A new malady is running rampant in corporate America:
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,
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
"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. …