7 Signs You Don't Want to Be the Boss

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April 18, 2024 at 9:42AM UTC
Management isn’t for everyone. While a promotion to management typically means a raise in both pay and status, there are some downsides to being the boss.
Of course, there’s also a chance that you’re letting your fears get in the way of your better judgment. It’s not uncommon for passionate, dedicated workers to underestimate their own abilities. This means that some of the most qualified people never get a real chance at leadership, due to the simple fact that they don’t put themselves out there. Imposter syndrome is real, and it can keep you from achieving your goals.
So how do you know if you truly don’t want to be the boss — or if you’re just holding yourself back from a move that make you happy in the long run? Look for these signs that you really don’t want to be the boss:

1. You love your current job.

Maybe you love your role and don’t want to move up, perhaps into a job where you’ll do less of what you like and more of what you don’t like. Not all sellers want to be sales managers; not all writers want to be editors. If you truly enjoy your day-to-day, it’s very possible that a promotion would mean moving away from the things that make you happy at work.
However, it’s important to realize that even if you stay where you are, your job is likely to change. You’ll gain new responsibilities and your old ones will change over time, as the company and the team grow and evolve. (Or shrink and lay people off — but let’s be positive.)
That’s not necessarily an argument for accepting a promotion. But it is a good reminder that nothing stays the same. If you love what you do right now, it’s important to understand why you love it. You should also learn as much as possible about the duties involved in the role above you on the org chart. You might be surprised to find that you’d like that job, too.
Question to Ask Yourself: What is it that you love about your job — and will you lose it by moving up or moving on? Identifying the duties and responsibilities that make your job enjoyable will help you recognize it if your job changes into something less appealing, should you decide to stay put.
It’s also a good idea to talk to people who have the job you’re considering (or avoiding). Don’t assume you know everything about the role before you speak to someone who has it.

2. You're pretty sure the pay raise wouldn't be all that impressive.

Years ago, a friend of mine took a job as a nurse manager at the hospital where she’d been a staff RN. After five years in the management role, she switched back to staff.
“I tallied it up,” she said. “And when I figured in the loss of overtime, moving from hourly to salaried, plus the fact that I had to take work home with me as a manager, I think my hourly rate was approaching minimum wage.”
This was probably a slight exaggeration — but she may have been earning less per hour on average after her promotion. PayScale data show that the average hourly rate for a registered nurse in the U.S. is $29.30. A clinical nurse manager makes an average annual salary of $81,824 (or $35.90 per hour). If she wound up working 60-hour weeks as a manager, as opposed to 40 hours or fewer as a staff nurse, it’s very possible that her average hourly wage was lower as a manager.
(Note to any nurses contemplating the same move: your mileage may vary. Do your research before saying yes or no to a promotion.)
Question to Ask Yourself: How much will I earn — and how much more time will I have to put in to earn it? Take the PayScale Salary Survey to get a free salary report with a range for both jobs. Then do some discrete digging to find out how long your workday would be, if you took the new job.

3. Your actual boss's job seems like your worst nightmare.

Maybe it’s less that you love what you’re doing now, and more that you’re absolutely certain that you’d hate doing what your boss does. For example, maybe you’re introverted, but your boss’s job involves giving a lot of presentations. Or maybe you like to stay close to home, but your manager’s role requires quarterly travel.
These are all perfectly good reasons not to go for the rung above you on the corporate ladder. But they might not be reasons to stay where you are forever.
Question to Ask Yourself: What other career paths might you explore? Maybe you don’t want to be the boss where you are right now … but maybe you’d love being management in another department. Or perhaps a similar role at a different company would give you exciting new challenges — without all the stuff you hate.

4. Your work-life balance is extremely important to you.

Not all management jobs are time-sucking nightmares, but it is true that moving up often means taking on more responsibility. And, more responsibility often means putting in more hours, sometimes long after everyone else has punched out or logged off for the day.
Valuing your work-life balance doesn’t have to mean turning down promotions for your whole career. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that you can’t take one right now. But it does mean that you have to be very clear about what’s involved with a management job before you take it.
It’s OK to discretely ask what the workday is like, before you say yes or no. Your boss obviously values your work, or they wouldn’t be offering you a promotion in the first place. They’re unlikely to assume that you’re lazy or shirking extra responsibilities. (That said, it matters how you ask. For example, avoid saying: “I really like leaving at 5 p.m. on the dot. Can I still do that?”)
Question to Ask Yourself: Would your work-life balance be worse in the role — or is that just an assumption you’ve made? Ask around and see what your colleagues in that position have to say about their experience on the job. You might be surprised at what they report.

5. You prefer to work alone.

If you’re an individual contributor at work now — and like it that way — you might be understandably reluctant to move into a job that involves managing people instead. And unfortunately, some companies do have a tendency to reward success in one role by promoting workers into a totally different, wildly unsuitable position.
Only you can determine whether such a big change is right for you. (And even you might get that wrong. That’s OK — it’s possible to return to a contributor role later on, if you spin it right in interviews.)
Question to Ask Yourself: Do I need to work alone, or has that just been my experience so far? Again, talk to the people who have that job already. They’ll be able to give you insight into whether you’ll bloom in the role.

6. You're thinking about a career change.

Thinking about changing careers? If so, taking a promotion at your current job might be a waste of time. It takes a lot of time, energy and commitment to make a career change, and you might not want to squander your mental resources on moving up in the job you have.
On the other hand, maybe taking a promotion will give you a chance to hone skills that will be valuable in your new field. For example, if you’ve never managed people before, but you’re thinking about a management track in your new career, getting some experience could help you in the long run.
Question to Ask Yourself: Will this promotion get me closer to where I want to be anyway? If taking on a management job will help you develop transferable skills that will make you more attractive to hiring managers, it might still be in your best interests to give it a try.

7. You think of your job as a job, not a career.

A 2014 Pew survey found that 43% of respondents said they didn’t want to be a manager — despite the fact that research shows that managers are happier in their personal and professional lives. One reason, writes Martha C. White at Time, is that many may not see their jobs as careers.
“Some of the discrepancy may come in the way managers versus rank-and-file workers view their jobs,” writes White. “Pew found that more than three-quarters of bosses consider their job as a career, while less than half of workers do. More than a third of lower-level employees characterize their work as ‘just a job to get them by.’”
There’s nothing wrong with that, either. Having a job that’s just a job may afford you enough money to support yourself and enough time to do other things that matter to you more. There’s no law that says that your job has to be everything to you.
Question to Ask Yourself: Are you happy with the way things are? If the answer is yes, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it. You own your life and career, not your boss or your employer. You get to decide what role your job has in your life.
— Jen Hubley Luckwaldt

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This story originally appeared on PayScale.

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