How To Manage When You Hate Being A Manager

Are there parts of managing that you—gasp—don't enjoy (or even loathe)? You're not alone. But believe it or not, you have all the raw materials needed to be a managerial superstar.

You're a manager. Congratulations! You have been bestowed with the marvelous opportunity to manage others while simultaneously managing yourself. Feel free to replace marvelous with any plum word of your choice. Overwhelming, frustrating, irksome, impossible, or exhausting? Work life spiraling out of control, anyone?

Take solace. You are not alone. Most leaders don't discuss managerial-related angst, out of concern for appearing ineffective, weak, or incompetent. Yet the majority of managers struggle with managing others. In a 2011 Berrett-Koehler survey of 150 leaders, 68% of managers confessed they really don't like being managers.

What is the genesis of this trauma? Like you, the vast majority of managers did not sign up to be managers. You pursued a career of interest, thrived, and—voila! You got rewarded with a promotion to management. Becoming a manager adds a facet to your job that, more likely than not, you were never trained to do. In fact, nine out of 10 leaders believe they do not have the necessary skills to manage.

Burnout intensifies when attempting to assume a style of management out of sync with your temperament. Unfortunately, many leaders have been brainwashed by a well-meaning, misguided herd of consultants to follow a singular set of "rules" about how to manage. Futilely attempting to squish yourself into a template that wasn't designed for you leaves you wiped out, more convinced than ever that you really aren't cut out for management.

Yet believe it or not, you have all the raw materials needed to be a managerial superstar.

Managing well requires working with, rather than fighting against, your natural style. The only way to be a successful manager is by capitalizing on your strengths. Design a management style that enlivens you, and consequently, those around you. Being authentic increases your effectiveness, energy level, and credibility.

Why Is Leading So Challenging?

Why can't you just memorize a book on "How to Manage People" and emerge a top-notch leader? Why is leadership such a daunting task?

For starters, people come equipped with this pesky item commonly referred to as a "personality." Personalities are infuriating. Particularly when yours differs from mine. Once we get to know each other, yours can be intolerable even when it is quite similar to mine. Just to keep things jumping, I can hardly stand my own half the time.

Much of the confusion and chaos lurking a millimeter beneath the surface of any well-functioning organization owes to the potentially cataclysmic clashes of personality.

As a leader, there are endless variables that factor into how to manage most effectively, and these factors differ with every single person on your team.

If that isn't an exhausting thought, I don't know what is.

How about this one: You cannot directly control other people, yet you are now mysteriously accountable for their output.

Understanding people's behavior at work will reduce your frustration and increase your efficiency. This frees up time and energy, while making you a more confident and successful leader.

Get Real

The only way to achieve real success as a manager—and to garner the rewards and benefits of managing—is to lead from a place that is authentic to your core. There are no hard and fast rules.

Okay, so there is one rule. And I get to set it. How convenient for all of us. Ready?

Be You.

Simple, yes, and yet...

There are a plethora of steps and skills involved in being yourself. The very first step on the path toward being you is knowing you. Understanding your unique personality enables you to harness the best you have to offer as a manager.

From too many years specializing in personality assessments, I am acutely aware that there are a plethora of traits that combine in complex ways to make you you.

One dimension, the Thinker–Feeler continuum, is a prime indicator of how to best navigate the stormy seas of management—in a way that is authentic to your core.

Thinker–Feeler is one of four aspects of personality highlighted in the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator and is linked to how we make decisions, communicate, and lead.

Let's start with the premise that, of course, everybody thinks and everybody feels. Plus, there are degrees of how strongly one identifies with either dimension. For example, some people are what I call "off the chart" thinkers or feelers while others are a nearly even mix of both preferences. Our focus here is what primary dimension we lead with when managing others.

Managing others requires doing what I call flexing your style. That means meeting others where they're at. Just to stave off boredom, each person you manage comes equipped with his or her own specific personality. Such fun! Go ahead and assume none of them are capable of meeting you where you're at—few people are that gifted. In fact, feel free to expand that assumption to your peers and supervisors as well. Although we'll save that Pandora's Box for another time.

While we're at it, drop any expectation that others will change their basic personality to suit your whims. They won't. They may learn new skills, expand their reach, deepen their commitment, and increase their productivity—all with your expert guidance. However, fundamental personality traits are more or less here for the long haul.

This is where flexing your style kicks in. Armed with a solid handle on who you are, you now get to be on high alert for the subtle yet constant bombardment of cues and clues your staff sends out about how they like to be treated, what motivates them, the type of language that resonates, and the way they process the world. Naturally, these will vary from person to person—so get busy!

Once you get a general handle on individuals' styles—from a conglomeration of their professional style, favorite (and least favorite) projects, work habits, behavior, conversations, and the rest—you can fine-tune how you motivate and communicate with each team member. Everyone remains equally accountable for the work product. Yet how you contribute to their professional development varies.

What works for one person may not for another. For example, a feeler will crave a lot of positive reinforcement while collaborating on a project. A thinker will want a clear schedule and guidelines. Feelers generally value an open-door style of management. Thinkers don't put much emphasis on that policy. If your routine as a Feeler manager is to "make the rounds" on your staff every morning, that could make the feelers feel cared for and the thinkers perceive you are "checking" on them. The same intention and behavior can have vastly different impact based on the recipient.

Our aim is twofold. First, to discover a version of management you don't hate because if fits who you are. Second, to learn how to adapt your style to customize how you manage and motivate your team for vastly improved results—productivity (if you're a thinker) and morale (if you're a feeler).

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the typical manager spends seven hours per week sorting out personality conflicts. The heightened, personalized attention you pay to your staff will more than pay off. You will be able to manage employees more efficiently and with greater success, all with less effort. You'll form stronger rapport while increasing your team's dedication and output. You'll feel better about yourself as a manager—and may even start to believe you're darn good at it after all.

Devora Zack is the CEO of Only Connect Consulting. Her newest book, Managing For People Who Hate Managing, is available now.

For more from Devora, read "How To Manage Thinkers, And Feelers, Effectively."

[Image: Flickr user Christian Guthier]

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  • Asrilamadoken

    Asri Lamadoken

    I think this is a challenge, when we are able to see more in that there is a new power that exists within every human being, that we may never grindstones, but several factors we must realize that it is not easy to change the style and character of a person with a different culture when we were in the group that we can not be accepted, but I strongly believe that each of us can become a manager that can be accepted in all places

  • David

    What a weird and contradictory article. First the author, a consultant, tells us that, (quote) 'many leaders have been brainwashed by a well-meaning, misguided herd of
    consultants to follow a singular set of "rules" about how to manage'. Then the article goes on to tell you how to do it from a Myers Briggs perspective. So to summarize, 'I'm a consultant, don't listen to consultants'.

    Here's my nugget of input as a consultant of 18 years experience - there are 2 things to know when considering becoming a leader: 1 - you really need to want to be the leader, or manager or whatever title covers getting results through others, and 2 - you will be a role model for others who will emulate your behaviour (motor neuron reference). The first is crucial. Anyone who has a problem with doing the job of a leader should be given other more fulfilling work to do and so prevent demoralising employees. The second item means that if you don't have the traits required to be a good role model, you can develop them, and this is part of the model.

    David Molden, FCIPD

  • Vince Molinaro

    Interesting article Devora.  One of the things I'm finding is we need to help potential managers and existing managers to think hard about the decision to be a leader. 

    There are many who have signed up for management or leadership roles without fully understanding what those roles are really about.  Then they get into them, only to find they really don't like them, or it's not what they are good at.  Then they feel stuck. 

    To me, it's a lot like when we are online, and that window pops up, asking us to click agree.  We see all the terms and conditions, we don't read them, but click agree anyways.  We know we've signed a contract, but don't really know its about.

    This is what's happening to many leaders today.  They click agree, without reading or understanding the terms and conditions of what I call the leadership contract. 

    Management and leadership roles have become so demanding, that its critial for go in with eyes wide open, fully understanding what the job is about.  Otherwise you run the risk of being in a role that you don't like and that ultimately isn't good for anyone - the leader, their direct reports, or the company.

  • Karimah Hudda

    This article is in itself fine but I still fail to see why anyone should manage if they hate managing. Surely there are other jobs people can do rather than managing. Leaving management to those who really enjoy it will lead to happier work
    places, I believe.

  • Thoward51

     There are many types and levels of Management and as great as leaving it to someone else may sound this may be impossible. A Journeyman plumber who has to manage his Apprentices is an example. He may never see a spreadsheet or create a budget but dealing with the personalities, temperament, etc of Apprentices make him a Manager whether wanted or not.

  • Daniel Rodriguez Caban

    Good article. The analogy of personality and flexibility brings to the subject the opportunity to maintain thier momentum and initiative with the tool of working with ambiguity. Thinking about my experiences with teams, and my own, I believe it turns to be more interesting if you consider in this mix other elements like timing in position, peers and boss relationship, business acumen requirements, leadership skills and the effectiveness of the initial trianing.

    Thank you for sharing

  • jwk

    As a manager we all have to do things that come with the job that you hate (dealing with bad or low performing employee's, paperwork etc.) in order to do the things you love.  I find that if I try to "systemize" those bad things as much as possible and put as much enthusiasm as you can then your peers and staff will respect you all the more for it.  Delaying the hated work just means that it stays around longer on your todo list.

  • Steve Ardire

    >The only way to achieve real success as a manager--and to garner the rewards and benefits of managing--is to lead from a place that is authentic to your core.

    Agree and more prevalent in startups and SMB's but too few and far between in Global 2000 companies where me too and suck up mentality predominates ;)

  • Denise Marlborough

    There is a lot of reward in being a manager and being part of an employee's growth and successes. Being a good coach, and then watching your coaching skills pay off in their successes is what it's about. Don't get me wrong, managing can be very challenging, but I think the good ones produce better employees who will move on to successful positions down the road. Hopefully that means they will grow within your department or organization, but sometimes it means saying "goodbye". As hard as that is, that's okay too, depending on where they go and why.

  • Jill T

    Devora, this is the perfect article for me. Every time you made a point, I nodded my head at my computer screen! Management is cool and everything, but I'm one of those people who sort of got thrown into it without aspiring to the position. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I consider myself lucky! It's just scary to feel unprepared. Thanks for the tips...I'm glad someone else gets it. :)

  • Scott Byorum

    Management and leadership are a whole lot easier when your company takes the time to hire mature, responsible, functional people and provides them with a communicative and supportive environment.

  • jeffzx9r

    Management is like catching bumblebees with a fishing net.  It's not for everyone.  If you find yourself loathing your job and cursing each day, find something else.  I did.

  • Josephgavin3

    I take issue with your analogy. Catching bumblebees with a fishing net doesn't sound like it is for anyone....

  • Barbara Giamanco

    This is a good piece and I agree with the philosophy of leveraging your own core strengths versus trying to be like someone else. Learning to adapt your style to meet the needs of others is also very import. But what you do not talk about is all the people who simply take a management job because they want more money and that's a disservice to the people that they are managing. If you fundamentally don't like people or hate being a manager, I don't think "adapting your style" is going to cut it. Anyone who wants to be in management should genuinely care about people and have a sincere to desire to want to help them grow and develop, as well as achieve their career goals. 

    There is a reason why people leave managers and not companies. I believe that happens because there are far too many managers who should NEVER been given the job in the first place!