Leadership

So you want to be a manager

Management seems to be the Holy Grail of the working world. But many people want the mantle for all the wrong reasons.

There is a scourge running rampant in the working world. It's called "I want to be a manager" syndrome.

This is the desire on an employee's part of wanting a "manager" title above all else. It's not a desire to lead a team to great things, mind you, it's a desire to bear the manager label. Somehow these people just feel too special to be among the rank and file, despite not having any leadership skills to speak of. They're convinced that the world just can't wait for their ideas, even though they have no earthly idea how to turn those ideas into practical results.

Here's a news flash: General brilliance does not necessarily qualify you to lead people -- leadership skills do. You may be the best developer in the world, or you may be able to diagnose any network problem in three minutes flat, but that does not automatically make you a good candidate for a manager. That's like saying "I play a mean cello, so I should conduct the entire orchestra." These are two different skill sets.

The Manager tag should not be your goal. It is not something by which to measure your personal worth. It's a responsibility, and it's a lot of work. It's also very unfair to team members to take on their management if you don't really know how to do it.

If you think you deserve to be in management, ask yourself these questions:

  • Could you lay off an employee that you like very much because upper management needs to make cuts?
  • Could you confidently promote one of your employees above others?
  • Would you be able to tell an employee he or she needs to attend to his or her hygiene better?
  • Can you lead a team to results without micromanaging?
  • Could you say "no" to upper management when they make unreasonable demands of your staff?
  • Could you take responsibility for failures of your team even if only one staffer screwed up?

Those are the kinds of things you're going to have to deal with in management. Thnk about it before you take the leap.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

83 comments
drdosus
drdosus

I've been there and I don't like it. Management is NOT the 'holy grail', at least not for me. I would much rather be one of the 'mules' than to manage ever again. In the last 10 years or so, I have successfully avoided any such bs management positions, which BTW, has cost me raises, points on quarterly evals, & etc. Current management does not understand _anyone_ who does not want to "join the ranks of leadership". To put it simply, I am a technician and I belong in the field, working; NOT behind a desk doing nothing of any import. 'nuff said?

TechRepublic
TechRepublic

... but neither can my 'manager', so why should he have all of the money?

mcdod
mcdod

Nothing worse than an insecure Manager whose in over his head trying to achieve goals with an ego that hides their weak leadership ability. I think the main theme in Management is leading by example with confidence while tempering the ego. Get the canoe and the paddlers going in the same direction and let them know they will be supported and held accountable. Managers whose mandate is not leadership through accountability for themselves and subordinates, better start attending another clothing party.

jm
jm

I am afraid the assumptions underlying your article do not seem to reflect the realities of today, which is that you have technical delivery managers, and you have administrative managers. Modern application organizations do not promote on the basis of 'leadership skills' but on the basis of 'technical aptitude'. This is true at Microsoft, and true at my company. The lead engineer is promoted into the supervisory position responsible for technical delivery. The reasoning behind is that the technically apt are often the only people who can lead a team to deliver on time and on budget with a high level of quality. The administrative 'manager' above this ends up being someoene who does the administrative work to support this model, does the HR, approves everyone's vacation, etc., but the goal attainment process is entirely handled within technical function. The main reason for this is that technology is so time intensive, you need specialist to come in and to all this administative stuff so the technical team has time to stay current and do their best work. It's possible to be quite a boring person with a flat personality and no leadship skills whatsoever and to be an administrative manager. A "manager" is not really a shot caller or even a motivational expert, but someone who gets to do a lot of administrative support work for groups who acheive the technical objectives. Technical professionals do not generally need supervision the same way that factory workers or building maintenance teams might. They are motivated by technology. Technical people want to work under people who are better techncically, so they can learn the best practices and acehive the most. As high paid professionals they are capable of working with all sorts of folks even those with glaring personality defects. They will be quite forgiving. What they don't want is someone who read a 30 year old management textbook defining what management is and applying that to the organization.

sudipta.panda
sudipta.panda

Good Post and tough questions. Though the quality of being manager is there with every person in different magnitude, its the leadership which pull this quality to limelight. People apparently accept the manager based on leadership quality he/she poses. Manager with our leadership quality is like Iron with out having magnetism. -- Sudipta Panda

shanti.sg
shanti.sg

This is what we call Halo effect. Please note that most of the time the best technial person of the team will become manager and which can really affect the balance of the team how the work is done. Manager has to there for your service and able to anticipate. He should not be reactive and have a good human attitude. This is really a vast topic to discuss.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Many IT people I knosw don't want to be managers- but for manager salary, they'd eventually act like one. It's easy: * Could you lay off an employee that you like very much because upper management needs to make cuts? Sure, with pleasure. Getting rid of coworkers is always a good thing. BTW, what does "employee that you like very much" mean? It doesn't make sense to me. Must be some exotic phrase in Managerese. * Could you confidently promote one of your employees above others? Of course. My motto is: Promote confidently, and watch underlings seethe with jealousy joyfully. * Would you be able to tell an employee he or she needs to attend to his or her hygiene better? Yeah, I love telling my coworkers that they stink. * Can you lead a team to results without micromanaging? Absolutely. Micromanaging consumes time and effort, both of which could be better utilized for climbing that corporate ladder. * Could you say ?no? to upper management when they make unreasonable demands of your staff? I'd prefer to make unreasonable demands on my staff myself. * Could you take responsibility for failures of your team even if only one staffer screwed up? Responsibility always, consequences never.

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

Just like a extraodinary athlete, writer, musician, artist or actor, the manager is born with a gift. The gift can then be developed to levels that the individual themself control. I have seen many business promote the most senior or tenured employee to a position in management based on a personal liking. This is no differnt than nepotism.

PM III
PM III

There's a huge difference in levels of management. I was stupid enough to believe I would be allowed to manage people. Not so. I was just a mouthpiece to positively present sugar-coated turds that upper management thought were wonderful ideas. My whole life was spent hoping to survive. The best accomplishments I could attain were putting out fires. That's why I like project management a whole lot better. You clearly define the scope, plan the work, and work the plan. Simple, fulfilling. It's great to look back on a project I led and see the results still in production after 15 years. All I can remember as a 1st line manager is being a whipping post.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Could you ask one of your employees to do something illegal? Could you endanger them to save money? Could you lie to them about meeting agreed expectations, to avoid rocking the boat mid-project. Could you ignore child porn on your bosses computer? Could keep the whistle unblown? If you can answer yes to all these questions you are cut out for management. I'm a no on every one of these, while being a yes for all yours. Theory vs practice strikes again.... I don't want to be a manager, management cured me of that fantasy decades ago. It's a dirty job, others are more than happy to do.

bboyd
bboyd

Have acted as a leader in the past. Don't care for the additional responsibility. However people who ask to be managers/leaders in my experience should have been the last choice. Theirs is not ambition, it is greed. A few of them broke that mold but seldom ones who ased for the position. Just heroes with the task thrust upon them in times of need.

mckinnej
mckinnej

While technical skills can be an asset, they are not a requirement for a leader. (Note I said Leader, not Manager.) A leader is an enabler. They cut through and take care of the crap so you can get your job done. If you are depending on your leader to tell you how to administer a firewall (or whatever technical task) then s/he's in the wrong job and you just might be too.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

,lead by a good leader, than someone who's only qualification in those two skillsets is being a better developer than I am, any day of the week. Most of the best technical people I've seen promoted to management were outstandingly crap at it. This made their personality faults glaring indeed. I want someone to do all that paper shuffling stuff, I need someone to do it. I want to concentrate on what I'm good at. I don't need technical direction off my manager (fortunately), I need a strategy, goals, allowable tactics. If you are going to be and stay a better developer than I am, you aren't going to have time to manage, and won't know where to lead.

ChallengerTech
ChallengerTech

Thank You! What you said, so eloquently, were my EXACT thoughts! This article is off the mark and a bit misguided.

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

* Could you say "no" to upper management when they make unreasonable demands of your staff? I'd prefer to make unreasonable demands on my staff myself. * Could you take responsibility for failures of your team even if only one staffer screwed up? Responsibility always, consequences never. ================================= The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.

darrylhadfield
darrylhadfield

Just like an extraordinary athlete, etc etc.. ? Nonsense. Speaking as a consultant now, with a history of junior, mid-level, senior, and executive IT management behind me, you can teach anyone how to be a manager.. with only one pre-requisite: The ability to make a decision. As one of my mentors told me, "Give me someone who can make a decision. I'll teach him how to make the RIGHT decision."

dwerhart
dwerhart

I have said this before and will say it again, there are three ways to garner respect in your job - 1 is to earn it. Hard work, honesty, fairness, and a sense of pride in your work can earn you respect. 2 is to inspire it. Inspiration of others by who you are, what you are, and how you will be - your character - can inspire others. 3 - demand respect whether you deserve/earn/inspire it or not. I have worked for some great managers and some horrible managers and various managers between these extremes. I will say this though - when I asked those who I thought were great leaders and managers - what made them that way, NONE of them said "I was born with it." Every one of them said that it was a lot of hard work, soul searching, willingness to change, and TRUE humility. No one mentioned kissing up, back stabbing, taking credit for other peoples work, not taking responsibility but passing the buck, etc. Saying that, many of them were mentored by a manager who saw one or more of these traits and chose to invest in them. I was lucky enough to have a few of those in my path. I also served some very self-centered, morally weak, detrimental managers as well - they were NOT leaders. After seeing the carnage of bad leadership contrasted with great leadership I was inspired to become a leader in the I.T. field. I saw a chance to change things, make a difference in the careers of others, and in the efficiency of a few organizations. I am NOT a born leader. I know I am not a perfect leader either - I need to grow, change, become more of the leader I want to be for my team and our organization. However, when I observe traits of effective leadership in people that I lead, my desire is to mentor them as best I can because I see them as a positive impact on our culture and our field. I believe we need more great leaders in the I.T. field. While I may not be one of these yet, I would like to be and I hope I never stop learning and growing in this endeavor.

andrew.mitchell
andrew.mitchell

While I understand the point, I think the key here is to note that true management ability is a lifestyle. Not a skill, or gift. Proper management is a combination responsibility, logic, reason, analytics, understanding, openness, compassion and above all self-critique. A true manager realizes this combination, how to implement it and why each component is vital to success.

sudipta.panda
sudipta.panda

Mostly not right. The statement could be right for "Leaders" not managers. People who knows the reality and engage with work together and build the ability to tackle over all situation gradually become managers. They r not born managers.

dwalsh
dwalsh

People want to be managers because they get paid more - it ain't rocket science, but it's a different story when they find out what it's actually like...

aandruli
aandruli

Tony has posted some great questions. Others would be -- Can you fudge numbers to make your team look more productive than they are? Can you spread the word whenever your team has a sucess? Can you effectively cover things up when your team makes a mistake? Can you make friends with your superiors better than the other team managers? Can you manipulate people in other departments to owe you favors? Do you know how to look good on paper -- being good is not as important as looking good when those reports hit the VP's desk

Kam Guerra
Kam Guerra

"Theirs is not ambition, it is greed." And I bet you expect a paycheck. Very few people with any measure of skill work for free.

JamesRL
JamesRL

About 15 years ago, my manager asked me the typical yearly review question, where do you see yourself in three years. I answered, "not in your job". She asked why and I replied,"too much bureacracy, meetings, paperwork". From that point on she strove to make me a manager.... Sometimes I wish I could go back. James

kevaburg
kevaburg

I could not have worded it any better! Nice one!

JRJS
JRJS

Your post demonstrates a misconception about management, which is shared by too many companies these days! There are too many people holding management positions that are unable to manage - they simply administer company policies without questioning them. Effective managers manage - that is, they do all they can to get the best out of their people for the organisation and they do all they can to get the best out of the organisation for their people.

ldenny
ldenny

You hit the nail on the head. Not all people want to be a manager and quite frankly the "paper shuffling stuff" is the only words I need to see to tell me that I'd rather continue doing what I do best.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It might make you better able to communicate with me. It might make you go in a direction I wish to follow. There again we might have a linux vs windows fallout, judge each other arses, and go our separate ways. Technical excellence is a help when leading technical people, but it isn't a substitute. I know brilliant techs, who couldn't lead me to a girlie bar after a twelve hour session, while offering to pay.

magillj
magillj

*Edited for clarity* People keep saying things like "responsibility, not accountability" or "responsibility, not consequences." What is responsibility if not accountability? And what does it mean to take responsibility for something if you won't accept the consequences of it? Paint a picture for me where someone takes responsibilty for something and yet someone else bears the consequences. Seriously. I can't imagine what that would be. Responsibility, accountability, consequences... they are all the same thing in this discussion. To say that someone can take one without another is a meaningless diversion from what is actually happening. That person is trying to puff up their ego without actually doing anything. I'll end with dictionary.com's definition of being "responsible": answerable or accountable, as for something within one's power, control, or management (often fol. by to or for): He is responsible to the president for his decisions.

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

perceive of you. #3 is used by poor managers. People want to follow one by their own free will. If you must demand respect, well more "learning and growing" are necessary.

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

no leader, however at great leader is always going to be successful manager. Look at the great military leaders of the world. Everyone of them were also good managers. And yes, they are born with that ability,,,, if you disagree with that statement you are probably not going to be a good manager nor ever experienced working with one.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

of managing their environment and the desire to practice it are born. It's the guy with the spare geometry set at school. The person who read the agenda before the meeting, the strage kid who organised the school play, the girl who made sure there were cocktail sticks for the party. Very few are born leaders as well.

SilverBullet
SilverBullet

Oh, it's money that motivated,,,,,,,, Peter Tchaikovsky & George Gershwin Sandro Botticelli & Michelangelo Robert E. Lee & George Patton Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson Michael Jordon & Tiger Woods I don't and never will buy that notion. These folks were born with a gift that they developed into greatness.

a_burton
a_burton

You have fundamentally hit the nail right on the head, whilst also completely missing the point as well...what a paradoxical paradigm. The original article also failed miserably to address the real issues. It is basic problem solving 101. People seek management because it is a more secure, (they do the firing, duh!), and the pay is better. Fair enough, but the original article asked why people would want to do the job given it's roles and responsibilities, without addressing the real question...why would anyone want to be a manager if we accepted that all roles are equally important in the work environment and managers weren't paid multiple times the wages/salaries of their subordinates without contributing any more to the value of the company than their subordinates, given that they generally don't "produce" anything? Who would want to be a manager if they gained no more remuneration as a true reflection of them being merely an overhead and not a productive member of the company? Any takers for that job?

jck
jck

I've seen 3 of my managers who were skilled and qualified to be an IT manager. Too many times, the person running the place is a "yes man" who is not afraid to kiss butt above his, and kick butt below his. And quite often, the people who are willing to apply for posted management jobs have two traits: 1) they saw the pay range and wanted it 2) they'd be willing to fire their mom to meet a fiscal goal because it's easier than hashing through their budget to determine the least detrimental way to their realm. Most management types are cut-and-dry, looking for the easy way out types. Get it done no matter how it happens or who you hurt. Then they'll tell the same person in the grocery store two weeks later "It was nothing personal. It was a business decision." When you affect someone's ability to feed their kids even though they were a good worker, it is personal. Anyways...rant over.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Something my first IT manager taught me, Computer systems have people in them, otherwise they are a waste of space. I'm more comfortable with nice predictable hard stuff, but soft and fuzzy is part of the job, in fact it's the reason for it. Can't be discounted, can't be forgotten. In fact most people management failures come from treating people like things....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Are you sure? I agree with the second sentence. The third one, I have no experience of so I'm unable to say for definite (hey I've only being doing this work stuff, since 81, plenty of time yet. :( :( ). It would be pretty to think so though.....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There are actually people who find writing code boring you know. It takes all sorts....

kevaburg
kevaburg

If they were paying and it was after a twelve hour session I would certainly consider the offer...;)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

are sadly lacking, it won't help anything. Quite probably it will make it worse, and you've just lost your best tech as a tech to put a nice shiny tin lid on the screw up. How can it possibly be right that a poor manager/leader can rescue a failing project? Don't pick your best tech, pick the best leader/manager out of your techs. Anything else is merely staking a goat ready for the failure.

jm
jm

It's not always comfortable or pleasant to have the top technical person put in lead position. But companies have figured out this is sometimes the only way to get results on critical projects. So it goes. In a company that is not delivering an application as a core product, or government job, you might not have to endure this. Folks working in delivery role at places like Apple, Oracle and Microsoft, do.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There are a shed load of managers who won't accept that as an in use definition though. Except from us of course, that they insist on....

sudipta.panda
sudipta.panda

"if you disagree with that statement you are probably not going to be a good manager nor ever experienced working with one." Its bit judgmental... isn't it? The missing point is that all leaders are born leaders? Not true... Now if u talk about Jack W. (GE), Narayana Murthy (Infosys)... folks were not born leaders, rather environment, situation, luck and of course endeavor are like catalyst.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You can lead You can manage You can manage and lead You can do neither. My point was that just as you get people with innate leadership qualities, you get those with innate management qualities. Have you read Dune? In God Emperor, Leto picked his administrators from those who rebelled against him. He did it because they had principles they were prepared to fight a god to keep. Most people just shat themselves and did as they were told... If authority wants respect, it needs to earn it, just like anyone else. It's generally easy to do, you show some back....

kevaburg
kevaburg

The people you describe are not necessarily the people born to be leaders. At least all except the strange kid that organised the school play. The guy with the spare geometry set? Paranoid perhaps? The person that must always have a spare everything? This person becomes the micromanager. The girl who made sure there were cocktail sticks for the party? She has an eye for detail and is a team player but that doesn't mean she is a born manager. The person who read the agenda? He likes to be prepared. To that end he could be a good manager, but could he also be the person that is scared to miss something? Paranoid that something will pass him by? The kid that organised the school play? That is not only a manager, but a leader as well. Someone that most would follow even if sometimes they don't know why. A personal leadership icon for myself is Lt. Gen. Sir Peter de la Billiere. Tri-service commander in the Falklands, Commander Land in the first Gulf War, but it isn't his soldiering skills that draw me to his leadership. As a child he was a rebel, someone whose respect for authority was not all it should be. But when he went to Sandhurst, he learned leadership and management. Having met him on one occasion, I can see why he is iconised by so many soldiers. Here is a man who can destabilise a country with a bad decision. His decisions affected the Army globally. And yet to talk to him, he is down to earth and (although the appropriate respect must always be paid) listens to his soldiers on a personal one-to-one basis, hears their opinions and their concerns and then answers them honestly and openly. People knew exactly where they stood. My point is this: There is an aspect of leadership and managment that some inherently have. But there is always the need to learn how to improve and appreciate that there is always something that one doesn't know. A persons background does not form the basis of their future ability and to that end, a manager can not always be born, but can learn his skill and still be extremely good.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

of time at a very small number of places. One good manager has a bad day, employs the CEO's nephew. He makes a suggestion to Uncle Jim, and instead of being reamed for epmloying a clueless thimble brain in an effort to curry favour, you get a pay rise. Slice one in the death of a thousand cuts. I'm not sure it's a bad manager problem as such, as a nice easy metric to measure the value of a manager. Sort of like that feeble minded 'Lines Of Code' one for devlopers that was very popular at one point.

tbmay
tbmay

...I LOL at your way with words while agreeing with your insight. Quote: "Unfortunately various crap managers over time have quite sensibly used their power to be rewarded based on the amount of things they could control instead of their sadly lacking ability to control." Priceless. The question have is can we ever expect that to change? It's not just an I.T. phenomenon.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Do you get the better salary because you manage or did you manage to get your self a better salary. Essentially management is the imposition of a beneficial order on your environment. A good manager does produce something. They do it well and they do it all the time. They manage the environment which can include people, conducive to a particular objective. Obviously in order to do that they need certain level of control. Unfortunately various crap managers over time have quite sensibly used their power to be rewarded based on the amount of things they could control instead of their sadly lacking ability to control. If you believe you aren't producing you are probably right, if you were managing, you'd identfy yourself as the problem, and then correct it. Or of course you could point to all those 'subordinates' and say you deserve to be paid more than them because you control them.... You've got to be careful about the attitude that comes along with the word subordinate, by the way. Run into some one like me and your lack of people management skills will stand out like J-lo at a pensioners convention. Don't use it, don't think it, you'll do better.

jck
jck

It just always struck me as funny. For money matters, they go to a finance director/CFO. For personnel issues, they go to HR. But in the past couple of decades when they want to know whether or not to implement an IT solution, they will usually inquire of EVERYONE as to whether or not it will benefit them. Then you get down to whether a dept. manager/director will look at it and say no out of sincereity, or that he sees the budget for it and knows if it gets nixed he can try to get a chunk of that pie. I kinda wish IT got the same respect and treatment as other groups within a lot of companies get.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

that we are techies because we are too thick to make it in management. The fact that we thought about it, decided we wouldn't like and wouldn't be good at it, and that we do like and are good at what we do, is apparently irrelevant. That's why they talk about promoting a lead tech to manager. It's not a promotion, it's a career switch.

jck
jck

A corporation can't validate a $2000 a year pay raise for an engineer for doing good work that makes a income-providing product. But, they can justify golf trips and country club memberships...even for low-end guys in sales and marketing. I guess in business...the better you kiss arse and schmooze, the more you get.

dvanduse
dvanduse

This one always got me as well. And the first thing they do is lay off. I read a Dilbert book (the guy is a genius) that said companies want the best employees in the industry but only want to pay the average pay. So they have to find someone that is smart enough to be one of the best, but not expect the higher wage because of it.

jck
jck

What most companies do is like a bad classic car owner. They'll brag all day about what they have and how well it works, but they then don't take the time to care for them properly and make sure they are tended to. I haven't been a valued asset at a job since 2007. And, I've recently thought about going back to work there til I leave the state.

jck
jck

[i]I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but managers can't share everything they know with their staff. You can hope that they share everything thats relevant to you that they are allowed to share. If you have a manager who can't not share, then how do you trust them when you have to give them something in confidence?[/i] Sure they can't share everything. But, it is about sharing what is going to affect your people...with your people. As for not sharing pertinent workplace info vs not sharing your personal/ private/ confidential things are two totally different beasts. [i]I do believe that you sometimes have to set "stretch targets" for staff, but you should let them know they are stretch targets and offer all kinds of assistance to help them meet them. Walking on water, don't even go there. Thats not competent management, and would quickly be found out where I've worked.[/i] Guess I've worked with a [b]lot[/b] of incompetent managers then. For instance: Last job, I was on a project to develop a web interface. I was working on it in the new Microsoft Silverlight Beta 2 Version 1. Microsoft hadn't even defined or constructed the final control object library yet. I sat for *7* weeks waiting for my boss and the owners of the company to finally decide that...hey...there's no tree control in Silverlight yet...can't do a tree. Duh. Then, that gave me 5-6 weeks to finish. This was a project I was expected to have fully implemented and ready by a set date, and they had used half my time up in making one, simple, obvious (to me) decision...go with ASP.NET since it already had all the tools and facilities in place to get the job done. Now can you see what I mean? BTW, I got the project done in time. Right before I left the company. I wasn't about to stay get stressed out, and talked down to.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

redundant, put up for redunancy, sidelined, career killed, a poor review, no pay rise, no rewards, no acknowledgement, couldn't give a toss. I expect all that. When they give me that our employees are our greatest asset shite, I see red though.

JamesRL
JamesRL

In my business you lease office space for 5 years, and you buy PBX/Network Gear etc based on anticipated volumes, but you don't anticipate downturns and layoffs. I'm sure most places are the same. Add to that the fact that labor costs are the largest single expense and make up sometimes more than 2/3 of the expenses of a company, and you can understand why businesses do layoffs. I'm never asked to reduce labor costs by X, I'm asked to reduce headcount by Y, so I do have some flexibility. Do I always pick the most expensive employees, no, in fact I never have. Do I always pick the newbies? No, though I wouldn't reject it either. Its really simple. What projects/processes are critical to the company, and what people do I need to make them happen. Sure I could say all of them, but the truth is I need some more than others. You look at skills, experience, potential, all kinds of factors. Sure you've seen bad managers. I've seen bad employees and bad managers. Managers can do more damage, for sure. I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but managers can't share everything they know with their staff. You can hope that they share everything thats relevant to you that they are allowed to share. If you have a manager who can't not share, then how do you trust them when you have to give them something in confidence? I do believe that you sometimes have to set "stretch targets" for staff, but you should let them know they are stretch targets and offer all kinds of assistance to help them meet them. Walking on water, don't even go there. Thats not competent management, and would quickly be found out where I've worked. James

jck
jck

But, there are management types who will get a financial expectation from on high and immediately pick someone from the list of their charges and let them go, rather than to take their responsibility as management and "manage" their assets (space, people, property, budget). I've seen it too many times. And usually, the unskilled manager looks at "who is my biggest financial burden" rather than "how can I keep my department running best". And IMHO, it's because those unskilled members of management have the least team experience and understand that getting the most "bang for the buck" is better than "getting rid of your largest expense". Of course, that's why I've avoided going back into corporate America. If I had a manager who I knew would: a) keep their word to me unless it was absolutely prohibited by their superiors b) not lie to me or hide things from me c) tell upper management when they are asking for the impossible/expecting IT to "walk on water" d) work for their check in every aspect of their job just like they ask those under them to do I saw a guy once who was promoted to "manager" level. He was 2 years younger than me, and I thought maybe he was some talented guy to make it up through a corp that fast. Should have known better: ends up, he arse-kissed the VP of the division, took him golfing, etc etc., and had brown-nosed his way into the job. He'd worked at the company *3* years (1.5 in a manual labor position) before being moved into the senior manager role at a facility. He had no idea what he was doing, and he was to replace a guy with 35 years experience. Needless to say, that VP ended up contracting the guy who'd been there 35 years they were getting to leave through attrition...at 3 times his old salary (which ended up being well into 6 figures). But the new guy was nothing but a yes man. I could have managed the place better than him. Within his first 3 months, he'd pissed off the entirety of the bargaining unit employees, and was starting to get on the nerve of other managers for talking directly to their employees and for expecting results from them. BTW, I've been laid off too. I didn't old a grudge against the office director who had to do it. I understood the market was down, and that he had been asked to take me on after 2 other sections had screwed up contracts I had worked (and that the managers at the contracting companies liked my work). I figured it was upper management's fault for not putting me on a project somewhere earlier that had been open that I had a similar skillset to but would need maybe a week or two of training, and they decided they wanted only perfect fits. Anyways, i'm not saying all managers are idiots or unskilled or slackers. But, I've seen some doozies in my time. I've even been a section head (a manager without the title), and I avoid it now. You'd have to pay me a huge sum to deal with things in a management role unless upper management were willing to give me carte blanche over my projects and people and budget.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Firing can certainly be personal. Layoffs shouldn't be, unless you are only laying off because you are too chicken to fire someone. I had to make one of those tough choices not that long ago. Layoff someone I got along great with, who was the most productive, or layoff someone who was productive, but not great with me or coworkers. I had to set aside personal feelings, and chose the one whose leaving would least impact the business. It isn't always a scenario that you have someone whose productivity is so low that it is a straighforward choice, sometimes you have to look at the skillsets, and the work you have before you, and decide. BTW I never applied for my first management job, I was quite happy as an individual contributor, same level as a entry level manager but no reports. I was drafted. You make it sound like lower level managers have a choice whether to layoff or not. I get to chose who, but I do not get to chose how many, that comes down from on high, and if I refuse, then I need to write that resignation letter. I've been laid off, and I didn't hold a grudge against the person that did it to me, we are still friends and still talk. James

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