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Is Management for Me?: The Downside of Being a Manager

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The Downside of Being a Manager

Nobody likes the boss and it's lonely at the top. You're the person who always has to make the decision, right or wrong, and somebody is always out for your job. On top of that there are legal liabilities that non-managers don't have as well as financial restrictions.

    Lonely At The Top You are not as close to the employees in your group when you are the boss. You can't afford to be. A manager needs to be a little removed from the employees in order to objectively make the hard decisions.

    Many first time supervisors, promoted from within the group to supervise it, are amazed at how quickly former friends become cold and distant. Even an experienced manager, brought in from outside, finds the employees more aloof than they are with each other.

    No Immediate Reinforcement A painter gets almost immediate feedback on whether or not he's doing a good job. Is the paint the right color; is it going where it should. A programmer also finds out pretty quickly whether or not a new sub-routine runs. Management isn't that way. Goals are usually more long-term, quarterly or even annual. The real measure of a manager's success, an improvement in their people management skill is even more long term and more difficult to manage.

    If you want immediate feedback on how well you're doing, try widget manufacturing. If you can wait months or longer for feedback, management may be for you.

    Buck Stops Here You may, and in most cases should, have your employees make many of their own decisions. However, ultimately the responsibility for the final decision rests with the manager. When it appeared that insulation might have damaged the space shuttle wing, it was a manager who had to make the decision. It's the manager's job to make the decision, right or wrong.

    Somebody Always Wants Your Job There is always someone after your job. Sometimes several people are. As a first line supervisor, you may have several people in your group who think they could do your job better and are actively working to get that chance. As CEO of a company, you have several people within your own organization who want your job and more people on the outside who are after it as well. They may not agree with the decisions you made (see above) or felt they could have made better decisions. You may have actually made a wrong decision and they will use that as leverage to try and push you aside.

    The higher you go in any organization, the fewer positions there are at that level and the more competition there is for them.

    Legal Liabilities Managers have legal liabilities that most workers don't. Managers frequently have to sign documents, they have to ensure the workplace is free from harassment, they have to keep their people safe. If a manager fails in any of these responsibilities, they may be held legally liable.

    Financial Restrictions Managers often have financial restrictions placed on them because of their position. The most common of these are the insider trading restrictions. The insiders list at a company is almost exclusively managers. While a worker can exercise stock options or trade in the company stock whenever they wish, the managers on the insider list are restricted to windows of time that exclude immediately before and after quarterly financial results are announced.

Weigh the Pros and Cons

To decide whether a career in management is right for you, you have to weigh the pros and cons. You have to decide what's best for you, not what matters to someone else. If power, pay, and prestige are important to you, you may want to consider a career in management. However, if you don't like being legally or financially responsible for the actions of others, management may be a bad choice. In the real world, it's not going to be that cut and dried. There will be some things about management that appeal to you and others that don't. You have to weigh all the factors and decide.

Bottom Line

Management as a career path is not right for everyone. You have to like responsibility. You have to enjoy working with people. You have to be able to deal with uncertainty and making decisions when you never seem to have all the facts in time. You probably will get paid more, but believe me you'll earn it.

However, when it all comes together; when all your people are pulling together toward the same goal and setting new records it can be a great feeling. When you see someone you trained go off on their own and become successful, you can take a certain amount of pride for having helped them get started. Management can be frustrating, and a lot of hard work, but I'm glad it's the choice I made.

Next Steps

If you decide management is not for you, great. We all need talented people in our groups. If you decide you do want to start down the management path, start with this page of helpful information I put together for Managers just starting out: Beginning Management.

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