Leadership

Video: The downside of being in management

If your career goal is to be a manager, you need to be aware of the realities of people management. Toni Bowers tells what you may face as a manager.

Some people have tunnel vision when it comes to management as a career goal. For some, of course, management is the only way to move up in their companies.

If you're one of these people, at least be aware of the realities of people management. There are great things about it, but there are some things that not everyone is prepared to deal with. In today's video, I talk about the things that you may have to face when you become a manager.

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.

41 comments
rholt
rholt

* Lay off a 6 year employee who is the only person in his home working, with 4 kids at home, due to excess resources and them being the lowest performer * Tell someone in an interview that they can have the job but their pants are too tight and are unprofessional * Be talked about behind your back no matter how competent you are * Expect people to think that you don't do any real work, when in reality you work more than anyone... then turn around and fight for what is right for those same people * Fight upper management when they want to do something that is not good for your employees. You have to stand up for what is right. If you don't love the team, nobody will. * Give credit to those involved in a project even when you do most of the work. take responsibility for the mistakes of your team, protect and coach them in the background. Tell people that they have to work late, on weekends, or on the holidays just because that's how it is and IT is 24x7. * Be willing to tell people that they're dishonest and bold faced liars and will lose their job if it doesn't change. * Receive little to no praise from upper management for all the great work you do, but be criticized for every thing that doesn't go well... even when they may not have the full story. * Continue to career coach former employees and help them revamp resumes, indefinitely. * Make decisions based on the "big picture" that are best for the team and the company that all members of the team will question. * Deal with "me first" attitudes. * Get rid of bad attitudes and retain good ones, without hesitation. No BS allowed. I could go on and on. It's a tough job, not for everyone, but if you do it well you will be rewarded by watching your team excel... and those who worked for you in the past be successful managers themselves due to your mentoring.

davidldawson
davidldawson

An excellent video: Having managed many IT projects, I have dealt with all of these issues to varying degrees, including an offensive BO situation, that had other employees in the office alternately complaining and and ridiculing the offending employee behind his back. The partner-in-charge knew of the issue, but tried to ignore it. The issue worsened. As a concerned VP for all parties involved, I asked the employee to go outside and take a walk with me. After finding out that he had no physical malady that might have caused the problem, and that he did not bathe/shower/wash-up frequently, I spoke to him in as empathetic and dispassionate a manner as I could, about cultural norms, and suggested that by his washing up more frequently, he would probably enhance his ability to work well with his fellow employees. He took my advice, and we got along well. Moreover, the office chatter quickly went away. The conversation was not easy for me, but the results were satisfying.

DCampy
DCampy

You bring to mind all the things I probably wouldn't enjoy doing but the reality is that those issues do come up. Thanks for reminding us. David

gbohrn
gbohrn

This video just brushes the tip of the iceberg. Management is a people oriented not technical orient. Putting your top technical person in a management role tends to lose you top technical talent and gain you a mediocre manager at best. Some folks can fill both shoes well (technical and managerial) but they are in the minority. This is part of the reason in the military they tend to move folks to different groups once they take over a management position so there is less conflict with previous coworkers. People and project management are completely different things. So are leadership and management. If you have not filled these roles in the past, make sure you talk to folks that have. People management is hard. You have to have a thick skin and it can get lonely in that role especially during hard times after you have had to tell some of your long time friends that they have to find work elsewhere. Been there. Making the best decision for the company is not necessarily the best decision for your friendships. Also, as the lady in the video stated, longevity is not necessarily the measure for promotion. for me, it has always been about throughput, synergy and competency. It's good you've been with the company for a long time. Hopefully you have accumulated a lot of deep domain knowledge and that makes you valuable, but initiative, drive, take charge attitude and quality work gets you over the top in my book (a long with a long list of other characteristics). Best managers in the world are those who are there to clear the hurdles for their team and the team thinks they do not need him/her. These folks keep the boat focused and get things out of the way for your team to excel. At the end of the day, if the project fails, its your fault, if it succeeds, it's your teams. Don't expect to be the hero as a manager. That's the wrong attitude. So, if this still appeals to those who have not worn the management boots, then put them on and get busy, because you will. Read "Herding Cats: A Primer for Programmers Who Lead Programmers" or other similar books. Knowledge workers come in all shapes and sizes, some are great, some are extremely annoying and you have to deal with all of them as a manager as well as managing up your chain and being the buffer between upper management and your team. Enjoy

rwolf
rwolf

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Ralph.Stoos
Ralph.Stoos

For me, the downside of management is the disconnect with technology. I for one have been a manger three times and hated being away from getting my technological fingers dirty. So, I will shut up and take a little less pay but will be well prepared for being shown the door during downsizing. This has happened to me already and I had a job within weeks while my manager friends waited months or years. Doctor Digital

spyderxterra
spyderxterra

only poor/selffish managers/organizations have to worry about things like that. good managers/organizations would not lie to staff and give false hope. they know how to delegate between uppper management and staff by keeping great communications and honesty.

jcommunications
jcommunications

Managment does require a thick skin for all those reasons. It's definitely not for everyone, especially in this field. Many of us (like me) got into this line of work because we're more comfortable with machines than people. Routers don't get disgruntled when other routers on the network are handling more traffic than they are. Switches aren't always late because they have to drop off their kids at school before work. You tell them what to do and they do it. People is whole other story... PS - Your voice is deeper than I imagined it :).

ifly2gethi
ifly2gethi

What do I think? I think that the issues raised in this video - which run the gamut from the petty and absurd to the deceitful and Madoff-encrusted ("Be prepared to do whatever upper management tells you to do") - serve only to prove that the two most-common elements in the universe remain hydrogen and stupidity. This is certainly not the same nation that put people on the moon and brought them back. God bless the teachers of the planet - for they have the most noble and unmitigated of all tasks: attempting to turn poop-flinging tree-dwellers into monkeys with car keys. Granted, some more than others. "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." -Dean Wormer to Flounder, "Animal House," 1978

ifly2gethi
ifly2gethi

The great Adm. Grace Hopper (Dec. 9, 1906 ? Jan. 1, 1992), a pioneer in the field of computer science, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, the ENIAC/UNIVAC, and she developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. She is also credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches (motivated by an actual moth removed from the computer). Because of the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she was sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace". The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) was named for her. Among her many citations and accomplishments was this nugget, which I will always remember. Grace wrote, "You don't manage people. You manage equipment. You LEAD people." AMEN.

mahadeva_sarma
mahadeva_sarma

Many of the points made ring true. Luckily I am not in personnel management, but then yeah I have managed people, esp the ones on the shop floor, the ones that are too easy to trigger to go into a fight over even the silliest issue.And hence that is no easy joke. You have to be extra careful when you have to be harsh to the people when bringing in top management's view to them; when explaining why a long service person has been ignored and someone else is promoted. Yeah I have sen them all. But then in our organization you have nowhere to go once you join as an Engineer, put in certain years of service!

zhangch_30097
zhangch_30097

great video, I am going to show in my team lead meeting

tylerv
tylerv

I laughed so hard at this. After being a programmer for quite a few years, I spent nearly 5 years managing a team of 10+ IT folk. I have now given it up for a bad habit and become an Oracle DBA (at the same company which, despite what I describe below, totally rocks). I did lots of hiring, a few layoffs, firings, departmental reorgs, coaching, policy/procedure (it was initially a new team), and my share of architectural mentoring to staff who were more junior. I have coached quite a few employees on their aspirations toward management. The number one thing that staff do not understand about becoming a manager is that the higher you go, the more your job takes over your life. You may be able to work 8 or 9 hours a day with the occasional extra effort now, but once you're in management - at least in the systems world - every problem is your problem. VPs would routinely bypass my director and call me at any hour of the day, any day of the week, and the expectation was always that I would drop everything to fix the issue. Today when I am in large meetings with many managers present, I can't help but smile (and feel sorry for them) ... their stress levels are palpably higher than everyone else in the room. Biggest thing people SHOULD think about is whether or not they are someone who can leave work at work. You must be able to feel like you are doing a good job, even though: a) no one ever tells you (because you are now a very independent worker and if you are doing your job well, your manager/director doesn't need to know all the details) b) you rarely get to finish a task or see something through to completion c) your task list is miles long and you know you will never accomplish half of it d) you are in meetings 8 hours a day so time to actually do any paperwork is magically supposed to happen some other time ... ie. your time e) you have to context switch constantly (research shows that managers spend all day in small meetings - not just official ones but all meetings - and the average time is 7 minutes long) As well, in IT, be realistic about your communication skills! You may think you are great at communication, but make sure ... find the best communicator you know (verbal and email) and ask them for an honest opinion. These skills will make or break you. Lastly ... what I have been telling people lately is to remember that you CAN go back. You may have to give up some salary and inevitably you will deal with people who think you failed, rather than made a choice, but it is possible. Keep up your tech skills. We in the technical field are lucky enough to have a second option if management doesn't work out.

pdriddell
pdriddell

Right on Tina. But you only touched the tip of the iceberg on the management of 'human' resources. It takes a tough skinned special breed to 'effectively' do this job. It can be rewarding but often its no fun.

dbecker
dbecker

Just how will you handle: Alcoholics? Drug abusers? and especially, How will you handle the mentally ill. Do be careful: You will encounter them if you manage a group of any size. Remember, there are *laws*. HR might not be of much help.

dbecker
dbecker

It was with the best of intentions. I blame my parents: They never lied to me and never broke their promises. I also grew up in a small farming community during a time when the world made a lot more sense than it does for me. My parents did me a disservice by doing the right thing: I was ill prepared for the modern world of management. Fortunately, that is no longer a problem.

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

I liked your presentation Toni, flat out and to the point. Years ago when I was in the Military I watched people advance in rank that most definitely did NOT deserve to be promoted, but because of test scores and evaluations, they made it. I saw people who at one time did a great job turn into a ranting and raving dimwit with overtones of Hitler and Stalin. You are right, many people think that being "In Authority" is exactly what they want but have no clue to the REALITY of it really takes to lead. And that is the KEY... being a LEADER. If someone truly has LEADERSHIP traits and potential and coworkers know it, there are few problems. Even the "malcontent's" rants are quickly subdued. I've served with some great people and have met TRUE LEADERS. Years ago I got to know Lt Cmdr Roy Boehmn (SEAL) who was the man tasked by President Kennedy to create the US Navy SEALS and was the first Officer in Charge of SEAL Team 2. That man was a Leader, he exuded it from his pores. I can see why guys would follow that man to the gates of H***. I would add, a younger adult need not think they aren't capable of being a good leader either. It's all in what natural instincts and abilities a person possesses, but like you very concisely presented they should be aware of what it takes to be in charge. I think most Managers some days wonder WHY they applied for a certain position because of the petty problems and strife and pressures. You get a A for this one Toni

SamFrench
SamFrench

Toni takes the whole process of deciding whether or not Management is for you down to a granular level it needs to live on --at least for a while. I mean, if anything she said struck you as something you haven't contemplated your way past, I can guarantee you're not ready for management --and vice-versa. It's NOT a popularity contest and the most beloved, respected manager(s) you've ever been inspired by still make UN-popular decisions and frequently get caught in the middle of directives whose particulars keep them awake at night. Perhaps the biggest downside to being in management lies in the downside to ultimately being promoted out of management.

dbecker
dbecker

I've long recognized your wisdom and value, with a thoughfulness that transcends the ordinary. The points you made a good basis for someone considering from moving from worker to manager. As someone who was a technologist and moved to a management position and then back again, there are a few additions I would make that people should consider before leaving the technical realm to become a manager. 1) The skills are different -- a technologist may not be people oriented to do his job, but a manager must always be so; as you pointed out, a manager has difficult people decisions, such as firing someone, whereas, the tech socializes with his peers; 2) The job is distinctly different: For example, while a tech may make up budget items for consideration, the manager has to put the entire budget together -- and beyond this, management is there to supply the worker what he or she needs to do the job; 3) Dealing with peers is different: My supervisor calls it "The Monkey Tree" where everyone is vying for top banana, but the individual can't get too far out of bounds because everybody is "networked" and has to have a semblance of cooperation to get things done; 4) A tech deals in "Truths", the manager deals in politics. This one was a killer for me. It's difficult for a tech turned manager to understand why people can't be reasonable. Don't they see the obvious. 1+1=2. Plank's constant and the speed of light aren't going to change. In the macro world, you do what the universe insists that you do to get what you want and takes a tithe in entropy. In management, everything is negotiable. There aren't absolutes. If you can't take the craziness of that, you might as well not become a manager and stay a tech. I went back to it for that reason and, as much as is possible, never ever ever at any time want to be responsible for anyone else. It was an interesting and I learned a lot, but it is clearer now why Dr. Greg House insists that everybody lies.

tomtrevathan
tomtrevathan

Excellent synopsis of much of the downside of management. Tony, time to update your photo.

glenstorm_98
glenstorm_98

The points you make are entirely valid--and among the top reasons management isn't for me personally, even though I have 35 years in the business. I'm technically very capable, but in addition to what you've brought out about management, I *cannot* do politics. It's not that I don't *like* politics--I don't--but that I just don't relate to the whole art of it. I can't see what's coming down the pike. I'm just blind that way, and often get blind-sided by things. I can deal with that if I'm the only one affected, but as a manager, my people would get blind-sided along with me sometimes, simply because of my inability to see the threat coming, and I couldn't handle that. My subordinates wouldn't be particularly happy, either!

callen
callen

This video is timely. I am an IT manager, and in a few minutes I have to go in and tell my team that they have to pay a lot (50%) more for their health insurance. There are many situations where you will be asked to do unpleasant things. And you always have to remember that no matter how well you like your folks, you are not their friend. That becomes crystal clear when you have to bring them into your office and and look them in the eye and tell them that their services are no longer required. Also, if you really like doing some of the day to day things you did in your line job, you will more than likely have to give those things up. There is just no way to become an effective manager of a team and still go and pull ethernet cable halfway across the building. One other thing that I do not like about being a manager is that when you are removed from the day-to-day, and you are moved into a mode of forecasting. This means that you have to look 1, 3, and 5 years in the future to make your plans. This has the effect of making time shrink, and you end a year and wonder where it all went.

derekcsimmons
derekcsimmons

Summary: When your team succeeds the team gets the credit. When your team fails, the manager takes the blame. If you're not ready, don't.

Dantheman01
Dantheman01

Wow what an eye opener, I just recenlty applied for a Cellphone related manager position, yes the glamour of the title is great, but the problems that you have to face everything is yours only, and if you made a mistakes its also on you, after watching this video it did made me a bit better of what I have to face in a day to day situation..great video Dan

vxmine
vxmine

For all of the benefits of being a manager, you better be prepared for uncomfortable situations. Its repetitive, stressful, and everyone thinks they can do a better job. However, there are numerous rewards. Among the most important is observing and watching your teams grow and succeed. That is the most fulfilling part of the job.

androidlove
androidlove

I already know what's wrong with management. Where's the free apps video?

R32
R32

Absolutely 100% correct. In my opinion good managers must be leaders. Earning the respect and confidence of your team is priceless. After all you are in a position to make sure that they have what they need to do their jobs and to help chart the course based on a combination of upper management direction, your own expertise, and input from the team. Where the problem usually occurs for me is dealing with lack of upper management support or lack of their understanding of what the team does and what they go through. IT staff are continuously overworked with too many projects to effectivly manage. However, that is probably the same song by all IT workers at all levels I suppose...?

evanmathias
evanmathias

Another downside to being a manager is being paid too much and being able to fire those below you for you own mistakes, and always being right. Able to regard yourself as superior to others, stunt others career growth and make life miserable for those you don't like. And doing all this can still make you one of the top managers... and when the poo hits the fan, well you will be alright Jack. It's the same for super-models, its hell, they're just too beatiful that they get treated like they not smart.

dbecker
dbecker

My stint as manager was particularly trying because I was the only manager the Director could depend upon to get things done. I had earned her respect and then she pile on more responsibility -- much to the chagrin of my so-called peers. Somewhere along the way, we enterend in to taking on Enterprise Architecture. We spent no fewer that 5 to 8 hours per day exploring service options [this was before ITIL] and service request flows, deliberating on service delivery mechanisms -- all of which were at a very high level. This whole effort ended up to be a total waste of time when the whole project collapsed in on itself. But in the meantime, I had to carry out my ever expanding duties, "managing" my employees [better known as "cat herding"], make certain that the backups in the computer room were carried out properly each night [personally training one contractor after another somewhere in the middle of the night], screening contractors, running status meetings, attempting to insure that my folks were completing their projects, and taking on a massive project in a mill five states away -- with the accompanying travel time to do it. I doubt in the 60, 80 and occasional 100 hour weeks, that I could safely maintain that I was sane without being challenged. But then, with the nuttiness of optimistic management and back-stabbing peers, who would notice if I really were crazy? A good book to read, if you really want to know if you want to be a manager is "Moral Mazes" by Robert Jackall. Read that, and if you still want to go for it, you are more than welcome to put everything you value at risk. To be fair, I have noticed that the dynamics of bad management seem to kick in organizations, businesses, agencies when the total number of people in the entire venue begins to exceed 50. Often, companies about that size are well managed. That's not a law, simply a rule of thumb, in my limited experience [although I did work for a company where I was able to glimpse the internals of a lot of other companies]. Above 50, there seems to be some sort of mechanism that kicks in that allows the interplay of politics which leads to all sorts of... inefficiencies. With few exceptions, for very large corporations and government entities, the view of Dilbert by Scott Adams is very much alive -- and as scary as anything. I hope that those seeking to move from their great job as a tech will consider that sometimes the grass that seems greener on the other side of the fence is greener because of the poisoned dye to make it look good, glamorous and so very appealing.

SFNative
SFNative

I was raised in the city and taught to distrust people. Somehow though, I grew up believing that people in positions of power (regardless of their scumbagginess) possessed a certain level of intelligence mixed with a fair amount of reason. Because of this I figured that when shown a path of well-rounded logic, they would (at the very least) give it consideration. Life would have been so much easier had I know that most power position holders work solely off ideas that they fart out first thing in the morning and back those ideas with unwavering emotion. Making a difference is really only possible if you're willing to pretend that making a difference is folly while sneaking differences in under the noses of the players. Fortunately I learned that lesson early and, soon, I managed to prevent my eyes from rolling back in my head unless I was at home.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

You are absolutely right about the two being different skill sets and the need to network wtih peers. Thanks for posting!

arignote
arignote

I had a short stint in management. I loved the technical staff, but hated the politics with the non-technical managers. I've told my coworkers I could only do it again if I could carry a (plastic) baseball bat to meetings and could use it.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

I've been dreading the inevitable picture update. Time to bite the bullet.

tomjhen
tomjhen

Its great that you are aware of your makeup and how being in management would affect both you and the team you would lead. It is unfortunate that compensation structures can push people to move from what they are excellent at to something that will cause them and their team to struggle. I would struggle if tasked with primarily management functions - I am blessed with a situation that is primarily technical with a smaller than usual proportion of true management responsibilities.

mjstelly
mjstelly

... be prepared for the "working manager" expectation. It's as if people think that managing people isn't work. In my last gig, I was tasked by my hiring manager to create an IT department where none currently existed. I did so. After managing the entire employment process, procurement, site facilitation, and ongoing personnel maangement duties, my "position was eliminated" because my new boss thought that I wasn't doing enough of the technical work. That's code for "I want you to perform your people management job AND the job of the software developer that we don't want to spend the money to hire." Maybe I'm naive, but I wasn't being paid a double salary for doing two jobs. Maybe that's the mantra for the "NEW, 'new economy." There's my one cent because I can't afford to give you my two cents worth.

scfp
scfp

Great comment, Evan. Unfortunately, we've all known such such managers in own time(s) . . . I've avoided management positions in certain companies I've worked for because I saw that MOST of the managers I came in contact with in these organizations had that very mindset & I couldn't live with myself if I were to 'adopt' those tactics. Usually, it meant that I left that organization as soon as I could find another position elsewhere which I felt more comfortable with the culture/climate, so to speak.

evanmathias
evanmathias

Was referring to myself as the spoilt little brat, not super models (its very hard work). I cope with those downsides, primarily because I only really think about me, and try to encourage people not to aim too high, they're either not really good enough, not dedicated enough, its very difficult, and frankly its dirty and unpleasant work.

arignote
arignote

Why don?t employers provide a technical track, where employees can advance in the field they in which they excel? Why "reward" the best engineer by making him/her a manager with people and paperwork responsibilities, but no technical duties? The answers: Managers set the salaries and therefore think managers are the most important to the organization and should be paid more. Non-technical managers can?t understand why technical people would want to stay in a technical position when they could be in management positions ? looking important, playing politics, going to meetings, doing paperwork, adding management to the resume...

glenstorm_98
glenstorm_98

I'm blessed and thankful to be in a situation where I'm paid well enough for what I do that I can pay my bills, and also appreciated for the work I do, not just my "potential" (read, "management ambitions"). I've been in many situations where that wasn't the case, and even though I have been better paid in some other jobs, I'm happy here, and that's worth more than getting paid more. At least, it is to me.

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