Let’s say you’re looking at the company human resources website and see there is a posting for a supervisor or manager position. Hmmm. It would be a promotion. The pay is better. Besides, you’ve always felt you could do at least as well as some of the so-called leaders around here. Still, you wonder whether a career in management is right for you. You feel torn. Should you apply? Suppose you were offered the job; would you accept it? It seems like this should be an easy decision, but suddenly, it feels quite difficult.
Examine Your Motives
First, ask yourself why you would want the job. For the money? If it is just for the money, forget about it. I often joke that sometimes the pay difference between a front-line worker and first-line supervisor is probably not enough to pay for all the aspirin you’ll need for the headaches! Plus, at some companies, workers may, at times, actually make more money than their supervisors because of extensive overtime, on-call pay, certain union/work rules, weekend/shift differentials, or other such factors. This may be true especially if the management position is salaried rather than hourly.
Also, for years, study after study has shown that money is, at best, only a short-term motivator. Sure, the first few paychecks will seem pretty sweet. This may sound hard to believe, but after a while, they will be no big deal. However, all the responsibilities of being in charge will still be there long after the excitement of a bigger check is gone.
OK, so maybe it’s not strictly money which attracts you to management. Perhaps there are some other, better motives which make management appeal as a career path.
You might be thinking that management offers a chance to make a difference in the workplace. Maybe you can make it the “better place” you always felt it could and should be. That’s great, but keep in mind that supervisors realistically often have limited control. Typically, higher-ups make the major policy decisions and rules, and you must enforce them whether you agree or not. Still, if you can make things better for matters over which you have some degree of control, that’s a win-win for everybody.
Also, maybe you have been at your job for quite some time now. Sure, you’re good at what you do, but perhaps a bit bored with the “same old same old” every day. You feel it’s time for a change and some new challenges. That’s fine. Perhaps you enjoy teaching or training others. As a supervisor, you’ll likely get opportunities in that area as you onboard new employees.
Looking to acquire new skills or even find a new career path? As a management professional, you will need to learn many new and different skills. These could include areas such as human resources management, financial analysis, report writing, interacting with governmental regulatory agencies, labor relations, and many others, depending upon the type of position. Who knows? You may find that exposure to one of these new areas opens the door to an entirely new career!
Things Will Change
The above may sound great, but make no mistake, things will change for you. And for some people, that’s the rub. I know several individuals who eagerly pursued supervisory positions only to realize shortly thereafter they had each made a major mistake. Maybe they didn’t expect or believe changes would occur, or maybe they mistakenly thought they could cope with them. Fortunately, some were lucky and able to return to their former non-management positions, but that may not always be possible.
Of course, the exact nature of the changes which you will experience depends on several different factors. These include the position and its scope, the particular group of employees, the culture of your organization, and so forth. Let’s explore a few of the typical changes which may come your way.
Changes in Your Responsibilities
- As a worker, you were pretty much responsible for just yourself and doing your work properly. In your new role, you will be responsible for not only for the work you do but the work of everyone you supervise as well. If they do well, you’re just doing your job; if they mess up, you get the blame.
- As a supervisor, your employees’ problems are now your problems. So, when someone comes to you with an issue you have to deal with it, regardless of what else you may have going on at the time.
- Supervisors and managers are sandwiched between front-line workers and the higher-up executives. You will be pressured from both the bottom and the top of the organization with entirely different sets of expectations. Often, these two ends will be in direct conflict. Yet, your job is to keep everybody happy.
- As a worker, you may have enjoyed personal satisfaction from a job well done at the end of the day or after completion of a short-term project. As a manager, the time between these chances to feel good about task completion will likely expand, sometimes by months or even years. That feeling of personal satisfaction may now come at less frequent intervals as you oversee projects spanning periods of greater length.
- As a worker, you may have been able to “leave work at work” at the end of the day. As a manager, this is often much more difficult, especially when faced with upcoming deadlines, difficult decisions, or undesirable tasks (e.g., disciplining or firing someone). True, it is important to keep a reasonable balance between work and personal life, although that may prove harder than you think. Plus, you may find yourself doing work-related tasks at home at times because you prefer to make some progress on them rather than just sitting around and having your brain nag at you.
Relationship Changes at Work
Sometimes, in the new position, you will supervise an entirely different group of employees, people with whom you have had no prior experience. That situation can be beneficial, as it allows you to begin with a clean slate and carry no baggage into the relationship. However, promotions to supervisory positions often involve managing former coworkers. True, knowing their skills and personalities can be a plus, but significant relationship changes may also occur.
- Some former coworkers will see and treat you differently. Of course, the extent to which this will happen depends on the personality of the individuals involved and the existing labor-management relationship/culture at your workplace. Some may expect favors or preferential treatment because you are “friends,” even though a real friend would never put you in such a position. You will be reminded how you sometimes bent the rules when you were a worker, so why are you now a hypocrite and suddenly all about following the rules?
- Certain former coworkers may even “test” you by intentionally breaking the rules just to see what you will do. Could you write up or discipline your old friends?
- You may find yourself unfriended on social media, deliberately left out of the loop, or no longer welcome at certain informal group activities. People may hush up when they see you approaching. If you are a socially-oriented person, can you adjust to this drastic change?
- Face it, there just are some people who, for whatever reason, have simply never liked or respected any authority or management figures. Now you’re one of those figures. So, whether you deserve it or not, they’ll automatically label you as someone to be despised or challenged at every turn. True, it’s their hang-up, but it makes your job harder.
Is There an Upside?
If you’re still reading, maybe I haven’t scared you away yet. That’s a good thing for a couple of reasons. First, not every new management person necessarily experiences every negative change described above. Also, there can be some upsides to management. To what extent each of these positive factors potentially applies to you will depend on the nature of your supervisory job and how things are run at your company.
Some of the Upsides to Management
Here are a few positive aspects of going into management:
- You may be a little more “in the know” than the average employee about what is happening now and in the future. Still, upper management may keep some major strategic changes confidential, even from its supervisory team.
- A real plus is that you will likely learn a lot about the many diverse areas of the company as you work with other departments on projects or serve on various committees. The “big picture” of the organization’s operation becomes clearer and you develop a great network of resource contacts and colleagues in the process.
- Supervisors are usually involved in the interviewing and hiring process for new employees. This allows you to help select and build a great work team. Seeing the joy on the face of someone who has just learned they have been hired is something that never gets old.
- To some extent, you may be able to “set the tone” regarding the atmosphere in your work area. Maybe you are more of a “people person” than the individual who previously supervised the group.
- You may have the ability to change a least a few things which you have long felt need changing. Some of those good ideas you have thought about for years may now finally be able to be implemented.
- Your involvement in developing budgets for dollars, staff, equipment, software, and other resources might range from minimal to complete responsibility. Regardless of the extent, you will likely have at least some amount of input.
- A first-line supervisory position will help you decide whether a career in management is right for you. This first step could potentially launch your entire career path off into a whole new, upward direction.
So, Now What?
That’s up to you. As with any major life or career decision, there are pros and cons, each choice with its consequences. I hope this article has, at a minimum, given you some food for thought and insight into what a career in management could bring, both the good and not-so-good aspects. It’s an important decision. Good luck in making the right choice!
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