Are You Management Material?
Climbing the Corporate Ladder Isn't for Everyone
You may be wondering if you have what it takes to be a manager or whether you even want to be one. Perhaps you've been offered a promotion and aren't sure you should accept it. It's important to remember that even if someone else thinks you're management material, it doesn't mean you are obligated to move in that direction if it isn't what you truly want to do. Not everyone is destined to be "the boss." That's okay as long as your decision isn't based on fear. Being afraid to be in a position of power, despite being qualified and desirous of it, should not keep you from ascending the corporate ladder.
If you have been offered a promotion or are considering whether to work toward one, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you able and willing to work longer hours without additional compensation for overtime? Although a promotion to a managerial position probably comes with an increase in salary, it also is accompanied by a bigger time commitment. Extra responsibilities often mean arriving at work earlier and staying later. In the United States the Federal Labor Standards Act usually exempts managers from eligibility for overtime pay, so those extra hours do not translate into a bigger paycheck.
- Are you good at delegating work to other people? If you take on more responsibility without distributing work to others, you are simply someone with a harder job, not a necessarily a managerial one. As a manager, you will have to share the burdens with your subordinates. That may mean letting go of things you enjoy doing and perhaps instructing others in how to do those tasks. You will also have to answer for other people's mistakes. This brings us to the next two points.
- Are you willing to take responsibility, not only for your failures and mistakes, but for your subordinates' failures and mistakes as well? You will, of course, explain carefully to your employee how to do a task you delegate to him. That doesn't mean he won't fail at it or make a mistake. While everyone is responsible for his or her own actions, as a manager, ultimately the responsibility is yours.
- Are you good at giving constructive criticism? When one of your employees does poor work or makes a mistake, your instinct may be either to yell at her or not say anything at all. Neither approach will benefit you or your subordinate. Your job as a manager is to coach your employee so that she can do a better job next time. Explain what was wrong. Then you have to take a leap of faith and assign another project to someone who failed but who you hope will succeed.
- Will you be able to reprimand an employee for wrongdoing? You may have a worker who constantly arrives late, spends too much time online or misbehaves in some other way. Most people don't enjoy being the bad guy, but it's a manager's job to make sure everyone is doing what he is supposed to be doing. Your staff will respect you for being stern but fair.
- Will you defend your subordinates when you know they are right, even if it means standing up to your own boss? Your boss may have complaints about a member of your department. If they are valid, you need to help your employee improve her performance (remember the question above about giving constructive criticism). If the complaints aren't accurate, you may have to come to your subordinate's defense. This might mean going up against your boss, so be as tactful as you can.
- Will you be able to fire an employee for not doing his or her job well? Firing someone who isn't doing a good job sounds a lot easier than it is. Then you start to think about the mortgage she has to pay and the children whose mouths she has to feed and it becomes more complicated. A job is a job though, and it has to get done. If you can't help someone improve her performance, then your responsibility is to your employer's bottom line.
- Will you be able to fire a worker who hasn't done anything wrong but has to be let go for another reason, for example downsizing? This is the part of the job no manager enjoys but, especially in trying financial times, most can't escape this duty. Having to fire someone is never easy, but the difficulty certainly increases when the termination isn't due to the worker's actions.
- Can you keep your personal feelings about a subordinate from getting in the way of managing him or her? The truth is there are people we like and those who just get under our skin for reasons that would make no sense to anyone but ourselves. It's usually not a problem, but when you have to supervise someone, it can't make a difference whether you like him as a person or not. Your goal as a manager is to be fair to everyone regardless of how you feel about him.
- Do you have the ability to say no? As a manager, you often have to turn down your employees' requests. You may have to tell someone she can't take a vacation during the busiest time of the year or you may have to reject a plea for a raise when the company can't afford to give one. Remember, as the boss you have to act on your employer's behalf and in its best interests.