Boss Loss Fewer Seek to Join Ranks of Corporate Management

By Timothy D. Schellhard 1997, Wall Street Journal | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 24, 1997 | Go to article overview

Boss Loss Fewer Seek to Join Ranks of Corporate Management


Timothy D. Schellhard 1997, Wall Street Journal, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


A new malady is running rampant in corporate America: management phobia.

Many people don't want to be a manager - and many people who are managers are, frankly, itching to jump off the management track - or have already.

"I hated all the meetings," says Bill White, who left his ten-year post as an award-winning manager of a real-estate office in Jackson, Mich., to again sell full time. "And I found the more you did for people who worked for you, the more they expected. I felt like I was coming in every day and people were expecting me to meet their needs. I was a counselor, motivator, financial adviser, psychologist." With technology changing in a wink, "you can never slack off these days if you're on the technical side," says Matt Wilkinson, a 28-year-old computer-systems technician in Chicago. "It's a rare person who can manage to keep up on the technical side and handle a management job." "You're a backstop, caught in the middle" between upper management and the work force, says McKenzie Walker of Portland, Ore., a cost accountant who left his managerial post last year. "I was told 50 hours a week was not enough and that I had to work my people harder. Major philosophical disagreement! . . . The few dollars more were not worth the pain." In addition, the Dilbert factor is at work. With Scott Adams' popular cartoon character - as well as many television sitcoms - routinely portraying managers as morons or enemies, they just don't get much respect anymore. Sentiment against joining management ranks is the highest in the nearly two decades that Jackie Greaner has headed Manchester Consulting, an Atlanta leadership-development firm. These days, 80 percent of its workshop participants say they want nothing to do with management, a major shift from just a decade ago when 60 percent to 70 percent hoped to grab the golden ring. "Today's career assumptions are you can get a lot of development, challenge and job satisfaction and not necessarily be in a management role," Greaner says. Supervising others always was a tough task, but in the past that stress was offset by hopes for career mobility and financial rewards. Along with a sizable pay raise, usually about 10 percent, people chosen as managers would begin a nearly automatic climb up the career ladder to lucrative executive perks. But in today's global, more competitive arena, a manager sits on an insecure perch. Restructurings have eliminated layer after layer of management as companies came to view their organizations as collections of competencies rather than hierarchies. The result: far fewer rungs on the corporate ladder for managers to climb. Also, managerial jobs demand more hours and headaches than ever before but offer slim, if any, financial paybacks and perks. For many managers, salary increases have been smaller than those going to senior executives and to their own subordinates. And while many companies have eliminated executive perks, they increasingly award stock options and bonuses even to hourly workers. Furthermore, managers now must supervise many people who are spread over different locations, even over different continents. They must manage across functions with, say, design, finance, marketing and technical people reporting to them. If their employers set up workplace teams, managers must play an even murkier leadership role. And they must be agents of change, champions of the latest re-engineering or reorganization, even if they have had nothing to do with creation of the plan or disagree with it.

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Boss Loss Fewer Seek to Join Ranks of Corporate Management
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