10 Reasons You Don’t Want to Be the Boss

As a manager, you'll have to handle layoffs.

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Alison Green
Think you want that management job? Before you throw your hat in the ring, make sure you’ve thought through what it really means to be a manager. Here are 10 of the toughest parts about being the boss. If you’re not ready to take on each of these downsides, management jobs aren’t for you.

1. You’ll have to make decisions people don’t like. Whether it’s ending a favorite program, not hiring an employee’s friend, or scheduling people to work over a holiday, you’ll have to make decisions that may not be popular with your team.

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2. You’ll need to tell people they’re not performing well. Sometimes these will be people you like and who are trying hard. Either way, it’s going to be a hard conversation that rarely gets easier, and you won’t be able to shy away from it because addressing problems head-on is a key part of a manager’s job.

3. You’ll need to fire or lay off people. Can you picture yourself telling someone that today will be her last day of work? If not, think twice before becoming a manager.

4. You’ll need to tell people no. You’re going to the person who has to say no sometimes—to a request for a raise, or for vacation time, or for a promotion, or a plea for a new computer. (Of course, you also get to say yes too, which is one of the upsides.)

5. When things go wrong, you’ll be the person blamed. When things go right, you’ll give your team the credit. But when they go wrong, you’re the one who shoulders the blame. Even if the problem was due to an employee’s mistake, you’re ultimately the person accountable.

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6. Your decisions are high stakes. If you hire the wrong person, release the wrong product, or make the wrong budget trade-offs, your decisions could cause the company’s ruin. Even an offhanded comment could bring a lawsuit. Every decision you make, even the smallest ones, could have unforeseen price tags.

7. You may have to enforce rules you don’t agree with. Disagree with the top boss’s policy on promotions? Well, mention that to your employees and you’ve just undermined your own boss. If your company has a policy you don’t agree with, it’s still going to be your job to enforce it.

8. Friendships with lots of people in your office will be off-limits. As the boss, you need to have professional boundaries between you and the people you manage. You can’t have the same types of office friendships that you might have had before you became a manager.

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9. You’ll be scrutinized. Everything the boss says or does carries more weight. If you express particular enthusiasm for one person’s idea, people will assume that’s the idea they should back. If you’re out sick on the day everyone else is doing inventory, people will talk about it for weeks. And if you’re in a grumpy mood, people will spend days wondering what they did wrong and parsing their relationship with you.

10. Some people won’t like you. If you’re a good manager, you’re going to make decisions that anger and upset some people. You are going to tell some people their work isn’t good enough. You are going to hold accountable people who may not want to be held accountable. You are going to institute and enforce policies that may exist for a good reason but still irritate the heck out of some people. You are going to fire people. You’ll need to make peace with the fact that there will be people complaining about that horrible person they worked for, and that horrible person will be you. So if you’re deeply invested in trying to be liked by everyone, don’t go into management.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.