Chapter 58. Not Everyone Wants to Be a People Manager

Jesse Anderson

Occasionally, technical people get pushed into management. This can be good—sometimes technical people need coaxing into getting out of their comfort zone and into something new. This also can be bad—such as when a technical person really doesn’t want to be a people manager.

These forced promotions often come when companies lack a promotion path for their technical tracks. For example, their lead software engineer is incredible, but there is nowhere to promote that person. The company lacks a technical individual contributor title—and pay grade—above some kind of arbitrary limit.

Looking around they find the need to promote that person into management and that’s when the problems begin. I’ve seen this firsthand a few times and spoken to the individuals who find themselves in a management position that they never wanted or should be in.

This is when the individual begins to feel stuck. I’ve known people whose promotion to manager was publicly announced before they were even asked whether they wanted to be manager. I’ve had people realize early on that management wasn’t for them, but the title and social praise kept them in the position.

It’s sad because these people feel there’s no other way out of the problem. They’re faced with choosing the lesser of three evils: toughing it out, transferring within the company, ...

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