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Why Your Best Employees Don't Deserve To Be Managers

Aug 17, 2007
You'd think we'd know by now - just because someone is fantastic at doing something... doesn't mean they're equally as good at managing others to do that same thing.

After all, the skill set required to practice a specific profession - whether it's plumbing,
hairdressing, engineering, selling, teaching, accounting or whatever - is entirely different
from the skill set required to manage people.

Yet organizations persist in promoting "doers" into management roles. These promotions come with better-sounding titles, more money, more perquisites, more prestige and... more responsibility. And they involve doing less - perhaps none - of the "technical" work that the manager did previously, and more (or all) of the work of managing others.

In one sense it's logical - a manager who used to do the work himself or herself should understand what his staff need to do the work now. And yes, there are many managers who are just as good, if not better, at managing others as they are performing the actual work. In fact, many managers prefer to manage rather than do.

But, as indicated above, there's no reason to assume that a good doer will make automatically make a good manager!

Now, this isn't to say that a pyramidal organizational structure - where the many are managed
by the few - is necessarily a bad thing. As a delegation or management structure it works fine for many companies.

But when getting more pay and other rewards is contingent on becoming a manager, it's inevitable that people will try to get, and will get, promoted into management roles - regardless of whether they have the talent or passion to manage.

The result? Plenty of unhappy and ineffective managers. Plenty of frustrated people working for
ineffective managers. And an organization that isn't performing at its optimum.

Doesn't it make more sense for people to do the work they enjoy and are good at? To reward them for getting better and better at that work, rather than only paying them more if they step "up" to management... where they may generate less value for the organization?

Isn't a top salesman better off staying in the field selling... than floundering in the office, struggling to organize and motivate his staff?

Doesn't a terrific teacher do more for her students, herself and the school by staying in the classroom, than spending her time doing paperwork and trying to manage other teachers?

Fortunately, some organizations have seen the light. They do tie greater rewards to greater responsibilities and greater performances within the same role. In fact, some companies, like investment banks, are renown for paying traders and sales people much, much more than the people who manage them, simply because, in the eyes of the bank, the traders and sales people generate more value.

Of course, as a "manager's advocate" I would never suggest that managers shouldn't be compensated well, especially given the challenges of managing people.

But to be as productive and profitable as possible, organizations should tie greater pay and rewards to greater responsibilities and performances, whatever the role. That way, they'll have people doing and being their best.

So if you're responsible for "promoting" people, I urge you to think twice before promoting your best people into management roles... and out of the jobs they love and do well at.

Instead, consider whether you can enlarge, or give them more challenges in, their current role?

Or, if they've performed exceptionally well, can you give them a bonus or some other special reward to recognize their efforts?

Of course, if you work for someone else, you may be limited in terms of what you can do... but if that's the case, and you're committed to staying with your current employer... it may be time to start a revolution!
About the Author
Anna Johnson is the author of the How To Manage People System, including her book, How To Manage People (Even If You're A Control Freak!). Get Anna's FREE 12-page report How To Be An Outstanding Manager - The 8 Vital Keys To Managing People Effectively
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