By Joe Issid
Historically, the boss is rarely seen a sympathetic character or someone who endures tremendous hardships. But, as someone who has been a manager for many years, I can attest to the immense challenges that come with the job. Most managers do not have any formal management training and are frequently asked to lead a team because of their aptitude in an unrelated discipline. To wit, most employers promote the best developer to lead a team of developers rather than the person who is best suited to being a leader. So, it is understandable why so many managers face numerous challenges in the workplace. Throughout my career, I have confronted many obstacles as a manager at various levels within many different types of organizations. Below are some of the most difficult that I have faced.
Making Big Decisions
Many people are averse to the idea of being a manager as the role can involve having to make some very big and impactful decisions. On the one hand, making positive decisions can bring great results and rewards to you and your team. On the other hand, having to make decisions that can impact the lives of others is a reality that you may have to confront. No manager enjoys having to discipline or terminate an employee or to be responsible for making a bad hiring decision. But making these types of decisions come with the territory.
Stuck in the Middle
As a manager, I am extremely sympathetic to the notion of being stuck in a “no win” situation. Managers are often saddled with important portfolios but without the necessary influence to govern those projects adequately. For instance, many managers do not have access to make budgetary decisions but are often responsible for the downstream impact of short budgets. Personally, I have found myself in many situations where I had to manage a severely understaffed team without the power to lower the workload or the budget to hire new staff. So, ultimately, a manager is tasked with having to manage an overworked team without any capacity to improve the situation.
Being a manager can sometimes feel like being a workplace parent. While most mature professionals rarely spill milk all over themselves, managers are often compelled to mediate situations and to avoid taking sides. While interfering in personal issues is rare, all managers need to be able to handle different personality types and to resolve conflict when it arises – no matter how petty or serious said conflict may be. Essentially, a good manager plays the part of impartial referee, which can be very challenging.
The further up you climb within an organization, the more responsible you become for the productivity and happiness of those with whom you work. In the short-term, keeping team members motivated to perform quality work can feel relatively easy. However, over time, keeping teams focused and positive can be difficult – especially when working on challenging projects. A good manager will know when to interject and provide positive reinforcement and when to stand back and let things take their natural course. You will know that you have become a good manager when you are able to make these decisions naturally.
Taking Care of Yourself
Over the years, I have seen many senior managers take extended time away from work as a result of burnout. Somewhat ironically, the managers who are tasked to keep teams happy and motivated are often unable to heed their own advice. Somewhat paradoxically, some of the strongest and happiest teams are often led by weary and overworked managers. Personally, I have sometimes felt overwhelmed at work but have felt like I didn’t have a support structure to lean on.
Managing can often be isolating as there is no one else within the organization who shares your reality. While it may sound trite, one of the greatest challenges facing managers today is learning when to take time off and shut out the workplace for a while.
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