It seems the number of people submitting their names for first and second level management jobs is actually falling. But who wouldn't want this job? What's not to love?
Where to start?
First, unless you are going straight from Line Supervisor to CEO, you are (like it or not), a "middle manager". Wikipedia describes middle management as "a layer of management in an organization whose primary job responsibility is to monitor activities of subordinates and to generate reports for upper management"
OOOh, where do I sign up for THAT job? It sounds like a cross between the government ministry in "Brazil" and the East German Stasi without the comfy green wool uniforms.
That description does capture one of the important jobs a manager has - feedback up the organization's food chain (which has a decidedly different tone than monitor activity and generate reports, but we'll let that slide). But it totally ignores or minimizes the others, however, and I'm not surprised.
Think about how "middle management" has become a euphemism for meddling, ineffectual supervision and frustrating career coma.
Nowhere does Wikipedia talk about helping achieve the corporate strategy, developing new employees or being a resource. It's not a job description, it's a punch line.
So besides the only role models being Dilbert's Pointy-Haired boss and Ricky Gervais, what else could be a problem?
A recent study shows that getting promoted, especially into that first management job, can be more stressful than divorce, moving or raising teenagers. Darned whiners.
Now, I'm always skeptical of studies done by training companies- 97 percent of them show that the solution to the problem is more training (The other three percent are from companies with recently-fired Marketing Managers) but this one rings true. The numbers broke out this way:
Which is the most stressful life event?
Promotion 19 percent
Bereavement 15 percent
Divorce 11 percent
Moving/Relocation 10 percent
Raising Teenage Children 9 percent
I believe most of these numbers, except for the part about teenagers - then again they're only teenagers for seven years and they eventually leave the house, while some of us managers have employees that stick around forever and just won't leave, let alone mature, so maybe that's a good number after all.
The reason for the stress, we are told, is that people are unprepared for what the job of manager actually entails.
According to the authors of the study, 40 percent of those promoted felt they got "little or no" support or preparation for the role. They got handed the list of their direct reports, directions to the rest room, signing authority up to $2500 and told not to screw it up, at least until after their performance review which will be in a year.
Many of the people we speak to on The Cranky Middle Manager Show admit to showing up on their first day, sitting at their desks and wondering, "what in the name of Peter Drucker have I gotten myself into?"
Even if a company can fill the position, not everyone sticks it out. One client I worked with reported that over a third of the engineers promoted to management jobs went back to their old roles in less than six months.
When I asked why, one of them told me, "Because code does what you tell it to do the first time and you don't have to ask how the kids are".
Most managers in the technical fields were superb individual contributors, which makes sense it's - how they got identified as "management material" in the first place. Still, being good at doing something doesn't mean you'll be good at teaching others to do it or motivate them to get it done even if they know how.
Think about it. You got good at coding by spending long hours staring at a computer in a Red Bull fugue state, not suffering distractions like telephones or other human beings. Now others get to do the "fun stuff" while you do nothing but deal with people and the distractions they cause.
Being a manager can be rewarding- you get to help other people develop, help achieve something for the organization and make a pretty decent buck in the process. It's a shame more people don't know that.
I don't know if managers need more training, or just a better press agent.