In a previous post, I referenced that I’m now a manager at my newest job. On Twitter, I created the hashtag #thatmanagerlife to share insights on the things I am learning as a manager. It’s one thing, as an employee in a non-managerial role, to be critical of management. It is quite another to be the manager.
Let me tell you: that ish ain’t easy.
Can you die from meetings?
The biggest adjustment from employee to manager is all the meetings and committees you are obligated to attend. And, unfortunately, you can’t opt out of them or send a proxy. (I really wish I could send a proxy) For example, I had a day devoted to meetings. I had one at 9 am that lasted 2 hours, another one at 2 pm that lasted 1 ½ hours, and a final one at 4 pm that lasted about 45 mins. When you do the math, I spent 4 hrs and 15 minutes in meetings. Add that one hour lunch break and I was left with 2 hours and 45 minutes of actual work. Work that involved checking and answering emails, touching bases with my staff and getting project updates (we’ll call those mini-meetings).
Meeting burnout is real. I find that I look forward to those days when I have either no meetings OR two meetings at most during the day. I may be a manager but I’m also an archivist so I have processing work that needs to get done. I’m really having to step up my game in terms of time management but also setting “meetings” for getting my own work done.
For example, I actually set up a 4 hour meeting titled Institutional Records Meeting for the sole purpose of carving out that time to inventory and process collections. Makes it much easier to decline suggested meeting days and times when you say, “sorry, I have a meeting on that day and time.”
You gotta do what you gotta do. (Don’t take that tidbit and abuse it. Don’t be that person)
Keep the long game in mind and be strategic
I liken this aspect of being a manager to adopting the strategic mind of Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones, FTW!). The hard part of being a manager is sometimes, you have to make the short-term sacrifice for the long-term reward. These decisions may seem like managers take them lightly (and let’s be honest some managers do) but for the most part it’s hard.
It can be a decision you make for your department OR it can be a directive that comes down from on high. It is the latter I found that was hardest when I was an employee. I’m not privy to those conversations and found it difficult to swallow. Managers are the middle man. There really isn’t much they can do because they're the messenger.
There is no clear way to deal with it. I have seen managers not explain the reason behind a decision and be crucified for it by staff. I have seen managers explain exactly what happened but employees still direct their frustration on the manager. Hell, I have even been that employee myself.
To be a manager means to learn to be okay with not being liked
Let’s look at Tyrion for example. We all know how the Battle of Blackwater went down. Joffery punked out and was ready to flee. Tyrion stepped up and led the people. Tywin Lannister swooped in and won the battle but he was the one that got the credit. Tyrion was in the thick of it as a person in charge but got shortchanged when it came to the recognition.
Despite his impressive handling of the situation, he was still seen by Tywin as not a “real Lannister” and he was hated by the people. At his trial, he finally accepted the mantle of being hated by the people despite the fact he kept them relatively safe.
Sometimes, as a manager, you can’t win AND please everyone. It comes with the territory. Taking another Game of Thrones example. Look at Jon Snow. He tried to do the right thing and made a decision to partner with the wildlings. This flew in the face of decades, nay centuries, of animosity between everyone and the freefolk but he saw the bigger threat. How did he get rewarded for it? Homeboy got ambushed AND shanked composed of people who mostly hated him but people who also liked him.
Learning that I can't please everyone was and be liked was the hardest lesson for me to learn in the last three years. Although I wasn’t a manager at the time, I hadn’t realized how much of my identity, professionally and personally, was wrapped up in being liked. A people pleaser. Being liked by people I admired and, yes, even liked by people I didn’t like nor respect. On some level, I wanted their approval.
It took getting knocked down and thrown under the bus a little too much for me to begin to do the work and untangle my identity from people’s approval. On some level, I will always care what people think but it won’t be the thing that guides me or my decision making.
Saying NO is the most powerful statement
I firmly believe if you can accept that people will not always like you as a manager saying no to things that are a waste of time, money, and resources is easier. This ties into being strategic as well.
Saying ‘no’ applies to the people below you and the people above you. Real talk: You can’t let these people run you and dictate your life. Admittedly, you have to learn when saying no is best, having a case to support that, but willing to drop it when those above you still decide to press forward with the course of action you are not 100% committed to do.
Also, I say this because some people are not accustomed to hearing no because they have been surrounded by yes people most of their professional and personal life.
Being a manager requires you to be more than you are. To learn new skills while fine tuning the skills and qualities that make you an amazing individual. I foresee a lot of falling down but I also see getting back up as a stronger person in my future.