So You Want To Be In Management

by Ron Haynes

Ah, management. The thought just causes your eyes to glaze over, doesn’t it? The golf games, the easy office life, the perks, the expense accounts, the company car, the company credit cards, and the fabulous salary.

From this corporate officer’s standpoint, just remember this: if you aren’t the lead dog, the view never changes.

Management isn’t about easy days in the office and cocktail parties at night. It’s about worrying that a subordinate won’t screw up and cost you your job. It’s about finding out that a guy three levels below your pay grade just caused your property and casualty insurance to increase by 46 percent. It’s about trying to accomplish work through others but finding that you have to satisfy the demands of customers, vendors, YOUR bosses, other departments, governments, and shareholders. It’s finally finding out that the reason something hasn’t gotten done at the store level is because the manager just doesn’t want to do it…and won’t until you go visit that store and threaten to fire him.

Management isn’t easy. So in response to my open letter from employees to bosses, here is an open letter from bosses to employees:

I’m positioned to be your biggest cheerleader. If you perform well and can help make me and my department a success, I’m more than willing to promote you and to recommend you for promotion in other departments (or my own!). Don’t let me … and yourself … down.

Bring your ideas to me. I truly want to hear them. But please understand that many times my hands are tied by silly bureaucracies over which I have no control. If you don’t see your idea implemented, it isn’t because you were shot down. It may be that MY boss is considering the long term ramifications of how it will affect our department, division, and maybe the company as a whole. Sometimes what sounds great in one small area of the company has large ramifications when scaled up.

When you do bring these ideas, think of them as proposals rather than your babies. Give me a quick summary and let’s talk about them.

Occasionally we will have differences of opinion. But in the end I have to make the decision and I need your support. And we must own the outcome together.

I know there’s a grapevine and I know it’s impossible to squash it (smart bosses don’t even try). If there’s something troubling you or if there’s some crazy rumor, ask me about it. As far as I’m able, I will tell you everything I know, but there are some areas where I’m required to maintain confidentiality.

I don’t believe it’s my job to motivate you. You should motivate yourself. My job is to provide you the resources to do good work, set goals and expectations, and follow up.

I will make mistakes. I will screw up. Please give me the same understanding that you’d like me to give you when you blunder. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

If something is going wrong, or about to go wrong, tell me as soon as possible. Don’t wait around hoping it will get better.

Always tell me the truth. I can handle the truth and deal with whatever happens. I cannot handle being lied to. Don’t force me to make a decision about a situation based on a lie, a half-truth, an exaggeration, or based on a situation where some little bit of information was conveniently left out.

If you see me about to make a blunder. Tell me. Quickly. Don’t wait around and don’t beat around the bush.

Part of my job is to set the targets, supervise what is being done, obtain the required resources, and deliver the results called for by the next level of bosses above me. All of that is political and I don’t like it either, but I have to play the game to get anything accomplished. Sometimes, even the targets that are set for me get moved around.

Please respect my time by not coming at 5:30 PM with a critical issue we could have discussed at any time during that day. Emergencies happen but when they happen every day it’s not an emergency, it’s a way of doing business. I may need time to consult with others about this critical issue and raising it late in the day causes stress on both you and me.

Don’t always be concerned about CYA. It’s a disgusting way to live and your co-workers will not like you. I would prefer that, yes, DO cover your bases, but please don’t try to spin everything in your favor.

Being the one in charge is a scary proposition. No one is really in charge and the higher up you go in an organization, the more people there are under you that can screw up enough to take you down with them. It is a frightening proposition to realize that your career is in someone else’s hands, namely your subordinates. That’s why it’s imperative to hire the best, reward them well, and have a plan to retain them as long as possible.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 988 articles on The Wisdom Journal.

The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


Frugal Dad

When I was much younger, and just starting out my career I desperately wanted to be a manager. The idea of leading people appealed to me, and I thought I knew more than others on how to motivate, etc. A few early experiences soured me, though. Now I am content working with no subordinates for more money, and much less heartburn! That’s not to say I wouldn’t consider an opportunity to lead people, but it is an exhausting proposition to lead people who have zero intrinsic motivation themselves.


Being in management can be a headache, especially when you are new at it. My first group was full of people who would rather not have me there in charge of them. Of course their performance was really my performance for my higher ups. Very stressful.

Any team needs to work together. I like that you mention fessing up to mistakes quickly. I can handle when someone screws up. If I know about it quickly I can be pro-active about it and get it corrected (or make it not look as bad). If I find out later and only get half stories then it’s worse because a) I’m now behind the 8-ball in getting it corrected and b) my trust in you has been lowered. We all make stupid mistakes now and then and if you’re up front with me and you do good work I’ll go to bat for you.

Mark - Productivity501

The idea of your career being dependent on someone else’s performance is an interesting perspective. Of course that is exactly what managers are paid for — getting work done through other people.

I’m enjoying working with no subordinates in my own company. It is low stress and I spend a lot less time worrying what someone else might do or not do. However, my management experience was a very valuable training experience.


You forgot something like “don’t blame me for things done by higher-ups, remember I have a boss too.” In my experience being disliked by employees for decisions that were out of your hands seems is [one of] the bane of middle management.


Thanks Bziomek,
Wow! You sound like the voice of experience!
How many times have I had to implement stupid decisions, knowing they were stupid, yet being forced because “it’s my job.” I’ve even used statistical data to back up my position, but when a CEO gets something in his head (and he’s the CEO of a “macho” style organization), you just have to make sure you “don’t confuse him with the facts.”

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