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“I don’t want to manage people.”

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Does that statement strike a chord with you? Do you have mixed feelings about managing people? 

You’re not alone.

According to a recent study, 70% of middle managers would prefer not to be people leaders if they could be paid the same. Often, it’s because they’re new to it. They don’t know how to manage effectively, they feel as if their companies aren’t investing enough in developing them, and are already being pushed beyond their capacity. 

We know there’s a problem, but if you’re a middle manager that happens to be amongst the aforementioned 70 percent, what do you do? If you’re struggling to enjoy your managerial responsibilities but want to find a way to make it work, what now?

A personalized leadership approach for each team member.

PI’s behavioral insights help leaders inspire and coach each employee in a way they truly connect with.

Understanding the “why”

The first step is understanding the “why” behind your dissatisfaction with managing. Take a moment to reflect on why you don’t enjoy it. Identify specific responsibilities that contribute to why you feel this way, and consider communicating them openly to your manager or HR. They might quickly offer support for your concerns, because they have heard them before. And they can likely help by sharing guidance or adjusting responsibilities.

Manager’s takeaway: You can’t address disengagement – your own or anyone else’s – without first understanding its root cause and nuances. 

Getting to know your people

Next, think about the people you manage, rather than the task of managing itself. Are you jumping right into getting the work done through your people, or are you taking the time to get to know your people doing the work? You may find that building personal connections with your direct reports helps motivate you to push through your discomfort around managing. 

Find some shared interests, even if it feels superficial at first: things like music, sports, or food. Doing so could very well lead to a deeper and more substantive workplace relationship. This might not only help you better understand the person you’re responsible for leading – it’ll likely increase their engagement at work. 

To make this feel less daunting, you could consider viewing PI’s 1:1 Relationship Guides, so you and your teammates can discover how to go about building a healthy foundation for communication. 

In best-selling author Patrick Lencioni’s book Three Signs of a Miserable Job, he suggests that anonymity is one of the biggest predictors of job dissatisfaction. Employees simply don’t feel fulfilled at work when their managers don’t take an interest in their personal pursuits or aspirations.

Manager’s takeaway: The more connected you feel to your reports as people, the more invested you (and they) become in that relationship.

Investing in yourself

Find ways to invest in your own development, too. To successfully further your own development, you have to proceed with intentionality – and self-awareness. 

Leverage your Manager Development Chart to better understand your caution areas, and connect with experienced managers who can provide mentorship around how they’ve overcome similar hurdles in their careers. 

If you seek advice on how to navigate your current challenges from those who have navigated them before, you might learn some valuable new strategies without having to stumble through figuring them out for yourself. But you must first be willing to accept your own shortcomings.

Manager’s takeaway: Improving yourself through self-awareness can make you a better manager for others.

Celebrating successes

Be sure to celebrate the success of your direct reports, your team as a whole, and yourself. As an early-career manager, you might be too absorbed in your new responsibilities, or maybe you just haven’t figured out how to properly convey your gratitude. Taking a moment to recognize the positive impact of their work is likely to lead to a more positive managerial experience. 

Consider using their individual Management Strategy Guides to ensure you’re celebrating them in the manner that resonates best with their behavioral preferences. Some people take more kindly to public praise than others, for example. 

It can also be easy to discount your contribution, but to get more enjoyment out of managing, it’s important to acknowledge the critical role you play in driving the team’s success.

Manager’s takeaway: Praise and recognition aren’t one-size-fits-all, but acknowledging everyone’s impact in some form is critical to fostering positive working relationships. 

Reflecting on your growth

Finally, identify a period of time after which you can reevaluate your perspective. In six months, for example, you might be able to reflect on your journey as a people leader. 

Has your dissatisfaction with your role changed at all? Are you no longer dreading your one-on-ones with your direct reports? If not, that doesn’t mean you should feel defeated. Not all roles are good long-term fits, and if the effort you’ve made to make your managerial responsibilities more enjoyable hasn’t produced the results you’ve been after, there’s nothing wrong with knowing, based on experience, that you’d be happier in an individual contributor role. 

If anything, you should feel proud that you challenged yourself to embrace something uncomfortable and grow as a professional. Taking a step back as a people manager doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t also taking a step forward in getting more pleasure out of your career.

Manager’s takeaway: Not everyone is suited to be a people manager. And there’s nothing wrong with that. To determine if it’s right for you, it’s important to give yourself ample time, trial and error to come to an informed conclusion.


Eric is Director of Education and Professional Services at PI. He is a Persuader. In his spare time, you can find him hiking up a mountain or behind a set of timpani.

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