I have met the enemy, and I am one of them

I have mentioned before that I am a manager of a small staff. I don’t remember telling you how much I hate being in charge of people. On one hand, I do love being in charge. On the other hand, being a manager has been a hard row to hoe.

First of all, until this point in my career, my success depended only on my own hard work and discrete, targeted ass-kissing. Now my success is dependent largely on what I can get out of the folks beneath me. That is a very hard switch to make. So is being in a position of power and authority.

I hate the increased awareness this position has given me. Now, when I am mad at my boss, or afraid of how he will react to something, I also have the understanding of what it feels like to be on his end of the fence. That makes it hard to do certain things, like blog from work or willfully disobey him and hope that he forgets what he’s told me. When I hate his guts, I must also face the realization that my peeps feel this way about me sometimes too.

This dual awareness makes it even harder to be a hardass with my staff, too, because when I am thinking about how to handle an infraction or mistake on their part, I can’t help but remember what it feels like when my boss is calling me out on the carpet.

Speaking of being a hardass, I seem to oscillate between being a doormat and incarnating Attila the Hun. Cold-hearted, business minded me wants them here, every day, on time, asses in chairs, hard at work. Compassionate, sympathetic, warm-hearted me wants them to be happy, compels me to chalk up most bad behavior to simple human nature and look the other way.

I guess maybe if I cared less about the whole management thing it would be easier to do. I could get some distance from all these feelings and the duality and the awareness and just crack ass mercilessly.

Problem is, I do care. I care a whole lot. My title and job duties say I’m a manager, but I want to be a LEADER. Being a leader is hard. Being the leader of four women who are older than you, but at least in the business world, not as smart as you is very, very hard.

How do I shame them for their mistakes when they see mine? How do I tell them that they can’t leave work early for an unscheduled appointment because we’re busy and short staffed when I just got back from a week long vacation?

I’m sure that all of this hand-wringing and general ambivalence comes in part from my own deep rooted resentment of authority. My relationships with my managers, at the absolute best is riddled with suspicion and fear, and the absolute worst I wish them dead and hate them with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. The idea of little old me provoking those feelings in other people is strange and very uncomfortable.

To date I am a rather laid back manager. I hate being micromanaged, so I don’t do it much, and I probably err on the side of too little oversight and instruction. So, mistakes are made and deadlines are missed, and I get super-pissed and wonder if I shouldn’t be harder on them. If I were harder on them, would they do more and better work faster, or just hate and resent me more?

Also, when they are nice to me- compliments, favors, even just a good conversation, I always question the authenticity. Are they kissing ass or being genuine? Why do I care?

That’s the big ugly secret, and the reason I’m so uncomfortable in my new role. As a almost reformed approval whore, I want them to like me. I want them to think I am a good leader. I want them to like working for me. My boss, the business owner, does not have these problems, as far as I can tell.

So, readers, (all five you!) if you are/were a new manager at some point, how did you find your ball-breaking skills? When did you decide that ruling with an iron fist was the way to go? Am I ruined with my current staff, since they’ve been here to watch me grow into my position? Should I just go all Hitler on their asses? Will I ever be good at being in charge, or will I look at my kid someday and say “you know, I would really prefer if you didn’t do that, if it’s not too much of an imposition…….”?

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One Response

  1. I see you scored out as a “pushover” on the personality test. Is that what invoked further anxiety over your managerial paradox? Did it inspire this post? Just wondering.
    Anyway, welcome back. I, of the five, have missed you! I’m sure all you saw was me all over your sitemeter stats.
    I know how hard it is to leave the beach behind and return to the real world …but we must move forward. đŸ™‚

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