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How to Tell If Managing People Just Isn’t for You

You may be an exceptional individual contributor, able to turn around projects in one swift motion, or a subject matter expert, better versed in your area of expertise than anyone else in your office, but neither of those sterling qualities necessarily means you're cut out to manage people.

You may be an exceptional individual contributor, able to turn around projects in one swift motion, or a subject matter expert, better versed in your area of expertise than anyone else in your office, but neither of those sterling qualities necessarily means you’re cut out to manage people.

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(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)

Not everyone can be a great manager. If you are considering a job managing people, assess whether you are ready and motivated to perform that role. Here are a few ways to know that you’re not really a good people manager.

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1. You believe that there’s just one best way of getting the job done – your way.

Oftentimes, excellent individual contributors are obsessed with completing their projects and they take pride in the fact that they do it efficiently. There’s never been a glitch in the way they’ve worked and therefore it’s the best and only way of doing it! So when they take on the role of a people manager, it’s just the implementation of that “best practice.” As a result, they might micromanage their direct reports, and that is definitely not a good team environment to work in.

2. You cannot assume responsibility for someone else’s development.

Well, let’s be honest, not all managers really invest in people development. But here’s the fact – they are also not good managers. Yes, it is the employee’s responsibility to take ownership of her career, but as the manager it is your responsibility to provide opportunities for the employee to deliver her best and develop to her potential. If you feel that it’s hard enough to manage your career, let alone provide growth avenues for your reports, you’re really doing a disservice to the potential of your team.

3. You’d much rather do the work yourself than have a tough conversation.

When you are a people manager, you need to handle a lot of team dynamics. If your employee is unable to perform her job well, then she needs to be told so, without being completely demotivated or ridiculed in front of her peers. While you have multiple deadlines dangling over your head, you cannot perform every single task yourself. If you are, you are doing a huge disservice to your team by not providing them with the opportunity to learn from their shortcomings. You cannot avoid giving and receiving feedback.

4. You miss the “real” work.

When you are a manager, you are often at a number of meetings, interacting with clients and stakeholders, goal setting, filling out assessment forms, having one-to-one discussions and so on. You don’t actually get to write, design, code, or do the analysis you love so much. If you miss being an individual contributor to the extent that you are assigning the meatiest tasks to yourself while delegating the menial tasks, you are creating a very caustic environment for your team and they will resent you.         

It’s not easy being a good people manager. A great individual contributor need not always be a great manager. But sometimes, that’s just how progression in the organization works. Knowing your shortcomings will help you focus on your areas of development. Take the time to consciously work on your people management skills before giving up; seek coaching, ask for advice or find a mentor who can help.

In the end, if you do find yourself underperforming in the role and you’re truly unhappy being a manager, maybe it’s time to explore alternate career paths.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever moved from an individual contributor to a people manager? What was your experience like? We want to hear from you. Join the discussion on Twitter, or leave a comment below. 

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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4 Comments on "How to Tell If Managing People Just Isn’t for You"

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Pantaleimona
Guest
I’m with Earle, “… How do I know if managing people is right for me?”, would be a good follow-up to this article. For a number of years I worked in a business where management was just another promotion for a hard-working, above average performing employee. No specialized training was offered, no management specific support given. Where does one look, outside of the employer, in this situation? I had no real pertinent life experience or training to help me succeed and I ended up leaving the company just to escape the pressure and stress. Staying, and becoming successful would have… Read more »
Carc
Guest

I had the opportunity to bevome a Manager .It was tje beginning of my career. I have been a Manager for 30 years. It qas nit an easy transition. I was responsible for a team effort amd I learn to truly care for my direct report development.

growup
Guest

You should replace all the “Her”, “She” in the article with “their” and “they”. The article applies to all employee types, not just women.

Earle
Guest

This is great. Now how do I know if managing people is right for me?

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