By Dawn Klingensmith
You excel at your job, be it web design, perfume making or assembly-line production. In fact, you outshine your co-workers. Your performance evaluations are full of superlatives.
And what’s your reward? You don’t get to design, create scents or assemble auto components anymore. The work you do best gets taken away.
This is what happens, essentially, when someone whose work stands out is promoted to management. A manager’s job is to oversee others who do the actual hands-on work. And while a management position carries more responsibility, managers cede control in many respects to those who are doing the work.
Not everyone who is promoted or aspires to management is cut out for it. But most companies lack an alternative track for career advancement, so in the minds of most employees, “moving up” entails a series of promotions leading to management, says East Lansing, Mich.-based workplace psychologist Marla Gottschalk.
Managers are accorded power, prestige and a higher paycheck. But are the tradeoffs always worth it?
“In certain fields, such as technical and creative roles, employees may prefer to work in their core area of training and expertise rather than move into a more managerial function,” Gottschalk says.
For these folks, the “prestige” associated with management pales in comparison to the rewards and recognition they receive for work they directly control and are solely responsible for as an individual contributor.
“As a psychologist, I am all for people utilizing their strengths and pursuing their passions,” says Gottschalk. Pushing these things aside causes the organization and the individual to suffer.
“When you’ve got an unhappy manager, what else have you got? A bunch of unhappy workers,” she says.
To determine whether management is for you, ask yourself three questions about your current position: How much do you love what you do? Can you be happy not doing it? Can you stand watching people do it less capably?
The more you love and take pride in the specific work responsibilities spelled out in your job description, the greater the likelihood a management role will disappoint you. You will neither perform nor be directly responsible for the type of work you did in the past, but you will be accountable for your team’s performance, says Alice Waagen, president and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based management training firm Workforce Learning.
It is possible in some organizations to advance without ever managing people. You can move into senior roles as an individual contributor, for example.
Ironically, “The best candidate for management generally is not the star player,” Waagen says. “Mid-level producers with people skills tend to be more satisfied and successful.”