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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

Ask a Candid Boss: What Should I Do if I Don't Like Being a Manager?

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Dear Candid Boss,

What do you do when you realize that you're not cut out to be a manager (you simply don't like it) but you're in the role already—and leaving the position would entail a huge pay cut and/or less access to strategy planning?

Not Cut Out to Be a Manager

Dear Not Cut Out to Be a Manager,

First, hats off to you. Only a really self-aware and unusually honest person would have the courage to ask this question in the first place.

To start, I would encourage you to ask yourself what it is you don’t like. Is it all the paperwork and bureaucracy that a lot of companies impose on managers? Or, is it the emotional labor that is so much a part of being a great boss?

If it’s the former, try asking for some administrative support or finding ways to mitigate some of that nonsense. Remember, you’ve found yourself in the driver’s seat now. So, if there are some processes you could refine or other things you could do to help eliminate frustrating bottlenecks, you have at least some power to make changes.

If you fall into the latter category, you probably need to avoid managerial roles—and, I’d recommend leaving your current position. Few things will burn you out as quickly as being a manager if you don’t enjoy the one-on-ones and the career conversations that you need to have with your direct reports.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to have increasing impact and grow in your career without being a manager. When you have functional expertise and focus on deepening your skills, you can have an extremely satisfying career.

If you’re in sales, channel your energy into developing your sales skills and landing bigger deals. If you’re an engineer, focus on learning new technologies or working on bigger, more complex projects. If you’re in operations, look for the thorniest problem your team is struggling with and fix it.

In all cases, measure the impact your work has. Usually, the increased impact you have translates to increased pay and involvement in strategic decisions—which is what you seem to enjoy most about management.

If your company does not provide a good career path for individual contributors, look for one that does. All sorts of companies are recognizing that some of their best people have no interest in managing and are creating roles that allow them to make a sizable impact without becoming managers.

The good news is that you have a number of choices, and you are already thinking very clearly about what you do and don’t want to do. Now it’s time to step up, make some changes, and advocate for yourself.

This article is part of our monthly Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our coaches are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Candid Boss in the subject line.

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