have been since I was That Kid in grade school group projects. The difference with actually having a supervisory role is that I no longer get embarrassed or apologetic about the fact that I’ve taken the reins. Also it’s a lot easier to delegate without feeling like a slacker now that it’s my job to do so. It is emotionally draining, by the way, even if it’s the right set of challenges. You end up with a different relationship with your team, a lonelier one. I found that I got more tired of managing my home life because I did so much at work. I got way more tired of managing my relationships with my in-laws, which has had its own consequences. (Not necessarily bad.)

    For me, it’s worth the trade offs. I love getting to help my team develop professionally; it’s great when I get to watch them succeed. I like working through people and seeing the things they think of that I never could. In fact, it frees me up from a little of the perfectionist freeze I get when I do work myself. I like being able to address problems head-on, even though I’m a pretty indirect person in other roles. (Though my in-laws will tell you that’s changing….)

    You can be a good manager even if you don’t really enjoy it, and you can be a bad manager even if you really like managing. It’s a matter of training, self-knowledge, and support. Organizations sometimes forget that their managers need support, especially their new managers. You are going to mess up starting out, it’s just going to happen. Having a mentor or three is vital, and having an organization that supports new managers informally and formally (with training and consistent workplace policies) makes a huge difference. I watched several directors at my old organization get screwed by lack of support and deliberately went somewhere else when I took my first step into supervising.

    So the question isn’t just “would I like managing,” but “would I like managing HERE.” For the question of “would I be a good manager,” I think that’s more usefully phrased as “would I be willing to put in the work to learn how to be a good manager, even if it means changing my preferred styles, and can this organization and this role help me get there.”

  41. Samiratou

    I’m not a manager, but did apply for a manager position, and in thinking about that and reading here and such, I think going into management is a big “know thyself” and “know the role” situation.

    If I had gotten the management role I applied for, I would have been managing a small group of people in the middle of their careers–people who are smart and capable in a low-drama environment. There’s not a lot of conflict or coaching needed, necessarily, though surely there will be some. Management in that environment is more about managing up and making sure you fight to get the team the tools they need to succeed and make sure the team has visibility in the higher ranks of their accomplishments.

    By contrast, I’m working part-time retail as well, at the moment, and no way, no how could I ever be a supervisor or manager there. To do well there involves not just taking care of your own tasks and the things you’re responsible for, but a lot of coaching and teaching younger people how jobs work (yes, you really are expected to show up when scheduled and not spend the whole shift chatting with your friends and breaks really are 15 or 30 minutes, etc. etc.) which are things I wouldn’t have to do at my day job.

    I’m not good at drama, so I would only apply for management roles where I knew the players and the situation. I don’t think I would every apply for a manager position at another company at this point, because there are too many unknowns and I wouldn’t feel confident I could be a good manager.

  42. karin

    Two thoughts that may be useful:

    1) Your situation is interesting because you have put the work in to obtain a professional designation – lawyer – which means going in a non-legal managerial direction has a different opportunity cost than it would for someone without those qualifications. What made you pursue a law degree, and is that something that you would still be able to experience/achieve in the other role? I only ask because it seems like a lot of work to become a lawyer, and if you haven’t yet had a chance to do it then maybe it’s worth trying on for size. From your description of yourself, I am guessing that you will continue to rise in whatever part of the organization you join and the longer you go without being (in your words) an “actual” attorney the harder it may become to double back and try it. But hey, I’m not a lawyer myself, so I could be wrong!

    2) The best managers I know are strong leaders but also great listeners, and seem to lack an ego. Or maybe experience killed their egos? If you have heard of ‘servant leadership’ (from the 1970 Robert Greenleaf essay) this is what I mean.

    Good luck! Sounds like there are no bad options here, just different ones :)

    1. Letter Writer

      You are right on in your first point! I practiced law for a few years after law school. I was really unhappy, but there were a lot of layers to that, which didn’t (all) have to do with the substantive work I was doing. It was a totally different type of law than I could be doing in my current org which is why I’m seriously considering the position where I work. I think it would be a great opportunity. I haven’t heard of “Servant leadership” before, but thank goodness for Google. It sounds interesting and I plan to do some more research on this- thanks!

  43. NW Mossy

    I made the transition into management almost 4 years ago, and it’s been extremely rewarding. For a long time I thought I couldn’t or shouldn’t manage, and that I would never want to give up the technical expertise I spent more than a decade developing. Reflecting now, here’s what drives me to be doing this work and makes me want to continue down a track towards senior leadership:

    * Relationship-building. I realize now that I’d been doing this informally for years as an individual contributor, because I have a good memory for who knows what and enjoy talking problems through with other people. Now, a huge portion of my day is explicitly about spending time fostering relationships with the people I work with, for, and through, and it’s awesome. I love being able to build bridges between people to help us all be happier and more productive.
    * Strategizing. I’ve always been a big-picture type of thinker at work, and managing gives me more opportunities to channel that energy into influencing the business as a whole. I love the puzzle of figuring out how to pull together the disparate objectives of a bunch of different people/areas into a cohesive solution that everyone can support.
    * Confronting the uncomfortable. This was the part I worried about most going into management, but it’s been the most rewarding in terms of seeing my own professional growth. My set point is to be somewhat conflict-avoidant, but the practice of management has taught me how essential it is to raise the tough issues and discuss them with compassion and respect for others. The challenge of diplomacy and choosing just the right words to send a clear, consistent message pushes me every day.

    Overall, though, the key ingredient I see in the best managers are those who take managing well seriously and are willing to modify their behavior to what’s effective, even if it doesn’t “feel right” based on gut instinct or personal preferences.

    1. Letter Writer

      I love that you consider “confronting the uncomfortable” to be a rewarding part of your professional development. I aspire to that mindset! I tend to be impatient with conflict – I like to lay my cards right away and discuss a solution, and I think the hard part of uncomfortable conversations would be the fact that some problems, especially interpersonal problems, don’t have (feasible) solutions.

  44. Aussie Teacher

    When I started my teaching career I definitely didn’t want to manage. I wasn’t so worried about dealing with other staff, but terrified of dealing with pushy or difficult/angry parents (I’m in performing arts and you often get parents who think their special snowflake deserved the lead role/top choir etc).
    What made a difference was reading AAM daily for 5 years as a stay at home mum, and realizing that I had all the scripts and knowledge to handle tricky situations, so I felt prepared. Then it was less of a panic situation and more of a puzzle/challenge: “if I apply the following phrases to this situation, I will get X result.”
    The second reason was returning to work in a department run by a terrible manager. I took over from him a year ago and it’s been so nice – people kept asking me if it was daunting stepping into my first management role and I had to keep coming up with a polite answer that wasn’t “No, because I know at least I’ll be a better manager than Ex-boss, so the bar is set pretty darn low!”
    I love having a team to look after and my goal is to make life easy for them – to be responsive, communicate well and clearly, cushion them from executive management and ensure we’re all heading in the same direction. I also love admin and organisation and there is a LOT of that in being a manager too so that helps.

  45. LawyertoDirector

    Dear Writer,

    I could have been you 3 years ago (licensed attorney working in a non-attorney role when I had to make a choice between going back into practice or becoming a director of a team). I chose the latter, and have not regretted it. I would say the traits that make a good manager are 1) patience, 2) high, but reasonable, standards, 3) the ability to communicate, 4) an understanding that being the manger does not make you the most knowledgeable or the best at everything and 5) the willingness to have direct conversations even if they are hard (my first year I had to deal with a report with body odor). Also know that when you start out, you will make mistakes. This is true of everyone (and was certainly true of me) so don’t expect perfection, just be willing to fess up and apologize when you screw up.

    Another thing I would suggest you consider is whether you are done with being a lawyer. The longer you are out of practice, the less likely the prospect of ever being hired as an attorney again. It does not mean that you have to leave the bar (my company still pays for my membership and CLEs), but after three years people now consider me A Director, not an attorney, and that is the way my career will progress. I am ok with that since there are limits to how high lawyers can go either in private practice or in-house (I am in line to be a VP next year and I now delegate work to our company’s lawyers), but you want to be making the choice which is right for you. After 3 years of school, the Bar Exam and (at least for me) 4 figure student loans, changing the “lawyer” identity you have for yourself does take an adjustment. Good luck whichever decision you make!

    1. Letter Writer

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment! I don’t know if I’m done being an attorney… if I’ll ever be done. God help my husband if I have to do all of my arguing at home :-)

      In all seriousness, leaving behind the identity of “lawyer” is already something I struggle with… I think I could be very happy in a non-attorney role, but there is that very firm part of my mind that says “why the heck did I do all this work?” After working so hard, for so long, toward the concrete goal of being an attorney, it doesn’t seem quite right to just walk away from it. And even after several years in my current position, it still grates my nerves a little bit to tell people “well, I *am* a licensed attorney but I don’t represent Teapots Inc. in that capacity…” (for context, a legal background is very helpful for my particular role, and many people in our org treat me like their attorney and have to be reminded that I am not)

  46. kierson

    Working in a management position has rewarding pros and debilitating cons –
    Pros:
    – You have the control to implement decisions, changes, and projects that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to in a lower-level role. It’s wonderful to watch your ideas materialize.
    – The team/people you manage. When I was in management, I was very big into personal and professional development, as well as team camaraderie. It’s so rewarding to not only see growth within your individual staff but your team as a whole.
    – Feeling and seeing the work you do having an overarching impact on your organization. It’s also helpful to have that “insider information” about changes and such coming on down the pipeline.

    Cons:
    – Number 1 would be your firefighter status. There were some days, weeks, heck even MONTHS where most of my time was spent putting out fires. I worked as a manager in two different organization and industries for 5 years, and this was a frequent occurrence. Because when something goes wrong, it’s up to YOU to fix it.
    – Because it’s up to you to fix it, your performance is held under a stricter microscope. You might be left holding the bag, so to speak, if you don’t handle a situation how your employer wanted you to (even if you don’t agree with them).
    – The team/people you manage. Yes, this is a pro and a con. I will never be able to comprehend why some full-grown “adults” behave the way they do in a professional setting. That can be maddening. You will also sometimes feel like you’re herding cats.
    – Feeling caught in the middle. Middle management is helpful because you know the plight of those working directly under you in combination with your higher-up’s goals and demands. HOWEVER, if these two group’s philosophies and beliefs do not align, then you are placed in a difficult position.

    That being said, it’s going to be a personal choice for you. When I first moved into a management role, I already had specific ideas for how I wanted things to be different if I was in charge. It felt natural. If the move does not feel natural, don’t do it.

  47. The Claims Examiner

    As a former legal secretary I’d like to say this: No matter which position you take, you will be managing people. If you go full attorney, you’ll have support staff to manage. Either way, please ask for some type of management training. A trained attorney is not a trained manager.

    1. Letter Writer

      In our legal dept, the support staff report to an office manager who reports directly to the general counsel, so while attorneys do assign work and (presumably) give feedback for performance, there is a buffer to help manage that relationship. Still, your point is well taken, and I intend to continue the leadership classes I am taking, which I think will be helpful either way. Thanks!

  48. Thorgar

    I’m a lawyer and manager in a non-legal role in a large company. I’m an introverted loner in real life and thought I would struggle in a management role because I’m not exactly a “people person.” However, when it was offered I took the job anyway because I didn’t want any of my peers managing me. I’ve never regretted it and to my surprise discovered I much prefer helping my team members succeed rather than doing the work and getting the credit myself. I learned good management is not a personality type but a skillset you can learn. The skills in fact are really simple; getting yourself in the mindset to use them is the hard part (google “leaders eat last”).

    I’m more of a big picture person and this role allows me to do the strategy and problem solving (working with my team) and leave the ticky tacky little details of litigation to outside lawyers. If you’re more of a detail person you may enjoy the litigation side more than I did.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat

      Yes to all of this. I’m a fairly introverted person too and I found that having the relationship expectations of manager/ direct report actually helped me be more comfortable with having the difficult conversations. My standing and need to act were clear.
      And yes, it’s a specialized skill set.

    2. Letter Writer

      “I’m more of a big picture person and this role allows me to do the strategy and problem solving (working with my team) and leave the ticky tacky little details of litigation to outside lawyers.”

      I could have written this myself. I love the high level planning or “lessons learned” meetings… nitpicking tiny details is starting to wear on me. Just bought Leaders Eat Last via Amazon. Thanks for the recommendation!

  49. srs

    I’m not a manager yet, but I’m the step below manger and am leading projects and teams. I’m in government so the difference between my job and my manager’s job is mainly formal signing authority, formal HR duties as well as the number of projects we’re responsible for. So, while I don’t have anyone officially reporting to me, my manager asks for my feedback on the junior staff and (I assume) incorporates it into their performance reviews. I’m at a good level right now and am not in any rush, but my next move (probably in 2-5 years) will be to a manager position. I want it and think I’ll be good at it. I’m a holistic thinker and am good at seeing how component parts fit together. I like taking a bit of a mentorship role to the junior staff and helping them think about how what we do fits into the wider government context. Although I like the work I do, I don’t feel the need to do it all myself, am comfortable delegating and am getting better at more clearly communicating what I want to see and providing feedback along the way. I’ve also gotten A LOT better at the project management side of things over the years, which is an important skill since managers are responsible for a bunch of projects with multiple timelines.

    In my experience, the people who are both good at and enjoy being managers enjoy the non-technical side of the work at least as much as the technical side. I’m a very deep introvert, but I like people and I like leading my teams. I’m very outcome focused, which I think works well as a management philosophy. A lot of my job is very policy driven, but I have a great deal of flexibility in how I fulfil the policy requirements. Right now I’m still very involved in the actual project work, but I’m senior enough that I can arrange things so that I mostly do the tasks I’m interested in and supervise others in doing the tasks I find more boring. Once I move to manager I won’t be nearly as involved in designing the work, much less actually doing it, though I’ll still be guiding the overall direction. But I think by that point I’ll be ready to move on anyway and I’ll be ok with the fact that the majority of my job will no longer be about the nights and bolts of how to execute projects, but more big picture decisions about what type of projects to authorize and who should be the ones to do them.

  50. Minnesota

    I am a lawyer and work in the legal department of a big company. I have managed people for the past fifteen years of my career here—lawyers and staff, at various times—in addition to having an active legal practice. People manage takes 25-40% of my time, most days. Lawyers are generally not gifted peolple managers, so my strong recommendation is that if you are truly interested in people management take the lawyer job, and pursue management within the legal function. There will likely be considerable opportunity. Best of luck.

    1. Letter Writer

      Always nice to meet a fellow Minnesotan in the vast expanse of the internet :-)

      I’d love to hear your thoughts on why attorneys are generally not great people managers?

      1. Graciosa

        If you think about it, attorneys as a group are much more likely to expect rules to be applied objectively rather than based on the feelings of the people involved (perceived by others as harsh or unfeeling).

        We are also accustomed to arguing forcefully for a position – others can feel attacked and devalued by what we thought was a normal discussion (nothing personal).

        We think about patterns and implications; this can be perceived as being more concerned about possible precedent than about the situation and people right in front of us.

        The intellectual challenges of the practice of law excite many lawyers – but practice analyzing statutes and opinions or arguing in court does not necessarily tend to develop the people skills needed in a manager.

        I do think there are good attorneys who are skillful managers (I hope I’m one of them!), but it’s simply a different skill set that may not have a high correlation to the skills required for the successful practice of law.

  51. Argh!

    Yes, you will be a terrible manager. All new managers are. It’s inescapable! *Wanting* to be a good manager is the most important thing when you’re new at it. Rational self-reflection (vs. beating up on yourself) is the key to that. I’ve seen a few people assume that because they were hired they must have what it takes. What they really have is potential when they’re hired. Achieving that potential takes training and experience, and mentorship if you’re lucky.

    If you tend toward leadership amongst peers, you might get involved with a professional organization as a next step. As a committee chair you’d gain some “supervisory” experience with less risk than managing full time. Most committees have rotating chairs, and you could step down without losing face if it’s not for you. Stepping down after being a manager is really hard to do, and depending on your professional world could look bad on your resume.

    1. Letter Writer

      Getting involved with a professional organization is a fantastic idea. I actually just re-joined a local org and am planning to attend my first event in January. I will definitely be looking for leadership opportunities as a way to test the waters. Thanks for the suggestion!

  52. Manager-at-Large

    Look at who your boss or director will be – and are they interested in staff development (that’s you). As a new manager, you need someone to mentor you and coach you in being a manager. It is different that being a team lead or a project lead – and you’ll need to learn the ropes. Having had good role models in the past is good – but your only viewpoint until now has been how your manager(s) interacted with you – so if you are a self-starting star player that’s what you have seen and experienced – management for a self-starting star player. You’ll need to learn new scripts and new ways of coachings – ones that might not have been right for you but are right for Wakeen or Jane. Plus, you need to understand that you, as a manager, represent “the Company” to your directs. You don’t get to whine about the new policy that you disagree with – you need to implement it and not denegrate it to your directs. You need to find different peers (other managers) so that you too have a peer group where you can vent or discuss hypotheticals. You need a boss or director with skills in developing good managers. You need to be able to say “How can I help Fergus who is struggling with X” without it coming across as throwing Fergus under the bus.

  53. whosthat

    I LOVE that you are asking yourself this question before making a move. There is already a lot of good advice on this thread for you to consider. I will only add to ask for specific management training if you do decide to take on this new role. A good training program can really help you avoid the most common mistakes.

    1. Letter Writer

      Thanks! Fortunately my org has a ton of professional development training and classes that I can take (have been, and continue to do so). I’ve also been lucky to form strong relationships with some really great mentors (managers in my department and others) who are supportive and full of advice and empathy.

  54. GreenDoor

    I’m not a manager, but I am a team lead and am in the chain of command if my director is out of the office. I think that if you only want to be a manager for the pay bump and the chance to wear fancier suits to work, you will not be successful. Similarly if your favorite daydream is, “Gosh, if only *I* was in charge, things would be so much better!” you will also be unsuccessful.

    For me, it was when I got to that beautiful crossroad where I truly love my organization and my department and don’t want to leave – yet I reached the peak of what I could do in my current position (nothing new to learn, no new tasks I could take on). At the same time, we had an increase in demand for he work I did and a higher level administrator retired. The director opted to promote me to a supervisory position where I got to train a new hire on my old (mastered) tasks and also take on some of the responsibility of the retired administrator. The pay bump was just an added bonus.

  55. Newbie

    Very glad to see this post and all the interesting comments. I’ve thought about this issue several times as well because I could see it being a decision I will have to make later in my life. Currently I’m satisfied in my job, however I know I will be ready for something new in about another year or so. I work in a position where I hold some management authority, but I’m not a full on manager. I enjoy the problem solving aspect and I think I’m pretty good about having tough conversations/addressing problems when they come up, but at the same time it can be really exhausting. And I’m not even a full-on manager so I’m sure the stuff I deal with is few and far between in comparison. I’m also very much so a “work to live” person, and I enjoy being in a position where I do not have to take my work home with me. My significant other is a manager and is constantly fielding phone calls, texts, and emails about work at all hours of the day. I think a job that didn’t allow for a lot of work/life balance would really stress me out and cause me a lot of anxiety, but at the same time I would like to progress in my career and I could see this being a natural step. I’ll be eagerly reading comments on this post!

  56. Didi

    For me, a desire to be a manage came down to the company and situation I worked under. Early in my career I never wanted to be a manager because it seemed that management mostly meant dealing with other people’s problems all day. This was true for me at both a small family-run business and at a large international business.

    I changed my mind when I had a job at a midsized company and my departmental manager stepped down. I had been at that job a couple of years, but I really liked it, liked the company, and cared about the people I worked with. Most importantly, I thought I could do a good job at it and I trusted myself to manage the future direction of the company better than others who were applying for the job. I got it and stayed about 7 years.

    Once you’re a manager, it’s like someone gives you keys to a cabinet that was invisible to you up until then. You open the cabinet and learn a lot about how hiring and compensation works, the business strategy, the ins and outs of leadership, and you find out about changes and projects much earlier and in more detail than when you’re worker bee. You get to hire and mentor people, which is great. You also have to deal with crazy people, usually inherited from the previous management, as well as a lot of corporate bull — , which sucks your soul dry.

    When I was ready to move on, I was ready to give up managing – a couple of people was OK but I didn’t want to be in charge of a whole unit as I had been. In my new job I have one direct report, which is great since I get the keys to the invisible cabinet without having to deal with a ton of crazy people or bull.

    So, I think it’s worthwhile to try it in your career.

  57. Former Retail Manager

    A few questions I’d ask myself if I were you:
    1. Are you okay with being held accountable for results that you may have a limited ability to impact? And when that accountability results in a negative consequence for you, can you look at the situation and the players objectively, take responsibility for what when wrong, pass on constructive feedback and not hold it against your employees?

    2. Do you thrive on accomplishing things yourself or mentoring others and watching them accomplish things?

    3. Are you okay with passing the reins to others and letting them approach something a different way than you might? Can you relinquish control when necessary or will it drive you batty?

    So many other great suggestions are above. If at all possible, perhaps there is a position that would enable you to manage on a short -term basis, for maybe 6 months, to dip your toe in the waters to see if it’s really for you? If this doesn’t exist at your firm, maybe suggest it to someone with influence. I think that trying your hand at managing before going full-bore is advantageous for everyone. Best of luck!

  58. Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows

    Managing is very, very hard. Although a select few managers may get lucky and have a dream team of employees, most don’t and need to dedicate a good chunk of time working with their employees. This time takes away from time doing actual work and you may end up with less of a.work/life balance. I’ve witnessed some serious struggles of managers in my day, which made me realize that management was not for me. Another thing to consider is if you really want to manage, or just want the promotion. i have also seen many individuals in manager roles for the wrong reason and fail miserably at being managers. you need to have an interest in helping your team grow professionally and understand that their professional success is partly your responsibility. Not just for them to also get promotions, but for you to highlight their strengths and weaknesses for them to be the best they can be at their job. If all of that sounds too overwhelming, is suggest going the attorney route. you still get a promotion without the added stress of management. If it were me, I’d choose attorney.

  59. mAd Woman

    I manage 10 people who are mainly entry level. The difference between being in a direct creative role and being a manager is huge, they are barely related jobs. (When I just managed one person, it wasn’t very different.) As a manager, I get to prepare some strategy and do some new business/sales, but mostly my job is to act as a buffer between my team and the world, and to solve problems. I’m the one who takes the heat for mistakes from leadership. I’m the one who gets yelled at by clients. I’m the one who receives the stress from my staff about unpopular leadership decisions. And I’m the one who is expected to fix all of those things.

    The job is entirely managing productivity and morale. I enjoy parts of it, like seeing my team learn and grow. I’m proud of their successes. I love to send them to workshops and events, and try to give them assignments that help them reach their professional goals. I don’t think I was entirely prepared for the idea that managing such a large team turns me basically into a full time problem solver.

    I’m not sure how it will be in law for op, but I would definitely consider if you are willing to give up everything you do now on a daily basis for a new set of skills if you grow into a manager position.

  60. AnotherAlison

    I know it is getting late for comments to this post, but to me, the biggest factor here is that this is an opportunity for the OP to have a legal job before diverting from that path perhaps permanently. From a non-lawyer’s perspective, I’d imagine if the OP doesn’t make the move now, she may be permanently locked out of legal jobs. My degree is in engineering, and I work in an industry where licensure is required, so similar to you if you don’t get your technical experience in the first 5 years of your career, you are likely never going to make it back to that career path. It’s fine if you know for sure what you want from your career, but it doesn’t sound like you’re certain. (In my experience, you’ll never be certain. The world is changing. Opportunities come and go.)

    Also, I’ve worked with some of our corporate legal counsel, and they have some unique opportunities in our business to have a high powered job early in their careers. I would not be quick to shut the door on that. (I also worked with a guy who was a lawyer-turned-procurement agent. If legal doesn’t work out, I think the opportunity for a good employee will be there.)

    1. Letter Writer

      I’ve been thinking about this question for several months and I go back and forth. Reading through all of today’s comments, I think I’m leaning this direction as well. It would be easy(ish) to transition from an attorney to non-attorney role (and I’ve already done it once!). But I am fast approaching the point where, if I don’t get back into practicing, I likely never will. I think the outcome that scares me the most is closing the door permanently.

  61. sb

    I’ve seen a lot of criticism here of places having a team lead position where leads don’t have full managerial authority (and thus have to work up the chain to, say, fire a bad employee), but IME it’s a good way to find out if you want to manage, at least if you have a good relationship with the person managing your quasi-reports.

  62. Jen RO

    I am a manager who never wanted this and doesn’t plan to stay in management. (I was basically told by my boss “congratulations, you’re a team lead now”. When I decide to leave this company, it will be for an individual contributor role.)

    I’m a low-level manager with a team of 4, so I don’t need to make any huge decisions. Overall, I think I am doing a decent job – much better than I ever expected -, but it’s definitely not something I want to do long-term.

    The things that I do well:
    * I am very patient.
    * I enjoy training people.
    * I have been reading AAM for years. (It’s been invaluable, really. My boss is remote and doesn’t provide a lot of guidance.)
    * I have a healthy amount of common sense.
    * I am very good at the job my department does. (This may not be important in all situations, but I spend 50% of my time actually doing the work and 50% managing; understanding the work also helps me train and assess my reports better.)

    The things I struggle with:
    * I hate conflict. I’ve gotten better in time but I still hate it.
    * I don’t like to delegate to people I think will do a subpar job. (See: I am good at it.)
    * I am bad at long-term planning and I am especially bad at following things.
    * I am not organized.
    * Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with people.

  63. cheluzal

    I was a team lead of 20 people for the last 3 years. I enjoyed my work and am a great employee and this let me rise in rank and get noticed by the big shots. However, I will say I got frustrated dealing more intimately with colleagues! Some act like babies, and I do not coddle. People with Master’s degrees still floundering…ugh…it became stressful.

    I’m not lead this year and can close my office door, do my thing, and let someone else pick up the tragic pieces my colleagues leave behind. It is a company eye-opener though! People I thought were great failed me in shocking ways…

    1. Former Retail Manager

      Ahhhh….your last sentence….so true. I have stepped in for my boss for limited periods of time and reviewed peers work, as required by our procedures. People that I know are sharp (and I believed to be doing excellent work) turn in some absolute crap work. I found it astonishing.

  64. Fiddlesticks

    I’m probably too late to catch the commenting wave but…

    This question is so timely, as I’m looking at a potentially super-awkward situation where I may be asked to manage the person whose role I took over as a maternity cover upon their return. And we are technically peers in terms of company hierarchy. And they have year/experience seniority on me. All with the subtext of “I stole your job and now you’re getting layered.”

    In conclusion: I’m printing all of this out.

  65. char

    I would start with taking a look at what you like and dislike about your current job. What do you wish you got to do more of? Is there anything you wish you didn’t have to do at all?

    Personally, I know that I don’t want to be a manager, and here’s why: I’m in a mostly technical role, but as a team lead I also have some supervisory responsibilities. I ADORE the technical part of my job… and meanwhile I find it to be a huge, draining chore to plan out how to assign work to other people. I’m also not that good at it, frankly. I’m working on improving, but unlike with technical skills, no one seems to be able to give me training on “soft skills” like this, so I’ve been struggling a lot.

    So in your case… if there are ever times where you’re taking charge and directing other people on what to do, even in a small way – does that feel like an enjoyable challenge to you, something that you’d be interested in exploring more? Or would you rather be doing more lawyer-ly things and leaving the human-wrangling up to someone else?

  66. Stefanie

    Hello,
    It is my fault that I didn’t read all of the comments, so please disregard if another has already mentioned (I skipped after the first 10 or so since they seemed fairly negative and I don’t feel that way). I really enjoy and love being a manager and I don’t have an exceeding amount of patience HOWEVER I do have the ability to hold my tongue until I have the correct course of action, can communicate thoroughly with coworkers and staff, stand up for what is ethically right and wrong, know when to ask for help or delegate, and can shake off completely irrational/unbelievable activities or requests (sometimes it’s like I have 15+ children that are all older than myself!).

    It does require you to be able to know that it’s not roses and butterflies every day, but you learn about yourself and your ability to interact with others. I see myself as a coach, leader, and mentor (NOT a manager) and the biggest thing I had to wrap my own head around is that your success is based not only on your actions, but primarily those of your team. My ultimate goal is respect and fairness with and from my staff and to excel as a team – I don’t aim to be a friend, however to be friendly and hopefully someone that is open to talking about positives and negatives – even if it includes feedback that I may not want to hear about myself. It is an ever evolving role as each person sees their position differently and they interact and expect different things from their manager.

    I genuinely am fulfilled knowing I was able to provide guidance, help or build a relationship that facilitates a coworker excelling in their goals or being promoted. It is not a role for someone who just wants to move up the ladder as that view would likely lead to micromanaging, frustration, and anger at your fellow coworkers. At the same time, it’s one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve every had and I still keep in contact with a majority of the people I’ve worked with. Good luck!

  67. FTW

    When I started my career, I had some absent managers, some actively terrible managers, and a couple incredibly good managers.

    When I was at a place when I had a promotion opportunity, I realized that:
    1) I wanted to take on a role where I could make a greater impact on my organization,
    2) my company was such an awesome place when you had good managers that I wanted to give my team that opportunity, and
    3) I thrive on new challenges… and managing definitely falls into that category!

  68. Wandering Anon

    I really appreciate the regular and occasional commenters for providing thoughtful feedback for letter writers. As many people have said over the years, it’s rare on the interwebs.

    I’ve been a manager (middle-manager) in higher ed for the last 4 years. While many of the things mentioned above relate to staff management or the way a manager does their work, I thought of a few other things that I’ve learned over the past few years.

    1) Not every problem needs to be solved (or solved by you). This can be a tough one for (me) people who are problem-solvers and solutions-focused for living.

    2) People will leave for a variety of reasons even if you’re a good manager. (But make sure you’re not the problem. Get feedback outside your echo chamber.)

    3) Management requires a surprising amount of communication and relationship-building.

    4) You will sometimes have to do things that don’t benefit you directly. You need to be comfortable with this and know it’s part of the package.

    5) Make sure your direct reports can take time for personal appointments and vacation. Have a system in place so that you’re not calling them on the beach in Hawaii or at their sick mom’s bedside. Don’t penalize them or shame them for taking time they need to be their best.

  69. Not A Manager Any More

    I always wanted to be a manager – largely because I had so many bad ones and thought I’d therefore be good at it. Turns out – it was not a good fit for me. I was frankly always a high performer, and I had *no idea* how to manage employees that were not. I also excelled at the “push back against bad/unfair directives from upper management” stuff but struggled with “yeah this directive kind of sucks but we have to do it anyway” stuff.

    Basically I thought managing would be all mentoring/advocating for staff and didn’t think about the correcting/coaching/making unpopular but necessary decisions. (I tend to avoid conflict in general so… all of this is not really a surprise in hindsight!)

    I quit that job, moved into a track where management is not the only path to advancement, and am much happier!

  70. HRTY

    I am wondering if the OP had ever been involved in trying to do other things for example I got involved in setting something up for my synagogue and I really liked the responsibility a lot of it is also dependent on your personality as a lot of people said above. I think a lot of is the ability to listen and really understand the problem before coming up with a solution I can’t tell you how many times this has been an issue. Also I think the people who you mange need to trust you. If someone says they don’t want something they said repeated make sure that if you need to disclose the information you let them know or be clear that what they ask may not be possible.

  71. TV Broadcast

    This past year was my 1st year of being a manager/supervisor and all of the comments above I totally agree with.

    I didn’t know if I wanted to be a manager/supervisor until this job came around earlier this year. The pay bump was awesome, but the description was what sold me. It gave me a chance to learn the ropes of being a supervisor while keeping me as back up to my old job (aka, sick call fill-in). So it was the best of both worlds. Eventually, I think I like being a supervisor/manager for reasons below.

    The hardest for me was not only the hard conversations, but to eventually let go and let my reports do their jobs without me hovering over them – aka let them grow. It helped that my immediate boss left last month and my co-manager (we’re the same level and both were tasked to lead the team after immediate boss left) – went on vacation for 10 days.

    Those were the 10 best days of my life. I learned very quickly how better to keep deadlines, to say no (or at least give others options) on projects b/c we had so much due within the last two weeks (yay Christmas deadlines!) , and to make sure my staff were happy, but productive. After those 10 days with stuff due early! (hooray!), I learned what it meant to truly give kudos to my staff for all of their hard work by writing a department email detailing (and bragging) about what we did for the last month of projects. For reference, I co-lead a creative department within a TV network.

    Right now, as I sit and type this, I realize that my next growth is to learn how to do those hard conversations, but that I really enjoy giving others credit and am so proud of them (it feels almost paternal in a weird sense).

  72. Quinalla

    I originally started managing because there was a gap that needed filled. Once I started doing it, I realized I liked it and was pretty good at it. I really get invested in people, which can be hard when folks leave, but really helps me to help them. Delegating can be really tough still at times and disciplining people can be hard for me too.

    Have you ever managed people in any capacity, even outside of work? If you have, think about how it went, what you liked and didn’t, what you were good at and weren’t, etc. If you haven’t, think about your best and worst managers, what they do and if you think you’d enjoy it.

    Good luck and I’m always glad my work has a technical and managerial track for folks so you can advance without becoming a manager if it isn’t for you.

  73. Emmer

    I’m really late responding to this, but if you were a litigator before (I think you said criminal defense – me, too!), you may want to think about whether you still like other aspects of being a lawyer even if you hate being in court. I love taking a problem and finding out the answer, so being an advice attorney is a better fit for me than litigation. I looked at management and got some training in it, but fundamentally, I like advice lawyering more than I like the administrative work of management. That means I’m looking at in house counsel, government work, etc. Someone mentioned the difference between trial attorneys and advice attorneys to me and it was like a light bulb went off. That idea may resonate with you, too.

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