What's your Problem?

I hate being a manager - can I go back?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: I have been working happily for the past seven years at a small training company as a trainer. I was doing so well that they promoted me six months ago to manager of a team of four people, but I hate it. I thought I was cut out for management but I intensely dislike it and I really don't know what to do. I just want to return to my old role but I'm scared of telling my boss, because I don't want to lose my job and I don't want to be perceived as having failed by my colleagues.

A: For you, I suspect, the last six months have seemed a lot longer. But in reality, it's still not long enough to be sure that you've made a mistake. You went from the confidence of knowing that you were doing one familiar job extremely well straight into doing a very different and unfamiliar one - and I bet your company didn't give you any serious advice or training. Managing people well is a skilful and sensitive business, but it's astonishing how many companies seem to expect people to become effective managers overnight. None of the armed forces would dream of such behaviour - and for good reason.

Remember why you once thought you were cut out for management, and then compare what you imagined with the reality. What has changed? Is the nature of the job different from the one of your imagination? Or, confronted with the real thing, have you disappointed yourself in your ability to master it?

If it's more the second than the first, give yourself more time and consider asking your company to provide you with some personal coaching; as a trainer yourself, you'll know how valuable it can be. Only when you're absolutely sure that you and the art of management will never form a happy marriage should you finally call it a day.

Even then, believe me, this is no admission of failure. One of the bravest and most admirable decisions a person can take is voluntarily to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses. The talent required to be an exceptional trainer is at least as rare and valuable as the talent to manage. If you do go back to training, go back with pride.

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