Seven Signs it May be Time to Step Down as a Manager

Stressed manager with a lot of people looking for his help. Yuri_Arcurs/GettyImages

Not everyone is cut out to be a manager. Organizations can certainly do a better job at how they assess for leadership potential and decide who should be promoted to management positions.

One of the most common mistakes made is to take the best engineer, salesperson, or accountant and promote that person to manager. Superstar employees don’t always make the best managers. Instead of evaluating individuals for their potential to develop as effective managers and leaders, they use the promotion as a form of reward.

The outcome all too often is the loss of a great individual contributor and the creation of a poor manager. 

People often accept management positions for the wrong reasons. Before accepting a management position, it’s important to be sure that you have the right motivations, goals, and skills to become a successful manager. See: Should I Become a Manager?

Management Doesn't Have to Be a Forever Role!

However, I’ve seen plenty of managers that were promoted for all of the right reasons and were initially very successful in their management roles. They enthusiastically took management courses, read all of the hottest management books, and thrived on leading and developing people. Then, for one reason or another, they “derailed”. Employees no longer wanted to work for them, their reputation as a manager grew tarnished, and they ended up stuck in a job they no longer enjoyed. In fact, they were miserable.

They were burned out on being a manager.

These managers might have been more satisfied and productive if they knew when it was time to step away from management and look for an individual contributor role that better leveraged their strengths and interests. Their employees would have been better off too.

Perhaps one of them could have stepped up and done a better job leading people, so the manager could have been blocking the advancement of promising high potential employees.

7 Signs that It is Time to Let Go of Your Role as a Manager:

How do you know when it’s time to step aside, or down from being a manager? Here are 7 signs to look out for:

1. Complacency and a lack of innovation. You haven’t tried or done anything new in a long time and are not interested in learning about new ideas. All new ideas sound like “flavor of the month” whims and would require too much effort and risk to implement. When you’re employees come to you with new ideas, you tend to “pop more balloons than you inflate”.  The status quo seems too comfortable for you. You stubbornly defend “the way we have always done things” and find yourself saying “we tried that before and it didn’t work.”

See 11 Ways for Leaders to Encourage Innovation from Their Employees.

2. You stopped having team meetings and one-on-ones with your employees long ago. They just became too formal, too much of a bother, too messy, and always seemed to uncover complicated problems that you had to deal with. You have adopted the motto “no news is good news”.

Dealing with people has become something that you find tiring. Your best days are the ones where you could stay in your office and work uninterrupted on your favorite project.

3. You’re no longer interested in becoming a better manager/leader. Look at your bookshelf – when was the last time you read a management/leadership book? When was the last time you took a management/leadership courses? When you did, did you approach them with an open mind, or with cynicism? Do you find yourself more interested in learning about the latest technology in your field and less about leading people? Has your passion shifted from leading people to doing stuff yourself?

Do you find yourself making excuses for not developing your employees?

4. No one is asking you to mentor them. Your high potential employees that are interested in management are flocking to other managers for advice and support.

5. You are no longer asked to be a guest speaker at management training programs. These guest speaker opportunities are only for “role model” managers that organizations want aspiring managers to emulate.

6. None of your employees are getting promoted. It may be because you’re no longer developing your employees. Your complacency is spreading to your team. The last time you were up for promotion you didn’t get the job because you were seen as “irreplaceable” in your current role.

See Why Every Manager Should Create their own Succession Plan.

7. Your health is suffering. The stress of management is having a detrimental impact on your health. Your energy level is down and you’re no longer happy.

The Bottom Line:

It can be hard to step down from a management role. There may be a loss of status, power, and even a pay cut. However, it may be better to do an honest self-assessment and control your own destiny instead of someone else doing it for you.

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Updated by Art Petty