Many people become managers, but that doesn’t mean they should be managers.
I’m not talking about not having “what it takes.” Even if you’re adequately prepared, so much about management has to be learned on the fly and everyone makes mistakes. I’m talking about whether management is right for you.
Will becoming a manager provide career fulfillment and play to your strengths? Or will the role leave you feeling frustrated, disconnected, and wondering what to do about it?
The trouble is, when thinking about being a manager, most of us tend to focus on the change in title and nice bump in salary. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re all working to get ahead in life and it’s perfectly natural to want a job title and compensation that reflect our accomplishments.
Consider first that the dictionary’s definition of manager is “a person responsible for controlling or administering all or part of a company or similar organization.” The key word here is administering. As manager, a large part or your workday is spent handling things like budgeting, measuring productivity and, perhaps most importantly, making sure your group functions well as part of a larger company.
Essentially, your team’s collective output is a tributary to yours. Thus, success depends on your ability to effectively motivate, set goals, assign tasks, communicate and develop people. For some, all of that mentoring, shepherding, and organizing is extremely rewarding. For others, it’s tedious, at best.
So, what do you do if you don’t want to be a manager? Does it mean you’ll be like one of those Jurassic Park mosquitos, suspended as if in amber, doing the same job at the same salary forever and ever? Not at all (just read this ex-Nickelodeon executive’s account). Forging a path for yourself is definitely possible, especially since more businesses are exploring flat hierarchical structures or are open to creating new titles and positions to keep valued employees.
Before you march over to HR or your boss’s office to discuss options, set yourself up for a productive and positive conversation.
● Think about your job and department. Ask yourself how you could take on more responsibility and elevate your group’s performance.
● Expand your scope. Is there a way you could provide leadership to your team and even other departments?
● Whether you don’t want to manage people, feel the hours would be too much, or simply love the work you do and would hate to leave that behind, list the reasons why being responsible for another’s livelihood is not for you.
● Develop a conversation strategy. When talking to your boss or to HR, you need to communicate two things: 1) that you love what you do, want to progress, and want to stay with your company, and 2) that while you do want more responsibility, you do not want to progress into management.
If all of the above do not open doors, there are still options:
Look elsewhere: The obvious place to begin is with start-ups, but there are established companies (like Zappos) that embrace a non-traditional flat hierarchical structure.
Strike out on your own: Becoming an entrepreneur, consultant, or freelancer offers all the career possibilities in the world. But discussing the logistics of making that jump would require its own blog post! To get an idea of what to expect, read this Entrepreneur article.